Sunday, 14 February 2010

Cardiff, 13 February 2010

To talk of a dream coming true is usually a lazy way of describing a pleasing event. Yesterday in Cardiff, however, there was something undoubtedly dream-like in Wales's victory over Scotland. There had been the usual frustrations over questionable refereeing (the satirical solicitor to my right speaking on behalf of the referee: "oh THERE's my yellow card - it was in my pocket ALL THE TIME"), and even more about the quality of Wales's handling, tackling, boots ("forgot your studs have you, Williams?") and general inability to stop Scotland scoring tries ("that's more tries than they've scored in the last four years put together!"). At half time the general feeling was that Wales could not possibly play as badly in the second half, and that Parks was having a good game. And Wales didn't. Richie Rees made an enormous difference, and the - albeit brief - appearance of the divinity that is Gethin Jenkins certainly raised the spirits. Rees passed quicker, flatter, with more urgency, as though there was a game to be won. Mr S. Williams made a marvellous catch to stop a Scottish try, while being borne down upon by an enormous Scottish lock and Lamont, hardly the type of the diminutive wing. Wales pressed and pressed. Dominant in the scrum, three attacking lineouts were given away, but the pressure on Scotland was maintained and points had to come. Wales won the second half by 22 points to 6.

Those last minutes. Byrne was through. How precisely he came down i did not see, but there was undoubtedly a Scottish body in the way. The shove for the line or the draw? We all settled for the draw. i sat down. They had to settle for the draw. So: 24 / 24. Kick off. Wales kept the ball alive. Jones kicked "Oh Christ! No!" And then there was Halfpenny. How in god's name had he got there without being 50 yards off side? Had he stayed in the Scottish half surreptitiously as they'd kicked off? It wasn't, in the event, Halfpenny who took the ball. And now everything is a blur. We are all standing, we are all screaming. This cannot possibly be. And as Williams rasises his hand BEFORE CROSSING THE LINE we are yelling, even in that moment, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU PLAYING AT? TOUCH THE BALL DOWN, MAN! And then it is down, and everybody is hugging everybody else, and love and relief and living a dream is all mixed into one enormous sensation of body and heart and mind. I was actually breathless. It was almost as if I was inhabiting a different body. It was absolutely bloody fantastic. Sport - life? - does not get better than this.

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