Paul Williams (Merthyr Programme Notes)


“What did you do for New Year?”, I hear you ask (well OK, maybe I don’t, but stick with me). What I did for New Year pretty much followed the pattern of every New Year, i.e. a quiet night at home with the family, although there was the slight variation from the norm as an hour or so was spent typing these words into a laptop while Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny meandered its usual way through as wide a variety of musical styles as ever.

It’s probably a far from ideal environment in which to produce an article that you, the reader, will find in the slightest bit interesting, but it did allow my thoughts to wander and pause to contemplate the decision-making of those who dictate the choice of which rugby matches are sent out live over the airwaves, and to wonder why Aberavon’s turn to host the match of choice yet again falls in the darkest depths of Winter, when a Friday evening kick-off will in all probability subject us all to temperatures that are altogether more uncomfortable than those that prevail during a traditional Saturday afternoon affair.

This isn’t intended as a criticism of those who make such decisions. Their brief is obviously to try and predict which fixtures are likely to attract the biggest viewing audience – often a thankless task without the aid of a working crystal ball, as evidenced by last week’s floodlight failure at Carmarthen, leading to a something like 40-minute interval which made something of a mess of the subsequent scheduled programmes – and few would argue that, in the mixed bag of fixtures inevitably thrown up by the first round of a cup competition, a head-on clash between Aberavon and Merthyr would be high on the list of matches to be screened. My aversion to such events is much the same as it is to those fixtures that are annually disrupted by such things as Autumn Internationals, Six-Nations and so on, and is born of a combination of advancing years, health issues and the attendant regular medication that makes one more sensitive to low temperatures.

This is, incidentally, the first of three consecutive small-screen live appearances by the Wizards, with next weekend’s match at Sardis Road kicking off at 5:15pm to accommodate the cameras, and the following weekend’s league match here against Merthyr (again) following suit. While I welcome the additional exposure this gives our otherwise largely-ignored Principality Premiership, I would just like to make a plea for, perhaps, the occasional televised evening match here at Aberavon to take place on a balmy Autumn or pleasant Spring evening, just for a change!

So, a warm welcome to the Ironmen, who will no doubt be keen to make today the first instalment in a spot of payback for the Wizards for what many saw as a shock result at The Wern back in September. Due to the peculiarities of the league season in 2017-18, this is their first visit to the Talbot Athletic Ground since January 7th 2017, which saw a tough encounter on a damp, dismal Saturday afternoon from which the Wizards emerged with a 24-17 victory, with the result balanced on a knife-edge throughout, particularly in a second-half during which the score remained poised at 21-17 from the 43rd until the 79th minute. My own abiding memory is one of Merthyr head coach Dale ‘Chief’ McIntosh taking defeat with the good grace that typifies our sport, congratulating Aberavon players as they left the pitch.

Enjoy the game.

Merthyr 27 21 0 6 798 501 107
Llandovery 28 20 1 7 803 492 98
Cardiff 26 19 1 6 771 547 95
Ebbw Vale 28 19 1 8 671 512 90
Pontypridd 25 18 0 7 840 480 89
Newport 29 16 2 11 726 678 83
Aberavon 25 16 2 7 569 478 78
Swansea 28 15 0 13 625 552 75
Rygbi Gogledd Cymru 1404 26 12 1 13 669 556 73
Carmarthen Quins 29 13 1 15 616 544 71
Llanelli 29 11 1 17 622 710 58
Bedwas 28 10 1 17 615 786 52
Bridgend Ravens 26 9 0 17 544 651 50
Cross Keys 27 5 1 21 552 925 35
Bargoed 27 6 0 21 522 872 33
Neath 26 1 0 25 367 1026 3