Rugby Union: The referee who refused to strike

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The Independent Online
UWIC (Cardiff Inst) 6

Abertillery 11

For once the game wasn't about the players, but more about the referee. The strike action by the majority of the members of the Welsh Society of Rugby Union Referees meant that all bar 11 matches were able to be scheduled for the weekend.

The day after the Welsh Rugby Union hoped it had reached a compromise with their officials in the protracted dispute, this all-Second Division Swalec Cup fifth-round match was able to go ahead because the man in the middle didn't want to take sides.

Alan Barham braved the icy conditions, and the anti-feelings of his colleagues, to continue doing what he has done for a decade and hopes to continue to do for a while longer, and have his Saturday afternoon fun.

"I'm not here to support the Welsh Rugby Union, nor the strike action. I thought very carefully about today's game because I was under a lot of pressure from my colleagues not to take part," Barham said.

"I felt that for the sake of the game itself that strike action shouldn't be used to resolve our difficulties. At the end of the day, if you haven't got the love for rugby you shouldn't referee.

"Every referee I know didn't take up the whistle to make money. We need to think more about the officials at clubs around Wales who aren't getting paid for anything they do.

"I think there are too many individuals with strong opinions who seem to influence everyone else among the refereeing fraternity. I know that from the refereeing point of view I will have done myself no favours whatsoever."

It took a brave man to let the game go ahead in any case. The wind-chill factor must have been well below freezing and the action didn't exactly heat up the crowd. The students threw away a great chance of booking a sixth-round trip to Cross Keys and avenging an earlier defeat in the Second Division by their visitors.

They paid a heavy price for not making better use of the strong wind in the first half, mustering only two penalties by the skipper and No 8 James Savastano.

Abertillery's forwards, nursed intelligently by half-backs Darren Wright and Phil Withers, turned on the pressure in the second half and two penalties by the full-back Mark Williams won the day.

UWIC: G Tremain (G Bowen, 32); G Stiff, R Shorney, P Matthews, A Wagstaff; G Vobe, M Sage; A Millward (M Bolton, 40), J Richards, B Evans, C Webb, C Langley, G Lewis, J Savastano (capt), A Davies (C Chezlawick 40).

Abertillery: M Williams; D Howard, A Green, S Pennell, D Pitt (M Penny, 70); P Withers, D Wright (capt); A Oliver (J Crandon, 68), J Wells, P Harriman (G Moon, 68), J Scrivens, T Edwards, R Gladwyn, G Gladwyn, D McTravers.

Referee: A Barham (Cardiff).