Slam and Dunk

Deep in the Northern Hemisphere winter is a time when the egg-chasing sports enthusiasts get their moment in the limelight; when the Six Nations Rugby Championship takes centre stage; where some of the people of Wales connect with a strange kind of religious fervour.

This year it all kicked off with the biennial ‘Men in Skirts‘ weekend, as Scotland arrive in Cardiff. A brief moment when men can be true to their inner selves, and at least one shopping-laden woman can turn a blind eye…

1. a) Scary scrum

Scotland were in the rarified position of being tipped by many as favourites to win in Cardiff, only to be blown away 34-7 by the native dragon of Wales

1. b) City Road dragon [2]

Next up, it was the turn for Wales to be on the road, with the fixture that inspires thoughts of a clash with old enemies rather than a celebration amongst rivals. What would the marauders across the Severn Bridge take to the hosts of England, tipped to be champions before the tournament started? Well, with dragon-hearts in mouths for most of the last 60 minutes, it wasn’t to be, as St George stumbles to a 12-6 win, and the guest fire-starters prove at the final whistle to be a little more inert in portraying their true heritage…

2. Inert firestarters

Staying on the road, next up is the always welcome trip to Ireland, where the lotion joyously flows, and the red army have frequently found travelling success. As added-on time arrives Wales are only 3 points behind and in possession with the potential of a match-winning try; and then that wayward pass…… Ireland clinically strike for a 37-27 victory, as Welsh heads are bowed…

3. Fallen head [4]

With two oh-so close matches away, Wales return home determined not to let an unpredictable season slip on the banana skin that Italy may lay down at the Millennium Stadium (no Principality Building Society product placement accepted here!). A frenetic first half is followed by a procession to a 38-14 home win…

Banana skin

Which only leaves the simple matter of a victory in the final home match with France to secure a creditable second place in the Championship. If only… Wales don’t do ‘simple’! After most of the match watched through parted fingers, mouth agape, from behind the sofa, the final whistle brings that rarest of outcomes… Rabbits 14 Headlights 13…

5. Desperately holding on

Until we speak again, you may ask “but what about the other matches?” to which the carefully tutored Juno and Bella would answer “so what!” Another Six Nations comes to an end, with congratulations to Ireland for the Grand Slam of 5 wins in 5 games, and even greater congratulations to England for their Number 5… the Dunk of finishing 5th out of 6!

4. Pride restored

Judgement Day 30-4-2016

Once a year the national stadium plays host to all four of the Welsh regional rugby teams for a showcase two matches staged as Judgement Day. The season is drawing to a close and a suitable occasion arises for West v East as the Cardiff Blues take on the Ospreys of Swansea, and the Newport Gwent Dragons take on the might of the Scarlets of Llanelli.

A Grand Stage:

The Millennium Stadium (or Principality Stadium for those who like to wear their marketing endorsements on their sleeves) offers one of the world’s great stages for the event…

Inside Millenium Stadium [1]

Inside of Millenium Stadium [2]

Inside Millenium Stadium [3]

A Fiery Welcome erupts as the teams take to the field:

Blues v Ospreys fireworks

Dragons v Scarlets [1]

Fortunately for the infrequent spectator, two open and expansive games are played, with a majority of the national Welsh squad players on show across the four teams, ensuring entertaining high scoring matches:

Blues v Ospreys

But, not for the first time, judgement declares West as victors over the cousins in the East, as the final scores are Cardiff Blues 27 Ospreys 40, and Newport Gwent Dragons 20 Scarlets 34. 68,282 fans enjoy a feast of high quality rugby:

Blues 27 Ospreys 41

Dragons 20 Scarlets 34

For Juno and Bella this is a game they identified more as men behaving like packs of dogs, with just too much of the arse-sniffing going on (that’s a joke about rugby scrums for those not so familiar with the intricacies of the game). Until we speak again may all of your scrums be tight!

Rugby: The Man’s Game

Juno and Bella were never aficionados of the Welsh national obsession for Rugby Union. But they both proclaimed to be partial to a bit of rabbit. So Judgement Day 30-4-2016 in the home of Welsh Rugby may just have caused them more than a hint of confusion. Whilst Wales is obsessed with a man’s game, a little bit of the English male obsession for dressing up as women may be creeping in to the local rugby psyche!

What is this woman trying to take a nibble of?

Bunny [1]

On the other hand (forgiving the pun)…

Bunny [2]

Until we speak again, feel free to rethink your views about the finer details of the national sport!

 

Leek & Onion Soup

It’s a cold February day and my ‘in-house Oliver Twist’ is asking about ideas for feeding the masses. It being a big match event in the locality, I have no hesitation in coming up with my very own recipe. First, we need a pan big enough for all those insisting on “feed me ’til I want no more” (that’s an ‘in’ rugby comment). This will do…

Principality Stadium

Throw in generous portions of the main ingredients…

Ingredients

Add some heat to the cauldron…

Fire [1]

Fire [2]

Simmer for a few minutes…

Simmering

Sprinkle in a dash of yellow stuff…

Boil [1]

Add some crusty bread…

Bread [1]Bread [2]

 

 

 

 

 

Home appetites are guaranteed to be satisfied, as the final result clearly indicates a sumptuous outcome…

 

Final score

Rugby cat

 

Until we speak again I tempt your taste buds with my next menu, coming to an event near here: ‘Pizza for Proles’.

Men in Skirts

It’s Six Nations Rugby Internationals time again, and unlike my predecessor, the English Juno, I have no confusion over my loyalties…

Rugby cat

It’s Wales v Scotland for another of those atmospheric weekends in Cardiff

Wales v Scotland [1]

But it is a strange old game with some very odd sights to behold, none less than the quintessential Scottish characteristic of Men in Skirts!

Men in skirts

Local accommodations and hostelries can’t help themselves in an effort to engage with the event:

Hotel entranceRugby pub

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile people congregate at the stadium waiting for the arrival of the gladiators to the arena…

Stadium

And never has the back end of a bus been so celebrated…

Back end of team busMeanwhile it is the action on the pitch that counts most, and at the end of another hard fought game a brave Scotland succumb to the passion of the Welsh with a final score of…

Final score

Some of the national flowers show their excitement at the result…

Winning daffodils

And it is the home colours that flutter over St Mary’s Street in the heart of Cardiff…

Wales v Scotland [2] Until we speak again may all of your balls be egg-shaped!

[Football explained, or not!] E is for…

Chilling in the sun

Commentating on this football malarkey can be really tiring. After all, us cats were not fundamentally designed for the sports vibe. So, I thought I would give you an insight into the whole sports journalism business… here I am deeply engrossed in an intensely thought-provoking creative process.

Meanwhile, I sent my resident ‘misguided optimist’ over to the Cardiff City Stadium to be my eyes and ears on the action. This game is slightly different from all the others in the season, because ‘Optimist Central’ is accompanied by a couple of off-spring who support the opposition; a surefire recipe for disappointment somewhere in the group. Anyway, enough of the familial ramblings, it’s time for me to let you in on the meaning of E.

E is for Eponymous, because the collective number of brain cells of a mass of football supporters is slightly in excess of the number of supporters present. So, it seems they need a reminder of where they are now that they have arrived. Welcome to the eponymous…

Welcome to Cardiff City Stadium

But, E is also for Exculpate, as the effervescence of ecstatic passages of play are eternally interrupted by an eccentric epitome of expedience, otherwise known as an ability to go 1-0 down against the balance of play. Who is to blame, or should there be any elective finger pointing at all?

Pointing fingers of blame

Then suddenly E is for Efficacious, a word most commonly associated with Lily the Pink (you have to be over 50 and from the UK to understand that one!). As if by some eccentric ebullience equilibrium is elevated through an equalising goal (you probably have to be bonkers to understand that one!). Expectation will erupt at this point…

Are you ready Cardiff? 2

Then as if by euphoric edification E is for Ethereal, as elegant exuberance masquerades as epiphany… yes, you guessed it, the epicentre of entropy equivocates in eloquence. Not that a bunch of football fans would be capable of such éclat. The opposition are sent into existential angst…

City v Charlton [2]

And all of this happened a few hours before Wales defeated England in the Rugby Union World Cup at Twickenham!! It is safe to say that my home city experienced euphoria in the extreme. Until we speak again I will continue to be Bella… and for the record it was Cardiff City 2 Charlton Athletic 1, with the locals having played 8, won 4, drawn 3, and lost 1, which puts them currently 5th in the league.

Defining disaster

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stock-photo-london-england-march-female-rugby-players-scrum-during-the-six-nations-tournament-match-177161774

 

 

 

 

Its the predilection for sniffing each others arses that reminded Juno that rugby was more a sport of dogs than the superior refinement of the cat. Yet setting aside the strange sexual proclivities of the public school playing fields of England, dressed up as men playing sport, it occasionally provides moments of ‘event’ proportions… and the Wales v England fixture is up there amongst the world’s great rivalries.

IMAG1515The stage is Cardiff, lauded by the locals and many fans around the world as a historic rugby fortress.

It is an hour before the kick-off, and no place for any weary shepherd and virgin combinations, as room in the inn has become impossible to find…

IMAG1521

 

 

 

 

 

But the Millennium Stadium is poised ready to greet warriors of both tribes as they converge on the battlefield…

IMAG1520

The tension gets ramped up even further as the full-strength gladiators of Wales enter the arena preparing to slay the under-strength superior numbers of England…

IMAG1522

IMAG1528

IMAG1529

10 minutes into the match, and everything is going to the home fans favoured script as Wales take a comfortable 10-0 lead. All Welsh minds are reflecting on the demolition of their opponents in this very stadium a mere two years ago. However, England’s patchwork quilt of a team manage to fashion a try of their own to stem the red tide. A few other points from respective boots and half-time arrives with an unexpected but still seemingly comfortable 16-8 lead for the hosts.

brian_moore

Half-time team talks that transform a performance are legendary, but few and far between. But this must surely have been an occasion when the words said in the England dressing room should be bottled and sold for a fortune. My mind drifts back to a poster featuring one of the present day commentators, England’s own Brian Moore, which basically posed the threatening message ‘It’s not the winning or losing, it’s the TAKING APART!’ Well, Juno would have undoubtedly taunted me during the second half of this match, as the country of her birth, England, set out as a team possessed. With only a few minutes on the clock their persistent pressure and a moment of magic brings about a converted try. 16-15 to Wales, followed shortly after by further disarray in the battered home defence leading to an 18-16 lead for England. With little of any threat from the home team, the visitors add another penalty for a final score of Wales 16 England 21. The home nation are stunned, and the underdogs instantly show what this score means to them…

IMAG1531

It’s the start of the Rugby World Cup year, when these two teams will meet in England in the group stages of the competition. When a full strength Wales lose at home to an understrength England in such a shock one-sided end to a game, don’t believe me or any of my fellow countrymen when we say this has no bearing on the forthcoming World Cup. Half cat half doorLike all good cats we like to shrug off such an experience as a disappointment, when in reality it is better described as a calamitous disaster.

Until we speak again, watch this space… while memories of Juno’s favourite rugby pose neatly sums up the performance of the Welsh team.

[With thanks to shutterstock.com, erfeidine.blogspot.com and tweetsport.co.uk for original posts of the images borrowed to illustrate this tragic tale].