Paul Williams (Skewen Programme Notes)

Posted by Paul Williams on 06/01/2018

The Cup

There was always something special about the WRU Cup competition back in the day. Particularly during the early stages, when what were (incorrectly) termed the “first class” clubs met, often for the first time, opponents from the other echelons of Welsh Rugby, occasionally with surprising results. As a lifelong supporter of the Wizards I used to enjoy visiting places that had never before appeared on the fixture list, and (selfishly, I admit) regret that the competition has now been split into three, with only the Premiership and Championship clubs facing one another at this level.

I do, however, appreciate that having Plate and Bowl tournaments for those clubs closer to the fundament of Welsh rugby’s grass-roots gives them a better chance of a day out to the Principality Stadium and the possibility of a tangible trophy, but I do still wonder how many of those clubs would trade that in and go back to being able to host one of the Premiership clubs, with the immediate financial boost and media exposure that would bring. I, for one, applauded the policy that was (all too briefly) applied whereby all the ‘seeded’ clubs would play away from home in the initial rounds, and thoroughly enjoyed the kind of welcome Aberavon received at some unfamiliar places that we sadly no longer visit.

We are, however, delighted to welcome Skewen to the Talbot Athletic Ground this afternoon for what will undoubtedly be a keenly contested tie. Recent history has taught us that a clash between Premiership and Championship does not under any circumstances suggest a foregone conclusion, and let us not also forget that this is also one of the most local of derbies, particularly when one considers that, for some bizarre reason, the people responsible for setting the boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies decided that (among others) the area covered by the three Coedffranc council wards were to be, for electoral purposes, considered a part of Aberavon. Perhaps mighty Max Wiltshire had a hand in it somewhere along the way!

The Wizards had something of a mixed festive season. Supporters will have delighted in events at a rain-swept Gnoll on Boxing Day, but will be bitterly disappointed with what happened at Llandovery a few days later (why is it, that nearly every time a match involving Aberavon is televised live it’s at the coldest, darkest time of the year when a tea-time kick-off just adds to the overall gloom?). Consider this, however – the match against Neath was as tough an encounter as they come, with the dreadful conditions adding to the already considerable physical demands of such a match. To turn around in just four days and travel up to Church Bank with the core of the same team, and face one of the Premiership’s stronger teams, who had had the luxury of a full week’s recovery time from their previous outing, was a fair old task. Yes the result was disappointing, but let’s put it into some context, and look ahead – there is, I’m sure, better to come as the season unfolds.

Happy New Year to you all. Enjoy the game.