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Old arena at Swansea evoked special memories

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: December 20, 2012

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I HAD never been to the famous old ground that is St Helens until Saturday, but while it is now well past its prime and a shadow of its former self, I'm glad to say that I can tick it off my list with an element of self-satisfaction.

There is something enchanting about old sports stadiums with massive histories and tired facilities and this big arena on the edge of Swansea Bay is no exception.

Until my visit I had only ever witnessed highlights of Swansea RFC on the old Rugby Special show, and watched black and white footage of the legendary six sixes in an over by Garry Sobers off Malcolm Nash from 1968. But I knew that it would be a special place.

The groundsman told me that each of those six Glamorgan deliveries blitzed by the Nottinghamshire skipper all those years ago had ended up in different houses around the ground.

A nice story but unlikely and with the cricket square under water on Saturday afternoon there was a timely reminder that we were there to watch rugby.

The Pirates got changed in a collection of portable buildings at one end of the ground while Swansea emerged from the pavilion on the far side of the field and trotted down a flight of stairs through the wonderfully banked open terracing.

The tea hut didn't serve tea because that was the job of the burger van and even they didn't click into gear until pretty much kick-off time because there was hardly anyone there.

Rough and ready

Huge floodlight pylons illuminated the playing area and the lights of Swansea twinkled from tall buildings all around, while ocean rollers audibly crashed against the promenade defences behind me.

It was rough and ready and absolutely perfect for cross-border cup rugby.

Right on cue from the referee's first whistle the rain arrived and pummelled the players and already heavy, lush pitch mercilessly for the 80 minutes.

Add all that on top of the fact that Swansea went ahead with a breakaway try inside the first minute and you end up with what turned out to be a pretty solid Cornish Pirates performance.

Nobody expected a classic although once the Pirates pack had visibly flexed their collective muscle and Junior Fatialofa had scared Sam Davies into hiding, there was only ever going to be one winner.

Davies is a talented fly-half who has already made his senior debut for Welsh regional side, The Ospreys.

He caught my eye in the game at the Mennaye and stood out here again but once he tired of being smashed by Fatialofa his effect on the game was nullified. And with it went any last lingering hopes of a Welsh win.

The Pirates now need one win from their final two pool games to qualify for the final eight, and two wins to make sure of a home tie.

We will be back in Wales again when we visit Carmarthen in January and I wouldn't bet against another win on Celtic soil. It took more than 70 years for the Pirates to get their first win across the bridge and like the proverbial London bus, a second could be along anytime soon.

– Dick Straughan

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