It’s currently a cliché beloved of rugby commentators everywhere, it would seem. Rugby is a game decided by fine margins, be it close scorelines or marginal forward passes or (whisper it) questionable decision making. It wasn’t something we heard much of twenty-plus years back when meetings between the Wizards of Aberavon and the Quins of Carmarthen were defined by single-score margins for season after season, both here at the Talbot Athletic Ground and at the idyllic setting of Carmarthen Park (at least it’s idyllic on a fine Spring or Autumn afternoon, less so on a wet Wednesday evening in mid-Winter). So many of those matches back then, it seems, were decided one way or the other by a handful of points, yet only a couple of them abide in the memory – the result of advancing years, I am told. The first such memory was of Giles Thomas sending over a last-minute dropped-goal to secure victory by a single point at Carmarthen, the other was here at Aberavon when the medical team’s collective nightmare that was Barry Maddocks, playing out of position on the left wing, raced in at the posts for a try that levelled the scores, enabling Scott Leighton to snatch victory with the last-minute conversion.
It was, however, a pattern that lasted for quite a few seasons and meant that these fixtures were approached with a degree of trepidation on the part, I should think, of the supporters of both clubs, but it also served to cement a mutual respect between the respective playing squads that has survived the inevitable wholesale changes of personnel through the years, and such matches are still seldom anything other than closely competitive. Most recently, for example, their last visit to Aberavon in November last year saw just five points separating the two teams in a match most will remember for the electrical problem that resulted in some of the floodlights ending the evening a lot less brightly than they’d started it!
Indeed, the continuation of this little tradition this afternoon may continue a pattern for Aberavon this season that began on September 3rd, when the Wizards went into their opening league fixture against Bridgend and emerged with a convincing win that was all over bar the shouting long before the final whistle sounded. That was followed five days later by a tougher match at Swansea in which the first half, certainly, was an end-to-end affair with the scoring by both teams being of the tit-for-tat variety, and while the Wizards’ winning margin was eventually far from being a fine one, victory was not assured until quite late in the evening.
All of which brings us to last weekend’s home encounter with Llanelli, who had been on the receiving end of some hammerings at the hands of the Wizards in recent times. On this occasion, however, we witnessed a hard-fought match in which, although the Wizards were always ahead after taking the lead ten minutes in, they were, in effect, looking over their shoulders at opponents who never gave up and finished within a single score of the home team. Should this trend continue this afternoon, of course, we could be back in the realms of nail-biting finishes with the nerves of all and sundry jangling as the closing stages go down to the wire with the victors ultimately being on the right side of one of those fine margins.
Whatever the outcome this afternoon, of course, we extend our customary warm welcome to all who’ve travelled the thirty or so miles eastwards to be with us this afternoon.
Enjoy the game.