RUTHIN … BUT NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME !

Neath head to Ruthin on Saturday, September 1st to play RGC in the opening fixture of the 2018/19 Premiership season – but it is not the first time that the Welsh All Blacks have appeared at Ruthin’s Lon Fawr ground.

40 years ago, as the 1977/78 season neared its close, on April 15th Neath made the long trek north to play Ruthin who had made a name for themselves in the early years of the WRU Cup.

And Neath were given a hard time of it before eventually emerging victorious by 22-3, the win achieved courtesy of tries by Ness Flowers, Mike Messenger and Robert Hughes, a dropped goal by Wynne Davies and conversions by Bleddyn Taylor and full back Phil Pugh who also kicked a penalty.

1977/78 was not Neath’s finest season as the side was beset by defections and injuries throughout. But it was by no means their worst campaign either as they battled to end it with a 56.75{2b3e04ec0b6eb92b9cdf5819b8d96bd58008016c6476931d41c44421e1531fdb} success record, good enough to see them finish 10th in the old “Western Mail” championship.

Post-match entertainment was enhanced by the arrival of Neath’s former captain Glyn Shaw who had joined Widnes RL where it is said he developed a keen interest in aquatics and there were some famous names in the Neath team that day :-

Phil Pugh; Mike Jenkins, Don Davies, Robert Mogford, Bleddyn Taylor; Wynne Davies, Ness Flowers; Bruce Bradley, Mike Richards, David Lewis; David Mathias, Russell Cornelius; Mike Messenger, Robert Hughes, Dennis Davey

The trip obviously did Neath a power of good because the following Saturday much the same side (the internationals Elgan Rees and Wilson Lauder substituting Pugh and Cornelius with some consequent positional switches) defeated Cardiff 31-13 at The Gnoll.

Notable events for Neath that season were Peter Davies taking over the captaincy from Glyn Shaw in November, centre David Cole bagging 202 points, Mike Jenkins scoring 16 tries and the veteran warriors Martyn Davies and Walter Williams coming out of retirement to assist in the Club’s hour of need. MP

PS – finally, Neath supporters travelling might be interested to discover from the locals the name of a prominent Welsh actor who played youth rugby for Ruthin.