The benefit of having a birthday in March is that it often coincides with the 6 Nations! Not that I need any excuses to buy a ticket to a game! Those that have read any earlier pieces by me know I have a soft spot for the Millennium (hopefully spelt properly first time!). So, as soon as tickets became available online I booked a couple an early birthday present from me to me and an extra bought by my friend Monica – who happens to be crazily good company! I think the plans were laid in November so the trip seemed ages away, but before I knew it another birthday weekend had arrived! Being a control freak when it comes to driving I picked Monica up and we hit the M25/M4; in common with my trip to watch France play Wales the roads were largely kind. We were staying in a fairly snazzy hotel on the outskirts of Bristol and arrived in time for dinner; I think we probably traumatised the reception staff. Two Essex (albeit, one a displaced Scot) ‘girls’ full of beans can be a bit of a shock at times! Having settled in we had a pretty decent dinner and went for a fairly early night with the excitement of the Millennium beckoning.
We travelled to Cardiff by train from Bristol Parkway station, where there is a pretty huge GAP between the train and the platform! That meant a nervous wait for the train for me, I’m still not sure why that gap is my biggest fear in life but it most certainly is! So the morning started with me being the one traumatised; yet I didn’t fall down said gap! Funny that! We arrived in Cardiff at about mid-day expecting to see the Italy v England game on the big screen, but no….. With over 2 hours to burn and sunglasses needed we frequented John Lewis, both buying a stupidly cheap dress as well as the glasses we needed. One shop is my limit, so the next stop was lunch, a very decent Chilli con Carne for me and a goody 2 shoes salad for Monica.
We made our way to the stadium with not too much time to spare; which meant we missed Delilah to my regret! We went our separate ways as we were at different ends of the same row. The roof was closed which was a bit of a surprise as it was a glorious day, my experience of the roof closed on a good day is that the pitch is slippery, and that was to be the case. Wales won the singing the National Anthem competition as per. Although with the Welsh Male Voice Choir – O Flower of Scotland was pretty immense too! In my mind I had no doubt about who would be the winners of the game, Wales at home are a very difficult team to beat and this time they were a wounded Welsh team having been soundly beaten by England. Scotland had been contemplating the wooden spoon, and had a drop goal not sailed over on the last moments in Rome they would have been rock bottom. A Welsh win was a forgone conclusion before the game started; however the end result wasn’t one I’d have predicted!
As with my previous 6 Nations ‘reports’ I’m not going to go into huge amounts of detail, but, here goes. Scotland started the game with a good deal of intent, kicking for touch after the first penalty was awarded. The attacking line out was however wasted, Laidlaw got another chance a few moments later and this time took the 3 points putting his side ahead after 4 minutes. It seemed that Scotland meant business; the first of 2 major blows came on 14 minutes for the Scots as their captain Kelly Brown left the field after taking a blow to the head. In a series of errors for Wales the slippery pitch became evident as Faletau lost his footing, Phillips then had his kick charged down leaving his team mate isolated, giving away another penalty. The Scots kicked to touch but to no avail as the throw in missed the whole lineout! The next penalty went the way of the Welsh after a ‘hospital’ ball from Jim Hamilton to Laidlaw left him as the isolated player. Wales played the ball and the resulting set of well worked passes resulted in a try for Liam Williams as he spotted a hole in the defence to dive over unchallenged. Dan Biggar made a difficult kick look easy to add the extras.
So Wales looked good for a win at this point, but on 23 minutes Stuart Hogg had a moment of sheer madness as he took out Biggar in what looked like a virtual assault as he was going for a high ball. The referee showed an immediate yellow card, which changed colour to red once he’d seen the replay on the big screen. For me that was the correct colour in spite of the fact it meant the game was going to turn into a rout! Biggar came to his senses and stepped up to kick the penalty from a huge distance. Liam Williams was to become provider for the next try as he passed to Faletau who in turn passed to George North who ran in under the posts. Biggar converted to stretch the lead. Jonathan Davies looked to have scored a great try but it was disallowed; it would be good if the reason was communicate for those without ref link. Jamie Roberts however scored a try pretty much straight after, and in spite of hitting the post, Biggar stretched the score to Wales 27 Scotland 3 at half time.
To stray from the rugby for a moment, I had my first experience of people constantly walking past during the game, seems likely when pints of beer are being consumed! Ooh irritating! I was lucky enough to be sat next to a kindred spirit Cat Nuttall; the Commercial Partners Manager for Warwickshire CC, so we were able to swap stories about cricket and its attitude towards women at times, interesting to say the least!
The second half started and George North scored his second try virtually from the kick off, I predicted a probable cricket score as I pictured the Welsh backs running amok. Biggar missed the conversion but the lead was stretched further as Davies, North and Faletau took part in a ‘running’ try sending Jamie Roberts in to score his second of the game. The score was building, the next name on the score card was Faletau who’d had a great game to this point; the one man advantage gave the Welsh room on the pitch to produce some great passes and a try where the ball had been passed from one side of the pitch to the other. The conversion was missed again but the score now stood at Wales 44 Scotland 3.
The next passage of play saw Scotland camped on the Welsh line, there seemed to be a surfeit of penalties given against the Welsh, so many, I thought a card should have been brandished! My notes tell me, not that I can’t remember that ‘it’s all gone a bit dull’ as we had scrum after scrum; never a good spectacle. Wales were to have the last word as Man of the Match Liam Williams went over the line after an impressive passage of play. The very popular James Hook scored the conversion to take the finishing score to Wales 51 Scotland 3. This was a record victory for Wales; George North was interviewed on the pitch after the whistle (would have been hard during the game!) and asked if Wales/he had proved a point. I’m not so convinced a big victory against the 14 men of Scotland did that. A 3rd Championship in the year after a Lions tour featuring many Welshmen was always going to be unlikely but the Welsh will have been overjoyed with this win. Scotland have a lot to work on before 2015, I imagine Stuart Hogg will rue the moment he guaranteed a significant Welsh win.
I look forward to my next visit to the wonderful Millennium, this time to watch club rugby; the Heineken Cup final. I’m keeping my fingers crossed I’m not going to be watching 2 French teams!