When St Asaph were heavily beaten at home by chief title rivals Menai Bridge on July 31, there was talk that the Saints may have suffered a blow to their North Wales Cricket League Premier Division championship hopes they might not recover from.
After the Bridge had claimed a 15-0 triumph at Elwy Park Grove, the Anglesey side were just four points behind Asaph with seven rounds of matches each to play.
How wrong the doubters were.
From that stage, St Asaph won every one of their six completed matches, chalking up 86 points from a possible 90 to make the final standings last weekend Saints 242 Menai Bridge 235.
After losing a close battle to neighbours Bangor on July 24, the islanders actually won seven of their final eight games (one abandonment) but could not pick up enough points to overhaul Will Ryan’s Saints.
That loss to Menai Bridge on July 31 was not the breaking of St Asaph – it was the MAKING of them.
Six straight wins, all of them emphatic, they were never to be passed.
It was a highly popular success across North Wales cricket.
St Asaph have always been good competitors, but that Premier Division title win had always eluded them.
The club had not won a top flight title since 1975 (when the highest level was Division One), the Premier Division having started in 2001.
While club chairman Gareth Ryan, a former Wales Minor Counties international, had not won the Premier as a player, he did enjoy the pleasure of seeing his three sons – Mathew, Will and Danny – all being a key part of the 2021 champions.
Mathew scored 799 league runs for the first team and claimed 30 wickets. Will contributed 477 runs and the pair both made league tons in the same game.
Danny’s outstanding bowling brought him 49 league wickets.
It was very much a team effort from the Saints, though, Nathanael Scott amassing more than 600 runs, Duncan Midgley – absent through injury for many weeks – and Jason Foulkes both above 300.
And Foulkes was a sensation with the ball, grabbing 53 league wickets and 59 in all competitions, including a career best 8-17 in the title-clinching game against Brymbo.
That final match was a pretty emotional occasion for veterans Dave North and Gareth “Budso” Jones, both former first team skippers who performed well when called upon this season.
Liam Moores was a very consistent wicket-taker over the season with 38 in the league, while David Lloyd enjoyed a maiden first-team half century and Ben Mason produced a number of promising knocks, including 33 in a match-deciding stand with Midgley against Brymbo.
One also must never forget absent friends.
Perhaps the most missed on the day would have been the great Ken Hodgkinson, surely the club’s most famous figurehead, who sadly passed away in 2019.
A life member and president of the club, Mr Hodgkinson started playing for St Asaph in the late 1940’s.
He played until he was 62, representing the first team and also the county.
Mr Hodgkinson was captain for four years in the mid-1980s, chairman between 2003 and 2010 and then president.
He was also the groundsman at Elwy Grove Park for two decades from 1995.
Amidst last Saturday’s celebrations at the club, there is no doubt Mr Hodgkinson’s name would have been mentioned many times while a glass was raised.
His beloved club certainly did him proud in the season where St Asaph deservedly became 2021 North Wales Cricket League Premier Division champions.
COMMENT – ST ASAPH CC FIRST TEAM CAPTAIN WILL RYAN
“It’s been a really great season for us, a real team effort with some standout performances in between. People will have seen some of the other stuff written on Facebook and Twitter, but it really has been an on and off field effort over not just this year but the past 5/6 years to get the club to a position of strength.
“We’re really looking forward to the next few years and progressing the club even further.”
How the 2021 Premier Division title was won
Sep 11: St Asaph 208-7 Brymbo 49-10 (WON 15-0)
Sep 4: Denbigh 133-10 St Asaph 134-1 (WON 15-0)
Aug 30: Conwy 76-10 St Asaph 293-3 (WON 15-0)
Aug 28: St Asaph 99-2 Northop 98-10 (WON 14-1)
Aug 21: Llay Welfare 101-10 St Asaph 102-2 (WON 14-1)
Aug 14: St Asaph 162-10 Gresford 99-10 (WON 13-2)
Aug 7: Mochdre v St Asaph – abandoned (3 PTS EACH)
July 31: St Asaph 87-10 Menai Bridge 228-10 (LOST 0-15)
July 24: Llandudno 167-10 St Asaph 168-8 (WON 11-4)
July 17: St Asaph 223-4 Pwllheli 220-10 (WON 13-2)
July 10: St Asaph 160-6 Conwy 65-10 (WON 14-1)
July 3: Bangor 156-6 St Asaph 140-10 (LOST 4-11)
Jun 26: Brymbo 163-10 St Asaph 166-3 (WON 14-1)
Jun 19: St Asaph 271-5 Denbigh 132-10 (WON 15-0)
Jun 12: Northop 226-8 St Asaph 232-7 (WON 11-4)
Jun 5: St Asaph 245-6 Llay Welfare 175-10 (WON 13-2)
May 31: St Asaph 165-1 Bangor 161-10 (WON 15-0)
May 29: Gresford 100-10 St Asaph 115-10 (WON 11-4)
May 22: St Asaph 192-8 Mochdre 121-10 (WON 13-2)
May 15: Menai Bridge v St Asaph – abandoned (3 PTS EACH)
May 8: St Asaph 67-5 Llandudno 66-10 (WON 13-2)
May 1: Pwllheli 279-4 St Asaph 250-9 (LOST 3-12)
Position 1st (champions)
Most League Runs
Mathew Ryan 799
Nathanael Scott 607
William Ryan 477
Duncan Midgley 366
Jason Foulkes 344
Most League Wickets
Jason Foulkes 53
Danny Ryan 49
Liam Moores 38
Mathew Ryan 30
Mathew Ryan 101 (v Conwy away – 30/8/2021)
William Ryan 100 (v Conwy away – 30/8/2021)
Mathew Ryan 100 (v Northop away – 16/6/2021)