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Sunday, 01 May 2016 07:39

Better Late than Never ?

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SATURDAY 30th APRIL. The Rock, heavy rain and sunny intervals.
CEFN DRUIDS 0 CAERNARFON TOWN 7 (Huws Gray Alliance)
Three and a half months since I set off to watch the Druids vs. the Canaries in a crucial top-of-the-table Alliance clash, I set off to try again. It would have had bearing on the title race when postponed - frostbound - in January, but it's just as significant today: Caernarfon can clinch the title if they win, whereas - because Caernarfon failed to obtain a Welsh Premier licence - Druids can virtually clinch promotion with three points today. Although, in both cases, they have two more games after today to get the points they need.

It's also a good day to be getting away from Cardiff nice and early, as travel in and through the cty will again be disrupted by a rugby event - this time two regions games in the stadium. What were the marketers on when they dreamed up the ludicrous "Judgement Day" label for a couple of end of season local derbies? Still, like most things WRU, the public seem to swallow it - probably because it's another excuse for an all-day binge.  [article continues - if not visible click "Read More" below]

A big crowd is expected at The Rock today - with news of around 300 travelling Cofi fans - and we just beat the flood of arrivals as we get to the ground around an hour before kick-off. The atmosphere is initially genial, as early arrivals, including Caernarfon officials, mill around outside the turnstiles chatting, but it changes when the two coachloads of Caernarfon fans arrive, noisy and boisterous. They take over the clubhouse, and although a heavy shower has arrived, most home fans and neutrals opt for a less rowdy pre-match atmosphere inside the ground.

Kick off time arrives (and so do the Caernarfon fans) The rain hasn't stopped as expected, and almost everyone in the large crowd is forced to shelter in the stand. Caernarfon, in blue, are on the attack from the outset and take only three minutes to cut through the Druids defence, Clive Williams with the opening goal. Jamie Breese adds a second and a third soon after, and the game is effectively over - Druids cannot overturn this lead and Caernarfon will be confirmed champions today.

The rain subsides eventually, and I'm able to venture out, but in less than ten minutes I'm heading for cover again. In the interim, however, Caernarfon have extended their lead to 0-4, a Nathan Craig penalty after keeper Louis Mackin brings down Danny Brookwell.

There's only question remaining for the second half: how many will Caernarfon win by? It matters a little, because if they get another goal, Druids' goal difference will be worse than second placed Denbigh and they will need four more points from their last two games. The answer proves to be seven goals, Jamie Breese completing his hat-trick, the other goals a deflected Nathan Craig shot and another for Clive Williams.

In the last ten minutes, while the visiting contingent celebrates the title, home and neutral fans migrate to the corner by the exit. In the far corner, there's an incident on the touchline, which leads to the dismissal of Druids midfielder Jack Graham. For some reason, he is outside the barrier as he passes the Cofi fans in the stand, and clearly words and blows are exchanged. Chaos reigns for a few minutes, the match stopped as the brawl is broken up, the first police reinforcements arriving. With seven or eight minutes of normal time left, by my reckoning, it's not clear whether the referee will restart the game or abandon it. Eventually, he restarts it with a Caernarfon free-kick, but less than a minute later blows for full-time. I doubt anyone minds the loss of a few meaningless minutes of play in the circumstances.

As we leave the ground, more police cars are still arriving. Sadly the incident overshadows the Caernarfon triumph, and a thoroughly devastating display of football against the second-best side in the league. During the evening, it's interesting to follow two parallel streams of reporting and comment: the clubs and football sites simply report the Canaries' title win. While news sites pick up on the most-shared item on social media, a video from the stands, and in the absence of any official comment, some bizarre interpretations emerge. The Mirror's own website takes the biscuit for the most wildly inaccurate of all, suggesting Druids' fans were venting their displeasure at the result!

An eventful day out, but again not the one I planned: at least I finally saw the game, after fourteen weeks' delay, but it wasn't the expected close affair, and neither the atmosphere nor the weather were quite as pleasant as hoped. Still, it kept me away from Cardiff until after the rugby-related excesses, although I still have to negotiate the convoluted crowd stewarding and the diverted bus services when I arrive back at 8pm.

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