9.6.2011 pontypridd observer
FRONT row power houses Darren Harris and James Howe are the latest to join the Sardis Road ranks.
The duo signed with Ponty from Merthyr recently, both on two-year deals as the club continues to harvest for the new season.
The pair played in Merthyr’s 38-30 loss to the Swalec Cup champions in March’s quarter final, in which Harris scored.
Both have trained under 'Chief' Dale McIntosh with the Blues, during their rise to first-team action.
They were drafted to current Mid-District Cup champions Merthyr to gain experience at senior level.
And they impressed Ponty management in their cup clash at Dynevor Street enough to earn a call from the Chief.
McIntosh said: “I have coached both of them, James as a winger, funnily enough, before he moved to prop and Darren, who has moved to hooker.
“They are young, exciting and quick and very good scrummagers so we’re looking forward to seeing them at Sardis Road next season.
“Darren is a phenomenal talent, very quick and a freak in the gym as far as his strength goes.
“He has played well at loose-head but I don’t think at this level he can play there purely because he is not naturally big – short but very wide.
“I am comfortable with our props at the moment but where they are mainly concentrating on scrummaging, these two can bring a bit of athleticism to the pack.”
Harris, the 18-year-old Blues Academy hooker, recently switched from loose-head after discussions with McIntosh about his future role at the Blues.
He said: “For me, it’s a step up the ladder going to Pontypridd.
“They came top of the Premiership, and although they lost to Llanelli in the final, they have been the best team throughout the season.
“I have been involved with Dale since I was 13 years old as I came up through the ranks at the Blues.
“They have recently moved me to hooker, which I feel is the right way forward for me.
“I want to play a little bit differently from the normal hooker, with a bit of pace and power. Hopefully I can make it exciting.
“Here, I will be able to learn from some good front-rowers and have a sit down and talk with them.
“I would like to break into the first team as soon as possible and hopefully I can get some game time.
He added: “Every player has aspirations to progress and hopefully this could be a stepping stone for me.
“Pontypridd is a big club and I am very excited to be here.”
And his colleague Howe, 21, who performed for McIntosh during his time with the Blues under-16 set up, is also an avid Pontypridd fan.
Back, way before the regions were installed and Pontypridd was a Welsh force, Howe stood as a boy on the terraces at Sardis Road.
This season, he has followed the team’s successes in the Swalec Cup and the league, and, although Ponty lost to Llanelli at the final hurdle in the Premiership, a fixture Howe also attended, he believes he is joining the biggest team in Welsh club rugby.
Howe, Merthyr’s top try scorer last season with 17, said: “I can’t wait to play in front of the supporters and show them what I am about. They always make you feel at home and that’s what I am looking for.
“Merthyr has one of the best youth set ups going and I think they have a great side for it.
“When we knew about our game against Ponty, that’s all we talked about.
“On the day, it was an awesome match. I was a bit gutted to lose but we could’ve nicked it at the end.
“I was actually planning for another season with Merthyr, before Dale called to ask whether I would consider a move.
“I had to take it, to move to a higher league. It’s the only club I would have moved to.
“We have to thank everyone at Merthyr for all they have done.
“It has been an awesome club for us from the juniors right through to the seniors.”