Archive for the Rugby Category

Judgement Day

Posted in Cardiff, Rugby with tags , , , on April 28, 2018 by telescoper

I’m up early again on a Saturday, travelling back to Cardiff this weekend for the above event later today. It’s actually a School social event for members of the School of Physics & Astronomy that involves two rugby matches at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, featuring all four Welsh teams in the Guinness Pro 14 tournament: the Blues (from Cardiff); Ospreys (from Neath/Swansea); Scarlets (from Llanelli); and Dragons (from Newport). Tickets for the whole event cost just £10 each…

Should be a good day out! I may post a few pictures from the Stadium, so watch this space.

The scene about 20 minutes before Scarlets v Dragons..

It did fill up: the overall attendance was over 65,000.

The Scarlets versus Dragons match was rather one-sided, ending 33-8 to the team from Llanelli. The thing that struck me most about the game was the dire state of the scrummaging. I think only one scrum completely properly in the whole match! The Dragons also conceded a penalty try after repeated infringements at scrums under their own posts.

After a break we had the Ospreys versus Cardiff Blues. Here is the scene shortly after kick off with the Blues (right) immediately under pressure from the Ospreys (left, in white).

After the first 10 minutes I thought the Ospreys were going to run away with the game but it turned out to be an excellent close-fought contest, of much higher quality than the first. Cardiff were actually ahead for much of the game, despite their atrocious performance at the line out. The match ended 26-23 to the Ospreys, with the winning points coming from a drop goal 2 minutes from the end…

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Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!

Posted in Cardiff, Rugby on March 17, 2018 by telescoper

Rather than wait around in the cold for today’s St Patrick’s Day parade in Maynooth I hopped onto the Hopper bus and took the morning flight back to Cardiff.

The bus from from the airport to Cardiff city centre was mainly occupied by French rugby fans on their way to this evening’s match against Wales. That turned out to be a tense, bruising affair, with Wales clinging on at the end to win 14-13.

Dublin airport was busy with Irish rugby fans travelling to London to see their team’s last game of the Six Nations, and hoping for a victory against England at Twickenham that would give them the Grand Slam. And so it came to pass, in a surprisingly one-sided game in which Ireland were clearly the better team.

So congratulations to Ireland, worthy winners of the Six Nations 2018, and a Grand Slam to boot!

I think there’ll be some pretty lively celebrations of this St Patrick’s Day tonight!

So that’s the Six Nations over for another year. I usually think of the end of this competition as the beginning of spring, but the weather today is distinctly wintry. In fact it’s just started to snow in Cardiff. Time, I think to get my dinner together: beef stewed in red wine, accompanied by a nice Amarone..

Spring Things

Posted in Biographical, Cricket, Football, Politics, Rugby on March 13, 2017 by telescoper

I’m aware that my posts have been a bit thin recently. This is partly because I’ve had so much to do recently. I know I’m supposed to be working part-time, but that isn’t the way it’s working out. I’m being paid part-time, but without any obvious reduction in workload. Not at the moment anyway, although that’s probably mainly because of a load of deadlines coming together.

The other reason is that I’ve not been very well. On top of other things I caught a bug of some sort in January that laid me pretty low and caused continuous coughing and spluttering but seemed not to be too nasty. The problem is that I just couldn’t shake it off. When I finally started to feel better I immediately got worse again. I think I might have had two different forms of the lurgy in quick succession. Now I seem to be clear of the obvious symptoms, but just generally knackered. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting on a bit, the usual winter flu things are harder to shake off. Or maybe I should have taken some time off, but that would have meant missing even more deadlines…

Anyway, while I’ve been moping around feeling sorry for myself, Spring seems to have arrived.

On the sporting front, the 2017 Six Nations is heading towards its conclusion. With England sure to win the Championship after thrashing Scotland 61-21 on Saturday, all that remains is the question of whether they can round it off with a second successive Grand Slam by beating Ireland in the last match. To show how little I know about rugby, I thought Scotland would beat England on Saturday. I even bet on Scotland to win,  but they never really got out of the blocks and were thoroughly trounced.

There are signs of life at the SWALEC stadium now too. I’ve seen the Glamorgan players practising outside a few times now that the weather has improved a bit. I have joined as a full member this year so hope to be able to get to quite a few of the County Championship games. The fixture list arrived last week, another sign that Spring is here.

On the football side, Newcastle United had three tough away games against rivals for the Championship (Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading). They managed to beat the first two and draw 0-0 in the third, which was a good performance. But then they lost an apparently more straightforward home game against Fulham on Saturday. They’re still top of the table (on goal difference), but could still blow it. There are still nine games left of a season which seems to have gone on for ages already!

And then of course there’s the likely triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by Prime Minister Theresa May, assuming Parliament agrees to give her permission to do so. Then we begin the process of separating ourselves from the European Union. There’s a strong chance this will lead to Scottish independence and, perhaps a few years further down the line, a united Ireland. Holland goes to the polls on Wednesday 15th – the Ides of March – and we’ll see whether the Dutch are as willing to fall for divisive far-right rhetoric as the British and Americans have proved to be. I doubt it, actually, but there have been too many shocks recently to be sure.

A night Out with Nigel Owens

Posted in LGBT, Rugby with tags , , , on February 21, 2017 by telescoper

I’ve had a busy morning teaching and a busy afternoon meeting some interesting people from IBM and elsewhere in connection with Data Innovation Institute business, so just time to mention that I’m looking forward tonight to an event at Cardiff Metropolitan University (whose campus is not far from my house) featuring renowned rugby referee Nigel Owens who, in case you hadn’t realized, is gay. The event is part of the celebrations in Cardiff of LGBT History Month.

I’ll update later with reflections on the evening, but in the meantime here’s some examples of him in action on the rugby field!

Update: it was a thoroughly absorbing evening. Nigel Owens spoke extremely engagingly (and without notes) about his upbringing in a small village  in rural Wales, his mental health struggles as he tried to come to terms with his sexuality, a (nearly successful) suicide attempt when he was in his twenties, and how his decision to come out publicly revitalised his career as an international referee. 

When he takes to the field on Saturday to officiate at the Six Nations match between Ireland and France, it will be his 75th international match as a referee, which is the most for any referee ever.

 

Not the Six Nations

Posted in Biographical, Rugby with tags , , , , on February 18, 2017 by telescoper

After a misty morning it has turned into a lovely Spring-like afternoon here in Cardiff. I’ve been in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University this morning, helping out with a UCAS visit day by interviewing some prospective students and then having lunch and chatting with parents and others.

As well as the weather and the admissions season, another indication of the passage of the seasons is the Six Nations rugby. Our Saturday UCAS visit days have to be arranged with the RBS Six Nations fixture list in mind because Cardiff gets incredibly busy when Wales are playing at home. The capacity of the Millennium Principality Stadium is well over 80,000 which, for a City with a population of just over 300,000 represents a huge perturbation. 

Not only is there a lot of traffic and a very crowded city centre, but it’s also very difficult to find hotel accommodation at a reasonable price on match weekends.  Given that we start in the morning, quite a few prospective students and their families do stay overnight beforehand so this is quite an important consideration. There are no fixtures in the RBS Six Nations this weekend. Today two of my interviewees had travelled quite a long way to get to Cardiff – one from Richmond in North Yorkshire and another from Falmouth in Cornwall – and both families stayed over last night.

Anyway, while I’m not talking about the Six Nations I can’t resist mentioning last week’s match here in Cardiff between Wales and England. I didn’t have a ticket. I’ve ever really figured out how to get tickets for these matches. They always seem to be completely sold out as soon as they go on sale.

Before the match, I thought it was going to be a close game but Wales always have tremendous home advantage at Cardiff and I thought they might just sneak it. It was a rather dour struggle to be honest, but with less than ten minutes to go Wales were leading 16-14 and my suspicions seemed about to be confirmed. However, as is often the case with close matches, it was an error that produced the decisive moment.

About five metres out, Wales turned possession over and then rucked successfully, the ball eventually going to Jonathan Davies behind his own try line. With half of his team trying to disentangle themselves from the completed ruck, it was essential for him to clear his lines by kicking into touch. Unfortunately, he kicked straight down the field where his kick was collected by George Ford. England’s counter-attack was swift and lethal: Ford to Farrell and then to Elliott Daly on the wing, who went over for the try to the sound of groans all round Cardiff. After the conversion it was Wales 16 England 21, which is how the game ended a few minutes later.

The results of the other games so far mean that the only team capable of winning a grand slam is England, as each of the other teams has lost at least one game. There’s still a long way to go, however, and England still face challenging matches against Ireland and a much-improved Scotland.

Anyway, all this UCAS malarkey means that I’m way behind on Saturday crossword duties, so I’m going home. Toodle-pip.

Land Of My Fathers – the 1931 Version

Posted in History, Rugby with tags , , on February 27, 2016 by telescoper

I’m very grateful to Anton for sending me a link to this wonderful bit of history – the first time the singing of “Land Of My Fathers” before an international rugby match was captured on a newsreel. The venue for the Wales-Scotland match was Cardiff Arms Park, which still exists, but the international games are now played at the recently-renamed Principality Stadium which is directly adjacent to the old venue. The skyline around the Arms Park is still mostly recognizable. The opening panning shot is looking North towards Bute Park, but as it moves right you can see the old Palace and Hippodrome, on Westgate Street, which is now the site of a Wetherspoon’s pub; only the facade is intact as the interior was completely gutted and rebuilt.

It seems that some sort of mechanical fault meant that the roof of the Principality Stadium was left open for last night’s match between Wales and France (which Wales won 19-10). That would have meant that the singing of Land of my Fathers could have been heard throughout the city. I remember once spending a Saturday afternoon in my garden in Pontcanna, and could hear the noise from the stadium very clearly. There’s something very special about the singing of the Welsh National Anthem on such occasions – it always sends a shiver down my spine.

R.I.P. Jonah Lomu

Posted in Biographical, Rugby with tags , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2015 by telescoper

At the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, I wrote a post recalling the World Cup of 1995, which was held in South Africa while I was visiting there. I had the privilege of seeing the great Jonah Lomu demolishing the England defence that day. Today I learned with greant sadness that he has passed away, aged just 40. Since Jonah Lomu played such a central role in one of the most amazing sporting experiences of my life, which lives in my memory as if it happened yesterday, I wanted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the awesome sportsman that he was by sharing that memory again.

In 1995 was visiting George Ellis at the University of Cape Town to work on a book, which was published in 1997. The book is now rather out of date, but I think it turned out rather well and it was certainly a lot of fun working on it. Of course it was a complete coincidence that I timed my trip to Cape Town exactly to cover the period of the Rugby Word Cup. Well, perhaps not a complete coincidence. In fact I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the semi-final of that tournament between England and New Zealand at Newlands, in Cape Town. I was in the stand at one end of the ground, and saw New Zealand – spearheaded by the incredible Jonah Lomu – score try after try in the distance at the far end during the first half. Here is the first, very soon after the kickoff when Andrew Mehrtens wrong-footed England by kicking to the other side of the field than where the forwards were lined up. The scrambling defence conceded a scrum which led to a ruck, from which this happened:

Jonah Lomu was unstoppable that day. One of the All Blacks later quipped that “Rugby is a team game. Fourteen players all know that their job is to give the ball to Jonah”.

It was one-way traffic in the first half but England played much better in the second, with the result that all the action was again at the far end of the pitch. However, right at the end of the match Jonah Lomu scored another try, this time at the end I was standing. I’ll never forget the sight of that enormous man sprinting towards me and am glad it wasn’t my job to try to stop him, especially have seen what happened to Underwood, Catt and Carling when they tried to bring him down. Lomu scored four tries in that game, in one of the most memorable performances by any sportsman in any sport. It’s so sad that he has gone. It’s especially hard to believe that such a phenomenal athlete could be taken at such a young age. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

Rest in Peace, Jonah Lomu (1975-2015)