When Ryan Bevington returned to his hometown club Porthcawl RFC in 2021 they were at rock bottom - but three years later they stand on the brink of winning silverware.

Like many clubs around Wales, Covid hit them hard with Porthcawl unable to fulfil certain fixtures because they did not have enough players. But under the guidance of former Wales prop Bevington the club is now thriving and is able to field teams at every age grade, while they also have a women's side.

On Saturday, April 6 (5:40pm KO) they face Llanharan in the Division 2 cup final at the Principality Stadium and Bevington insists it is just rewards for all the hard work that has been put in.

"Three years ago I got asked to help Porthcawl with a few lineouts along with a few other bits and pieces," said the former Ospreys, Dragons and Bristol loosehead.

SIGN UP: Get the new exclusive Inside Welsh rugby newsletter for full insight into what's really going on around all the big issues. This special offer will get you full access for the entire year for just £10 instead of £40.

READ MORE: The confirmed Welsh rugby transfers taking place this summer and the deals yet to be done

"At the time it was just me and one other coach. Unfortunately the head coach at the time had to leave due to work circumstances so I was left on my own with the team.

"We only had a squad of 25 and I was lucky if I could field a XV on a Saturday. I was often struggling for bench cover, while some games we couldn't fulfil and had to call off.

"I started asking the boys to ask their mates so we could get some more players. One of the coaches came back, a guy called Michael Fraser, and he started helping me.

"From three years ago to now we've got a firsts and a seconds team. We've got anywhere from 25 boys on a Tuesday training and last night we had 30 boys training.

"We've got a forwards coach, while Tom Prydie is backs and attack coach. My old team manager Graham Court used to be Ospreys U16s, U18s and U20s coach and has come on board as team manager.

"We've got a head, forwards and backs coach for our second XV along with a team manager. We've come a long way as a club.

"Put it this way, I never thought we'd make a final. When I did start we were bottom of the table and we were genuinely struggling.

"Six games into that season we were bottom of the table and hadn't scored a point, but now we are fifth in the league. We've still got a chance of promotion if results go our way.

"We need to get five points in every game and we could potentially get promotion as well as getting to the stadium. So, a lot has changed in three years and it's great to see."

It is evident the club means everything to Bevington whose grandfather and father both played and coached Porthcawl RFC. The 35-year-old, who recently gave up being a butcher to set up his own personal insurance protection company called Huskey Protection, started his rugby journey at Porthcawl before getting picked up by the Ospreys.

And Bevington, whose assistant coach is Wales' youngest ever international Prydie, sees this as his way of giving back to the club while he insists it means as much to him as the 13 caps he won for his country. "As for comparing the two I think playing for Wales is an honour and it's also a job where you need to perform. So, that's your mindset," he said.

"I think being on the other side of the fence you can really appreciate what you've achieved as a professional athlete. Now as a coach on a voluntary basis it's more emotional, respect and integrity in that part of giving back, supporting, helping and guiding players because when I started my journey I had senior players and coaches who guided me.

"Jonathan Humphreys was big for me. Paul James had a big influence on me, as well as did Duncan Jones, who helped massively.

"I feel there's a duty of care, I have to pass on my knowledge even down to the small details of passing that experience on because this is the biggest game most of these players will ever play in.

"Something I said to the players before the semi-final, and it had a lot of the boys in tears, these are the games where we'll be sat in a pub when we are 50 years old talking about this occasion.

"It's all about actions where you need to go out on the field, do your job and leave with no regrets. Quite a few of the boys were getting emotional over that because it's special. That's the message I've been pushing this week.

"When you retire you can really reflect and appreciate what you achieved collectively as a group."

While there is a lot of negativity surrounding Welsh rugby at the moment, Porthcawl are a prime example of a grassroots club which is thriving and also of its importance to the local community. ‘’The club has been recognised as a finalist at the WRU Volunteer awards for ‘Connecting Communities Club of the Year’ - this is an achievement within itself for all the hard work good people are putting into our club," he said.

"Our crowds have been growing every game. All the old boys have started coming back to the club and the old boys are always in the members' lounge.

"The moment we won the semi-final my phone was inundated with texts from local people, businesses and sponsorships. We managed to pull a lot of money together within 48 hours.

"The boys are getting blazers with ties and full playing kit. They are also getting a kit bag for the occasion and warm-up tops.

"They get to keep everything. I can't walk through the high street without somebody bumping into me and asking me how the boys are doing and what's going on.

"All our games are streamed on YouTube as well so the club have made a great commitment to making sure people who can't be there can still watch the boys. It's great to be fair, because there's been so much support from the town.

"It is a rugby town and it always has been. It's a real grassroots community rugby club and it's a pleasure to be a part of. I think there's six or seven buses going up to Cardiff so far and we've passed 500 ticket sales.

"Our secretary is applying for another 200. Nobody is bigger than the squad and I've kept that message drummed in. There's no egos.

"We work hard and we enjoy it together. We win together and we lose together.

"The boys have bought into it massively. The one thing I have learnt about community rugby is you don't have to be the most intelligent, the biggest or the most skilled in the room, it's just about being a good person and a good bloke.

"It's important to have respect for each other and that's what carries our team. We all work hard together, we respect each other, we enjoy it and we stay tight even to the point where we all have beers after the game."

As for the cup final itself Bevington is under no illusions his side are firm underdogs against a Llanharan side who have won 17 games in a row. But he is confident Porthcawl will rise to the occasion, while there is plenty of talent in their side to cause Llanharan problems.

"We respect Llanharan and know how difficult it will be but this is a one-off cup game and your previous track record means nothing on the day," he said. "It's about who performs and who does their job better on the day.

"Out of the 23 players who will represent us on the weekend only two of those players didn't play junior rugby for Porthcawl all the way through. Every single one of the coaches have all played junior rugby with each other at some point, so it's our club.

‘’Six of the 23 in the playing squad this weekend featured in our last visit to the Principality Stadium in the 2018 Bowl Final when we beat Pembroke 33-31, when Josh White who starts again this Saturday at 10, landed the match-winning kick.

"One of the boys Jordan Fox was in the stadium in 2018 when we were there last there. He was a winger and scored three ties that day but this weekend he'll be starting in the second-row.

"That's probably the hardest transition I've heard of! Jack Williams, our captain, is a great player, as is Leon Mcnally, our six is a fantastic player, Richard Hynda also played in 2018 Bowl final as the winning captain on the day for us and starts again this Saturday after coming out of retirement this season to help Porthcawl RFC.

"Jon Phillip who is a player/coach has also come out of retirement to help us and is starting this weekend but will be retiring at the end of this season. This really gives us coaches a perspective of what it means to our players.

"There's also Josh White who was also there in 2018 he is starting again at outside-half so he'll understand the occasion. We are prepared for the challenge ahead."