Guard of honour amid stunning goodbye to Welsh rugby icon a famous town fell in love with

By Mark Orders

There may not have been a Red Arrows flypast but it was still some send-off for Dafydd Lockyer at Sardis Road, an opportunity for the Pontypridd RFC faithful to salute one of the club’s finest servants as he donned the famous black-and-white shirt for a final time.

He stayed on the pitch for just 21 minutes when Ponty took on Bargoed in a warm-up for the new season.

But he left as he would have wanted to depart.

There was a guard of honour for him from team-mates and opponents as he took the field before kick-off, children either side of him. The crowd stood as one to applaud. It was one of the great Welsh rugby moments.

And supporters did the same again when the Abercwmboi RFC product took his leave of on-pitch proceedings midway through the first half.

A post-game presentation followed, with the popular centre staying on the pitch to chat to supporters.

Read more : Welsh rugby honour's Premiership's 'greatest player'

Eighteen years, 382 games — big numbers, but what’s even more impressive is the effort Lockyer has put into the shirt every time he has played and the way he has conducted himself.

“He has been great to watch and great to deal with,” said Ioan Dyer, rugby reporter for GTFM Radio in Pontyprdd, who has covered more of club’s matches in the regional era than pretty much anyone.

“As a player, he has been consistently excellent, a big and powerful centre who likes the crash ball and is robust in defence. I have spoken to numerous opposition coaches and players over the years and their respect for Dafydd has been obvious.

“But the other thing about him is he’s also been as good as gold off the pitch, easy to deal with as far as journalists are concerned, never once refusing an interview. In all the time I’ve been covering Pontypridd, he has agreed to talk whatever the circumstances, whether Ponty have won, lost or drawn. I’ve found him fantastic to work with.

"He's just a nice bloke.

“Away from rugby, a few years ago a quad bike hit a young Pontypridd supporter, aged seven. Sadly, the little lad had to have a leg amputated. As club captain, Dafydd went above and beyond for him, visiting him in hospital and doing what he could to lift his spirits. No-one told Daf to do that. He did it because that’s the way he is.

“He’s revered up at Sardis Road.

“They did a presentation over on the far side of the pitch at the end and Daf was there for a long time talking to the supporters. It’s something you don’t see quite often in this day and age, but it was typical of him. He has time for everyone.”

Team-mates over the years added their tributes, with ex-Pontypridd wing and full-back Kristian Baller declaring on social media: “Hands down the best player, and more importantly the nicest and funniest guy, I have ever played with or against. The word legend gets thrown about these days but Dafydd Lockyer is a hundred percent up there. “

Huw Dowden, long-time hooker at the club until he left last year, said of Lockyer: “This guy has been amazing for the last decade. Easily the best player I have ever played with in Ponty. All the boys would run through walls for him.”

Such comments should count for a lot.

Pontypridd are a club who know all about longevity, what with their stalwart lock Bob Penberthy having stuck around as a player for 24 years while making a gargantuan 877 appearances.

But Lockyer's status at Sardis Road is assured.

When the 6ft 3in, 16st 4lb midfield man announced his exit, the club spoke glowingly of “a true club icon who can stand shoulder to shoulder with legendary figures from past eras”.

No one contradicted a single word of that line.

A fine innings, then, and deserving of all the applause Lockyer has received.

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