Paul Williams (Pontypridd Programme Notes)
I’m afraid I couldn’t think of another word to add to the title above, thus transforming it into one of those three-word slogans that popped up everywhere during the dark days of the 2020 lockdown, so I’m afraid I’m left with a headline that sounds remarkably like my blood group (really). However, even after two successive away defeats, we should be looking for the positives in team performances that were far from devoid of merit.
Jason Hyatt and his small band of coaches spent the summer looking not to recruit a large collection of expensive would-be superstars to strengthen the Aberavon squad, but instead took a longer view of the situation and instead looked to invest in the future, drafting in a crop of talented youngsters who have been gradually introduced into matchday squads during the past few weeks, and have proved their worth at a time when a disproportionate number of more experienced, established squad members have been out of action, mainly due to an injury list that could half-fill the A&E waiting room at Morriston Hospital.
Two bonus points were picked up from the long trip north to Colwyn Bay, while probably a matchday squad with the youngest average age seen for many a year in Aberavon colours travelled to Merthyr and, but for some erratic defensive moments, could have ended with a very different result. Travelling away from home to one of the more difficult grounds to visit, and coming away having scored 35 points is no mean achievement, and we can rest assured that the focus at training will now be very much on tightening up the defence.
Like ourselves, Pontypridd have had something of a mixed bag of results thus far this season, and sit with us amongst those clubs occupying a mid-table group starting with Merthyr in 5th position going down to RGC 1404 in 11th, with just five points separating first to last. Ponty will arrive here today full of confidence having produced a solid 35-18 victory over Swansea at Sardis Road last weekend.
For those of us who’ve been following Premiership rugby for the last two decades and more (and there are plenty of us), seeing Pontypridd outside the top three or four in the division still raises an eyebrow or two; they were amongst the leading lights for numerous seasons. I’m sure there will be plenty of suggestions as to why this is the case. The emergence, perhaps, of a financially flush Merthyr rising to the top division to compete for talent in the area, as well as possibly the introduction of a policy at regional level to concentrate academy talent at one club irrespective of where the talent originated, geographically speaking (sounds familiar). Nevertheless, they remain formidable opponents on their day, as evidenced last season when they bounced back from a heavy defeat at the hands of the Wizards at Sardis Road to overturn that outcome not once, but twice here at the Talbot Athletic Ground.
We extend to them our customary warm welcome and our fervent hopes that the weather doesn’t repeat last weekend’s havoc that led to a flooded pitch, and that we can actually see some Saturday afternoon rugby here for the first time in over a month.
Enjoy the game.