The end of April normally spells the end of the traditional rugby season so we can now safely record Season 2020/21 in the annals under the title “ABANDONED” !
The UK seems to be re-awakening and, notwithstanding the terrible situation developing in India, is it too much to hope that we may look forward to rugby next season ?
Unless the situation deteriorates again, now that the Senedd elections are over, I firmly believe we should be pushing for a return of our Leagues from September 1 with pre-season friendlies (with crowds) in August. In other word, a normal season – after all, competitor sports like soccer and rugby league are doing so !!
There is room for rugby optimism given that the Lions tour party has been announced and good luck to Neath’s Steve Tandy and the rest of the party. Few outside Neath RFC (and probably not many within it) know that Steve’s grandfather played on the wing for Neath in 1946. It is even better when someone from a real rugby family achieves recognition ! We and Tonmawr are so proud of him.
More good news is that the WRU have announced a full list of international fixtures (kick off times awaited) with summer and autumn tests at home :-
Saturday, July 3 Canada
Saturday, July 10 Argentina
Saturday, July 17 Argentina
Saturday, October 30 New Zealand
Saturday. November 6 South Africa
Sunday, November 14 Fiji
Saturday, November 20 Australia
Also announced are the fixtures (kick off times awaited) for next year’s Six Nations when defending champions Wales will play :-
Saturday, February 5 Ireland (A)
Saturday, February 12 Scotland (H)
Saturday, February 26 England (A)
Friday, March 11 France (H)
Saturday, March 19 Italy (H)
The regions have launched the “Rainbow Cup” although, with the withdrawal of the South African sides, that particular meteorological phenomenon lost most of its colour.
Still, it has been nice to see Neath boys Ifan Phillips and Keiran Williams on the try-sheet for Ospreys and Max Llewellyn for Blues. Summer tests beckoning perhaps ?
Staying on-field, our congratulations go to top local referee Craig Evans who is on his way to officiate at the Olympics in Japan – supporters will remember Glynneath-based Craig’s brother Ashley playing on the wing for Neath.
Neath supporters will I am sure add their condolences to the many that marked the death of John Dawes last month. I have very distant, hazy infant-school memories of him scoring a try to inflict a shock defeat upon Neath in what was to be the final Christmas Day fixture against London Welsh.
John was last at The Gnoll at the start of (the last) 2019/20 season when Neath beat London Welsh pre-season on a glorious sunny afternoon. London Welsh president John proudly watched his grandson play on the ground he had adorned and, as ever, he had some firm opinions on the state of modern rugby – many of which our current leaders would do well to adopt.
Incidentally, Neath won 33-5, Luke Griffiths and Dan Guarneri each converting two tries of the five – for a bit of fun, can you remember Neath’s try-scorers ? (Answers at the end of this Newsletter)
Now to off-the-field and the Bank Holiday weekend saw the re-opening of our KOP (Klub On the Pitch), outdoor hospitality located at the Town end of the ground. I know Hayley is looking forward to the return indoors – probably from May 17.
Despite the long, long lockdown, WRU, District and inter-club activity continues. Some activities have actually increased – for example, press requests seeking information for much-appreciated articles to fill their columns in the absence of too much on-field action. And, for me, one of the happier aspects of the pandemic (and there are not many !) has been the opportunity to devote more time to Neath RFC’s history.
Over recent years, a small, informal ‘network’ of club historians has emerged and we help each other out as much as possible – from Ray Ruddick (Pontypool) in the east to Les Williams (Llanelli) in the west and many points in between, we have kept each other sane (well reasonably !) during it all.
People would probably be surprised by the number of inquires I receive and supporters may be interested in a special one that arose recently concerning D.M. Evans, a Neath and Wales trialist forward of the 1930’s, who would surely have been capped had he not joined Huddersfield R.L. in December, 1935 and lost his life in the Second World War.
He is included in my annual “Neath Remembers” article each November – and his is a tragic tale given added poignancy by the fact that on the day he lost his life, his wife gave birth to a baby girl.
What made this request special was that it came from the HMS Hood Association – Dai Evans having lost his life when the battle-cruiser was sunk by the Bismarck in May, 1941.
Commander William Sutherland RN and media officer Alex Ray were keen to obtain a photograph which I was happy to supply along with some rugby details of Dai Evans for the HMS Hood Association to include on their Memorial Page on their Website.
Perhaps the pandemic has not been quite on the scale of world war yet but every casualty is an individual tragedy for families and friends involved. If the UK is moving into better times, please continue to be cautious, take care everyone, stay safe and let’s hope we see a return to proper rugby action soon.
Neath RFC Secretary
- Neath v London Welsh 33-5, try-scorers were Scott Malone (2). Luke Griffiths, Jordan Rees and David Griggs.
NOTE – THE NEWSLETTER IS A WEEK LATE THIS MONTH AS NEATH RFC PARTICPATED IN THE SPORTS-WIDE “ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA” BLACKOUT LAST WEEKEND. DID THE BLACKOUT DO ANY GOOD ????