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Posts Tagged ‘Grand Slam 2012’

After the ecstasy of our Grand Slam win in March, the agony of losing by 1 point in Sydney. Wales lost the 3rd test of their summer tour of Australia 20-19, and thus endured a series whitewash 3-0. All 3 games were close, with the 1st Test in Brisbane being 27-19, the 2nd Test last week in Melbourne 25-23, and a single point seperating the two countries in the 3rd and final Test in Sydney.

The agony and the ecstasy – so close and yet so far

On such narrow margins games (and series) are won and lost. As Simon Thomas of the Western Mail wrote the following day:

It was a case of so near, yet so far for Wales once again as they went down to defeat by the narrowest of margins in yesterday’s final Test….

Graham Price, the loose head prop from the great Wales side of the 1970s said

Wales have done so much learning they should have a masters degree in lost opportunities

Welsh wing Alex Cuthbert – from the cover of Sunday’s “Wales on Sunday”

I did not see the 1st Test in which Wales lost 27-19, as I was still in Mongolia after my trip there to see the 2012 Transit of Venus. So I cannot comment too much on that game.

But, having seen the 2nd and 3rd tests I can concur with Graham Price, they were lost opportunities. In the 2nd Test, Wales were 1 point in the lead with only 90 seconds to go on the clock, and had possession of the ball. Why they did not just keep possessions, and pick and drive to run the clock down, is beyond me.

In this weekend’s 3rd Test Wales were leading 19-17 and had a lineout deep in Australian territory. They won the lineout, and had the opportunity to either go for a try or a dropped goal, but instead got penalised for coming around the side of the maul. It was from the ensuing penalty thatt Australia regained field position and scored their winning penalty.

So, where do Wales go from here? Was the 2012 Grand Slam another false dawn, or are Wales a World class side on the verge of getting those elusive victories against the 3 Southern Hemisphere giants South Africa, Australia and New Zeland? I think, given the narrowness of Australia’s victories over Wales, that we can build on this painful lesson in how to win tight games. We can cut down on the unforced errors, and learn better game management. Wales clearly now have the fitness, strength and skills to compete with the best teams in the World, what we are lacking, it would seem, is the mental ruthlessness and discipline.

Wales get the opportunity for revenge against Australia on the 1st of December, when the Wallabies come to Cardiff. This will be at the end of Wales’ “autumn test series“, an annual series in November / early December. This year we play Argentina (10th of November), Samoa (16th of November), New Zealand (24th of November), and then finally Australia. Having suffered 5 defeats in a row to Australia in less than 12 months, it is high time Wales beat them, and December could be our time for such a victory. All Welsh rugby fans will be hoping so.

Robbie Deans wonders whether Wales can beat Australia and New Zealand in the Autumn

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On Saturday (2nd of June) the 2012 grand Slam champions Wales will play the Barbarians. This is an annual tradition, and it will be Wales’ warm up match before they embark on a tour of Australia, during which they will play 3 Test matches against the Wallabies.

Banner on the Millennium Stadium advertising the upcoming game between the 2012 Grand Slam Champions and the Barbarians on the 2nd of June.

Although the Barbarians have not announced their team yet, it will almost surely include Shane Williams, who retired from playing for Wales in the game against Australia last December, and who played his last game for his club The Ospreys on Saturday when he helped them win the Pro-12 league by scoring two tries. He is Wales’ record try scorer, and the words “elusive runner” barely begin to describe him. Shane Williams first burst onto the international scene in the sensational Wales v New Zealand match in the 2003 World Cup. You can watch highlights of that match here, or if you want to watch the entire game it is here.

The Barbarians team badge

The Barbarians are an invitational team, and by tradition only get together a few days before a match to train.

Gareth Edwards playing for the Barbarians against New Zealand in 1973

The most memorable game of rugby I have ever seen was the famous match between the Barbarians and the All Blacks (New Zealand) of January 1973. I was lucky enough to be at this game. I will have to ask my father if it was my first trip to Cardiff Arms Park, but I distinctly remember taking our seats in the South stand in the first few minutes (we must have been late arriving), only for everyone around us to get on their feet as Gareth Edwards scored one of the greatest tries the game of rugby has ever seen.

(this video has had nearly 2.5 million views on YouTube!!). The whole game was played in an amazing spirit, both sides deciding to run the ball from everywhere. The full match is also available on YouTube, you can watch it below.

I will be on my way to the Gobi desert to observe the Transit of Venus next week when this match is played on Saturday. I will, unfortunately, not only miss this game but also Wales’ first test match against Australia in Brisbane the following Saturday. I will be back in Wales in time to see the 2nd and 3rd tests of our 3-match series down under, and as I have said before, if wales win 1 or 2 matches in this series then expectations that we are seeing the dawn of a new “Golden Era” in Welsh rugby will be sky high.

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