Posts Tagged ‘ Twickenham ’

Six Nations Donkey Awards: Round 3

Six Nations Donkey Awards Round 3.

An exciting weekend of rugby was torn apart by the fixture offered by Wales and England at Twickenham, where perhaps not the highest quality of games was played out, but certainly the most exciting game was, with the final ten minutes offering more thrills than the entirety of the other two games combined. That being said there was no shortage of tools on display across a weekend of highly entertaining sport.

1. The Lyrical Banker.

BBC punditry has come in for a certain degree of scrutiny this season, but the age old issue of ex-player bias raising its head on more than one occasion. That is not to say that this was avoided today in the form of Thomas Castaignède being added to the BBC line up to speak on behalf of the people of France, but his addition added something else, something extra, something beautifully bizarre in its lack of sense and clarity that it simply had to be recorded here. Castaignède’s inclusion though is done so with some hesitation, because his pre-match quote was so special – in many respects, his inclusion here should not be seen as a criticism or a punishment, but as a form of recognition, an honour of sorts. The quote in question:

‘This Scottish side, it is like a woman you want to be friends with but you don’t want to marry her’

Wonderful, baffling, and utterly incoherent, thank you Thomas, your observation was so brilliantly French, and long may we hope such views continue to be broadcast on the BBC!

Donkey score: 1 (but in a good way this time)

 

2. ‘Inconclusive’ seems to be the hardest word to hear.

So, your arm is underneath a ball, then your hand is underneath a ball, and then several other people’s hands are underneath the ball, and you are still convinced you scored a try? David Strettle may have felt convinced of his score, but to turn on the officials after the match and whine like an infant deprived of his blankey before bedtime was verging on shameful. There is a way to take defeat, to cope with perceived injustice, and Strettle decided to ignore all such protocols of decency and professionalism, and bark and chirp in a manner that we might have expected from that same team during a recent world tournament. On his way to 30, it’s probably time for Strettle to grow up a little.

(Whining) Donkey Score: 3

 

3. Hands of Steel…make catching hard.

Scottish rugby eh? Well, at the close quarters Scotland certainly showed a new found tough edge, battering weak tackles aside and making impressive inroads into the world cup finalists 22, yet, with this hardened approach in attack, Scotland seemed to have applied the same logic to ball catching, with the concept of ‘soft hands’ left behind, possibly somewhere in the middle of New Zealand. How the Scots managed to spill so much ball, so much of it unforced as well, is mystifying. It is almost as if Scotland concluded that to lead France for a portion of a game was a victory in its own right, and that the following 40 minutes of rugby should be an exhibition of how to throw away, verging on literally on occasions, a game of international rugby. Perhaps an express order of glue is in order before they face Ireland, as the Scottish team must urgently discover a way to hold on to a ball!

Donkey Score: 4 (with a multiplier effect from previous matches for doing the same thing wrong again, and again, and again).

 

4. When is a New Zealand not a New Zealander?

Take your pick on this one, because once again it’s Steve Walsh time (Walsh now representing Australia as a referee, having being sacked by the New Zealand rugby union some time ago, if the above question caused confusion). Walsh has a history of irritating fans of [insert nationality here] on a regular basis, and there was certainly grounds for query from both Welsh and English fans alike after yesterday. Certainly Strettle has made his views well known on the matter of the try/no-try scenario, and plenty of English voices were only too quick to join in that debate. But what of North being overlooked for a blatant flap of a ball into touch? What of the English captain Robshaw hauling Warburton out of the air in a line-out? Any other day both would surely be straight yellow cards no? However, for Walsh’s true moment of calamity, we must return to the try that David Strettle did not score… Everyone, including every single Welsh fan, knew Walsh was playing an advantage to England before Strettle failed to ground the ball, yet Walsh seemed to completely forget that following his lengthy chat with the TMO. In a moment of forgetfulness, Walsh may well have robbed England of a chance to draw…we will never know.

For catastrophic memory loss, Walsh earns:

Donkey Score: 5

 

In passing:

5. Rhys Priestland had a day to forget in many instance, but hopefully he will learn lessons from an uncertain performance, that while never looking like losing the game for Wales on his own, certainly did little to contribute to the victory. He’ll have many better days to come, but on a day of triumph, perhaps Priestland’s contributions can be put to one side.

Donkey Score: 1

6. Finally, an honourable mention for Manu Tuilagi. It has of course been a tough time of late for Tuilagi, falling off of boats and such, and his return to the England fold was marked by a high quality performance. Yet, when Priestland was given his marching orders, from nowhere came galloping up Tuilagi, to tug at the back of the referee’s shirt, making sure that cards of a colour were indeed to be shown. It was unnecessary, uncalled for, and very donkeyish.

Donkey score: 1

Wales as Favourites? Not for the lad of 1998.

Probably too bleak a title to lead into tomorrow’s match in Twickenham. Wales are very much the favourites, even if the majority of us Welsh fans don’t cope well with such suggestions. On form, on talent and on experience Wales stand, on paper at least, a year or two ahead of the current English team, and were the game to be played in Cardiff, any sense of doubt might be laughed out of the room. And yet…and yet, there are those of us who are scarred, tortured even by the memories of our past, of games lost, of dreams crushed, of humiliations endured time and again. You see good reader, I was there in 1998.

Now many Welsh fans will probably either be of an age where that date is too long gone to earn a place in the memory banks, or too painful for those who saw it to be discussed in the light of day. But for a young lad, travelling to his first away game in Twickenham, following his beloved Wales into the belly of the beast, 1998 left an indelible mark on that fragile memory. On that day, Wales were certainly no favourites, indeed Wales in those days was the team that pretty much everyone in the then 5Nations expected to beat – but no one, not even those oh so jolly English men, could have imagined what would happen. We need not dwell on the details, but the result, Wales 26…England 60.

Suffice to say, it was a long afternoon for the corner of Welsh fans, shoved into the upper levels of the home of English rugby, to endure. Try after cursed try was planted with increased ease over the Welsh try line, the jeers of the home fans, frustrated by the standard of opposition offered by Wales on the day, rang down on player and red clad fan alike. We all carried our share of shame that day – how could that which stood to represent our beloved nation prove so ineffective and impotent in the face of the enemy that should have brought out the best in them.

Some memories die hard, so you will forgive me, I hope, if the concept of Wales travelling to Twickenham as match favourites is something that proves a little challenging to accept – 1998 has never truly been forgotten or forgiven.

Yet, destiny brings us once again to Twickenham, a return to the venue of that darkest of days. Fate sees fit to point towards Wales and say ‘you chosen XV, you are the favourites for this occasion – you must now deliver’ – and those nervous many in Wales line up to shudder and crouch, whispering to each other while rocking back and forth ‘no, no, not favourites, can’t be favourite, lose if favourites…’ we are a troubled bunch when it comes to our rugby. Even when the rugby world recognises us as the most likely team to take a result, we are still the ones to hold back and say ‘no’. Well, please don’t blame us, 1998 and many such occasions have left their mark.

So, Wales travel east, and with them they go the troubled memories of a 14 year old lad – in the hope not just of a win, but also with a prayer, that those memories might once and for all be banished. Do it for Wales, but do it for the mental well being of that 14 year old, locked in the mind of a man much older now, but still haunted by the terrifying sight he saw on the Twickenham field all those years ago.

Come on Cymru, please Cymru, pretty please, let that lad get some restful sleep, when in the future thoughts once again turn to that Twickenham game…