A rugby club has paid a heartfelt tribute to a young player who has died suddenly aged 17.
Penallta RFC back-row forward Ieuan Strutt tragically passed away earlier this month.
The teenager, who progressed through to the club’s youth squad before making his debut in the spring, was part of Penallta’s most successful and entertaining age grade teams.
He also fulfilled his life-long dream of becoming a solider in the British Army in 2019.
But his dream, however, was curtailed due to chronic problems with his knee which prevented him from carrying out training.
A tribute from the club read: “Despite his wiry, small stature, Ieuan played prop forward, and was as brave and fierce as any of the boys twice his size.
“His all action style suited the superb side he played in, and he was part of many brilliant tries and wonderful moments throughout his playing life.
“Over the years Ieuan won many trophies with his playing group, and had an exciting future ahead of him. At the beginning of last season, as he prepared for his final year of age grade rugby with the Under 16s, Ieuan stepped up to training with Penallta youth.
“There are few props who could side-step, tackle and run with the ball like Ieuan could.
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“As with many boys emerging through at that age, it became clear that Ieuan would need to change his position. As the coaches began filtering the 16-year-olds into the youth squad to help their progression into a more senior level of rugby, he was busting to be a part of it, so the coaches worked on converting him to back row forward.”
Ieuan took to his new position so well with the youth squad that he continued to impress against players older than him, promoting the coaches to select him in the travelling squad for Penallta Youth’s final squad for last year’s Welsh Youth Plate Final.
The tribute added: “It was a great honour for a young player, not yet even at youth age level, to be part of a final at the Principality Stadium. He was impressively brave and dogged in the tackle area and had absolutely no fear of the older opposition.
“Ieuan’s tragic loss will be felt particularly keenly across the club. Ieuan’s father Robert played age-grade rugby for Ystrad Mynach Mini and Juniors, before they formally became Penallta Mini and Juniors.
“Robert was also a tough front row forward. Ieuan’s mam Clare is a long-term member of the Penallta family and has supported the club for three decades. Her dad, and Ieuan’s Grandfather, Steve Jackson, served on the Penallta committee for well over a decade. And it is Ieuan’s uncles who are best known at the club.
“Ieuan’s older uncle Andrew was one of Penallta’s finest ever players and was destined for a Welsh youth cap until he threw his talent and resources into his military career as a Sergeant Major.
“Then Ieuan’s younger uncle Matthew is also a Penallta legend, having played hundreds of games for the club and captained the Penallta Troopers for many years. Matthew also served for years as a soldier, doing tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It was Matthew who dedicated his efforts into Ieuan’s rugby career. Matthew was a huge part of the coaching staff at Ieuan’s age grade and he will feel that he’s lost not just a nephew but a player with a great future ahead of him.”