Balloons were released at a rugby club in a moving tribute to a star player who suddenly died aged 15. Dozens of players and supporters gathered at Pyle RFC on Saturday afternoon in memory of Joseph Gardiner.

Joseph, who died on July 31 after being taken to hospital with a viral infection, was described by Pyle RFC manager Matthew Chick as "born to lead and well-loved by his teammates". Player of the year last season, Joseph excelled as an eight or a centre, and he was going to be captain this year. He also had a trial lined up with the Boys' Club of Wales.

Matthew told WalesOnline: "I truly believe his name would have been on our seniors' captains board. He was a gentleman who'd been with us since he was 10 and got better and better."

Joseph Gardiner
Joseph Gardiner was a talented rugby player

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The minute's silence and balloon release took place before a friendly match between Pyle and Caldicot, but players and representatives from other clubs, including Tondu, Pencoed and Cefn Cribwr, also braved the rain to pay their respects. Many of the balloons were in the blue and white colours of the Pyle jersey, and one was in the shape of an eight in a nod to Joseph's position. Matthew said commemorative jerseys have been received from clubs "far and wide", adding: "We can't thank the rugby community enough for the support and messages."

Balloon release in memory of Joseph Gardiner at Pyle RFC
Balloon release for Joseph Gardiner at Pyle RFC

Rory Bodenham, head coach of the under-16s, said Joseph had a model attitude, never missing a training session and always on time. "He was hard-running, strong and he had good footwork - a very talented rugby player and a very good motivator on the field," he added. "He was very popular on and off the field."

Martin Jones, a close friend of Joseph's family, recently took on the role of under-16s manager and had been looking forward to working with Joseph. He said: "Joe was an outstanding boy and we loved him to bits. We were very shocked by his sudden death."

He said Joseph's talent and desire to help the team meant he was comfortable playing as a forward or a back. "If the club asked him to play a position he would give it his all," Martin added. "Every game he played he made a big contribution."

A Gofundme campaign to help Joseph's family with funeral costs has raised £10,577. You can donate here.