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Last Saturday signalled the end of a tumultuous grassroots rugby season in Wales.

The Welsh Rugby Union, whose priority this year was ensuring clubs survived the pandemic, took certain steps at the beginning of the term to deal with the impact of Covid-19. As such, the season structure looked a little different compared to years gone by.

One of the key changes was that promotion and relegation was scrapped this year as there were fears that coronavirus could seriously impact the leagues. Sanctions against sides unable to play matches were also put on hold for this season only, again, to acknowledge the impact the pandemic may have.

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The league fixture list was also halved and teams would only play each other once, rather than on a home and away basis.

The WRU recently put out statistics that said player registrations had never been higher but it was at odds with messages from numerous clubs who were struggling to fulfil league fixtures because teams were not able to be raised. There were some instances where this caused particular frustration for teams that had fulfilled their away fixtures but missed out on revenue-driving days at their own clubs when visiting teams pulled out.

Fleur De Lys voiced their anger in March, branding the season a ‘s***show’, with first team manager Dai Thomas telling WalesOnline: “Two teams have already told us that their seasons are over. Teams are using Covid as an excuse when really boys have got weddings and there are other things players are putting before rugby.

“We’ve done everything right, gone through all the protocol but we’ve had teams pulling out at 12 o’clock on Saturday. The boys are already in the club gearing up to go. It’s sad.”

Now that the season is over, it can be seen that not a single of the 24 leagues that sit below the Welsh Premiership played out to their full conclusion. According to figures cross-referenced between the WRU’s website and All Wales Sport, 191 games in total went unplayed, meaning 87% of matches across the board were completed.

For context, during the 2018/19 season – the last unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic when teams played twice as many league fixtures – the WRU’s website shows that just seven matches were not completed.

The best-performing leagues were 1 West C and 3 West B, with 97% of matches in those leagues being played and just two falling by the wayside. Particular areas of concern, though, were League 3 North, where 21 games went unplayed, and League 3 East Central A, where 18 matches were not played.

Three leagues saw a reduction in size with Hartridge withdrawing from League 2 East, Malpas pulling out of League 3 East Central and Banwen leaving League 3 West Central B. Their scheduled fixtures have not been included in our figures. This, however, is an improvement on the 18/19 season, when four teams withdrew from their leagues.

Though it is not all doom and gloom. One highlight of the season came earlier this month when the WRU held the finale of their Road To Principality. There were 32 matches, largely finals, held at the national stadium across nine days, with over 30,000 fans attending and matches streamed live online.

Here’s how the leagues finished up this season…

CHAMPIONSHIP

11 games unplayed

League completion: 88%

Winner: Bargoed

Pontypool RFC fired off a blistering statement when it became apparent they would not be able to complete their season because their opposition were unable to raise a side. It effectively took them out of the title race but it mattered little in the end as Bargoed could not have been caught even if Pontypool had completed all 13 fixtures.

LEAGUE 1 EAST

10 games unplayed

League completion: 85%

Winner: Newbridge

Newbridge pipped Penallta by a point to win League 1 East but both teams had three games that went unplayed, with the title race still very much up in the air. They were due to play each other on May 7 but the game didn’t go ahead.

LEAGUE 1 EAST CENTRAL

8 games unplayed

League completion: 88%

Winner: Mountain Ash

Mountain Ash dominated the league, winning all 10 games they played this season. Even if the league had been completed in its entirety, they would not have been caught.

LEAGUE 1 NORTH

12 games unplayed

League completion: 82%

Winner: Llandudno

The title race was very much still on up north, with Llandudno winning the league ahead of Nant Conwy by two points, however both teams had two games still to play. Nant Conwy were leading but Llandudno won their final game of the season against Bala to go top, which was the league’s only game on the last weekend.

LEAGUE 1 WEST

7 games unplayed

League completion: 89%

Winner: Llangennech

Again, this league may have looked different if all games were played but in the end Llangennech edged ahead of Newcastle Emlyn on the last day of the season. Their game against Aberystwyth was the only one to take place in the league and they won to go two points in front. Newcastle Emlyn had two games remaining while Llangennech had one more to go.

LEAGUE 1 WEST CENTRAL

2 games unplayed

League completion: 97%

Winner: Skewen

It was still all to play for here as well. Skewen won the league level on points with Bonymaen, who ultimately finished second because they lost more games than Skewen, who went unbeaten throughout the season. They both had one game left to play in the league, though.

LEAGUE 2 EAST

5 games unplayed

League completion: 91%

Winner: Ynysddu

Another league that was far from over with Ynysddu ending up on top when the season ended. They were only two points ahead of Talywain and three ahead of Newport High School Old Boys, though. Talywain had three games remaining while the other two had two. Much might have changed. There were only 10 fixtures on offer for teams in this league as Hartridge withdrew.

LEAGUE 2 EAST CENTRAL

5 games unplayed

League completion: 92%

Winner: Abercwmboi

Unbeaten Abercwmboi claimed the title leaving one game on the table, edging ahead of Cowbridge with a victory when the two sides met in late April.

LEAGUE 2 NORTH

8 games unplayed

League completion: 82%

Winner: Wrexham

League winners Wrexham did not play all nine of their matches but won all eight they did play, meaning they topped the league ahead of Nant Conwy 2s. They would not have been caught even if those below them had played all their games and claimed maximum points.

LEAGUE 2 WEST

4 games unplayed

League completion: 94%

Winner: Burry Port

A league that came close to being complete with a number of teams playing the full 11 matches. Burry Port were comfortable winners, tasting defeat just once all term. They were well out of sight and would not have been caught had all games been completed anyway.

LEAGUE 2 WEST CENTRAL

4 games unplayed

League completion: 94%

Winner: Morriston

Another league that might have looked different. Morriston won it in the end by four points from Builth Wells, who themselves had one final game left to play against Maesteg Celtic. Had they won that, Builth would have been champions.

LEAGUE 3 EAST A

10 games unplayed

League completion: 85%

Winner: Abertillery BG

The league was far from completed but there is little doubt about the winners. Abertillery BG would not have been caught by those below them. Usk in second place had two games left to play but trailed by 13 points, plus the leaders themselves had a game left as well.

LEAGUE 3 EAST B

13 games unplayed

League completion: 80%

Winner: Newport Saracens

Another league that didn’t come close to being completed but again there is little doubt over the winners with Newport Saracens going a season without losing a game.

LEAGUE 3 EAST C

9 games unplayed

League completion: 80%

Winner: Crumlin

Malpas withdrew from the league due to dwindling player numbers, meaning there were 10 teams to fight it out. Crumlin topped the pile and still had a game to play but Bettws and Crickhowell were still in the running, with both having two games left unplayed.

LEAGUE 3 EAST D

2 games unplayed

League completion: 90%

Winner: Trefil

The seven-team league came close to completion with Trefil topping the lot with one game going unplayed. Tredegar were still in with a shout though as they had two games left to play and trailed by nine points.

LEAGUE 3 EAST CENTRAL A

18 games unplayed

League completion: 73%

Winner: St Albans

St Albans were clear at the top of the league by 18 points but it was far from nearing completion. Strictly speaking, Llanharan may have caught them had all fixtures been played but they only managed five league games. Fairwater, who only played four league games, were not mathematically out of it either but they trailed by 33 points, so it would have been a very long shot.

LEAGUE 3 EAST CENTRAL B

7 games unplayed

League completion: 89%

Winner: Wattstown

Unbeaten Wattstown were clear winners in this league, finishing nine points ahead of Tonyrefail in second with an impressive points difference of 171. The top three teams all had a game unplayed but Wattstown would not have been caught.

LEAGUE 3 EAST CENTRAL C

2 games unplayed

League completion: 93%

Winner: Tref-y-Clawdd

A very tight finish at the top of this table, with Tref-y-Clawdd sneaking it by the narrowest of margins. They finished level on points, wins, losses and tries scored with Cardiff Saracens. As such the winner of the league was worked out by dividing the points for by points against, with Tref-y-Clawdd’s factor being higher. If Ferndale had played all their games, though, they may well have won the league, trailing the leaders by eight points with two games left to play.

LEAGUE 3 NORTH

21 games unplayed

League completion: 68%

Winner: Ruthin 2s

Mathematically, the top four teams in the league were still in with a shout of winning it but Ruthin 2s had won all nine of the games they’d played, so they would have been a safe bet to go on and finish the job.

LEAGUE 3 WEST A

3 games unplayed

League completion: 95%

Winner: Haverfordwest

A tight finish at the top of this league but Haverfordwest won all 10 of the games they played and had one spare. Lampeter Town also had one game remaining and were still in the running but would have needed Haverfordwest to slip up against 11th-place Llangwm had all the games been played.

LEAGUE 3 WEST B

2 games unplayed

League completion: 97%

Winner: Tumble

A very impressive effort from the teams in this league with just four games going unplayed. All of the top five teams managed to complete all their fixtures with Tumble clinching the league title with a win over Betws on the final day of the season. They overtook Trimsaran by a point.

LEAGUE 3 WEST CENTRAL A

10 games unplayed

League completion: 85%

Winner: Aberavon Green Stars

Unbeaten Aberavon Green Stars won the league despite having two games left to play. Technically, Abercrave and Swansea Uplands – who both had a game left to play – could have overtaken them but would have needed Green Stars to slip up in their final two matches had all games been played.

LEAGUE 3 WEST CENTRAL B

11 games unplayed

League completion: 80%

Winner: Neath Athletic

Losing just one game all season, Neath Athletic were crowd champions having fulfilled all their fixtures. The only team that may have caught them was Bryncethin, who were unbeaten in the five games they played. Banwen withdrew from the league so there were just 10 fixtures per team.

LEAGUE 3 WEST CENTRAL C

7 games unplayed

League completion: 89%

Winner: South Gower

Another league that may well have looked a little different had it been completed with second-placed Tonna and third-placed Pontardawe both in the mix. They had two games remaining each and trailed South Gower, who had played all their matches, by three and five points respectively.

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