So other than Lego and geocaching, my other major love in life is rugby. Until a knee injury nearly 3 years ago, I played competitive rugby at a reasonably high level every week. Out of all the sports I have participated in, rugby has to be my all time favourite, and I’d love to be able to go back and play. However much the mind is wiling, parts of my body these days are unfortunately not.
But that doesn’t stop me watching rugby. The last few weeks have been taken up by watching the 6 nations championships. This is a round robin competition between the home nations of the UK England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and over the years, France and then Italy have joined in to create the 6 Nations.
Despite being born in England I have always supported Wales. For me the passion and the pride behind their national squad is unrivaled. And the first proper ground I went to was Cardiff Arms Park. This was before the Millenium Stadium was built, and I hope one day to be able to watch a game there. The atmosphere would be electric.
Saturday was the final round of games. England were sitting top of the table having won all their matches. Wales were sat in second place. If England won this game they not only would have won the 6 Nations championship, they would also claim the grand slam title for beating all the other teams.
Wales, if they won the game would prevent England from the grand slam title, but they would still be the overall winners. Unless Wales won the match with an 7 point lead. On points difference Wales would win the championship and retain the title which they won in 2012.
It has to have been one of the most amazing matches I have watched, and I’ve watched a fair few over the years. The intensity from the start was unbelievable. Both teams were giving their all.
The first points on the board were for Wales, via a penalty. Leigh Halfpenny, fullback for the Welsh and their stalwart kicker, slotted the ball over the posts for 3 points. A couple more penalties award to each team in quick succession, both put over the posts, put the score at 6-3 to Wales. This was edge of the seat stuff; both teams performing equally as well, when Wales were awarded another penalty. Again within kicking distance of the formidable Leigh Halfpenny, who slotted it between the uprights once more. With the score now 9-3 and halftime looming, Wales were ahead, but not by enough to claim the win and the championship.
It was all to play for in the second half.
The second half began with some rugby tennis. The ball being kicked from end to end repeatedly, until an error is forced. Eventually after a few set moves at a lineout and scrums. Wales come away with another penalty, again well within kicking distance of Halfpenny. Who once again places it between the uprights, giving Wales a 9 point lead.
The game restarts, and within a few minutes a try is scored. Alex Cuthbert one of the Welsh wingers makes a break after some good passing to break the English defence and put the ball down in the corner. The look of utter amazement and joy on his face was priceless. Wales extended their lead to 17-3 with Halfpenny missing the conversion for the extra 2 points.
England are awarded a penalty, which Owen Farrell misses at his attempt to kick it at goal.
Play continues and Wales end up in a position where Dan Biggar, playing flyhalf for Wales, attempts a drop goal. It flies over and Wales secure another 3 points on the board. It is starting to look, like Wales might just pull off, not only the win to deny England the grand slam, but also the championship title. However there is still 15 minutes left to play, and as they say ‘it’s not over until the fat lady sings’ and anything could happen.
And happen it did. Sam Warburton, the Welsh flanker, broke through the centre of the pitch, to be tackled by Owen Farrell and Danny Care of England. Sam managed to place the ball back for a quick pick up by the srum half, Mike Phillips, who spun it wide to the awaiting players. Good passing saw the ball in Justin Tipuric’s hands who broke down the right side of the pitch. As the England players closed in on him, he did a slight dummy pass to Alex Cuthbert, allowing him to step around the tackling player to offload finally to Alex Cuthbert. Alex then ran hard, as the defence was broken, to once again score in the right hand corner. This time Dan Biggar took the kicking duties on to convert the try, putting the score now at 27-3. With 10 minutes now left to go, it was looking doubtful that England would manage to make a comeback and reduce the scoreline to less than the 7 or 8 points needed to enable them to still win the championship despite loosing the game to Wales.
The game was pretty much ended by another penalty awarded to Wales, which once again Halfpenny kicked between the posts to put the final score at 30-3 to Wales.
Now it was time for the proverbial fat lady to sing, however the Welsh fans of the 74,500 crowd did the honours instead.
So I really had to do a rugby inspired photo this week. It will certainly be a match that is talked about for a very long time. And if you’ve stuck with me so far through this post, then thanks and well done!