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Burnell reflects at season’s end

Saturday 30th May was officially the last day of the 2019-20 season, with a home game scheduled for Pontypridd RFC against Scottish opponents the Southern Knights.

Of course in reality the campaign came to a premature halt for Ponty on 7th March with an encouraging away win against valley rivals Merthyr – it was then that the Covid-19 crisis took over and no more rugby was played.

Going into the close-season, Pontypridd Director of Rugby Justin Burnell has taken time to reflect on the campaign with its highs and lows and its abrupt ending.

“It was an up and down season for us” said Burnell, “with some great positives in taking Cardiff’s unbeaten record and completing a league double over Merthyr, but some frustration with our away form and losing ¬†tight games at the death. We were fifth placed in the table when it all came to an end and I’m convinced we would have gone on to maintain our status in the top six, which was important for us.”

That top six finish, according to WRU plans, would have again put Ponty into the cross border competition against Scottish clubs, and it was in that tournament that the club should have rounded off the current season.

“Missing out on the Scottish games was disappointing” said Burnell. “For the squad, it offered something different from playing the same Welsh clubs year in year out, and for our supporters it was an exciting prospect with some great trips lined up – our fans deserved that for the tremendous loyalty they have shown.”

In summing up his end of season report, Justin Burnell remains in a positive frame of mind.

“In the current financial climate, what we are aiming for at Pontypridd is viability and sustainability, and we remain firmly on course. The vision and the commitment of Graeson Clarke in his backing of the club has been crucial and what we have achieved within our limitations has been remarkable.

“We all need to focus on the positives. We have some exciting talent coming through, which we’ll see more of next season, and we have a good relationship with neighbouring clubs which is vital for our squad development. We look at players such as Kristian Parker, Ben Stephens, Morgan Bosanko, Nathan Huish, Kyle Evans – the list goes on, all unsung heroes who can stand their ground at Premiership level.

“As we continue to nurture young local talent that talent must be given room and time to develop. We have ambition of course, but reflecting the reality of our position as a club. When we look back at the season just gone, a strange season in so many ways, in that context then I am happy with the outcome and with what we achieved.”