Posts Tagged ‘ Shane Williams ’

Welsh Regional Rugby: The Legends Leave

As weekends go in the RaboDirect Pro 12, this was a fairly good one for the Welsh regions. Yes the Scarlets’ unlucky draw at home to Munster put pay to their play-off hopes, but one draw and two wins (someone had to lose in the Ospreys – Dragons Welsh derby) is an above average set of results. However, as seasons ago, there has been little to shout about, with average displays overall in Europe, and only the Ospreys left to fight for the league title. With the passing of the regional season and its collective disappointments, comes a changing of the guard. Well, perhaps an exodus of the guard is a more apt description given the lack of a new guard coming into replaced the old one. Whatever description fits best, it is certainly the end of a playing era for many favoured faces from the Welsh regional scene.

Plenty of star talent is on its way out, the likes of Gethin Jenkins will be missed, but you would not bet against his return to Wales in a couple of seasons time, while the scything runs of Tommy Bowe will certainly be missed on the Ospreys wing. Beyond the stars, there are the plucky figures who found their moments to push beyond their ability. Deiniol Jones was one to punch well above his weight, while Ritchie Rees was one to fight his way to a brief ownership of the Wales No 9 shirt. Special mention should go to the hair styling’s of Maama Molitika, the likes of which will not be seen in Cardiff colours again anytime soon. That’s five mentioned, the list of those leaving Welsh rugby is much longer.

There are three figures in particular who are deserving of special mention though, as the weekends fixtures saw the curtain drawn on the Welsh playing days of three of the modern day greats, Stephen Jones, Martyn Williams and Shane Williams. Two move into retirement, one to pastures new (we imagine Stephen Jones will never actually retire – don’t bet against his boots being laced in 2015), all three have played their part in the resurrection of Welsh international rugby, all three played their roles in two Grand Slams, the first one delivered to a nation that never dared to dream that they would see such a feat again.

For Stephen Jones, the record cap holder for Wales, it will probably be his searing second half break against France that will live longest in the memory. From his own 22, Jones tore open the French defence with the sort of incisive run that so many of his critics loved to suggest he couldn’t do, yet so often did. However, in a scramble to find some classic clips, this wonderful face off between Jones and O’Gara surfaced. At EyeOnWales, we’ve always hated O’Gara and made no secret of it – and enjoying Jones giving him what-for is almost, almost as enjoyable as the Grand Slam break.

For Martyn Williams, it was probably the return out of retirement that was most memorable. The master on the floor of any rugby field, such was his importance to the Welsh cause that successive Welsh coaches would go to him cap in hand, pleading for the Ponty product to pull on the red shirt one more time. In 2008, Williams sealed the second Welsh slam with a wonder break, tip toeing through a battered French defence, but perhaps this highly unlikely clip shows off a touch of his versatility – how long until Warburton attempts one of these? (It’s not pretty, but it’s a bit of a classic.)

Then there was Shane, the little big man who made the Welsh left wing his very own. Try scoring records were made to be broken by this man. Probably the biggest hero of them all for this generation, Shane Williams highlighted once more that rugby was a game for players of any size, and we can only hope that he is indeed not the last of his kind. If he is though, those who saw him play will remember his ability and efforts with the same fondness as any effort by Gerald or JJ. There are probably too many tries to chose from really, but this one, probably not his best, but one that highlights his ability to baffle a defence – how many South Africans did he beat there, three, four, five…great stuff, a try the likes of which only man in world rugby could score.

Three legends who lit up the game, three who will long be remembered, and will be sorely missed in Welsh club colours.

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.

Shane walks on

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…

Shane speaks

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.

Shane’s Lap

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.

Diolch Shane.

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.