Game 1: Ireland vs Wales 7th Feb 15:00 Kickoff
Ireland took an early lead after a penalty that Sexton made look like an easy kick, leaving it at a 3-0 scoreboard. This was repeated only ten minutes later leaving the score at 6-0. Biggar has needed to have his right foot heavily strapped, explaining why he then missed a kick from wide on the right side. At twenty two minutes Biggar was called off and Priestland went on as a replacement. After this replacement, things get worse for the Welsh side as Murray then scored a try and Sexton converted for the extra two points leaving the score standing at 13-0. Welsh fans were then entitled to a small sigh of relief as Priestland converted a penalty in the thirty-first minute, bringing Wales off the starting point and leaving the score at 13-3. Faletua then broke through the defence off the back of a scrum and scored Wales five points off a try,
Priestland bringing home the two points from the conversion. Score at the end of the first half? 13-10
Early in the second half Priestland kicked another penalty to even the scores at 13-13. Entering the final ten minutes, Wales delivered a 25 phase move, keeping the whole nation on its toes. Jamie Heaslip finally secured a turnover but a counter-ruck from Sam Warbuton earned Wales a penalty kick. Result! 72 minutes passed and Priestland put Wales in the lead 13-16. The
whole room was full of cheer and song, but only 2 minutes from the final whistle, Wales conceded another penalty. Allowing Sexton to close the gap to 16 all at the full time whistle. Stalemate.
Final score: Ireland 16-16 Wales
Game 2: Wales vs Scotland 13th Feb 16:50 Kickoff
Wales took the early lead this time after Gareth Davis made a fifty meter sprint to get the try, but the Scots claimed a knock-on took; the referee George Clancy awarded the try despite these protestations. Biggar nailed the conversion, opening the board to 7-0. The Scots had a great response though; after a few breaks they get within the Wales twenty two. Finn Russell chipped the ball over the top of the defense, setting Tommy Seymour up nicely to put it down. This was one of those tries that leaves me thinking “Damn, that was so nicely done, I’m not even gonna argue with the skies.” Laidlaw converted next, drawing the score at 7-7. Biggar went up for a high ball, winning it but going down hard on his ribs. He has it iced then returns to his position. Scotland win a penalty and stick it into the Wales 22. There’s a bit of play back and forth until Scotland win a penalty, which Laidlaw knocked over from the forty-five metre line putting the visitors in the lead at 7-10. After just six minutes though Biggar equaled the score with a kick from forty meters. Scotland started to look very threatening and Samson Lee was tagged for not ‘rolling away’, allowing Laidlaw to put the Scots ahead. This all leaves the scoreboard reading 10-13 when the whistle blows for half time.
Early in the second half we saw George North make 50 meters, down to the Scotland 22. With the visitors offside at a breakdown, Biggar was given the opportunity to even the score. This is Biggar: Once a ref gives a nod for a penalty he delivers. With the score even at 13-13 Wales gave away a penalty at the scrum bang in front of their sticks. Laidlaw made easy work of putting Scotland back in front. Score now lying at 13-16. Just before the mark of an hour played, Tom James made a break with a clear horizon. Duncan Taylor made tackle five meters from the line. About 65 minutes into the game there was a messy scrum but Wales do well to recycle the ball. Ken Owens makes a dash for the line and almost makes it. The ball is fed
to Jamie Roberts during the next phase. Roberts crashed over the line to get the try, Biggar getting the extra two from the conversion. This leaves the score standing at 20-16 at the end of the 66th minute. George North carried out a lovely switch with Dan Biggar after a scrum and out stepped four Scottish defenders, it was one of those try’s that leaves you thinking “Now that’s poetry in motion!”
Biggar got the extra two for the conversion leaving the board reading Wales 27 – 16 Scotland.
With everybody packing up and planning their journey home Duncan Taylor reminded everyone that it’s not over until the whistle blows. He put it down in the final minute, the conversion scored by Duncan Weir. Leaving the final score standing at 27-23.
Final Score: Wales 27-23 Scotland
Game 3: Wales vs France 26th Feb 20:05 Kickoff
Within the first ten minutes of the game Wales have a strong attack, but the French side have an equally strong defense. Wales obtain a penalty kick at about the nine minute point, but even with his famous pre-kick dance Biggar puts it wide of the posts. After fifteen minutes you can tell that people are getting slightly tightly wound as the Ref takes a long time to settle a Welsh scrum. He then awards a penalty to France on advice from the touch judge for bringing down the scrum. But this was the second penalty of the game and the second miss. At the nineteen minute point though Wales are awarded a second penalty for a shoulder charge, and this time Biggar fails to disappoint. You could tell that players’ focus was under examination as George North missed an opportunity when Jamie Roberts exposes the French on their blindside. (But the commentary team also use the word “shameful” when talking about the performance of the French team.) Just after the half-hour marker Wales are awarded another penalty, which Biggar uses to change the score standing to 6-0 to the home team. Shortly after this the French team make an advance to the Welsh line, but are handed an “Off feet” penalty. But moments later a rather harsh tackle from Dan Lydiate gives France a penalty, which Jules Plisson knocks over the posts. Bringing France onto the scoreboard, leaving it reading Wales 6-3 France. Then an impressive burst of speed from Gareth Davies after a scrum puts him within the French 22, but then he kicks it towards the corner. A few collapsing scrums later (obviously people are getting tired at the end of the half), the Ref gives a pep talk to the players. Soon enough the whistle is blown for half-time.
Early in the second half Wales are awarded a penalty for a tip tackle on Jamie Roberts, Biggar putting it over to extend the Welsh lead to 6-3. Shortly after this though Jonathan Davies kicks to the French defence rear. North attempts to get it over the line but misses, then Plisson attempts to clean-up the situation but just enables North to get the try. Biggar gets the conversion, transforming the score to 16-3. France kick a penalty to the corner and win the lineout to a drive for the Wales line, winning them a penalty advantage. It gets held up, sending them back to the five-meter for another lineout. A short time later Jonathan Davies is penalised for not rolling away. The French kick to the corner, but the Welsh side hold off another driving maul. After a lot of pressure from the French, Davies robs Danty of the ball, then wisely decides to give the ball to Biggar, who kicks the ball back deep within French territory. He then converts a penalty the Welsh side were awarded very close to the French line. The board now reads 19-3. There is a lot of action back and forth for the next ten minutes, but it isn’t until moments before the final whistle that France wins a maul that allows their captain to put the ball down for a try. This is then converted. Final score? 19-10.
Final Score: Wales 19-10 France
Game 4: England vs Wales 12th March
From the offset, this was a very entertaining game. But at the end of things I felt like I’d been watching a tragedy. There was quite a quick start and we thought Youngs would get England a try, but after the replay footage was examined we see it was put down early and dragged over the line. So Wales got a scrum five meters from their line. But a few minutes later Wales give away a penalty by going off their feet; Farrell then changes the scoreboard too 3-0. Almost immediately after the kick AW Jones gives away another penalty when he doesn’t roll away, this one’s just sent into touch, though. Wales put up a very strong defense though. After a few minutes the ball was carried over the line under the posts by Cole, but the Ref didn’t see a grounding so no try was awarded. England were awarded a penalty after the scrum though as Wales were seen to not be pushing straight. Farrell then put England another three in front. The board at 6-0. You’ll see what I meant now by tragedy when just minutes later Farrell repeated his streak by kicking another penalty. Putting England ahead by nine points before the Welsh can regroup themselves after the last three. After Wales are then awarded a penalty for Itoje playing the ball on the floor, Biggar put the ball into touch inside the England 22. But England were awarded a scrum for an accidental offside. There was some very steady play for the next ten minutes until Itoje made a break, see Watson free outside him and delivers the ball leading to the first try of the game. Farrell makes the conversion changing the board to 16-0. There was even play for the rest of the first half, so when the whistle sounds the board still reads England 16-0 Wales.
There is evenly matched play for the first five minutes but when hands go into the ruck England are awarded the penalty. Farrell took this opportunity to put England ahead by 19 points. It’s not until the 54th minute of the game when Biggar deflected a kick and chased the ball to put it down between the posts. He then got the conversion to finally put 7 points on the Wales side of the board. I don’t feel I was alone in thinking “That man needs a cape”. The bad news then continued as Sam Warburton took a nasty knock, giving a thumbs up as he was carried off on the stretcher though. England get awarded another penalty for failure to roll away, and yes you guessed it, Farrell gets the 3 points. This happened again just minutes later for ‘not releasing’. So the board reads 25-7. It’s not until the 74th minute that North’s run in from the 22 line put cheers on the breath of every Welshman watching. Priestland got the conversion leaving Wales behind by 11. Just minutes later Faletau slipped between a couple of weak tackles and put another 5 points on the scoreboard. Priestland then scored the conversion. 25-21, can you taste it? I could. I could imagine myself writing this story as “The Comeback of Dreams”. But alas, too late, there was to be no more scoring in this game.
Final Score: England 25-21 Wales
Game 5: Wales vs Italy 19th March
This game gets off to a quick start when Webb uses his strength to peel off the back of a maul, and carry two defenders over the line. Wales take a seven point lead when Biggar gets the extra two from the conversion. The board reads 7-0; there is no change for the next ten minutes until Biggar kicks another three to put Wales ahead by ten points. Wales shortly are awarded a penalty; Lovotti loses his bind, Webb goes quickly but as Plalzzani doesn’t retreat he is sent to the sin-bin. Webb sends a long pass out to Williams, who’s tackled, but Italy are offside. This all sets up Biggar, who kicks another 3 leaving the board at 13-0. Then just before the half hour point from a lineout Biggar finds masses of space, exchanges passes with Roberts, and gets another try. Getting the extra 2 for the conversion, leaving the board at Wales 20-0 Italy. Before we all finish cheering the ball goes out to North, who goes down the right, then sends it back into Davies who scores another 5 for Wales. Biggar gets the extra 2. The score now stands and stays at 27-0 until the end of the first half.
Only five minutes from the start of the second half, Biggar sends it out to North who offloads it very neatly to Roberts. Roberts then holds off the defence and scores a try very far out on the right of the pitch. The try is so far out that a conversion can only be taken from such a tight angle that it’s just sent across the face of the goal. The score still stands at 32-0. A couple of minutes later I hear one of the bar-staff say “I thought Wales would’ve scored more by now.”. At this moment North comes off his wing, dummies the Italian defence and travels 60 meters to put the ball down between the posts. One of life’s perfectly timed little gifts. Biggar gets the extra two from the conversion. The board now reads 39-0. Just five minutes later though, Italy finally get a break, when a maul goes over the line and the Italian No9 floors it. The conversion is also made, changing the board to 39-7. Within three minutes of this though North gets the ball to within 15 of the Italian line, Davis then hands it to Williams who plants it in the corner. Biggar puts this one through from wide on the right. Within minutes though Italy’s attack take some sidesteps and offload the ball to Garcia who puts it down on the right. The conversion is also put over transforming the board to read: 46-14. A very exciting half!. Almost instantly after kick-off though Moriarty drives off a maul to put the ball down over the line. Priestland now takes responsibility and scores the extra 2 from the conversion. It takes only 10 minutes for Moriarty to dance over the line again for another try in the 79th minute, Priestland making the conversion again. At 60-14 at the 80th minute I think it’s all over; Gareth Davies has other ideas though. When the ball is popped to him he puts it down between the posts, Priestland getting what seems an insulting final 2 points against the Italian side. The 80th minute and the game is all over.
Final Score: Wales 67-14 Italy
All photos taken at The Cross Keys Swansea by Tom Parsell