Sunday 7 March 2021

The Accies College Cup (Race 3) – Why Pontypool?

From the coast of Ireland to the heart of the Welsh valleys, our destination for Race 3 is Pontypool RFC. You would be hard pressed to find a more passionate rugby support or formidable match than a visit to the principality and the records of Accies trips to Wales certainly supports that!

The official finish line of Pontypool RFC harks back to our trips on international weekends in the early 1990s. As is always the case with Accies tours (all rugby tours maybe?), the challenge was to balance our on-field performances with the intent to enjoy our new surroundings and build new friendships and it seems our trips to Pontypool tended to tip towards the latter. 

Memories of these tours are steeped with pride in some Accies players but, unfortunately, they were wearing the navy blue of Scotland at the Arms Park, rather than the traditional sky blue and white hoops of Accies at Pontypool Park. The Wales vs Scotland programme for the 1992 international would include Sole, Wainwright, McIvor and Allan and they would represent their club and country proudly, as always. The programme for the Pontypool RFC vs Edinburgh Academicals FC earlier that same day in 1992 was not quite as illustrious as it simply read “to be advised" on the Accies side. 

The results of these matches turned out as you would expect so why are Pontypool on this list of tours you may ask? The answer lies away from the field in any pub, shop or street where a warm welcome and astute rugby conversation ensued between locals and any kilted man. No club’s history is unfettered success, and certainly not Accies, but tours are about more than winning rugby and trips to Wales for any rugby player or fan will always live long in the memory.

Given the theme of the above, it seems we should mention our most recent trip to Wales in 2014 while competing as part of the British and Irish Cup. The opportunity afforded to Accies on the back of our most successful domestic season since the early 1990s. This time our team sheet would visit Pontypridd RFC with a fully “advised” team in the programme. The team itself read very strongly indeed, certainly nowadays as many have gone on to have successful professional rugby careers. Notable inclusions on the day would be current star international Hamish Watson, our star 7s internationals Jamie Farndale, Sam Pecqueur, Nyle Godsmark and, as our B&I Cup teams were bolstered by a handful of Edinburgh professionals, Stuart McInally. We would also benefit from a strong travelling support as sky blue and white bobbles hats were prominent across the stand, and regularly addressed by the loudspeaker due to the fervent support that they gave the Accies. We could not be more prepared to put the ghosts of Pontypool to rest but, alas, the result would be the same. We would lose to a clinical home side on an incredibly muddy and sodden pitch.

They say that you learn more from your losses than your victories so it seems there was plenty for Accies to learn when playing to Wales.


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