Flashback Friday!

We’re just over  two hours until the Rugby World Cup kicks off in England and I quite frankly can’t contain my excitement! My team isn’t even playing until Sunday but I can’t miss the opener….or any of the other games for that matter! Four years we have waited for this!

So before we start, I wanted to relive (Yes as painful as it was) the end of the last World Cup in New Zealand 2011. Hey four years is a long time and coming so close last time just fuelled the fire in our Welsh hearts, so lets reawaken that fire with my blog post from 2011. Enjoy!

” The Welsh World Cup

So the final whistle has blown. The team is back home, flags folded away, jerseys packed for another four years. As the last plane carrying supporters left Auckland airport we waved goodbye to the Rugby World Cup and a nation that welcomed us with open arms. Regardless of whether you were in a stadium in New Zealand watching the game or in a pub in the welsh valleys the other side of the world, fans sported their nation’s colours and hoped the boys wouldn’t be on the British airways flight to Heathrow.

Waking up at unearthly hours to watch a rugby game was a daunting thought for every supporter, but after getting over the initial shock of your alarm going off at ridiculous o clock in the morning, and mumbling your way through the anthem, the whistle blew and all thoughts of going back to bed and catching the repeat were kicked into touch! You found yourself screaming at the TV with no consideration for your neighbours, without realising the boys can’t actually hear you 11,000 miles away.

In all fairness to the IRB, they broke us in gently into Wales’s fixtures. Half nine on a Sunday morning wasn’t too bad, considering the dreaded 4:30 the following week! Some of us made our way to pubs, others made our way downstairs to the biggest TV. Acting our way through a sneaky sick call to work.

First up were current world Champions South Africa. Optimistic or pessimistic? We found ourselves hurling abuse at Wayne Barnes, and playing our own game of charades hoping officials will see us making shapes of a TV and would go to TMO anyway. Unfortunately Barnes didn’t agree with us and decided that James Hook’s penalty was a miss! Despite a try from South Africa, one from our very own Toby Faletau made us think we were going to beat them! As we all know, this is welsh rugby and the game isn’t over till the whistle blows! An incredible kick from Halfpenny from the halfway line added an extra three! Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, 16-17, a one point defeat.

Admittedly South Africa were our hardest opponents in our pool, yet a small number of the population rose at half 4 on a Sunday morning to watch the boys take on Samoa! What wasn’t the best of second halves, we were beginning to think of turning off and waiting for the repeat later on in the morning. Yet we optimistic supporters knew first halves have never been our strong points in Wales, despite being a try down! As if by prediction, after a break of tackle by Leigh halfpenny, who even had time to adjust his scrum hat whilst running, threw the ball to the legend Shane Williams to score his 56th try for Wales! We’d won 17-10!

After braving the early hour from the previous week we were oblivious to waking up early. The only problem with this was missing work to watch the end of the second half. Even if it was Namibia you still wanted to see the game and after a first half with a 22-0 lead and a hat trick of tries from Scott Williams you couldn’t say no! It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Wales smash a team. During the entire game Wales scored thirteen tries and supporters were actually gutted at the one try Namibia scored. 81-7 to Wales a job well done.

Next up Fiji. Ah Fiji, not our most anticipated opponents after the previous world cup in 2007 where we were knocked out by the pacific islanders. After our terrific performances against Namibia and Samoa we were confident that we could beat them as we lost to the world champions by one point. Yet there was a part of us that felt nervous, history surely couldn’t repeat itself?

Before kick-off they faced us with the haka, but we weren’t scared. We just turned to them and belted out Land Of My Fathers. Game on! The opening minutes of the game weren’t inspiring and the ghosts of world cup past were coming back to us. With the phases building up it Was Jamie Roberts who broke the line and scored Wales’s first. Those ghosts were then busted with tries from Warburton, George North, Scott Williams, Leigh Halfpenny, Lloyd Williams, Jonathan Davies and Lloyd Burns and another from Roberts did the damage for Wales. Final score 66-0. 2007 World Cup?

Alas came the quarter finals where we faced our Celtic cousins Ireland. We were used to playing Irish sides on a regional basis week in week out, yet we were stamped with the title of the underdogs!

   Ireland also wanted revenge on us after our controversial try from Mike Phillips in this year’s six nations. With the likes of BOD and ROG in their midst the welsh boys took no hesitation in showing the Irish that they meant business! Two minutes in and Shane Williams slotted over the whitewash for a try!

   Following the try a rocky defence from Wales saw Keith Earls equal the scores! Then came a scrum right in Ireland’s 22, and something Ireland really didn’t want to see. Mike Phillips run into the corner for Wales’s second try! Dejavu comes to mind, except this time TMO allowed the try and was not controversial. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, ten minutes later centre Jonathan Davies secured a semi-final place for Wales slipping through four players in the Irish defence to score a try. Ireland were knocked out with a pleasing 22-10 defeat. They made sure there was enough room for England on their plane as they’re world cup drew to a close leaving Wales the only home nation left in the competition.

Then it was onto the semi-final. This match really needs a book of its own. The whole of Wales were in anticipation of their team reaching the final and the glory supporters turned up in their thousands, and 60,000 fans gathered at the millennium stadium to watch a live streaming of the game, a nation was ready.

The first few minutes went well, a few minor blips but nothing to serious. The calm before the storm maybe. Oh how our world was about to be turned upside down in the next ten minutes. The first incident was seeing the best tight head Adam Jones limp off with an injury, to be replaced by another player in red. And then it came.

France had won their own lineout, passed the ball to Vincent Clerc who unfortunately came face to face with our captain Warburton who dangerously lifted him and let him go as he realised his tackle was quite dangerous. After a slight squabble between the players, Wales expected a yellow card ten minutes, not too bad. Then went off went Warburton to the stands. But nobody came to replace him like Adam. It was a red card!

In that nineteenth minute of the game, Wales began to worry. Losing to of our best players in the opening quarter was a devastating blow big enough to injure the whole team. Yet we carried on. France kicked penalties yet our defence kept fighting even with a man down. In the final quarter of the game a flicker of hope lit the field. Mike Phillips made a dash for line and raised the score 8-9 to France. Unfortunately Stephen Jones was unable to convert between the posts keeping the score the same. Another miracle flashed before our eyes, a penalty in front of the posts close to the halfway line. Halfpenny lined up like he had before, our hearts were in our throats. He kicked and what looked like went over, had painstakingly just skimmed under the bar. In the dying minutes of the game we wanted to conjure up something special, the phases were mounting up as we moved closer and closer to our try line. Nobody was stepping back into the pocket to slot a drop goal and what felt like hours was only twenty second, until the ball was lost and the whistle blew for one last time.

Wales went into mourning. A nation questioned what if? What if the card was a yellow? What if we had a different referee? But it was no good replaying the kicks hoping this time it would go over, or watching numerous replays of Sam’s tackle praying for a yellow. We dealt with the pain of losing a world cup semi-final like a loss of a family member. We sank into ourselves, our eyes filled with tears and our hearts yearned for success. This world cup was not meant to be yet we still welcome the boys’ home as heroes. The boys in the welsh team of this world cup have shone a light on welsh rugby and made us get behind our team again. The country is proud, and we may be a wounded dragon at this moment in time but a nation salutes you! Diolch yn fawr bechgyn.”

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