Fraser Watson takes a look at previous Harrison-Allen Bowl finals

Fraser WatsonToday we feature a look back at previous finals with special guest pundit Fraser Watson – so read below what he thinks on 

So off the field, it won’t quite be the same.

No big crowd, no noise levels, no booze on the balcony, and no slurry songs as the afternoon draws on.
Ian Milsom as Iron Man, Pembroke Dock on a day out, and Jonny Bap on the boundary bench two hours before play. All sights that have become synonymous with Harrison-Allen Bowl final day – and yet all with be faraway concepts tomorrow.

But on the field, expect little difference. The adrenaline and buzz that a Bowl final crowd can undoubtedly create in Cresselly may be missing - but the desire, determination, and will to win Pembrokeshire cricket’s most coveted trophy will still be there.
Especially given the two teams involved.

The rivalry between Neyland and Haverfordwest started to simmer in 2011 when they met on this exact stage. And tomorrow, a nigh on decade of intense and often dramatic clashes will come full circle when Sean Hannon and Dai Davies, two pivotal figures for both teams in years gone by, lead their sides out to contest the Bowl again.

So rather than bore you by repeating the Covid-19 protocols and provisions in place for the big day, which you’ll know off by heart should you have been on this planet this week, let’s look back on years of fluctuating fixtures between two of the county’s top clubs.

Koomen comes of age:

When the two sides rocked up for the 2011 Bowl final, there was no doubting the favourites.
The Haverfordwest line-up was packed with quality and proven winners and having lost out to Carew the previous year, The Town were hell bent on redemption.

Neyland had endured a 28 year wait to win the trophy and had themselves lost out to Cresselly in 2009, but the general consensus was their squad still lacked the experience required on such a stage.
It was a theory that Andrew Miller’s side duly blew out the water.

Two half centuries from Holliday seemingly put Huw Scriven and co in a commanding position but late in their second innings, momentum was checked by the ‘Koomen-Hannon’ hat trick, with the latter taking three straight catches to give his teammate a moment to savour.

But there was more to come from Koomen, who then proceeded to crack a sparkling 81 not out in 43 balls as Neyland chased down 186 for victory.

It was a classic contest that ebbed and flowed, and it would set the tone for further battles.

Nick Koomen

Storms, sixes, and social media:

 Gregg Miller raises the Bowl aloftThe two teams would meet in another final the following season, although this time the affair would be a damp squib, literally. A few stormy Sundays in July and August meant the finale to the Duggie Morris wasn’t played until well into September – by which time rugby and football was in full flow and interest from all parties was minimal.

Fittingly, when the game was eventually played rain ruined it again, with Haverfordwest winners by dint of a better first innings score.

In 2013 however, under Gregg Miller, it was to be Neyland’s season. Early on in the Bowl, they were drawn away to The Town. The hosts called the original game off, citing an unplayable pitch. Neyland disagreed and called for an inspection, but the umpires upheld the decision.

It added a bit of a needle to the following night when in a tense contest and fading light, the visitors came through a run chase.

They would go on to win again at The Racecourse, this time comprehensively in a 45 over affair, en route to a famous Division 1, Bowl, and Duggie Morris treble. And for the first time in decades, it was Neyland cemented as the top side in Pembrokeshire.

Then in 2014, business between the two picked up.

Again they met in a DR Morris final, except this time the meeting was anything but an anti-climax.

The most dramatic of finals was settled in the most dramatic of ways – a final ball six from Patrick Bellerby giving Neyland the win after Ashley Sutton’s 97 had given them a chance of chasing down an unlikely 181. They had previously trailed by 49 at tea.

It was an exhilarating climax to what had been a highly charged affair with dropped catches, close run out calls, and a vociferous crowd all adding to the mix.

Danny Potter’s side would recover by hammering Cresselly a few weeks later to win the Bowl. The Town played a blinder that day, although whoever was running their Twitter account at the time did not, strangely focusing on taking personal shots at Neyland players and personnel rather than the final itself.

It created ill feeling and the timing was questionable, given that just a week later Neyland would arrive at The Racecourse and win again to cap off back to back Division 1 titles.

The pair would meet a final time as the season culminated with a revamped Jubilee Bowl affair. Neither were at full strength, but it was a game a Simon Holliday inspired Haverfordwest won with room to spare.

Delighted Danny PotterTown take back the league crown

In 2015, it was the turn of Haverfordwest to lift the title on rival territory.

By that point Neyland had secured a Bowl and Duggie Morris double, but Potter and co ended their wait for another top flight title with a commanding winning draw at The Athletic Club on the final day.

And then in 2016, that success was cemented further.

It was Neyland who had been in control of the title race when a rained off game at Narberth and a defeat against Carew opened the door for The Town.

They duly took advantage, winning at Lawrenny on the final day to retain the title having already regained the Bowl earlier in the campaign. Neyland would again capture the Duggie but the balance of power had shifted – The Town were back as the leading lights in Pembrokeshire.

To reinforce the point, they would capture a final piece of silverware with another Jubilee Cup win over Neyland in a game that rounded off the season at The Racecourse.


Hannon’s men hit back

Andrew MillerSaid power shift didn’t last long.

In 2017, both sides took a back seat in terms of the title race as Carew and Cresselly battled it out, but it was Neyland who won back the Bowl by beating the latter.

In 2018 however, came yet another final day league meeting between the two clubs, and yet another thrilling climax to boot. Both sides went in with hopes of winning the title, but both were also reliant on Cresselly slipping up at home to Lawrenny.

Indeed, Joe Kidney’s side provided the necessary favour, and it was Sean Hannon’s Neyland who pounced. A four wicket haul for veteran spinner Gary Lloyd inspired a 114 run win over The Town, before surprise celebrations as news came through from elsewhere.

In 2019 the title race was a far more straightforward for Hannon and co. They duly dominated and finished top by 68 points with a new look, young Haverfordwest side way back in fifth.

Which perhaps made it a surprise that along the way, it was The Town who won at The Athletic Club in the Bowl before going on to another final. Even then many had Lawrenny as favourites, but in Danny Potter’s final game as captain, the big hitting of Adam James ensured Haverfordwest prevailed.

However, it was another Duggie Morris clash that provided the most talking points. In a bizarre semi final, where Neyland were left needing 23 off six balls, and then 8 off one ball after being assisted by five penalty runs, The Town contrived to throw it away when an Ashley James delivery went for five wides followed by Henry Durrant and that man Bellerby again scrambling a three.

Adam James hitting out

Everything, but nothing, will change

So tomorrow, the rivalry will be reignited. Both teams have quality, both have performers who have been there and done it. Both have captains who know what it’s like to win a Bowl final.

In terms of the occasion, everything will change. Out in the middle, nothing will change.

Providing the Cresselly Wi-Fi holds up, and it’s not let me down before, you can follow it via the live blog on - and later in the evening on there will be scores and best performances, followed by a match report, scorecards, team and action pictures so you can catch up on things at Cresselly.

It won’t quite be the same when I don’t have to stand on a table to see what’s going on as balcony goers block the view, or receive lager fuelled blog advice from the masses, or have Lyn Richards tell me for the umpteenth year in the row this is the first time he has seen a team open the bowling from the top end, but will still do my best to keep the updates coming.

Regardless another chapter, even if it is an alternative one, should be written tomorrow in the recent history of Neyland v Haverfordwest.

A history which, quite frankly, has been bloody good for the neutral….

Simon Holliday steers a ball to the boundary