Somewhere Over The Rainbow

The rainbow that appeared above the Principality stadium yesterday evening had a notable omission at the end of it. Instead of a pot of gold it had a crock of something far less fragrant, at least as far as Wales were concerned.

In Welsh international sport the 1950’s are a permanent milestone, or should that be millstone ? around the National neck, and the efforts to overcome two particular sporting barriers seem to become more desperate and elusive as each year passes.

In the round ball game Wales heartbreaking efforts to qualify for a World Cup tournament have not been successful since 1958, the incidents and accidents are catalogued and replayed every four years, crossbars and hand balls fill our thoughts in the wee small hours.

When it comes to rugby, Wales wonderful recent history, and indeed a large part of its glorious past, has one notable date that we cannot shake off, December 19 1953, the last time Wales beat the New Zealand All Blacks.

The 2021 All Blacks were in town at the weekend, determined not to become the team henceforth known as the side that lost to Wales. Their fears, if indeed they had any, were very quickly dispelled.

It took barely three minutes for Beauden Barrett to race fifty metres and touchdown between the posts for the All Blacks opening try.

A Wales team missing 20 players battled bravely and were still in touch until the 64th minute when the All Black tsunami hit with three tries in seven minutes which ripped the heart out of Wales, and secured a 54-17 win for the men from the land of the long white cloud.

An awful lot has happened since Feb 2021 when 75.000 turned up to watch a new exciting young French side steered to victory by the equally young and exciting half backs Ntamack and Antoine DuPont

It had been Twenty months since Wales last played a competitive home game in front of a capacity crowd at the Principality Stadium

On Saturday It was just like old times, the streets were packed. The City Arms and the Owen Glyndwr bursting at the seams with Scarlet clad men clutching pint glasses, whilst at the Duke of Wellington, quite aptly, there were more Fern leaves than feathers, as the All Black supporters congregated for pre Haka hydration.

During the stresses and strains of lockdown, amidst the awful casualties and losses of a cruel pandemic, an evening like this was always in the back of our minds, a mental oasis filled with images of floodlit dewy emerald green grass, a national anthem being belted out, and those wonderful red shirts shining brightly in the Cardiff evening, and here it was, at last, for real.

If Carlsberg did National Anthems then there is no doubt that Hen Wlad Fy nhadau would be available in bottles, cans and on draught, on this memorable evening it had an extra dimension, Gwlad, Gwlad released an awful lot of bottled up emotion for those who have suffered in human and sporting terms.

For the 75,000 that were there to witness it, this was a night that warmed the heart, despite the result, as sporting normality returned to this magical patch of green in the centre of the nation’s capital city.

As the sea of red streamed out of the stadium, it parted down Quay Street and syphoned off into the City Arms, the Owen Glyndwr and down the Hayes to the Duke of Wellington, sorrows had to be drowned before attentions turn to next Saturday when the World Champions arrive in town, when hopefully the beverages imbibed will be of a celebratory nature.

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