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We take life too lightly and sport too seriously

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By Jonathan Twigg

DEBATE rages in Wales at present, where rugby has infiltrated the summer domain of cricket, which has held unparalleled dominance of the summer sunshine.

There has been a culture change, whereby summer tours and early season fixtures of the traditional winter sports means earlier starts.

Look no further than next seasons football league championship season for Swansea City, starting on Saturday (Aug 5) until Sunday (May 26) 2019.

The outcry from the boundary ropes comes more about how mini ruby has become a summer sport, bulldozered through, as opposed to negotiated.

WRU figurehead in this Ryan Jones, former Wales captain and British Lion parading the paraphernalia, Cricket Wales Development Officer Keri Chahal, having face to face meetings to form common ground.

The winner, undoubtedly now rugby as their mini game is happening in front of our eyes, but has cricket lost?

Not looking at the participation statistics in the new ‘All Stars’ programme, where children bestowed in blue attire are bouncing around cricket fields in the sunshine, the magic there to entice the next generation.

Jason Roy: In action for England against Australia

What sells it to parents, who undoubtedly influence their siblings?  The paradox of ‘I played the game, so you must do also’ may live in both sports, but it’s more than that.

Attendances at international matches, in cricket’s case by supporting England, well the England and Wales Cricket Board side, the pathway? Saturday (Jun 16) saw them rock up in Cardiff, rugby capital of Wales, the Swalec Stadium to be precise, skirting the River Taff through Bute Park, the hosts leading a five match series against Australia 1-0.

Sell out you would think? Far from it; the Principality Stadium, bestowed with a retractable roof, unequivocally is, if Australia are the visitors, the Swalec attracted around 13,000, a fifth of their rugby rivals capacity.

Does cricket lack that panache to attract the floating spectator, often then with the family in tow?  The game has stand out stars, opening batsman Jason Roy pulverising the Aussie attack, the Richardson’s, Jhye and Kane, of no blood synchronisation, a rarity in this sport for two with the same name to be sharing the new ball. Root 66, the featured face of the cricketing market, Joe, England Captain present, alongside former Glamorgan opening bowler Alex Wharf, making his ODI debut, as an umpire.

Coloured clothing, blue against yellow for the 11am start, the Aussie public back home having a choice of watching cricket, World Cup football against France, or rugby as the Wallabies welcomed Ireland to Melbourne.

Cricket is sensational down under, the viewing figures from Saturday would make an interesting comparative, lifting some of the ‘doom and gloom’ emanating from our ‘middle England’ type dulcet tones of the cricketing ‘I know best brigade’.

Food for thought, or is it time for the Blazers and prawn sandwiches to be confined to the attic, relics of periods passed? 100 ball ‘City’ cricket is another gurus dream, not welcomed by the current ‘Blazers’, where Saturday’s game produced 102 runs for one wicket, from just a third of the games total deliveries.

Believe me, there was a following of supporters, some perhaps beer monsters, in fancy dress but the majority of paying punters here, at £65 were from a generation brought up on John Arlott, a commentator remembered with fondness, his soupy‑thick Hampshire vowels drawling “we take life too lightly and sport too seriously.”

‘Wise up or weep’ is the cry for cricket, as this game on paper had everything, including the proverbial rain, which has so impacted the winter sports programme to influence the thinking of the WRU game management board.

England’s batsman rattled up for the first time in history five consecutive 50 plus run partnerships with stand in skipper Josh Butler ‘ramping’ sixes over the wicket keepers head; text book they are not but part of the modern game as he brought up his own 50 in the forty first over, with 17 runs in five balls!

What are the indicators for success? Tactical understanding from a blooded skipper Tim Paine, Jason Roy 120, Josh Butler 91 not out and Johnny Bairstow 42, in England’s highest ever ODI total of 342-8, where the expectation nowadays is 300 plus. Certainly, making sunshine on a rainy day sings Zoe, although those in the know were drumming Mambo number 5 with a cucumber sandwich during the interval.

Australia, looking to save some grace on a day when their rugby and football comrades were dispensed made a fist of it, Maxwell striking 31 alongside Glamorgan star Shaun Marsh.

Marsh handled the pressure but the crowd sensed the game slipping into the memory bank, in the lowering sunlight, buoyed by the beach ball antics of amongst others, Baywatch, tennis players and the Smurfs who embraced the evening’s ambiance, before the jobsworth lumbered in.

Marsh passed 2000 white ball runs on his way to 131, the end coming through Roy’s match winning catch to secure the star player award as over 600 runs were chalked in the scorebook. Something was missing, no pyrotechnics from which to salivate. Down to the pitch maybe, a slow burner typifying middle England in the centre of Wales, or is the product label just too predictable.  Maybe a famous son of Yorkshire can answer that, after all he was called upon to ring the five minute ‘bell’ to signal the start of play.

That Yorkshireman; Neil Warnock; the irony, Manager of the newest Premier League football team, Cardiff City, promoted last season from the Championship, brought in for ‘iconic value’. Can the traditional sports share the space before time is called one wonders, with no frills, no fuss, depicted serenely by Arlott.

That memory is worth a toast, of his favourite Beaujolais tipple, for this is cricket as we know it, but for how much longer?

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Sport

Aber Youth clinch impressive win

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Kicking boots on: Aber Youth's Mason Jones converted 5 tries

Aberystwyth Youth 40 – Crymych Youth 15
AFTER their fine win against previously unbeaten, top-of-the-table Pembroke two weeks ago, Aber continued their run of excellent performances by beating Crymych at Plascrug on Saturday. This victory lifts them to joint second in the Pembrokeshire League, within striking distance of topping the table after this impressive win.
On a bright, sunny, but bitterly cold afternoon Aber fielded a side that had several players playing out of position. They were further disadvantaged by having to play uncontested scrums as Crymych were unable to field a full front row.
Aber kicked off towards the clubhouse with a strong wind behind them but took time to settle down. Crymych, on the other hand, played skilful, confident rugby right from the outset. Their backs, in particular, started with speed, fluency and determination. They moved the ball along the line at every opportunity, guessing that this would take play away from Aber’s strength up-front. It was from such a move that they opened the scoring. After winning possession deep in their own half the ball was passed along the backs. Full-back Hill came into the line and put left-wing Greenhalgh over for an unconverted try.
Aber’s reply came after they had been awarded a penalty in their own half. Fly-half Mason Jones found touch ten metres from the Crymych line and the hosts won the ensuing lineout. The ball was fed out to Will Caron Lewis, lurking among the backs, and from fifteen metres out, he barged his way towards the line, breaking through tackles, to score near the posts. Mason Jones converted and Aber, after 15 minutes play, were 7 – 5 ahead.
A poor clearance kick by Aber led to Crymych’s second try by lively full-back, Hill. This again went unconverted but it put them back in the lead at 7 – 10. Aber’s forwards continued to win most of the possession but the backs seemed slower in thought and more uncertain than their opponents. But as they became more focused they also became more threatening, and it was entirely with the run of play that winger Ryan Gilmore scored Aber’s second try from a move that began 40 metres upfield. This went unconverted but the hosts were back in the lead at 12 – 10.
They extended this lead when Will Caron Lewis scored his second try wrestling his way over from a lineout. Jones converted and Aber moved 19 – 10 ahead. With ten minutes of the first half remaining, Crymych stepped up the pressure and were camped near Aber’s try line for most of that time before scrum-half Bennett crossed for a try. The conversion was again missed but the gap had closed to 19 – 15 at half-time.
With the wind behind them, Crymych were expected to become an even bigger threat in the second half. But Aber’s coach Wayne Thomas must have delivered a very stern team talk at half time because his boys were fired up from the restart and went on to score three unanswered, converted tries in the second half. They put in an aggressive, professional display of running rugby that was a credit to them and their coach. Through their line breaking runs, their success at the breakdowns, their support play and their offloading they completely dominated the opposition.
Gilmore scored his second try of the game for Aber’s bonus point, Charles Thomas added the home side’s fifth try and Thomas Jenkins’ try closed the scoring. Mason Jones converted all three to round off a very good display of placekicking. The final score at 40 – 15 reflects Aber’s superiority throughout the team in every phase of play.
There were some very polished and mature individual performances on show from Aber’s ranks. Will Caron Lewis and Charles Thomas (both playing out of position) showed that they have benefitted hugely from their time in the first XV this season. But they were only two from a host of Aber players who shone. The Youth XV’s performances so far this season have given the club’s supporters every confidence in its continued success in the years to come.

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Ceredigion success at Welsh Indoor Rowing Championships

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THERE was success for Ceredigion at the Welsh Indoor Rowing Championships bringing home nine medals.

Held on Friday and Saturday, 22 and 23 November at the Channel View Leisure Centre in Cardiff, this was the 20th anniversary of the event. The aim in Ceredigion is to grow indoor rowing and to promote the local Sea Rowing Clubs.

On the Friday, 14 children from Aberaeron Comprehensive School and Ysgol Bro Teifi, Llandysul took part in the school event. Some had competed last year for the first time, while others were rowing in the competition for the first time. The standard was exceptionally high, with schools from both Wales and England, with 9 records being broken within the 20 races that were held on the day.

Three medals were won in the school event. Beri Tomkins, Ysgol Bro Teifi; Finley Tarling and Dylan Gwynne Jones, Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron each won a gold medal. 10 of the children achieved their own personal best times with Beri and Finley even broke national records.

On the Saturday, the club races were held where two junior medals and four senior medals were won. Dylan Gwynne Jones won a gold medal for 4min row under 16. Beri Tomkins won a gold medal with a new personal best of 543 metres rowed in two minutes. Beri now holds four records – year 6 school and Welsh record; and year 7 school and Welsh record.

In the adult event, Leo O’Connor won a bronze medal for 60+years 500m; Hannah Lodder won two gold medals for Ladies 40+ years 500m and Ladies 40+years 2km; and Sam Owen won silver medal for Ladies 40+years 2km.

There are weekly Indoor Rowing sessions held at Ysgol Bro Teifi, Llandysul; Aberaeron Comprehensive School; and Bro Pedr School, Lampeter. These sessions are supported by CRIW which are the indoor rowing group within Ceredigion. CRIW also run sessions on a Monday evening at Aberaeron Leisure Centre.

Rhidian Harries, Active Young People Officer, said, “The Young Rowers from Ceredigion have done fantastically well at this national competition. The event was very well organised, and many English schools that are recognised as rowing schools attended. However, the children from Ceredigion showed that they could compete against anyone. It’s a great credit for them and also for CRIW, who have been working tirelessly to grow the sport in the area. Their support and enthusiasm has been crucial, and they should take great pleasure in the success and the performances of these young rowers.”

CRIW will be running their own Indoor Rowing Competition at Teifi Leisure Centre, Cardigan on Saturday, 28 March 2020. Search them on Facebook for more information.

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Six Nations finale with Scotland sold out

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Wales’ final Guinness Six Nations clash of the 2020 Championship – against Scotland – has sold-out.

The tournament climax for incoming head coach Wayne Pivac on Saturday 14th March, will be played out at a full capacity Principality Stadium in front of a 73,931-strong crowd baying for Welsh success.

Pivac opens his first Six Nations campaign, after taking over the head coach reins from incumbent Wales boss Warren Gatland, in Cardiff against Italy on Saturday 1st February with limited tickets (including U16s tickets at £20) still available for this game.

In all over 200,000 tickets have been sold for Wales’ three home matches in the competition and the round three meeting with France, on Saturday 22nd February, is set to follow Scotland in posting up the sold-out signs in the next few days.

The last time Wales faced the Scots, the Azzurri and Les Blues at home following a Rugby World Cup was the 2016 Six Nations, when all three matches sold-out before a ball was kicked, a factor directly influenced by a successful run in the tournament.

In Pivac’s first game in charge he leads Wales against a Barbarians side which will be led by his predecessor at the helm for Wales, Gatland, at Principality Stadium in November.

The Barbarians match has sold over 40,000 tickets to date, but also still has availability for U16s, at £10, with remaining adult tickets starting at £30.

Remaining tickets for Italy and France in the Six Nations and for the Barbarians game are available now from a Welsh rugby club near you, online at www.wru.wales/tickets, in person at the WRU ticket office or by phone 0844 847 1881 (calls to this number cost 7p per minute plus your company’s access charge) – maximum purchase limits apply.

Principality Stadium Official Hospitality Packages are available for all matches from 02920 822309 or visit www.wru.wales/hospitality, with Premium hospitality available for the Barbarians game and limited availability in The Players’ Lounge for Italy.

The WRU’s offsite hospitality partner Events International also has availability www.eventsinternational.co.uk and official travel packages can be purchased from the WRU’s official travel supplier, Gullivers Sports Travel by visiting www.gulliverstravel.co.uk and some member clubs may also still have tickets.

The WRU strongly advises all supporters to make sure they always ‘buy official’, only tickets bought from official sources (member clubs, official partners or the WRU direct) are guaranteed by the WRU – with tickets sold via unlicensed operators often cancelled and entrance regularly and regretfully refused on void tickets.

FIXTURES ON SALE NOW (includes ticket availability by category):

Wales v Barbarians, Saturday 30th November 2019, Principality Stadium, Kick-off 2.45pm (Double header with Wales Women v Barbarians Women, Kick-off 11.45am) Prices: £10, £20 (both sold-out to adults but £10 concession remains for U16 – with over 40,000, more than half capacity, available) , £30 *AFZ, £40, £50

Wales v Italy, Guinness Six Nations Championship, Saturday 1st February 2020, Principality Stadium, Kick-off 2.15pm. Prices: £30, £50 (both sold-out), £60 *AFZ, £60 (£20 U16), £65 (£20 U16), £75

Wales v France, Guinness Six Nations Championship, Saturday 22nd February 2020, Principality Stadium, Kick-off 4.45pm. Prices: £40, £65 (both sold-out), £90, £90 *AFZ, £95, £105 (sold-out)

Wales v Scotland, Guinness Six Nations Championship, Saturday 14th March 2020, Principality Stadium, Kick-off 2.15pm ALL SOLD-OUT

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