Wales dedicate Students win to its founder
Wales Students coach Clive Griffiths says that his players dedicated Friday's 20-18 win over England Students in Wrexham to the late Dr Phil Melling, the founder of Student Rugby League in Wales.by NRL
Wales Students coach Clive Griffiths says that his players dedicated Friday's 20-18 win over England Students in Wrexham to the late Dr Phil Melling, the founder of Student Rugby League in Wales.
Dr Melling sadly died of cancer last November aged 64. He founded the first ever Wales student side at Swansea University in the 1970s, the Welsh national Rugby League Students side in the late 1980s and was involved in the set-up until his final years.
Griffiths, who was the first ever coach of the Wales Students side before relaunching the national senior side in 1991, was honoured to hear his players' sentiments.
"They weren't encouraged to dedicate that win at all," he said. "It was entirely their choice. I've been working with a great bunch of lads all week and I was delighted when they made their statement after the game."
The win over England on Friday night gave Wales the British Isles Rugby League Four Nations Championship.
Wales had already beaten Scotland 74-4 and Ireland 64-4 before the England game, all in the space of five gruelling days, to take the trophy back to Wales for the first time since 2009.
It was a tough game against England, and Wales were only in the lead for the last five minutes, but that's where it matters and Griffiths believes his players were worthy winners.
"We deserved to win the tournament and on the balance of play today against England, we just about deserved the final win," he said. "Against England we didn't play as well as we can do and we know that, and England exerted more pressure on us than Scotland and Ireland put on us.
"Our players attacked their hearts out in the second half. England didn't score anything after half-time and that was the difference, the defence won us the game.
"The character of the boys won the game. They lived up to their trademarks today. I am so so delighted to bring the cup back home to Wales. It's been a great year for me, helping to coach the Great Britain side who won the Academic Ashes down under last June, coaching North Wales Crusaders and now this."
Griffiths paid respect to the professionalism of his side throughout the week and has dismissed any critics of the Student International game who don't believe that Wales Students are a serious development pathway.
"People who say that don't know Student Rugby League," Griffiths said. "They want to come and see the work that we have put in this week. They've been disciplined; they've not gone out drinking at all and have been focussed on winning this tournament.
"Wales Students are a very important team in the big picture of Wales Rugby League. A lot of players leave the under 18s and decide to go to university. There's a gap to fill in terms of Rugby League development and this competition as you can see is a good standard for these lads to play.
"Today we had a massive defensive effort just like when we won this tournament three years ago up in Leeds. A lot of the boys who played then have gone on to full international status. Looking at some of these guys today, there's no doubt that many of this team too can move forward into the professional ranks and make a name for themselves in the future."
Four of the Wales Students side are already played for South Wales Scorpions and one for North Wales Crusaders, so will Griffiths be signing any more of the Wales Students players for his North Wales club when they graduate?
"Just watch this space," he smiled.
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