John Watkins, 436 games as Pontypridd’s hooker and 33 years as player and committeeman, will spend this week building his Llandovery team for a shock result in the Schweppes cup – victory over Pontypridd!
“All the pressure will be on Ponty when they come to us in the second round on Saturday. They can be sure that we will rise to the occasion,” he promises.
He moved to the West Wales farming town just three months ago. The local club, relegated from section A of the West Wales R.U. the previous season, heard of his arrival …….. and immediately invited him to coach the players.
His success has been swift. Llandovery have not lost a game for more than two months and their new coach has given the recently struggling club a fresh lease of life.
He used his massive expertise to reorganise the pack, gave the leadership to second row Wyn Williams and now the possession is flowing to the backs, where brothers Carwyn (outside half) and Geraint Williams (centre) are in sparkling form.
“We are no mugs and we have a reasonable chance,” says the coach who parted company with Pontypridd during last summer’s annual meeting. “I was delighted when the draw was made and discovered so many of my old friends were on their way”.
Cup Shock At The Castle Ground
Alun Granfield (taken from Pontypridd v Llandovery programme notes 2015)
On the 8th of December 1984 Pontypridd travelled to Llandovery to play the Drovers in the second round of the Welsh Cup.
Although Ponty were not having a particularly brilliant season - to date they had won 11, drawn 1, and lost 9 games – they had picked up a good home draw against Newport, and had beaten South Wales Police, Cross Keys, Ebbw Vale, Abertillery, Tredegar, and Aberavon of the Welsh first-class clubs.
The ‘minnows’ of Llandovery were in Section A of the West Wales League, and the result should have been a foregone conclusion. Llandovery had played three home cup games that season, beating Loughor (21-9), Tumble (12-3), and Kenfig Hill (32-3) in the first round proper. Their success had been based on a strong pack, and good goal kicking by their outside half Carwyn Williams. Also, their coach was a certain Jock Watkins who had played 435 games at hooker for Ponty in the fifties and sixties.
Ponty had beaten Senghenydd in the previous round at Sardis Road by an unconvincing 10 pts to 3.
Pontypridd took a strong side down to Llandovery: Rhys Williams; Andy Cartwright; Brendan McAloon; Steve Smith; Justin Robinson; Roddy Crane; Robert Davies; Alan Edwards; Andy Witts; Neil Wilding; Steve Duke; Mark Rowley; Gary Jones; Don Jones (capt); Carl Groves.
The game was played on the old Castle Sports Ground, and the BBC must have suspected that a shock might be on the cards. They gave it prime spot in their Saturday Sports programme, with full coverage by their cameras and commentary by David Parry-Jones. Llandovery were expecting a big crowd on the day, and had hired a temporary stand to accommodate the multitude. The weather was fine, and everything was set for a tremendous rugby occasion.
The Llandovery team was: Alan Morgan; Eirian Jones; Geraint Williams (capt); Alun Thomas; Carwyn Davies; Carwyn Williams; Randall Jones; Gareth Williams; Wyn Morgan; Dai Thomas; Noel Page; Wyn Williams; Elfyn Jenkins; Eddie Morris; Dai Wigley. Twelve of the starting fifteen were former pupils of Ysgol Pantycelyn, the local Comprehensive School.
The referee was Clive Norling – he of the tight short shorts and imperious air – a top class international referee. Norling could be a bit of a showman, but was a superb referee. At 6’ 3” he was also bigger than many of the players, and stood no nonsense on the park.
Llandovery started like an express train, and their flanker Elfyn Jenkins got an early try, converted by Carwyn Williams, to rock Pontypridd back on their heels. Williams added a penalty later in the first half, and Roddy Crane dropped a goal for Ponty to take the half-time score to 9-3.
The second half saw the visitors desperately trying to gain a foothold in the Llandovery half, but thwarted by a strong home defence. Pontypridd were also being heavily penalised by Mr. Norling, and Williams kept the scoreboard ticking over. Roddy Crane did get a penalty for Ponty, but the match was slipping away from them as Williams put over four kicks for the home side.
In the end it was a scruffy, disorganized performance by Ponty, and a highly committed one by Llandovery, who thoroughly deserved their handsome win by 21-6. Needless to say, the celebrations in Llandovery RFC’s Clubhouse went on well into the night after the game, and Sam Simon and the Ponty committee had to endure Jock Watkins’ satisfied smile all evening!