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and the Women won too

February 15, 2009

Well you didn't expect me not to mention it did you? Three years in succession is no bad thing and the crowd experience on its own was quite something. In past years more foreign fans have been able to get tickets but not yesterday. No welsh man or woman was selling and the stadium was a mass of red. In an attempt to reduce the impact of the crowd the English coach had refused to allow the stadium roof to be closed, but Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was not reduced in consequence. The English team was selected for damage limitation and performed better than was expected, but at the cost of two sin binnings for spoiling the ball in situations that would have otherwise led to Welsh tries. Matches between Wales and England are always special, there is so much history that no player ever performs without awareness of that history or goes unaffected by the situation. However the stats show a match with few errors in stark contrast with appalling  level in the preceding game between France and Scotland. They also show the Welsh dominance in the set piece, especially the line out; both historically areas of English strength. The match could have been lost, and would have been by Welsh teams lacking confidence during the rugby league induced dark days of the nineties but that is no longer the case and Wales led through the match and were never really in danger.

Rugby again shows the value of sport in respect of national identity without hatred. English and Welsh fans mixed in the stands and talked knowledgeably about the subject without the need for physical separation so often required in the so called beautiful game. At the end when those dressed in white were consoling themselves with two tries to one, it was pointed out several times that in the year of their World Cup Victory Wales outscored England by three tries to one in the quarter final, only defeated by forced penalties and the boot of Johnny WIlkinson. At the end of the day we progress to a triple crown match against the Irish in the last match of the season while England move on to a second hard away test against celtic competition at Croker Park in a fortnights time. If we can defeat the French in two weeks time the triple crown match might also be a Grand Slam decider. To cap it all, the Welsh Womens' team recorded a first ever win against English opposition. In many ways that was the greater achievement.

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