Match Preview: Toronto Wolfpack vs South Wales Ironmen

Written by Chris Jones

Match Date: Saturday June 10th

Time: 17:00 BST (12:00 EDT)

Venue: The Wern, Merthyr Tydfil

Following last week’s 54-12 victory against Coventry Bears, the Wolfpack go on the road again this weekend as they head to the Principality of Wales to face the South Wales Ironmen in the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil.

Merthyr Tydfil

Merthyr is a town with a population of about 65,000 people that is situated approximately 23 miles north of Cardiff.

At one time the largest town in Wales, Merthyr is today the country’s fourth largest urban area by population.

According to legend, the town is named after Saint Tydfil, a daughter of King Brychan of Brycheiniog. According to her legend, she was slain at Merthyr by pagans around 480; the place was subsequently named Merthyr Tydfil in her honour. The word “merthyr” generally means “martyr” in the Welsh Language.

Merthyr was a town that grew in the nineteenth century on the back of its traditional industries of coal and iron. At one time the town was the largest producer of iron in the world, although those industries were already starting to decline 100 years ago.

Since then a variety of service industries have located in the town, including the manufacture of Hoover Electric Washing Machines.

In 1992, while testing a new angina treatment in Merthyr Tydfil, researchers discovered that the new drug had erection-stimulating side effects for some of the healthy volunteers in the trial study. That discovery formed the basis for the drug Viagra.

Like many Welsh towns song is a very important part of the local culture and Merthyr Tydfil has several choirs. Dowlais Male Voice Choir, Ynysowen Male Voice Choir, Treharris Male Voice Choir, Merthyr Tydfil Ladies Choir, Con Voce, Cantorion Cyfarthfa, St David’s Church Choir, St David’s Choral Scholars, Merthyr Aloud and Tenovus all perform locally, around the world and in the media.

In sporting terms, Merthyr is known for its boxers, with former world champions Eddie Thomas, Howard Winstone and Johnny Owen hailing from the town.

Less well known, however, is the fact that Merthyr was one of the first Rugby League sides in Wales in 1907, beating the first touring Australian side in 1908, although Rugby League died out in Wales within a few years.

South Wales Ironmen

The Ironmen club was formed in 2009 originally as South Wales Scorpions, initially playing at The Gnoll in Neath before having spells at Caerphilly, Mountain Ash and Maesteg.

The club was rebranded as the Ironmen to coincide with the move to Merthyr Tydfil in 2017.

Although Wales is a hotbed of Rugby Union, success for the South Wales club has been hard to find since its inaugural year and the current Ironmen sit joint bottom of the League 1 table with a playing record of nine defeats from nine games so far this season.

Last week they travelled to Keighley Cougars and were beaten 74-6 and the formline would suggest that they shouldn’t trouble the Wolfpack unduly.

Despite their relative lack of success, however, South Wales Ironmen continually produce full Wales international stars.

Their biggest name right now is Christiaan Roets, the second highest Wales try scorer of all time.

The Ironmen’s highest points scorer of all time, Paul Emanuelli, is also a Welsh international, as are players like Andrew Gay, Connor Farrer, Ashley Bateman and Morgan Evans.

So although the Wolfpack will expect to register another comfortable victory on Saturday in Wales, they would be well advised not to take anything for granted against a side that would love to spring a shock against them.