As I sat down to write these words, I found myself faced with something of a dilemma – should I simply not mention the seemingly perennial disappointment of another heavy defeat for Wales at the hands of New Zealand, or should I bite the bullet and deal with it head-on? Obviously the fact that you’ve just read that question will indicate that I’ve chosen the latter course of action, as the next thought that entered my head was that, win or lose, we simply must congratulate Wales’ new skipper, who cut his senior rugby teeth here at Aberavon, having made his club debut as a teenager in a pre-season “friendly” at Llanharan in August 2007 and went on to play for the Wizards with great distinction until his inevitable elevation to the sport’s professional ranks and thence to Welsh international and Lions recognition. Justin Tipuric has, throughout his career, been an exemplar to those who would seek to emulate his success and has won many friends and admirers here at the Talbot Athletic Ground for the ways in which he has shown his appreciation for the part Aberavon RFC played in his early career, and while we can’t claim him as another Aberavon player to have captained his country (a distinction that belongs only to Billy James), as a club we are delighted to have seen such an honour bestowed upon him. Many congratulations Justin.
Meanwhile, back in the rather less rarified atmosphere of the Indigo Group Premiership, there is still plenty of action to be seen, and it is a pleasure to welcome Ebbw Vale here for a ‘proper’ league match this evening. I use the term ‘proper’ as for what feels like aeons we get to play them both at home and away this season, having been through an assortment of league programmes that were abbreviated in one way or another, what with the pandemic doing it’s worst by curtailing 2019-20 and completely obliterating 2020-21, before the introduction of a strange East-West divide in the cup sharing the fixture schedule with a somewhat unsatisfactory play-one-another-only-once league programme last season.
Thankfully, as it feels like aeons since we last played at Ebbw Vale, we’re back to home-and-away fixtures this season and this evening’s encounter will have a return fixture at Eugene Cross Park on March 25th next year.
The Wizards are, of course, still sitting at the top of the Premiership table, although last weekend’s events at Newport mean that the chasing pack have closed the gap somewhat, with Cardiff now just three points adrift with third placed Llandovery three points behind them. Of course, no one ever won any prizes for being top of the table just over two months into an eight-month season, and hopefully the trip to Rodney Parade will serve as a timely reminder of that fact. There’s a great deal of rugby yet to be played; indeed, every possibility of Ebbw Vale mounting their own challenge for honours – anyone who was at a certain cup-tie in February 1984 at Eugene Cross Park will harbour a belief that the good people of Ebbw Vale are better equipped than most to deal with the worst that a Welsh winter can throw at us! I would also point out that in their televised (if, indeed, that is the correct word to describe something that was broadcast only to those who could find the correct link on the S4C website) encounter at home to Llandovery a few weeks back, they could count themselves desperately unlucky not to have emerged victorious.
Looking ahead at the coming weeks, we do, of course face a somewhat sparse helping of club rugby during the Autumn International window, with our next home fixture not until December 3rd when we host Pontypridd in the second of our Challenge Cup group matches, and in fact between now and then the Wizards’ only action will be at the far end of a return trip to Colwyn Bay where we’ll be hoping to emulate last season’s victory over RGC1404.
Enjoy the game.