In a final befitting of Phil’s legacy, St Albans led 25-21 going into the final three minutes, before Caerleon rallied with two late tries.
Both schools were composed of year 9 students, and were both selected due to their strong links with Phil and his family as-well as with the Dragons community department.
Phil’s children attended Caerleon comprehensive and St Albans RC were selected as they have strong links with community ambassador Tony Clarke.
Phil had a great love of sport and education and joined the Dragons Community Team in 2002 as an Education Officer. Throughout his 14 years at Rodney Parade, he inspired thousands of youngsters until he sadly passed away on 1st January 2016 after a battle with cancer.
Phil recognised that not everyone can or would want to play rugby at an elite level but that all can have a part to play in sport. Phil also acknowledged the sterling work of the Velindre staff and hence, this annual match was arranged to raise valuable funds for Velindre and to keep Phil’s legacy well and truly alive.
Community manager Mike Sage says the tournament was also arranged to build on Phil’s positive attitude towards education throughout the region.
He said: “Phil made a major impact whilst working at Rodney Parade as our Education Officer for 14 years and inspired thousands of youngsters in his unique & alternative approach to learning. Phil shaped the Second Half education project and made a community visit to Rodney Parade extra special for all our school/club guests.
“It was very important that we remember Phil's impact by continuing to deliver our educational activities and build on the success that he achieved.”
Both participating schools held various fundraisers for the charity, and together have raised over £400.
At the final, entry was free but supporters were encouraged to donate and be entered into a raffle. All the proceeds from the raffle also went to Velindre and £90.91 was raised on the day. Thank-you to everyone who donated.
Michael Locke, who attended the event on behalf of Velindre, says money raised from the day will go towards new projects and research at the charity.
“At Velindre, we treat over 150,000 cancer patients annually and that is growing by 10,000 each year,” he said.
“All the income from the fundraising will go towards anything over and above what the NHS can provide. It’s all the special touches that makes Velindre the incredible place that it is for care and specialist treatment and research.”
As part of the day, all children received a Dragons goody bag before the trophy presentation began. It was fitting of the occasion that Phil’s wife Sharon James presented the trophy to the winning team.
Ollie Griffiths and Ashton Hewitt were the chosen Dragons representatives to award the goody bags; as both were coached by Phil in their junior days.
Community manager Mike Sage said of the day: “It was a great occasion, it ran like clockwork and the support was amazing in terms of schools, teachers, volunteers, Velindre and most importantly Phil’s family. Sharon has contacted me to say it was a lovely tribute for Phil and wanted to thank everyone for their hard-work and support. We were very touched.”
To honour Phil’s and the Dragons community’s ethos of fair-play, both coaches were asked to elect a player of the match from the other team. Both players chosen were awarded two free tickets to watch the Dragons on Judgment Day.
On behalf of the Dragons community team, can I place on record our thanks to both teams for their support of the event. The competition will now be run annually and both teams were the perfect examples of how the cup should be competed for in the future. Their support in raising money for a charity close to the hearts of everyone involved with the Dragons was exemplary and we thank them for their contributions.
James Savastano, who is involved with Caerleon School, says his school was honoured to be selected to contest the trophy.
“It was a great cause to play for with the wonderful work that Velindre are doing,” he said.
“It was a great game and was fitting of the occasion. To remember Phil’s legacy in this way was superb.”
In addition to the Secondary Cup, the finals of the primary school’s competitions are still to be played.
Castle Park will face Ysgol-Y-Ffin for the Phil James Memorial Shield and Dewstow will do battle with Langstone for the Phil James Memorial Cup, both the Shield & Cup are sponsored by Community partner, Tata Steel.
Both finals will be played simultaneously at half-time of the Dragons vs Blues match. So, if you are in attendance at Caerphilly, please get behind the teams and support this wonderful initiative.
We would also like to acknowledge Clarity Copiers who have sponsored an award named in Phil’s honour. The Phil James memorial community award will be presented at the end of season Dragons dinner to the player who has the most inspiring impact on sport, education and rugby throughout the Gwent region, in the same manner that Phil always promoted these key aspects during his time at Rodney Parade.
Ryan Robinson – Dragons community ambassador
You can see some images from the event in our Facebook page by clicking here. Please note you don't need a Facebook account to enjoy these images.
Dragons TV captured some of the action as well as chatting to staff from Dragons Community, Velindre Fundraising and Caerleon School to reflect on the event. Click to play: