For over quarter of a century I spent Saturdays playing rugby on many of the pitches across South Wales (all generally in the lower divisions). Unfortunately I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the places I was visiting. Before the match I was usually too anxious and afterwards, well it was usually dark, I was exhausted and occasionally ‘over refreshed’.
Recently I’ve had the joy of accompanying my middle son to rugby games with Pencoed RFC Youth (not a club I ever played for….. it’s a long story).
This has allowed me to see things differently and appreciate some of the interesting quirks and oddities of South Wales Rugby Clubs.
This week was a trip to Vardre RFC, which can be found at Clydach in the Swansea Valley.
Lovely Clydach. This is Vardre RFC, at the confluence of the Lower Clydach and Tawe Rivers. The Club could well be a prototype for the Tardis. You enter a small door off Clydach High Street, pass through the modest bar and then get swallowed up by an enormous function room; not what I was expecting. There are also extensive changing rooms underneath the function room, but nowhere near the pitch.
Listen carefully if you ask anyone in the club for directions to the pitch. Last time I heard anything so complicated, with as many bridges, canals and water, I was in Venice at the Rialto Bridge.
Here’s the first of the bridges. A lovely centuries old cast iron affair over the Clydach to Swansea Canal. You might have noticed the enormous chimney in the background. That’s ‘The Mond‘. The largest Nickel refining plant in Europe, which has a long association with the area. Some local ‘characters’ were sat at the right hand end of the bridge, thoughtfully placing their huge quantity of empty beer cans in a recycling sack.
Bridge number two. Crossing the River Tawe this time. The bridge looks quaint on a sunny day, but I really wouldn’t fancy it at night when the river is in flood. It’s also single file, so if the rugby teams are coming the opposite direction you’ve got a long wait. Don’t look down either. Some of the wooden planks have seen better days.
Waters-Meet. Excuse the self-indulgence here. This is the point where the waters of the River Tawe, Lower Clydach and the overflow from the Canal meet. As a former student of water quality this is a text-book situation. Where is the mixing zone? Where do you collect representative water quality samples? Why are there so many foreign beer cans on the river bank?
Bus Route? This perplexed me. When I eventually found the rugby pitch I encountered a bus shelter. Hugely vandalised, but still a very modern bus shelter with electronics and one of those screens for real-time updates. We don’t even have those in the village where I live and this was in the middle of a field! I can only speculate that it was some creative ‘re-purposing’ as a team dugout by the Vardre RFC, Pitches (sub-committee). Alternatively a cover up for some late night, over enthusiastic e-Bay bidding.
Grandstand View. Continuing the ‘re-purposing’ theme I tried out the grandstand, a single story, lean-too tin-shed affair. In keeping with many other South Wales rugby grounds I think the building materials may have been ‘borrowed’ from the local industrial facility. No picture unfortunately, but you do get a good view of the pitch, and the second ‘re-purposed’ bus shelter (also vandalised).
Rugby Action Shot No1. Our number 7 making a break, just before he got isolated in the tackle and was penalised for not releasing the ball.
Rugby Action Shot No 2. Our number 7 demonstrating the classic line-out overthrow (aka failing to catch the ball). We did actually win the game though.
So, what’s the PONT?
1. Should Vardre RFC be incorporating a Gondola alongside the Magpies on the club badge given that they are the Venice of the Swansea Valley?
2. Where did Vardre RFC Pitches (sub committee) get those bus shelters from?
3. Will the Pencoed No7 be selected for the League match against Mumbles RFC next weekend? (btw, No 7 is my son. He is cool with this).