Our Welsh rugby correspondent, Jorden Marvelley, dedicates this week’s “The View from the Valleys” piece to the newly retired Wales winger: Shane Williams, and his last match in a Wales jersey against Australia.
Saturday 3rd December 2011, a day we all knew would come but one that Welsh rugby fans having been dreading. The day that Shane Williams; the side-stepping speedster signed off on his international career.
The stats say it all since his 2000 debut: where he first looked like he’d been picked from the crowd and had to borrow one of the player’s jerseys, he’s finished with 87 caps and racked up an impressive 58 tries. His ability to squeeze through the smallest of gaps matched with his pace and fancy footwork made him a threat to even the biggest players.
He was fearless and really did prove that in the world of rugby size isn’t everything.
The game on Saturday against Australia was remarkably dull compared to the games we had been used to seeing during Wales’ World Cup campaign. It was all very scrappy and there was a definite sense that the boys were trying too hard. It wasn’t surprising given the circumstances but they were hindering themselves rather than letting it flow. That was not the only thing affecting the flow of the game, as Jonathan Kaplan seemed to love the sound of his whistle, especially during the scrum where some of his decisions were shall we say questionable?
When all is said and done not even I can deny that on the day the better team won. They severely punished Wales for their ill discipline, scoring three tries during Leigh Halfpenny’s sin-binning.
As has been quite customary for Wales, they appeared to take it up a notch in the final 20 minutes of the second half, where we saw glimpses of the play witnessed back in New Zealand.
Unfortunately it was all a little too late. Rhys Priestland’s try was well worked and man of the moment, Shane Williams’ try in the dying moments of the game added that little bit of sparkle, like only he can. The game ended Wales 18-24 Australia.
I refuse to be overly negative, as for me Saturday was all about, a rugby great, a true legend in my eyes, Shane Williams. He’s been a part of the Welsh team ever since I’ve been watching the game. His style and pace always kept me on the edge of my seat.
One of my favourite memories has to be when Shane scored the winning try in injury time, against Scotland back in 2010. I was sat in my friend’s room with my head in my hands having admitted defeat against Scotland. It would have actually been a draw but it felt like a defeat, when all of a sudden Wales are pressing their try line and Shane seemingly comes from nowhere to dart under the sticks. I leapt from the chair clapping and screeching like a lunatic, and then had to have a little cry and calm down. My friend has always said she enjoys watching me watch rugby, and reading that back I guess that is rather entertaining.
Shane personifies everything about Welsh rugby for me, he could be considered the underdog as he’s relatively small (in rugby terms) but never gives up, he’s gutsy and he enjoys what he does.
I can confidently say that the entire Welsh nation will miss him pulling on that red jersey and I think secretly a couple of nations will be relieved. There is no one who can replace Shane, not for me anyway, but whoever gets the privilege of pulling on that number 11 jersey next, has extremely big boots to fill.
My Thank You to Shane
The very first game I ever attended was back in 2005, March 26th 2005 to be precise. Wales had just won the Grand Slam and the Neath-Swansea Ospreys had all their star players back for what was to be the Celtic League decider. There was an amazing atmosphere at the Gnoll as the boys took on Edinburgh. The game ended in a 29-12 victory for the Ospreys and the ground erupted, there was a pitch invasion as fan clambered to get pictures and autographs of their Welsh heroes.
The boys were more than happy to oblige but during all this I managed to become the human ball in a frantic scrum, as fans choose to go over rather than around me I was getting trampled and was petrified. The one thing I remember to this day, is hearing someone say ‘It’s alright love I’m going to get you out just stay with me.’ The next thing I remember I’m out of the crush and back on my feet and then they were gone, then this lady came over and informed me that it was in fact Shane who had come to my rescue.
It did not put me off going to matches, just taught me to avoid the crowds. Even though he would probably not remember that night, I would still like to take this opportunity to thank Shane, as I never got the chance to thank him but I’ve never forgotten what he did for me.
He was a true legend, an entertainer, I’d bet anything he practised that final flourish for before Saturday’s game, he had to finish in style. He is also a true gentleman. Thank you for the memories you have given me as well as the ones you’ve gifted the nation.
You shall be greatly missed Twinkle Toes!