Archive for the ‘ rwc2011 ’ Category

RWC 2011: A Try of Fortune and Style…

Despite a report on Wales victory over Samoa already having been produced, special attention is required for Wales’ only try, scored by Shane Williams, not so much for the finish, executed in perfect manner by Williams, but by the contributions by the two players in the  build up to the crucial score.

First up, Leigh Halfpenny, a wonderful Welsh wing who has a huge future in the starting line-up, once Shane does finally decide to pack it all in. Out for much of the last season with injury, and possibly fortunate to be at the World Cup with limited game time behind him, Halfpenny looked assured in defence and dangerous going forward against Samoa. But as he broke through three Samoan tackles to launch the surge up field that secured victory for Wales, there was one wonderful moment which highlighted just how fast Halfpenny is. With Samoans bearing down on him from all corners, Halfpenny still had time to slow down and adjust his scrumcap. While likely done as an aid to his line of sight, one hopes just a little bit that this was a spilt-second fashion based adjustment, making sure that everything looked good in-front of the cameras before making headway downfield.

Secondly, Jon Davies. Brilliant support running to back Halfpenny up, and great running to commit the remaining defenders, but then that pass. Davies had a look on his face, as if to say ‘there’s probably going to be somebody out there, let’s chuck it’. There was no obvious need to throw a blind pass, the Samoan was going to tackle him, after all, the defender was a Samoan, he was going to hit the nearest red shirt to him, the two Welsh men outside were safe. Still he threw blind, and could so easily have cost Wales their one and only try scoring chance.

So a touch of style, and a touch of luck, not forgetting of course a touch of class in Shane’s finish.

Well done Wales.

RWC 2011: Wales battle to cheer the Nation.

Finally, finally Wales produce the victory over a South Seas Nation in a World Cup that Welsh rugby supporters have longed for. It has been a very long time in the making, and so nearly failed to materialise again today, as Samoa did exactly what was expected of them, and came within a whisker of battering their way at close quarters to a third World Cup victory over Wales on the bounce. Yet Wales, with the finishing touch put on an unlikely breakaway try by Shane Williams, managed to hold on to their dream of progressing to the knockout stages once more.

It was not though the same Wales that dominated the World Champions last week, no longer do the men in red fly the European flag, an honour now held aloft by the Irish after they rediscovered their grand slam form from a couple of years back. It was a nervous, edge and unconfident Welsh team who were bullied in the contact area. It cannot be overstressed though that losing Dan Lydiate was huge for Wales. His physicality and work on the floor helped keep Samoa in check early on, when he left, Samoa were given an almost free ride at the breakdown. Andy Powell. The name is almost a question in Wales following his squad selection, and none of his contributions today indicated that his positions in the squad is anything other than a mistake.

In general though, Wales were outplayed for much of the first half, and Samoa were unlucky to have claimed scores on two occasions before the line was finally broken. Fortunately for Wales, brains and the bench played their part. The game plan changed, and the ball saw more trips to the sidelines, both in kicks to touch and passes to the wings, as Wales tried to keep the ball away from the contact zone that so troubled Wales for the majority of the game. The try that secured the win was one that had its share of luck, as Halfpenny broke from surprisingly weak tackles, and Jon Davies escaped with a pass to no one, which somehow ended up in the hands of an eager Shane Williams, who looked hungry throughout.

But where Wales ignored the bench last week, it was used to good effect today. While losing Hook is a concern, Wales immediately had more penetration from deep with Halfpenny. The scrum looked good with Gethin Jenkins making a welcome return, while Lloyd Burns put in what must be his best performance in a Welsh jersey, and unlike Powell, has done a lot to justify his squad selection. Fitness told as well, and certainly the legs that came on for Wales, joined a starting lineup that certainly had more gas than Samoa. Not once did the Samoan team change their tactics, which continued to work, but with increasingly limited success. It was this combination of factors that saw Wales sneak to victory, which overall, they just about deserved.

It is though with some good fortune that Wales face Namibia first before Fiji, who will be knocking lumps out of Samoa in their next encounter. The fall of matches may well have provided the perfect platform for Wales to progress, though that being said, a very similar match up was provided four years ago, much to the detriment of Welsh hopes. Here’s hoping that just as with Samoa, Wales will be able to put to bed their next World Cup hoodoo team, here’s hoping…

RWC 2011: Week 1.5. Wales lead home nations, with nothing to show for it.

With Georgia doing their best to spook the life out of Scottish fans, all the nations competing in this year’s rugby world cup have now entered the fray and tasted a bit of the action. With the first week and a bit out of the way, all of the home nations are in a position to reflect on their current progress, and most spectators will probably settle for the fact that, by some distance, Wales have looked the best of the bunch. In reality Wales, in their narrow defeat to the Springboks, looked head and shoulders over the other offerings of the northern hemisphere, who have so far either disappointed or embarrassed in their on-field efforts. Whatever happens against Samoa on the weekend, there must be a sense in the Welsh camp that runs a little along the lines of ‘why oh why could we not get one of the other groups?!’

Punishment for poor performances in previous years have left Wales in their unenviable group, yet on current showing, Wales would probably be the only home nation to stand a chance of getting out of it, certainly of having a chance of winning the pool. As Scotland labour past another minnow, as England brush off a shambolic display over Argentina, and as Ireland kneel to the gods and offer thanks for being granted the lightest pool in world cup memory at a time when they have no sense of a world class performance in them, Wales and Welsh fans must be gripped by pangs of pain, knowing full well that they could easily exit the pool stages of this tournament as being the best European nation to compete.

Still, it’s early days, and Wales could yet exit the tournament as having been the worst of the European offerings. For that to happen, Wales would need to buckle under some serious Samoan heat on the weekend. We must hope that that does not happen. Playing tight and through a pack that has shown a degree of steel missing for several seasons, there is no reason why Wales cannot go through the rest of the pool without defeat. Really, with the attacking capabilities of the Welsh backline, each game should still produce a bonus point, but in order to do so, lessons must be learnt.

Wales let South Africa off in two key areas. As the second half moved on, and the South Africans tired, increasing amount of the ball was kicked. A fine strategy usually, but South Africa were weak and tired in the middle and that is where the ball should have been shoved. Samoa will tire in exactly the same position, but punt the ball away for their backs to counter attack with quick line outs, and Wales will lose. In addition, fail to use the bench, and Wales will lose. Gatland’s confidence in the fitness of the first XV is admirable, but the likes of Powell and Halfpenny would have been deadly in the last twenty minutes against a tired South African defence. The failure to use them was an oversight then, and will be again against Samoa. Do everything that we did to South Africa, plus correcting these two areas, and a Welsh win will come, but it must be done, otherwise Samoa will be too good to simply role over as the opposition has done for the other home nations, those other lucky lucky home nations! (And indeed, that is said with seething jealousy!)

Hating ITV at RWC2011.

Well, it can’t be said that I didn’t try. I knew from the moment it was announced that ITV would yet again be poised to cover this Rugby World Cup (and the next one to boot) that it would be awful. Yet, as the opening ceremony geared up to its spectacular opening, number 3 was pressed on the remote, and we found ourselves sitting in front of ITV’s coverage. Granted, this was done out of an act of kindness for my non-Welsh speaking partner who was struggling with the commentary on S4C, but for whatever reason, I found myself giving ITV a chance. It did not take long for the hate to bubble to the surface.

Opening ceremony – you don’t get many of them, because you don’t get many Rugby World Cups, yet ITV took this as an opportunity to cut back to inane babble in the studio. Tune in for the opening ceremony, and get four blokes sitting down blowing smoke up each others’ arses. Off to S4C then for the rest of the ceremony. My partner may not have understood everything that was going on, but then again, despite being fully furnished with the Welsh language, it was a struggle to really explain what was going on anyway, opening ceremonies being as bizarrely devoid of logic as they always are.

For the start of the game, we were back with ITV, and it only took 13 minutes for the most irritating trait of ITV commentary to creep out. That was the time marker for the first random England reference, as Phil Vickery became a brief talking point. I challenge viewers of this tournament to find a game when ITV will not mention England during the coverage. Go on, I dare you, put yourself through the whole tournament and see if ITV can hold its tongue about the only nation it gives two craps about!

The commentary team generally though were as hopeless as we expected. Forget the irrelevant England reference, explain the tennis reference. Richard Krajicek? Richard bloody Krajicek? Tennis fans don’t talk about about Richard Krajicek anymore, so why the hell does he deserve a place in the Rugby World Cup lexicon? Andy Gomarsall as second pundit was just headache inducing. The most flat, pointless self referential gibber based nonsense heard from the commentary box since, well, since the last World Cup. ‘Go forward’, ‘great offload’, ‘thought that was harsh’ ‘guff’, ‘guff’, ‘guff’. If there was only an option to switch the commentary off and just enjoy the crowd noise…if only. He couldn’t resist chattering in the second half about England’s world cup final defeat when a TMO call came…shut up Gomarsall you irrelevant little bastard, just shut up, You were a terribly overrated scrum half during your career, and it is clear ITV has made the same mistake regarding your commentary skills.

I know I’ve started this tournament biased, I hate ITV rugby commentary, I hate ITV sports commentary generally (I gave up following Formula 1 for around 3 years thanks to them). But that is their fault, they are the one who are consistently awful, and two thirds into their coverage on day one, nothing has changed. Fortunately, my partner has stepped out, so back to S4C we go. Insightful commentary, a general knowledge of the game, even a general knowledge of the players that goes beyond the match programme blurbs shoved in front of the ITV team. Just such a standard that goes above and beyond anything that the goons of the No.3 channel has to offer. Thank you S4C, and sorry that you can only show us a few games – certainly everyone you do show will have an audience in this house – and we’ll just have to endure ITV for the rest of it.

Just to summarise, if good reader you hadn’t got it already – I bloody hate ITV!

RWC 2011: The Beard

Wales has long celebrated its hairbear duo, even if only one of them has made it to this World Cup, but Canada have stolen a march on their opponents when it comes to  facial hair. It’s fair to say that Canada wont be expecting to defeat France or New Zealand in this tournament, but can anyone out there in the tournament rival these beards? :

http://t.co/oxYHgz7

Already Adam Kleeberger should be able to walk away from this years cup as a legend, and rightly so!