Yet again I missed a Pontypool game due to international duties in Cardiff. It is a real shame, as from what I can gather, Pooler put in one of their better performances of the season in putting Glamorgan Wanderers to the sword in Ely by the convincing margin of 11-47. This of course makes it eleven wins out of eleven as we reach the halfway mark in the rather truncated season. There will be a major challenge next weekend when Pooler visit second placed Narberth who are clearly playing well as their good win against Tata Steel would indicate. This will be a chance for Pontypool to pull well clear at the top of the Championship but equally an opportunity for Narberth to close the gap to just a few points. It promises to be gripping encounter.
Meanwhile in Cardiff, Wales took on the once mighty Springboks. Neither team had covered itself in glory in the Autumn Series and both had a point to prove. The first half was eminently forgettable as neither side looked capable of finding their way to the try line. Wales clearly had the edge but there was only the odd flash of inspiration as defences were on top. South Africa looked a mere shadow of the team that has sat near the top of the world rankings for an eternity as they struggled to find any pattern. Wales were awarded a few more penalties than the Springboks and so went in at halftime with a 12-6 lead thanks to the trusty boot of Halfpenny.
In the second half you sensed that Wales finally truly believed that they could defeat a Southern Hemisphere heavyweight. They needed a try, the crowd needed a try, everyone needed a try and it finally came from a lineout drive with Owens flopping over. The relief was palpable and even though Halfpenny missed the conversion Wales led 20-6. With the Springboks going nowhere, surely the game was in the bag.
A raft of changes unsettled Wales and out of the blue the Springboks closed the gap to 20-13 with a well taken try. The nerves started to jangle in the stadium once again. Wales needed a moment of inspiration to seal the deal and it came from the excellent Tipuric who had been a clear candidate for man of the match. He burst on to a good pass from Faletau and rounded the fullback with a move that Shane Williams would have been proud of to cross near the posts. 27-13 and the game was over. The crowd went home happy – Wales really needed this.
This was a decent performance by an under pressure Welsh team. Remember it is only the third time that they have beaten South Africa in their history. Although this has to be one of the least impressive Springboks’ teams that has visited our shores, it was a pretty convincing victory. Biggar controlled the game well from outside half and did a few of his trade mark kick-and-chases to try and break the Springbok midfield defence. The outstanding player on the field, however, was Tipuric who seemed to have a hand in everything good that Wales did. While it was sad to see Lydiate leave the field with what looked to be a serious injury, it was great to see the influential Faletau back. Wales will certainly have a selection dilemma for the back row in the Six Nations. Wales are still a long way from being genuine Six Nations contenders but this was a step in the right direction.
I enjoyed the rugby on the TV on Friday night as I flicked between the Scarlets and the Ospreys. Both regions gave vibrant displays against Leinster and Glasgow respectively. There was plenty of talent on view in both sides and I managed to feel a bit more optimistic about Welsh rugby at least for a while.
But it is back to the real stuff next weekend and Pontypool at Narberth.
Come on Pooler!