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Pitch Perfect - EMERGENCY FUNDING gives Newport High School Old Boys a pitch they can be proud of

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  4. Pitch Perfect - EMERGENCY FUNDING gives Newport High School Old Boys a pitch they can be proud of

Newport High School Old Boys could soon boast one of the best playing surfaces in Welsh rugby – just a few months after having one of the worst.

Emergency funding has enabled the Caerleon-based club to start transforming their pitch which looked like a World War One battlefield as recently as February.

That was when severe floods from Storm Dennis hit various parts of Wales, leaving many playing facilities ruined and some clubhouse interiors wrecked by filthy floodwater.

Dozens of rugby, football and cricket clubs suffered as well distraught residents throughout the country.


“The height of the water inside our clubhouse was a metre-and-a-half – almost up to the level of the bar,” says NHSOB club secretary Maggie Turford.

“The damage was awful because we had sewage coming in from the flooded river across the fields. It was disastrous.

“All our playing kit, including for the minis and junior sections, was completely destroyed as they were all stored here. It was terrible.”

Fortunately, unlike many clubs, the Old Boys had managed to get insurance cover, so their clubhouse has been cleaned and will soon be repaired and re-fitted once the current lockdown restrictions have eased.

But their cover did not extend to the pitches – meaning they would have struggled to get it re-surfaced and primed with adequate drainage, had it not been for a supporting £3,000 grant from the Emergency Relief Fund via Sport Wales.

Four months on – with no rugby having been played on it after the combined negative forces of the storms and then the shutdown caused by coronavirus – the pitch could soon be looking like Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

A pitch inspection was carried out, paid for by the Welsh Rugby Union, and now the club have begun the process of repair and renewal.

“Significant work has been done in the last two or three weeks, there’s a lot more to be done, but already the chairman feels the pitch is looking magnificent,” says club treasurer Andrew Turford.

“Because of the floods and then the shutdown, I think only one senior match has been played on the pitch since March. So, as it’s worked out, it’s had plenty of time to recover but now would be a good time to get all that other necessary work done.

“The fact that the drainage ditches have not been up to scratch is a good reason to improve them, because it can take longer for the floods to retreat if those drains are not adequate.

“It’s very welcome funding from the emergency fund and it means we can look forward to hopefully having a superb playing surface when rugby does eventually return.”

Newport High School Old Boys were laying seventh in WRU National league Division Two East when the shutters came down on their season.

But it’s not just the first XV who have had their sporting fix disrupted. The club run youth and junior sections, providing rugby for the local community from their base at Yew Tree Lane, just off the Usk Road out of Caerleon.

That community base was reflected in they help they received when Storm Dennis struck, causing substantial damage at their club along with others in the area such as Usk, Blackwood, Cross Keys, Bedwas and Taff’s Well.

“We had loads of volunteers and were fortunate in one sense that the floods came just before the start of half-term,” says Maggie Turford.

“Loads of parents came out with their little ones to help clean up and the supporters also rolled up their sleeves and chipped in.

“But it was always going to be a superficial exercise in cleaning up. We knew that a lot of stuff was going to be damaged with rot and so it’s been a big exercise to try and get things back to as they were – both in the clubhouse as well as out on the pitch.”

When rugby does return, however, Newport High School Old Boys should have a pitch they can be proud of.

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