Breathless bone-crunching

Rugby does offer something in the Cardiff cauldron       Wales v Australiathat football is rarely praised for… opposing fans occupy the same space hours before kick-off for banter and liquid refreshments. But my ‘In-house Rugby Correspondent’ tells me to make no mistake about pondering the cuteness of these cuddly Wallabies…

  they have a plan…

  … and the green and gold finery only masks a core of steel when it comes to slaying dragons. Australia have a historic stranglehold on this fixture… 25 wins to 10 for Wales. However, the real pain for the home team is the 20-2 in terms of wins for Australia since Wales beat them in the 1987 inaugural World Cup. And even further pain is heaped in the last couple of years where Wales have been within a score of winning with a minute or so to go on three occasions, only to miraculously snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on each occasion.

What makes today a real grudge match is the British & Irish Lions 2-1 series win over the Wallabies in their own natural environment earlier this year, particularly the mauling of the final test match. The majority of the Lions were Welsh players, but time is long overdue that they do it under their own colours. Make no mistake, fire-breathers versus furry cuddliness means only one thing… war!

It is time for this…   to smoke this…            Let’s not pretend that such an outcome will be easy following the Lions win down under. The Aussies arrive in God’s Own Millenium Stadium having lost 20-13 to England before cutting a swathe through Italy (20-50), Ireland (16-32) and Scotland (15-21) this month on their way to this extra fixture (not originally planned, so flavoured with a little extra spice!). Over 67,000 settle into their stadium seats, the roof is closed to add to the pressure cooker effect, and the rest of the home nation strap in ready to assault their TV screens with passionate advice and abuse.

     V.     

Home expectations could not be higher, fuelled by images of one Welshman outnumbering the Aussies down under earlier this year, and the cuddly ones looking rather perplexed:

               

The game lives up to all the expectations, as first Wales take an early lead, then Australia are in the ascendency for the latter part of the first half. Australia extend their lead early in the second half before Wales make yet another heroic comeback. Then, guess what? Lightening really does strike in the same place many times… with breath-taking moves and bone-crunching tackles all over the pitch, and Wales having all of the cards falling in their favour, they manage yet again to fall one score short of winning. The final score is Wales 26 Australia 30, or more importantly for the visitors 9 wins in a row against the northern hemisphere champions.

Reports suggest the match was so good the result was less important… try telling that to the locals around here. Wales have two years before they meet Australia in the World Cup group to find that extra score; then the locals will accept a little more how great the match was.

   

I am still being Juno, as long as I avoid some of those rugby tackles until I speak with you again.

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EU integration at work

     V.      

Who says that England and Wales don’t work well within a European Union structure? Clearly a Cardiff-based eleven would like to do a UKIP, and put a sharp spike into the idea of European unity in today’s match. However, Arsenal’s current place atop the Premier League suggests that a pan-European blend is managing to disturb the notorious hush of the Emirates Library in north London.

A definite Franco-German axis dominates the Arsenal landscape at present, with a more than adequate support from English, Welsh, Spanish, Polish, Belgian and Czech Republic counter-parts. However, as with most European institutions, the Arsenal style can tend towards the over-elaborate with an emphasis on style over substance. The onlookers are often left with a feeling that the never-ending ‘process’ fails to deliver any tangible ‘products’ to their liking.

Many of their opponents experience that UKIP-like feeling, that any encounter with a European Union structure only leaves you mesmerised by the maze of hoops and rings spun around you. This understandably gives rise to an increasing urge to kick something… Arsene’s Arse providing the most obvious target (if you can penetrate the quilted wall of its defence):

    

The big questions for today are: what will happen when the English of Wales outnumber the English of England; and the greater number of Welsh players could be on the English side? Who will need to become most demonised by UKIP when they open up their cheque books to Rumanians and Bulgarians during the January transfer window? How many smiles will Arsene Wenger crack open during this match (all betting agency sources and Ray Winstone are available naaarrw).

  

A 3.00pm kick-off on a Saturday afternoon is a bit disorienting for supporters who have had more Sunday kick-offs so far this season. But the home fans are not left waiting for too long before their historic appreciation of former player Aaron Ramsey is put to the test. He scores to put Arsenal 1-0 in the lead, and there is a rare moment in the football kingdom where a scoring opponent is applauded by the home fans. Are you smiling Mr Wenger? Perhaps this is what joy looks like:

 

Cardiff somehow hang on to a 1-0 deficit through to half-time, but more due to the visitors playing slightly below their own standards. The second half approaches with the home team needing some inspiration from somewhere.

City v Arsenal

A more evenly contested half ensues, but the clinical efficiency of the league leaders produces a further two goals for a fair winner but maybe a slightly flattering result. Purple Dragonbirds are out-gunned by Arsenal 0-3. European unity prevails and there is time for one particular face to crack open a smile:

      I have been Juno, and with a busy weekend I will give you my views on a Wales v Australia rugby match next time we meet.

The Avengers

My kindred spirits the ‘pumas’ are in town, and the locals are a little bit edgy.

             

Wales have only won 9 out of the 14 meetings with Argentina, a record of success that the home fans would demand improvement on. The last time this match was staged, last November, Argentina won 26-12 here in Cardiff. The light blue and white pumas…

    … are now established players in the southern hemisphere annual tournament against the top three teams in the world, but will it be enough for the southern also-rans to compete with the northern hemisphere champions? The flags are fluttering their support along St Mary Street close to the Millenium Stadium:

Wales v Argentina [2]

 

v.        Wales v Argentina [3]

 

 

 

 

The anthems reflect the passion of both sets of supporters and the 2.30p.m. whistle blows to let battle commence. A penalty kick for Wales, a converted try, and a further penalty while still reduced to 14 men through one taking an early trip to the sin bin. Twenty minutes gone and Wales are 20-0 in the lead. Half an hour passes with Argentina having more than a couple of chances of their own before they score a penalty kick… 20-3. Its a half about taking your chances, as Argentina provide plenty of positive statistics, but with a further penalty as the last kick of the half there is only one important stat… Wales 23 Argentina 3.

       With two tries and the magic boot of Leigh Halfpenny, the majority of the crowd are happy to see the visiting pumas playing good rugby as long as the home team remain dominant on the scoreboard. The second half often sees a modern day Welsh team step up a gear against any opposition…

   Meanwhile the pumas start to tire, and are in desperate need for a new tune…

PUMA AND PIANO. B&W.  Picture on Modern BOX-CANVAS. A1, 20"x 30"

Los Pumas are soon looking more like Lost Pumas as Wales add a further two converted tries and a penalty with only a single penalty in reply.

                               

The final score is 40-6, and Wales return to winning ways against southern hemisphere opposition after a long run of heroic failures. Triumphant dragons can retire to the hostelries of Cardiff and let the celebrations begin.

      Cymru Flag (wales) clip art

I have been Juno, and until we next meet let the local cats keep celebrating.

That nice Mr Mackay

CCFC celebrations

What do I know about football? Well, back in the 1960’s, so I am told, there was a goalkeeper called ‘The Cat’ (Peter Bonetti, for you know-it-alls). Like me, he was known for being graceful, and only exerting himself on the rare occasions when he had to. Also it is back in the early 1960’s, according to my buyer of the food, that the local bunch of so-called football players did any good. So, it seemed like I have arrived in a place of sub-standard football, which is probably why they all seem to go on a bit about that strange egg-shaped ball that they all huddle around.

Not being the cool one to take all the credit, it seems that since my arrival in this pleasant city their football team has been doing rather well. Even jumping around on open top buses without paying any fares. As winners of the Championship it seems to have driven lots of the locals to go around shouting ‘we are Premier League’ as they enter a summer long dream world before reality strikes in mid-August. I think they are playing their first game in the promised land at my old manor… West Ham in the old Borough of Newham. From what I can remember this new lot should beat that old lot, but then… I will listen out for the sounds of mayhem or despair, and hope to still see food in my bowl.

So who do I attribute this new-found air of confidence to? It can’t be the players, as they were struggling most home games since the turn of the year, so I kept hearing. Something must have been going right around the club. It could have been the rich owner guy from Malaysia wearing his shirt inside his high waist-band trousers (bit of a strange look to be inspiring people if you ask me). Then there was this man with a strange way of talking, constantly doing impersonations of people from Glasgow, and waving his arm in a strange fashion. Got many of the fans chanting ‘Doing the Malky’ for some reason or another.

Anyway, I thought he was good as the prison guard in ‘Porridge’, and he seems to know what he is doing along the road at fortress Cardiff City Stadium. All-in-all he seems to be a nice man, that Mr Mackay.