CHRIS KIRWAN: Away silence highlights Pro12 weakness

HAT doffed to the mightily impressive Pontypridd following that headed to Penzance to see their side triumph against Cornish Pirates in the British and Irish Cup last Sunday.

The exact amount of travellers swiftly became one of those sporting myths like Dion Dublin's dad being in Showaddywaddy or Gabriel Heinze being able to speak Welsh.

The figure of 2,500 visitors that had been bandied about was a tad excessive because the official attendance at the Mennaye Field was 2,155 (unless Doom Bar claimed hundreds of victims) but nonetheless it was still a healthy three-figure away crowd.

Ponty did the Premiership proud by beating the Pirates and hopefully they will go on to emulate Cross Keys by making it to the final, maybe even going one step further and becoming the first Welsh club to lift the trophy.

That they were roared on despite being on the road will come as no surprise to the clubs that are grateful for the bar takings provided by their fans every season. On that front Premiership coffers will receive an additional boost next season courtesy of Ebbw Vale's return.

They are clubs whose supporters have a culture of following their team home and away – something that unfortunately will never be the case in the RaboDirect Pro12.

"I think it is incumbent on the participating teams and the respective Unions to really ramp up the marketing effort ahead of next year's competition," wrote Dragons chief executive Gareth Davies in the matchday programme for last week's clash with Edinburgh.

"The Pro12 is to be our bread and butter domestic league so let's all get behind it and support our local teams."

It was followed by him extending "a warm welcome to the Edinburgh team and management"; perhaps a Freudian slip but there was no greeting for the visiting support, maybe because there never is any.

Just who is going to travel from the Scottish capital for a Thursday night kick-off in Newport?

Similarly there will be little or no backing for the Dragons in Treviso on this weekend, or Zebre in Llanelli or Cardiff Blues in Edinburgh or Glasgow in Limerick.

Mixing with away fans is one of rugby's greatest joys but the format of the Pro12 makes this nigh on impossible due to it being plane rather than bus every other week.

That's one of the reasons that there was despair among Dragons, Blues, Scarlets and Ospreys supporters when an Anglo-Welsh league didn't come to fruition amid the European rugby spat.

The deafening silence that follows away scores is a real weakness of the Pro12.

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