Last of the Summer Shane.
Well, it’s all over I guess, no more can Wales rely on Shane to strike the impossible score, to break out from inside his own half, waltz between four defenders and ghost underneath the posts to secure a legendary grand slam sealing try. No, now we have to figure out how to score as a team, and on present form that may well prove harder than it should be. Yesterday’s game in Cardiff at least had the fitting tribute to end the occasion, as he did it again, but on the whole there was plenty of reason to, perhaps not be worried, but at least be disappointed.
Putting the yellow card of Halfpenny to one side, one wonders how, with the backline at Wales’ disposal, how on earth we seemed to be so impotent in attack. Priestland, Williams, Roberts, the other Williams, North, Halfpenny…the combination of such names should strike terror into any defence, yet, and we saw it in the World Cup, something just is not clicking in the go forward of this team. This column certainly had raised eyebrows when attack coach Rob Howley was given his new contract, and they went from raised to frowned as the game went on. How does a team with that much potency in it fail to go forward? Perhaps Nigel Davies is due a return to the set up – he seems at least to be able to get his team over the gain-line…
Anyway, there is no cause for panic at this point. A one off largely irrelevant fixture, decided by a yellow card, gives no great indication to the rise/fall of Wales. We learned nothing new, Wales needs Adam Jones, the team currently suffers from inexperience, Ian Evans is a great player until he gets tired, and despite having the most exciting backline outside of New Zealand, Wales still struggles to create a try in the first 60 minutes of international rugby matches. It’s a concern that we have known these questions have existed for a very long time, and we are still looking for answers, but perhaps a second training camp in Poland will provide the answers to all our ills.
The game though will not be remembered for any of those issues, it will be remembered for that one try, the last try in a Welsh jersey that we will see from Shane Williams. As the final whistle went, and Shane marched across the field with children in hand (is it too much to ask that that son of his will carry on the torch), people wept all around our vantage point. Grown men to little children, blubbing. Did they cry because they will miss Shane, or because they fear for who we will turn to in his absence? Probably a little bit of both. Either way, his contribution will be missed.
It was a beautiful try, rather than a beautiful game, but it was a try, five seconds of play, that reflected everything that was so magnificent about Shane Williams. The speed, the step, the leap over a fallen tackler, and, while the somersault was impressive, it was the clenched fists of joy at crossing the line that we will recognise most, and remember most fondly. It’s been a blast of a 13 year international career, and it is a great shame that it had to end.