So the Welsh rugby season finally staggers to a close. It went out with more a whimper than a roar as the Welsh team suffered a heavy defeat by New Zealand in the final test in Dunedin. Since August last year, Wales have played an incredible nineteen matches – small wonder some of the players looked as if they were running on empty yesterday. A small nation like Wales with its limited resources is always going to struggle with this kind of work load.
On the other hand, England started with a whimper and have finished the season with a tremendous roar. They finally seem to have found a winning formula under Eddie Jones. For years the smaller nations in Europe have relied on the managerial incompetence, club self-interest and in-fighting in England and France to give us a chance of being competitive. Now it looks as if this is disappearing in England at least. It doesn’t bode well.
Back to yesterday’s game and the All Blacks seem to have put even more pace into their game as the test series against Wales progressed. Wales were left floundering at times by Barrett, Dagg and co. Whilst Wales never stopped trying their hearts out they were only really competitive for the first quarter of the third test which is a step backwards. Six tries to none is a pretty comprehensive defeat.
Has any good come out of this tour? Well it seems that we are at least trying to change our game plan and adopt a more open style. I don’t really think we currently have the right personnel for this but it was encouraging at times. It does seem to rely very much on the presence of Liam Williams at the moment who has had a marvellous series. In combination with North and a rejuvenated Halfpenny, we should have a decent back three. The other standout player for Wales has been Faletau who is a remarkable athlete and could fit quite comfortably into an All Blacks team. A special mention for Tomas Francis who must have been on a starvation diet on tour as he looks much more like an athlete and is contributing more outside the scrum.
On reflection, my two high points of the season both came early on – the unlikely Wales victory over England in the RWC and Pontypool’s stunning victory away at Merthyr. Unfortunately neither ultimately led to success but at least we could dream for a while. As the season progressed, the dreams disappeared and we are now left looking forward, no doubt, to more ups and downs next season. Such is the lot of a Pontypool and Wales supporter.
It is not all bad for the Welsh as we have our football team performing heroics in France, Yesterday’s rather scrappy victory against Northern Ireland has put Wales in the quarter finals of Euro 2016. Wow!
Let’s try and forget the rugby for a while.
Come on Wales