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'That Far Away Cup' by Herb Howell

1 week ago By Gary Williams

American visitor Herb Howell gives his views on Llandudno v Maesteg Celtic and Pwllheli v Ruthin. Super picture by ST Photography.

Cup match competitions have a special appeal and it is a bit different from the regular league play of home and away exchanges. Cup competitions, whether regional or National, are one-off knockouts with a tag of win or go home! Often these matches are against unknown opponents, but not always.

Over the last couple weekends two local area matches were chosen to observe and to express neutrality. Whom do you support? - is not an option. For example, one does not wear a Ruthin cap in Pwllheli, where one has been known for years or to wear a Dodgers baseball cap in San Francisco. So, I chose an obscure Helena Brewers baseball cap instead.

First, a cold windy, sunny day in Llandudno greeted the South Walians from Maesteg (Celtics). Last season, this level of the National Cup competition, saw Pwllheli travel to the same Maesteg Celtics, the home side prevailed and treated the visitors to an early exit from the competition.

At Llandudno, it was a different story for a North Wales side! Maesteg came out strong, secured good ball early on and scored an unconverted try. That advantage was not to last for long with the Goats quick ball and outside speed, led to a few quick tries from long distance. The halftime advantage was just the beginning for Llandudno. Liberal substitutions failed to take the scoring foot off the gas and kept their scribe busy! Again it was quick ball and massive overlaps, from long distance that lead to the eventual 48-5 win!

Later, A Maesteg supporter, with club tie, confided that they had not brought their best pack North for the match - two props and a lock were missing, plus another key individual. Distance has never enhanced rugby travel going either North or South, it seems!

The next weekend Pwllheli was to host another North Wales team: Ruthin. It was a North Wales cup match to be played in a windy Pwllheli! Ruthin came out highly enthused and dominated play from the opening kick off, while the home side was not up to the task. Tight, consistent and hard attacking possession produced three tries, but no conversions. Breaks by the #15 and #8 kept the home side on its heels. Halftime- Ruthin 15, Pwllheli nil.

At the half, Pwllheli made some key substitutions and came out with renewed spirit! Pwllheli did not show any long runs, initially, but pounded ahead, inch by inch without giving up the ball. One try, converted, and then later another converted try brought the Ruthin advantage to only 15-14, with a few minutes to play. The substitution of flanker, #7, who doubles at scrumhalf, and played well at those alternating roles, while driving Pwllheli scores. A yellow card to Ruthin, and continued consistent possession produced a try off a pick and go, with driving support! The conversion failed but the home side had a 19-15 lead with only a few minutes to play. Ruthin then produced a nice break to inside the Pwllheli 22, but lost the ball to the lineout, and the time soon ran out!

The difference, at the end, was down to the last few minutes of play. It was a tough match to win and a tough match to lose. Ironically, all tries were scored going downhill and against the horizontal mist, off the bay!

Updated 20:44 - 8 Nov 2018 by Gary Williams

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