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Pro12 Five Rounds In

If we’ve learned anything over the years following club rugby, is that you should never write a team off, especially not in the first two weeks of the season. Look to the English media and their dismissal of London Welsh. The Exiles had been written off after two heavy defeats, yet turned the tables on their senior opposition to suddenly look like contenders: a season of rugby is a very long time.

The ProRabo, or Pro12 has illustrated this point just as effectively in the first month of competition. For many commentators, the Ospreys, after several shock results, were a spent force, unable to cope with the loss of Shane Williams and company. Yet against the Scarlets and Munster, they suddenly woke up and turned into professional bullies, battering their supposedly on form opponents into the ground. With newcomers Zebre coming close to shocking Glasgow away from home, and the demolition job pulled off on Leinster by Connacht, it should be clear to all that this is no longer a competition where ‘easy’ matches will be frequently available.

Of course all the results of the last month were put into tragic perspective with the loss of the hugely promising talent of Nevin Spence. Only just arriving on the international scene, Spence seemed destined to make a regular home of an Irish center berth for the foreseeable future, and the rugby landscape is much poorer for his loss. His Ulster teammates have however responded in the best way possible, raising their game to brush aside the Cardiff Blues and stand undefeated and top of the table. If form and motivation are anything to go by after a month of the regional season, Ulster are one team who you would be brave to bet against being in the thick of the business end of the season.

From a Welsh perceptive, it would appear that the regions are settling into a predictable pattern. The Ospreys, while embarrassing early on,  have suddenly found a pack that can disintegrate the very best put in front of them, and will surely be a force if their scrum continues to damage the likes of Munster. The Scarlets, having started so well, now find themselves back in the mix of the impossible to predict. With such attacking talent, the tries keep coming in with ease, but the new combinations in the front 5 are taking their time to gell. Once the front row spends some time getting to know each other, you would expect them to be contenders as well.

As for the Dragons and the Blues, we are somewhat in the unknown. For the Dragons, every game should be a struggle, yet their festival of goal kicking against Edinburgh went some way to suggesting that there will be plenty of teams who will be caught out on the trip to Rodney Parade (though few will fear hosting them). The Blues though face probably the longest season. They have the tools to win, but not the experience. Too many youngsters in the mix seems likely to leave the Blues walking the path of the Scarlets in recent seasons. It will be painful, but the rewards of bringing through the young regional talent will pay off. Once the likes of Rhys Patchell grow into their new senior roles, the Blues will be a force once more, but it will take more than a season to get that club firing again.

For Scotland, Glasgow and Edinburgh have again shown their ability in fits and bursts, but while Glasgow struggle at home to Zebre, and Edinburgh fail to match away wins in Cardiff with away wins in Newport, they are unlikely to generate enough consistent success to last the season. But then, five rounds in, there are few results you would have predicted so far!

And at this early point, the promising pack would have to comprise Ulster, Scarlets, Ospreys and Leinster. Even with Leinster’s shortcomings against Connacht, they should still have too much firepower for the likes of Glasgow and Munster, who, if they don’t find a scrum again soon, could be facing an exceptionally difficult season.

We’ll see how things stand at the close of round 10.

Delightful music

Yesterday we did a review of her fabolous EP, now we interview the woman behind the artist. Here is the Q&A with Gwenno Saunders, about her music, her home town Cardiff and The Pipettes.

Can you introduce yourself?

Gwenno, like the chocolate (Kinder) Bueno but with a G.

Can you describe your music in three (separate) words?

Melancholic, Dream, Pop

What was the first album you ever bought?

It was a Randy Crawford album on vinyl from Kelly’s Records in the Cardiff indoor market when I was about 11, I was looking for the single ‘Almaz’ which my dancing teacher constantly played in the car on the way to class, but they didn’t have it so I got the Street Life album instead. I was really disappointed not to get the song that I wanted but I was determined to walk out of there with something!

What is according to you…

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Eisteddfod gets its own app.

National Eisteddfod of Wales, Vale of Glamorgan 2012


With more than 200 downloads on its launch day, visitors are ditching the map for an app to find their way around the 

maes at the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol, Vale of Glamorgan 2012, which takes place until Saturday 11 August.

The bilingual app is unique in that the menu and activities sections are in welsh and english but the language settings allow you to choose your primary language.  This is ideal for learners who may want to start in the shallow end but build confidence throughout the day/week.

Welcome and Information and Activities are the best places to get started and will give you a flavour of what’s going on this year, both day and night.  It’ll also tell you where you can pick up your for free translation equipment.  You can then search through all the week’s events and activities by day, category or venue and find them…

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Very interesting views on the impacts of awards.

In the Dark

It being a nice day I took myself off for a stroll through Bute Park this afternoon. It was actually a bit warmer than I’d expected so I confined myself to the shady tree-lined bits. It was nice to see so many people enjoying the open air, sitting on the grass, picnicking, playing sports and even just strolling around like me. Walking along by the river bank I saw this guy practising a tightrope walk.

That’s something you don’t see every day. Well done, that man.

Anyway, when I got home I checked my email and found an angry message complaining about Cardiff City Council’s ongoing campaign to win itself an award for what is known as the Bute Park Restoration Project. The link invites people to “vote” for the project, but gives no option to vote against it. One wonders how many Cardiff City Council employees have been…

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Anything promoting the excellent Tiny Rebel Brewery is worth a reblog!

Small bar big...offer

Morning all,

This is the first of two dates for your diaries. On Sunday 24th June Newports only brewery will be taking over the taps here at The Rake for the day!

As some of you will know our Operations Manager, Glyn Roberts went and did a brew day in Newport and had a lot of fun brewing the very well recieved, Hadouken, a 7.4% IPA. The first brew day where he was advised to wear a stab vest! In all seriousness though the beer was a massive hit at the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival last week and we’re really looking forward to trying it here at The Rake!

The full list of beers on draught will be…

Casks – Cwtch, The Full Nelson & Hadouken

Kegs – Kraftwork, Chocaholic & Hadouken.

So you can try the Hadoukens side by side and decide which one you prefer!

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The Adventures of Kai and Cadogan

Cadogan loves few things better than a fine pint, and he had no shortage of choice at the 2012 The Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival!

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Evening reading.


New books in today,an evening of Welsh politics in store.

A different perspective on the ‘pyramids’.

The Adventures of Kai and Cadogan

Kai and Cadogan have been wandering overseas once more, and have stumbled across a whole host of bizarre things to put in their travel diary.

These two seemed to have been saved from the front of a ship, they pointed the way for Kai to stumble across some highly unusual rituals.

Kai never expected to find examples of human sacrifice, but here he was invited to watch. The person on the table did not seem to be enjoying the day!

After the sacrifice, Kai and Cadogan had to creep past some overly intimidating guard lizards. This one though seemed to have eaten earlier in the day, and our happy explorers managed to sneak through.

Finally Kai found his ‘pyramid’, but he quickly concluded using his academic skills, that this was little more than a 19th century mound of farming structures. He was certainly dissapointed, but vowed to expose the myth of this…

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A great break, highly successful adventuring, and a return to the blog in the next day. Plenty to cover, including the end of Roman explorations, the fall and fall of Gavin Henson, and of course, volcanoes!

The little dog on a journey to Cardiff for a Grand Slam!

The Adventures of Kai and Cadogan

Cadogan had a very exciting day in Cardiff yesterday watching Wales overcome France to secure a notable Grand Slam victory. Now, while most of the pictures of Cadogan are a bit on the blurry side – Cadogan does not remember much about the day – it is a small miracle that he survived the day at all! Thankfully we can announce that Cadogan is in one piece, and he did make it home…just!

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