Game off at Bridgend

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Saturday’s National Cup tie at Bridgend was postponed because the Brewery Field pitch was waterlogged, following very heavy rain. The two clubs will look to re-arrange the fixture as soon as possible. Competition rules state that a rearranged match must be played either during midweek or on a non league weekend, and must take place at least 7 days prior to the next round.

We’ll keep you posted!

R Paul Russell
It is with the deepest sadness that we heard, on Sunday, of the passing of our former Club President, Paul Russell, following illness on Saturday afternoon (20th Jan 2018).
Paul presided over arguably EVRFC’s most successful period, leading the club into the professional era in the 90s, bringing European Cup rugby to Ebbw Vale and enabling local players to grow into Welsh international ones. Those of us that were fortunate to follow the club at that time have fantastic memories to thank Paul for.
His contribution to his home town club cannot be overestimated and will never be forgotten.
Our thoughts are with Paul’s family and friends.

Club president, Mark Powell, pays tribute to his predecessor:

“For those of us who supported Ebbw Vale Rugby Club and Glamorgan County Cricket Club in the years leading up to the advent of professional rugby in Wales, the future prospects looked bleak. We were able to hark back to the days of Denzil, Arthur, Gareth, Glyn, Mike, Phil etc. but the rugby club was struggling and there was not much relief in the summer either. Where was Majid, Don Shepherd and the great names of Welsh cricket?

Onto that stage stepped Paul Russell who, at the retirement of the previous President of Ebbw Vale RFC, with whom I was closely acquainted, took over the mantle of reviving the fortunes of the rugby club. He brought with him the experience of business at the highest level, and wasted no time in involving his brother who, by chance, happened to manage one of the most successful groups in popular music and, between them, they were determined to take Ebbw Vale into the professional era. As if such expertise was not enough they were able to call on the financial acumen of one of Wales’ leading lawyers who, by chance, had been a childhood friend.

Under Paul’s leadership the club began to recruit. By the time the recruitment had finished the dressing room was populated by international rugby players. The principal desire was to recruit locally but by the end we had an Irish international, an English international both on the coaching staff and in the team and we had the Tongan High Commission behind the clubhouse. They were glorious years culminating perhaps in the victory against the European Champions Toulouse and the home and away victories against Toulon. Well before Real Madrid borrowed the title, the Ebbw Vale team, under Paul’s presidency, were Los Galacticos. The results came on the pitch but given Paul’s personality, results were not enough. Ebbw Vale had to be associated with style. The end of season dinner was no longer in the clubhouse but at the Celtic Manor. And who could forget the half time entertainment when, in bitterly cold weather, a supporter was prevailed upon to model the Ebbw Vale strip to appropriate musical accompaniment?

The advent of regional rugby was not something that Paul welcomed. He felt that it would break up the fraternity which had always been part of the tribal rivalry in Wales and he was right. He did not, however, just chunter about this and do nothing. When he felt that Ebbw Vale were being unfairly treated by people who should know better he took steps to remedy this and the result was that when Ebbw Vale played Newport the crowd was reduced by two with the television cameras recording the whole thing.

Paul then turned his attention to the situation of Welsh cricket. It would have been the pipe dream of a madman to think that Cardiff would ever host a test match let alone an Ashes test but Paul’s drive helped the transformation of Sophia Gardens into an International Arena. Consistent with his approach, he would only satisfied, when he took over as chairman of Glamorgan County Cricket Club, if the first test that the ground was to hold was against Australia. It was a resounding success and quite how Paul managed to engineer the last afternoon when on a sunlit evening England’s number 10 and 11 held out against the Australian attack thus enabling England, later in the summer, to regain the Ashes, I do not know but suffice it to say that it was only beaten for the intensity with which the spectators were watching what was going on by the appearance of the aforementioned supporter at half-time in the Cup Match at Ebbw Vale.

Right to the end Paul maintained his love for Ebbw Vale and in particular for the rugby club. It is often said in a cricketing context that form is temporary but class is permanent.

Paul had class, and not just any class but Ebbw Vale class. That made him very special.”

Funeral details to follow

Coaching Team

Greg Woods has announced his coaching team and all are familiar names and faces at the club. Greg is confident that the talent and passion of the new coaching team will continue the recent return to form and further improve performances during the second half of the season.
James Lewis will assume the role of Backs and Attack Coach and he will bring a fresh and innovative approach, taking his lead from several of the coaches he has played under during his 12 years in the professional game. James will also keep his playing boots available!
Ashley Sweet, who joined the coaching staff this season, will continue to coach the line out and will add the responsibility for defence to his role. Ash also hopes to return to the field before the end of the season following his recent back injury and subsequent operation.
Lewis Roberts, a former player and the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the last 5 seasons, will add the role of Skills Coach, working with the squad as agreed with the coaching team.

Squad Ins and Outs

The club has completed the signings of back row forwards, Lewis Young from Aberdare and Ben Papp from Usk RFC. Lewis rejoins the Steelmen after a few seasons at his home town club of Aberdare where he has worked his way back to fitness after an injury-interrupted first spell with Ebbw Vale. Lewis has impressed in the all 3 games that the the club has won in recent weeks.
Joining him in the back row is Ben, a former captain at Usk who is highly rated by coaching favourite Ceri Jones. He signs for the Steelmen after putting in quality performances as he has stepped up to assist when injury has struck and fully deserves the opportunity to join the club on a full time basis.
We will also see Dragon Gerrard Ellis spend time at the Steelmen as he continues his conversion from hooker to loose head prop.

Prop Ian George has left the club to join Pontypridd in pursuit of first team rugby. Ian has been unlucky with injuries this season limiting him to only a couple of games and with a fierce battle with the evergreen Ross Jones, the fast maturing Joel Harries and now Dragon Gerard Ellis, the 34 year old has decided on taking up the opportunity with Pontypridd. Ian has had a few spells with the Steelmen, always a quality performer and a popular player within the squad and with the Ebbw Addicts, we wish him well for the future and remind him he will always find a warm welcome at Eugene Cross Park.

The squad still has a few injuries. Josh Jacas undergoes an operation to remove screws from his ankle in the next week or so, and is confident of an early February return to the field of play. Open side Owen Jones is recovering from the knee injury sustained at Newport and is looking at a March return, and that month should also see Jon Davies back in the selection frame following the shoulder injury sustained at Merthyr.

Following their 16-14 defeat of holders RGC last Saturday, Ebbw Vale face a tricky visit to Bridgend in the 2nd round of the National Cup on January 27th. The Ravens knocked out Championship side Glynneath 48-0 in the first round and currently lie 14th in the Principality Premiership, having lost their only game of the second half of the season, 47-14 at at RGC.

The full draw is:

Bargoed v Rhydyfelin
Cross Keys v Bedlinog
Newport v Aberavon
Bridgend v Ebbw Vale
Cardiff v Merthyr
Pontypool v Carmarthen Quins
Llandovery v Llanelli
Beddau v Bedwas

If you ordered tickets for Wales v Scotland, Alan Gall will be distributing them before the match tomorrow’s game against RGC.

There are few spare tickets so if you’d like to buy some, please see Alan before tomorrow’s match but remember we can’t take cards so it’s cash or cheque only. Tickets are mostly priced at £80 each.

As Saturday’s match with Rygbi Gogledd Cymru is a Cup game, there are changes to the admission price structure. For non-members, the price will be as it always is: £12 adult, £8 concessions with Under 16s going in free if accompanied by an adult.

VPs will have free access, adult members will pay £7, and concessions members, £4. Please note that these reduced prices are only available at the special turnstile at the main gate and season tickets must be produced.

Please also note that we have agreed to a request from our friends at Newport RFC to rearrange the fixture originally scheduled for February 3rd, which clashes with the Wales v Scotland match. Although thoughts were to play on the Friday evening, the Dragons have a fixture at Rodney Parade then, so  our game will take place on Sunday, February 4th, kicking off at 2:30pm.

Roy Lewis pays tribute to Keith Westwood who died this week:

“The passing of Keith Westwood who played with distinction for Ebbw Vale in the sixties, and went on to become club coach, has saddened those who played with him or had the pleasure of watching him. He joined us from Newbridge, as did his brother-in-law Ray Knott who sadly died not long ago. With Ray in the centre and Keith at full-back or wing, we had an attack of the highest quality.

The sixties were great years for the Ebbw Vale and Newbridge clubs who shared the same policy to play fast, exciting rugby. The game in the Western Valley had continued through the Second World War years when the steelworks and the collieries produced essential material. When it ended, regular fixtures attracted huge crowds and both clubs thrived on and off the field.

Keith was a key figure in an Ebbw team that, in seasons following the war, were Welsh champions on four occasions and known for the speed of the pack and the adventurous style of a back division that was a joy to watch.

Horace Matthews who, after great years as player became a member of the club committee at a time when the Western Valley was throbbing with clubs, and full of wonderful players, said, “Keith was an outstanding player and clubman and it was a privilege to know him and watch him play.”

Allan Foster remembers the keen but always exciting games with Newbridge at a time when Monmouthshire derbies attracted thousands of spectators. “Keith excelled at full-back or wing and, in the time he was with us, he was highly rated as a player, and was an exceptionally nice man.”

The Club sends deepest condolences to the family of Keith who, on or off the field, brightened our lives: a fine player, a great character and one who will never be forgotten.”