Date: Friday 3rd April
Venue: Prince of Wales Stadium, Cheltenham
The whipping boys of last season, the South Wales Scorpions start the new season across the border at the Expansion side’s best chance of success in 2015, the University of Gloucestershire All Golds.
Last Time Out
The All Golds exited the Challenge Cup a fortnight ago in the Fourth Round at home to the Hunslet Hawks despite running Barry Eaton’s side close.
Despite tries from Captain Steve Parry and Joe McClean the Hawks in the end proved too strong for Lee Greenwood’s side with former Keighley pair Richie Barnett and Elliot Cosgrove scored with Brad Brennan and a Mo Agoro hat-trick sealing the Hawks place in the Fifth Round.
South Wales Scorpions bowed out of the Challenge Cup three weeks ago despite giving the York City Knights a scare at Mountain Ash.
Jonny Presley got the Knights on the board after the visitor’s had three tries earlier ruled out however only led by two after the Scorpions Paul Songhurst got over the line. After a tough second half, late tries from Kane Riley, Kristian Brining and Peter Aspinall were enough for James Ford’s side to win.
All Golds will hand a debut to youngster Brad England who joined the club last week on a month’s loan from the Salford Red Devils.
Welsh trio Steve Parry, Izaak Duffy and Lewis Reece are all expected to feature with fellow Welshman Bradley Mais and Courtney Davies in contention for places in the starting seventeen.
Mike Grady’s nineteen man squad features the most Welshman in a Rugby League club side in over a 100 years.
The entire contingent heading to Gloucestershire will be made up of home grown Welsh products and will see Jordan Sheridan and Zak Williams come into the side to make their first appearances of 2015.
The two hookers are also the two captains and it should make for an intriguing battle at the Prince of Wales. The veteran Steve Parry will be the leader for the All Golds but will be given a run for his money by the youthful South Wales skipper Connor Farrer who is surely the cornerstone for the future of Welsh Rugby League.
What The Coaches Say
University of Gloucestershire All Golds Coach Lee Greenwood: “We’ve been looking forward to this for a while, it’s been quite a long pre-season.
“I’m new to the job and we’ve had a massive turnover of players and are still bringing players in.
“We’ve played three friendlies and three cup games so I’m starting to whittle down the lads who I feel are capable of playing at this level. I don’t know much about South Wales, I’ve watched the videos of their two cup games against Rochdale and York. They seemed to struggle against Rochdale but two weeks later against York they looked very competitive for large periods. With young lads similar to us I’m thinking they might have the youngest squad and us the second youngest.
“With young lads you get inconsistencies but they tend to improve a lot quicker than older guys. South Wales did improve over that two weeks and I’ve seen the same with our lads. It’s who improves the quickest to be honest. Looking at them they’re very enthusiastic and get stuck in and I’m sure they’ll pick up some results as the season goes on. I’ve just got to hope that we can get the points on Friday.”
South Wales Scorpions Coach Mike Grady: “We’re looking forward to it and glad that the league is finally kicking off. I hope we can improve or keep the same level of performance we had against York, I was pleased with that. But most of all there’s no pressure on the boys, I just want them to go out there and enjoy it.
“We’ve had a bit more preparation time this year and we’ve got a few Academy lads in there to bring a bit of energy to the group. It’s been good to have a couple of months to get everyone bonded and the lads have enjoyed it and are looking forward to the game.
“Gloucestershire must have about seven or eight lads from South Wales. I know those boys and there’s some quality in their squad. With the lads knowing each other, it adds a bit more spice, it’s a local derby and I suppose anything can happen on the day. But there’s no pressure on the lads, they just need to go out there and give their best.”
Whilst the Scorpions won’t be the whipping boys they were in 2014, the cup games show the Scorpions will still struggle away from Mountain Ash and this one should be a routine home win for the All Golds – All Golds by 20