They came, they saw, they were slammed
There have been many ‘where were you?’ moments in sport down throughout the mists of time — Usain Bolt in Beijing, Ian Botham’s Ashes, Cliff Thorburn and his fags making a 147, Sir Steve Redgrave in his wee boat, Paul Hardy’s Irish Cup winner against Larne in 1989 — the list goes on and on.
But added to their number on Saturday came a seismic happening that shook the world of Rugby Union right to its core; a glorious moment in sporting time that will have future generations salivating in sepia-softened tones as to what they had witnessed — so well done to Italy.
Meanwhile, over in the Millennium Stadium there was another match and it was quite good too, as Wales and England battled it out — and that was just in the BBC panel.
In the white corner we had John Inverdale, Jeremy Guscott, Sir Clive Woodward and Brian Moore, while in the red corner they were smaller in number and size as diminutive duo Jonathan Davies and Shane Williams backed up the booming Eddie Butler.
Of course, being a title decider there was never going to be a shortage of hype or indeed phlegm as hordes of Welshmen and ladies (who all seemed to be drinking cider) terrorised their guests with their close harmony singing.
“It’s a rugby occasion masquerading as an Eisteddfod,” commented Inversoft but Davies and Guscott played it cool, the former saying that all games in Cardiff were special while the latter assured us that the players could separate the match from the occasion.
Woodward was more direct, and in Mayan-like predictive speak, assured us that England would be ‘inspired by this, it’s very red, lots of daffodils everywhere.’ Ah yes, those famous red daffodils. They clashed with the brown shorts England’s players were to model later.
They were always going to struggle as the England team flashed up on screen and had only five names on it — nice to see the graphics guys from Final Score making the trip over — and then they got pitchside reporter Sonja McLaughlan’s name wrong, leaving out the ‘L’ and to be honest, anyone of a Celtic hue was McLaughan like the front row of a Max Boyce gig a couple of hours later.
If that wasn’t bad enough she was then ripped asunder by a precocious 10-year-old dressed in red (clearly a daffodil fan) who had delivered the ball to the pitch and was then asked ‘who do you think is going to win?’
“That’s a silly question,” came the response as we cut to Inversoft in hysterics pondering ‘how many people wanted to say that to Sonja over the years?’ before running away in case she returned as Brigitte Neilson and gave him a good thrashing.
It took a man of Anglo-Saxon lineage — Laurence Dallaglio — to make things a little more cerebral, bringing a touch of class as we cut to an art gallery and England’s finest standing in front of Francis Bacon’s The Three Ages of Man.
This turned into a convoluted tale of how the game would be decided by numbers 6, 7, and 8, or 8, 7 and 6, concluding that everyone would be at sixes and sevens but to be honest we were all thinking this is a load of numbers twos.
And then we were off, a simply awe-inspiring rendition of Land of My Fathers followed by 40 minutes of captivating sport and in a throwback to Davies’ impromptu commentary stint in Rome a few weeks ago, Butler brought the curtain down on a pulsating half with: “I’m going to do a Jonathan here, I need a lie down.’
“I said this at the start, this will go to the last 10 minutes,” insisted Clive, but there was more mindless predicting to follow. “The game’s here for England, they’re in great shape.” Hmm, I wonder why he’s not coaching anymore?
“I don’t think England will be too downhearted — I think they’re going to come stronger and stronger,” he added and as Wales ran riot a nanny appeared off camera beckoning Clive and saying ‘come with me, there, there, things will be okay.’
Tries aplenty followed, the main menace a man called Cuthbert, although no sign of Grub and the Pugh twins, while Barney McGrew and Dibble were also noticeable by their absence.
“When this is reviewed in the cold light of day, not the alcohol-fuelled haze that it will be tonight, you’ll find that Wales have been very clinical,” concluded Moore, while in the background there were muffled screams from Clive that ‘we can still do it’ as hordes of red daffodil wearing fans headed chortling back to the valleys on a day we’ll all remember.
Belfast Telegraph Digital