Archive for Six Nations

A Grand Slam Weekend

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Rugby with tags , , , on March 19, 2019 by telescoper

Well, here I am sitting in Cardiff Airport yet again waiting for a flight back to Dublin so I reckon it’s time to break my self-imposed blogging silence.

I had an enjoyable little break, the highlight of which was the rugby on Saturday between Wales and Ireland. I actually managed to get a ticket for the game, though I am not at liberty to divulge how I got it. I was a long way back from the pitch, practically in the rafters of the Principality Stadium, but the view wasn’t bad. Sadly, I forgot to charge my phone up overnight before the match and by the time I made it to my seat the battery had died, so I have no pictures of the event to share.

I had expected Wales to win, but hadn’t expected such a one-side match. After scoring after just over a minute, Wales controlled the game. Instead of the intense atmosphere I’d been anticipating, the mood in the crowd was more like that you might find at a cricket match while the home side is steadily accumulating runs against ineffective bowling. When the Ireland fightback hadn’t materialized by the fourth quarter of the game, the celebrations started and the singing grew louder in the steadily falling rain. At least Ireland got a consolation try at the end, but if truth be told they didn’t really turn up for the match.

I got absolutely drenched walking back to the Cardiff residence, but it was worth it for the privilege of seeing a Grand Slam unfold live. I only caught the second half of the final match of this year’s Six Nations, the Calcutta Cup match between Scotland and England, on the radio. This seems to have been the most exciting of the tournament, ending in a 38-38 draw after England had been 31-0 up! Greatest comeback since Lazarus!

But all credit again to Wales for their Grand Slam, a great achievement by any standards. It’s revenge what happened ten years ago, when I was in Cardiff (though not in the ground) for a Grand Slam decider between Wales and Ireland, a frantic and exciting match which Ireland won. Not so much excitement this time, but a far happier crowd of Welsh supporters!

So that’s the St Patrick’s Bank Holiday Weekend over with and I’m now heading back to Ireland. This week, or what’s left of it, is `Study Week’ which means there are no lectures. We have finished six weeks of teaching this term at Maynooth, and there are six more after Study Week but there is another week off looming for Easter. As it happens, I’m attending a small conference in London on Thursday and Friday (of which more soon) so I’m just back in the office tomorrow before flying off again for two days in the capital of Poundland.

In Cardiff on Match Day

Posted in Cardiff, Rugby with tags , , , , on February 23, 2019 by telescoper

I’m in Cardiff today and have just been for a walk into town and back. It’s a lovely sunny springlike day with a temperature of around 13 degrees. There’s an abundance of daffodils in Bute Park.

Today is of course the occasion for the Wales versus England match in this year’s Six Nations Rugby tournament. This excerpt from a piece by Tom Fordyce on the BBC website is spot on:

Although the match doesn’t start for several hours, all the main roads are already closed so you can stroll around the City without worrying about cars. There’s a lot of people crammed into town, but a very good atmosphere around the place. I haven’t got a ticket for the match and don’t feel like watching in a packed pub either so I’ll just follow it on the radio.

After two impressive performances so far this year, England are probably favourites but you never know! They have also won the last five Six Nations matches between these two teams. But with their home crowd behind them Wales might well bring England’s run to an end.

I’ll make only one prediction: it will be a very physical game.

P. S. On my way home I passed two clearly inebriated England fans trying to find a way into the empty cricket ground at Sophia Gardens. It took quite some time to explain to them that it was not the rugby ground, despite the fact that the Principality Stadium was in clear view about half a mile away…

UPDATE: I was certainly right about it being a physical game! But a strong second-half comeback against a tiring England gave Wales victory by 21 to 13. Diolch, Cymru!

Postcard from Cardiff

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Politics, Rugby with tags , , , on March 16, 2014 by telescoper

So here I am in Cardiff for the weekend, relaxing after a very busy and stressful week. It’s nice to have the option to get away like this, especially in the spring sunshine, so I’m glad I kept the Cardiff house going rather than try to sell it the moment I got the job at Sussex University. I have been working very long hours recently and with another month to go before the end of teaching term, I think I need to make better use of the weekends if I’m going to avoid a state of complete exhaustion.

On Friday I attended a meeting of the Council of the Royal Astronomical Society (of which I am an elected member) followed by a very interesting Open Meeting and a nice dinner with the RAS Club. After all that I took the late train to Cardiff instead of going back to Brighton.

During the journey I thought quite a lot about Tony Benn; the news of his death at the age of 88 was announced on Friday morning. Although I didn’t agree with his political views on some things, he was a person I admired enormously and I am very sad that he is no more.

I only ever met Tony Benn once, many years ago, as it happens, on a train from Brighton to London. It was one of those old-fashioned carriages, divided into compartments each with a door. I had almost missed the train and was so flustered when I got on that it took me some time to recognize the gentleman opposite who was just lighting his pipe.

I summoned up the nerve to speak, shook his hand, and introduced myself. We were the only occupants of the carriage and we talked for the entire journey – an experience I’ve never forgotten. In person Tony Benn was wonderful: charming, kindly, impeccably polite and above all absolutely fascinating to talk to. As I recall it, I did most of the listening. Not that I minded. I’m a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk..

People also forget that Tony Benn was one of the very few politicians to champion LGBT rights. It’s now a fashionable thing, but it wasn’t then back in the dark days of Section 28.

So I’d just like to record a little personal farewell to Tony Benn. There’s nobody of his stature in current British politics, and none whose company I’d like to spend a train journey in, either.

Yesterday I was out and about in sunny Cardiff running various undemanding errands, in the course of which I came across an internet cafe. I’ve never actually used one of those before, and was quite surprised that an hour’s access cost just £1. I took the chance to sit down for a bit and wrote yesterday’s blog post there.

Saturday was the last day of the Six Nations rugby and Wales were hosting Scotland. The two sets of supporters were mingling and imbibing throughout the city. When it came to the match, Wales thrashed Scotland 51-3.

Earlier England had comfortably beaten Italy so were top of the table, but would only win the competition if Ireland lost the last game to France in Paris. It was an exciting finale, with stout Irish defence enabling them to cling on to a lead of just two points. So well played Ireland, who probably deserved the title, but also good signs for England whose young side have performed admirably this year. Better luck next year?

At least English supporters can now enjoy one of their favourite pastimes: blaming everything on the French.

It’s warm and sunny again today so I think I’ll take another walk around. I really miss Cardiff, but one has to follow one’s star wherever it leads.

A Grand Day for a Grand Slam

Posted in Rugby with tags , , , , , on March 17, 2012 by telescoper

It’s a lovely morning in Cardiff. Later on, at 2.45pm, Wales will be playing their final match of the 2012 Six Nations Rugby against France here in Cardiff. Having won all four previous games they’re in line for a Grand Slam if they win. The atmosphere here is already electric with anticipation. Last night the city was filled with men in berets here to support France and today everything will be at a standstill for the match. I can’t describe what a wonderful feeling it is to be in Cardiff on match days, even if you don’t have a ticket!

People here seem to be taking it for granted that Wales will win this afternoon. I’d love a Welsh Grand Slam to happen, but I’m not sure it’s as much of cast-iron certainty the Welsh supporters seem to think it is. France are a dangerous side and their disappointing performances so far in the Six Nations don’t preclude the possibility that they’ll turn it on in the Millennium Stadium; they’re certainly not here just to make up the numbers. The Welsh team has its weaknesses and may yet meet their downfall…

Comparisons with the great Welsh teams of the 1970s are inevitable today. Although it may be tempting fate, I thought I’d post this video showing some of the great players of that era in action. Good though the current team is – and clearly the best of the six nations playing in the competition this year – I don’t think they’re in the same league as the side that included such wonderful players as Gerald Davies, Gareth Edwards, J.P.R. Williams, Barry John and, of course, Mervyn Davies who sadly died last week and in whose honour there will be a minute’s silence before this afternoon’s kick off. Here are some scintillating moments from that great team. We’ll never see their like again.

Even the commentators – especially the great Bill Maclaren – were so much better than the current generation!

But that was then and this is now. Good luck to Wales, and here’s to another Grand Slam this afternoon!