The View from the Valleys: Shane Signs off in Style

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.

Comment
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!

By Jorden Marvelley 

Movember Gallery Update!

Now comes the weekly opportunity to give you a mini Mo update. We have a few new entries and its certainly worth checking you favourite teams dontation page again at Movember.com to see if any of your favourites have joined the fun! You can find all the premiership donation pages in our previous article Movember Madness! Enjoy the photos you guys!

The View from the Valleys Part Two: Scarlets and Dragons start their campaigns.

Jorden Marvelley continues her round-up of the Welsh action in Europe with the Scarlets in the Heineken Cup and the Dragons in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

Wales 3 France 0 as the Scarlet’s hold off Castres for the win.

Ben Morgan Try

The Scarlets made it 3 wins from 3 for the Welsh regions, with a hard fought win over French side Castres. The home side did not make the task easy for themselves as twice they scuppered chances of otherwise easy try scoring opportunities through forward passes.

The crowd were most certainly kept on the edge of their seats, when straight from the first whistle Castres dominated and almost scored only for flanker Malonga to drop the ball over the line. The French bounced back from the early disappointment with a successful penalty attempt by Romain Teulet.

After a shaky start from the scarlets their nervous were settled by the boot of Stephen Jones who slotted a penalty making it three all. It was up to the youngster George North to inject some pace and power into the game, he really is a little powerhouse and it took more than a few attempts before he was finally stopped. The move seemed to have come to nothing but after some impressive counter rucking the scarlets win a penalty and once more Jones slots it to put the Scarlets’ noses in front.

The floodgates seemed to open up for the Scarlets after the 17 minute mark with them creating some beautiful breaks and great running lines but unfortunately lacking the precision to finish with both tries being disallowed due to the ruling of a forward pass. The rest of the half continued with the story of missed opportunities, with Jones missing a long range penalty and the team not being able to capitalise on an error from the visitors.

The end of the half came after a penalty a piece for each side, the Scarlets’ came after Tekhori got a yellow card booking for a late tackle offence.

The Scarlets made their one man advantage count in the second half, sending Sean Lamont over for the game’s first try and Jones added the conversion with just two minutes gone.  However Castres kept themselves within one score after the Scarlets were pinged for an infringement and Teulet took the three points.

A mere 8 minutes later and the Scarlets showed just how dangerous they could be when the old favourites combined with the new talent, as Ben Morgan finished off a move that Matthew Rees started in their 22. Once again the trusty boot of Stephen Jones secured the full 7 points and the home side had what looked to be a comfortable 23-9 lead. However, Castres piled on the pressure as they finally got some territory and possession.  A penalty offence saw them opt for the corner rather than the sticks and the resulting line out and maul saw Andreu cross the line as Teulet made it a 7 pointer.

As had been the pattern for this game the score did not go unanswered, the exciting partnership of Williams and Davies gave the home crowd something to cheer about again, with the pair working a move that saw Davies claim the Scarlets’ third try of the evening.  Rhys Priestland’s conversion attempt drifted wide but the Scarlets were ahead by 12 points with just 7 minutes on the clock.

The game was nailing biting at the end with the Castres line out and maul combination once again proving unstoppable, Chris Masoe claimed the try, while Teulet added another 2 to his tally. The try would have seen the French side leave Wales with a losing bonus point: Priestland however ended their hopes of such an outcome with his 80th minute penalty. The home crowd celebrated as the game finished Scarlets 31-23 Castres.

Dragons dazzle home team with 5 try victory

With no place in the Heineken Cup for the Dragons and with their RaboDirectPro12 campaign less than convincing thus far this season, they left for their match in Italy with a point to prove.  They returned home successful with a convincing bonus point win against Italian side Cavalieri Prato.

The Dragons dazzled from kick-off with wing Aled Brew running in the first of the team’s tries on the 3 minute mark and Jason Tovey quickly adding the conversion to make it a seven point lead. The solitary score for Cavalieri came from Rima Wakarua who slotted a penalty after the Dragons where penalised in the ninth minute.

Tovey was once more on kicking duty after Rob Sidoli crossed for the region’s second try within the first 15 minutes of the game. Tovey’s conversion was the last scoring act of the half, though the Dragons were forced to make an early substitution as Dan Lydiate left the field with an ankle injury as the clock reached the 24th minute.

The second half saw a further flurry of tries and a constant trickle of replacements. The first of the Dragons’ second half tries came courtesy of new South African signing Tonderai Chavhanga who scored just a minute after Pratos’ Boscolo got yellow carded. With Tovey converting the Dragons now had an 18 point cushion.

An hour in and the Dragons racked up their 4th and bonus point try: Lewis Evan’s grounding was successfully converted by Tovey, who was replaced shortly after by Steffan Jones.

The Dragons were not quite finished yet though: Martyn Thomas managed one more for the Welsh side with almost a quarter still to go in the match. Jones was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt but the bonus point was theirs and the game was effectively over, all that was left to do was to run down the clock.

The Italian side were deflated and the match ended Cavaliera Prato 3-33 Newport Gwent Dragons. Their real test comes on Thursday night with a home clash against Perpignan, a fixture that could see James Hook line up against a Welsh side for the first time since he left the Ospreys to play in France.

Comment
With the weekend’s Heineken Cup fixtures now complete the only question that remains is, have any of the regions got what it takes to go all the way in this tournament?

The Ospreys’ more youthful team have thus far proved their worth, however in a tournament such as this experience is often the key to success.

The Scarlets are dangerous when playing a more expansive game of rugby but this weekend did show that they are lacking in key individuals up front and were severely punished at the set piece.

So for me the Blues look like the strongest Welsh contenders for the moment with the best draw and as I was rightfully reminded, “They have unfinished business from 2009 after all.”

By Jorden Marvelley

The View from the Valleys Part One: European Action Starts for the Welsh

 

 

Jorden Marvelley follows the Welsh regions into Europe as they began their Heineken Cup or Amlin Challenge Cup campaigns.  Here’s the first part as she looks at how Cardiff Blues and Ospreys got on.

French flare not enough to blindside the Blues.

The Heineken Cup got under way this weekend, with the Blues facing the tough challenge of Racing Metro in Paris. This is the first time any of the Welsh regions has come face to face with French opposition since that semi-final clash in the World Cup last month. There were those on the field who would have felt they had a score to settle, especially the return of Wales captain Sam Warburton, and settle it they did.

The intent and physicality of the game was displayed from the start with James Down being taken off injured and replaced by Paul Tito within the first three minutes of the game. It was refreshing to see that the referee George Clancy did not hamper the game’s flow with the continuous resetting of the scrum; it was one offence and then a penalty.

It was the Blues who were the first to make that mistake: Racing Metro chose to run the ball but with nothing on Juan Martin Hernandez opened the scoring with an impressive drop goal. The Blues first chance at points came after some great phases of play, which opened up the gap for Paul Tito, who was shuffled into touch inches from the line by what can only be described as a try saving tackle.

The pressure from the Blues continued however, as the resulting maul from Racing Metro’s five metre line-out collapsed and the ball presented itself to prop Tau Filise, who placed it under the sticks and Dan Parks added the conversion.

After a penalty a piece for the two sides, the French pack really turned on the flare with the winger Juan Imhoff cutting the Blues’ otherwise impeccable defence to shreds to add another five points to the score board. The favour was very quickly returned however, with Cuthbert powering over in the corner, the conversion from Parks put the visitors back ahead and the first half ended Racing Metro 14-17 Cardiff Blues.

The second half was no less intense, though it was dominated by the battle of the fly-halves; it was in the end the lack of discipline that ended Racing Metro’s hopes for a win coupled with Dan Parks’ on form kicking display. The game ended with a well deserved 20-26 win for the Cardiff Blues.

With an impressive Heineken Cup away win under their belt, the Blues now have to make it count and continue this form with a win against London Irish in front of home support on Friday night.

‘B’s are best in Ospreys opening Heineken Cup clash.

It really was the battle of the ‘B’s in Saturday’s Heineken Cup clash between the Ospreys and Biarritz at the Liberty Stadium, as the teams left it to players like Biggar, Bowe, Balshaw and Bosch to tidy up what was at times a scrappy game riddled with ill discipline.

The Ospreys looked to be repeating their rather lacklustre performance of last weekend with no fluidity in their attacking game and were rather lucky that Marcelo Bosch and Julien Peyrelongue were not firing on all cylinders with their first early attempts at goal.

But it was seasoned professional Damien Traille who steadied the visitors with a drop goal on the five minute mark. The crowd of 7,732 were treated to very little in the way of actual rugby until the boot of Dan Biggar finally levelled the scores after what seemed like a very long 15 minutes.

The rest of the half dragged on with nothing particularly exciting being produced by either team, Biggar was gifted another shot at goal before the interval providing the home side with a narrow lead as the half ended Ospreys 6-3 Biarritz.

Biarritz started the second half the way they had ended the first, with Biggar having two shots at goal within mere minutes of each other; nothing seemed to faze the young player who slotted both over with little difficulty, even from a tricky angle. Next came some penalty ping pong, with each side being awarded consecutive penalties against the other. Ian Balshaw was penalised for holding on, then Duncan Jones was pinged for an infringement almost immediately afterwards.  Finally an originally good move by the Ospreys was killed when the Biarritz skipper deliberately put his hands in the ruck and referee Andrew Small ruled that the Ospreys had illegally overturned the ball.

They say cometh the hour, cometh the man and after trailing by nine points the visitors seemed to flick a switch and with some beautiful handling by Traille, Balshaw slid across the try line. Bosch was not as lucky with the boot and was unable to convert from the awkward angle. The fiery display from the French seemed to trigger an immediate response from the Ospreys. Kahn Fotuali’i got the better of Marcelo Bosch, who struggled with an up and under: Fotuali’i’s quick response allowed Tommy Bowe to gather the ball and literally slide across the line; Biggar made it the full 7 points.

An offside offence saw Biggar take the Welsh region two scores clear of the visitors and then came the dreaded interception pass. Yachvili, who read Bishop’s pass beautifully, then handed it off to Balshaw who had the pace to go all the way scoring his second of the night, the conversion cut the Ospreys lead to just seven.

I have discussed Balshaw’s third try with my friend and we both agree, even though I am an Ospreys supporter, that it was a somewhat controversial decision, neither of us could really see what was wrong with it but the referee disallowed it and the Ospreys and their supporters must have heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Biggar was rightfully named man of the match, no one can argue with a 100% kicking performance, even those who aren’t his biggest fans. On the night his 23 points made all the difference.

By Jorden Marvelley

Coming tomorrow Part Two covering the Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons!

 

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Caption Competition

There may be massive amounts of rugby on this weekend but why not fill in time between games with our fun “Caption Competition”. Just leave a comment with the number of the photo and your chosen caption. You can comment on as many photos as you like as many times as you like. So get involved we would love to see what you can come up with.

If you have any funny photos please sent them to us rugbydiary@gmail.com and we will see what everyone else can come up with for those aswell.

No doubt you will have seen some of these before because they are classics but none the less good fun!

A Very European Weekend!

Enjoy the action

The Heineken Cup starts with a very big Scottish bang this weekend as Edinburgh travel down to face London Irish at the Madejski Stadium, and Glasgow open Pool 3 at home to Bath. Both are going to be tough matches, and both teams are fired up and ready to take on the challenge of the Heineken Cup.

After securing an impressive away win against a confident Benetton Treviso in the RaboDirect Pro12, Edinburgh will be looking to continue this away record and get their competition off to a good start. They have named a strong side, especially up front, where Scotland regulars, Allan Jacobsen Ross Ford and Geoff Cross line up.

If you fancy going along on Saturday, the kick off is at 1.30pm, tickets can be purchased here: http://www.lidirect.co.uk/

Directions to the stadium can be found here: http://www.london-irish.com/Madejski.ink

Over in Glasgow, the Warriors will be looking to make Sunday, “Firhill Funday”. The team are chasing their fifth consecutive win after scoring victories against Aironi, Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons, and Cardiff Blues. There is a real air of excitement in Glasgow about the start of the competition, and many fans turned out to see the trophy when it was on display on Wednesday. There is a mixture of experience and youth in the squad, and the partnership of Duncan Weir and Chris Cusiter at fly and scrum half is one to watch.

Kick off is at 12.45pm and tickets for the Warriors can be bought on the day or online here: https://www.eticketing.co.uk/scottishrugby/default.aspx

And for those who want to know how to get to Firhill stadium: http://www.glasgowwarriors.org/content/view/113/66/

Both games will be shown on television, with Sky Sports providing the coverage. So if you cannot make it down, then make sure you tune in for what promises to be 2 fantastic matches!

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