Wales managed to cling on to a narrow 14-13 lead to defeat the French at Cardiff. This was hard work for both players and supporters alike as the French proved tough opponents. The much vaunted Welsh attacking prowess never really managed to crack a ferocious cast iron defence.
The Welsh try was a comedy of errors from a French perspective as they made a complete hash of a poor restart after they had taken an early lead with a dropped goal. The ball bounced and then just about made the required ten metres before being gathered by Wales. An awkward bounce of the ball from a Welsh kick through then let Liam Williams in for a try in the corner. The French try was much more conventional with powerful carries creating an overlap for Fickou. With three penalties from Halfpenny, Wales held a narrow 14-10 lead at halftime with the French team looking the stronger.
In the second half, Wales were on the back foot most of the time but a tenacious defence just about managed to keep the French at bay. Wales for the most part seemed to be overpowered by the French in the forwards although they always had the colossus that was Alun Wyn Jones to rally around. The French did squander a few chances to take the lead but it was remarkable that Wales restricted them to just three points in the second half. You could not help feeling that if the French got their noses in front there was no way back for Wales. The atmosphere in the ground reflected the balance of play with the French fans making far more noise than their Welsh counterparts. We were all mighty glad to hear the final whistle after a fantastic lineout steal by Shingler had enabled Wales to kick the ball high into the stand.
The victory meant that Wales claimed second place in the Six Nations’ Championship which no one really expected before the tournament started. Ireland were run away champions and their victory at Twickenham showed them to be worthy winners of the title and their third Grand Slam.
The defeat by Ireland left England languishing in fifth place and Eddie Jones with egg on his face. I guess that England will just have to hire another half dozen coaches as the ones they’ve got have too many irretrievable breakdowns. We had “Warren ball” and now we have “Eddie no ball”.
Scotland snatched a last gasp victory in Rome against the luckless Italians and took third place in the championship. You really do feel sorry for the Italians who have played some great rugby at times. Of course you never want your side to be the one that loses to them, but it would be all right if someone else did. I take my hat off to Parisse who has given his all to Italian rugby and has now suffered the ignominy of his one hundredth defeat in an Italian jersey. What a player!
The WRU seem on the verge of yet another restructuring of the Premiership. This time shrinking it back to twelve from sixteen clubs. I seem to remember this happening before with Pontypool on the receiving end of the axe. Having decided on twelve, the WRU then did a U turn and increased the number to fourteen (no room for Pooler though). Some time later, fourteen was considered too few so they went back up to the current sixteen. You have to wonder whether anyone actually knows what they are trying to do.
By my reckoning, the season lasts from September to April which is eight months so around thirty four weeks. If the league has twelve teams, that is twenty two fixture on a home and away basis. Doing the arithmetic that leaves twelve weeks without a league match. Of course there could be the occasional cup game but inevitably to someone has to invent some extraordinary play off arrangement to pad out the season. Eleven home games surely cannot be enough to sustain a club at this level. It certainly is not enough to satisfy my appetite as a supporter.
The next thread to the restructuring seems to be for the regions to have under-23 teams who will search out fixtures in the UK and Ireland. Is this going to be yet more rugby along the M4 rather than elsewhere in Wales? Does anyone have an appetite for watching this? Why don't Cardiff, Llanelli, Newport and Swansea just morph into the under-23s? Ask a consultant I suppose.
Of course we all want Welsh rugby to be successful but it would be good to have a plan and then stick to it for a significant time period rather than chopping and changing all the time. I have no confidence that this restructuring will not follow all the others into the waste paper basket and then be recycled a few years down the line.
Sadly there is yet more snow and, with the long awaited cup quarter final for Pontypool at Merthyr fast approaching, I really hope it is not adversely affected. Let us hope our very own “Beast from the East” can give a good account of themselves against the “Ironmen” on Tuesday evening.
Come on Pooler!