Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery Of Wales v Australia

From Sydney to Swansea, or Canberra to Cardiff, Wales and Australia are not just at opposite ends of the planet geographically, they appear to be at opposite ends of so many things.

Australia wear gold shirts epitomising a bright warm climate, a young country full of hope, optimism and derring-do.

Wales inhabit the scarlet blood-red garb, a dark hue reflecting historic struggles and bloodshed, a country that has had to withstand invaders, battle for recognition from its near neighbour, and indeed the world at large.

Next Saturday in Cardiff Gold meets Red on the field of dreams.

Wales will be dreaming of a first victory over the Wallabies since 2008, having lost the last thirteen matches against them.

As history reminds us, Wales have gone oh so close, in 2012 Wales and Australia met three times, the Aussies won all three, two tests were lost by a two point margin, and one by a solitary point.

To make matters worse, Wales were leading in all three games until a Mike Harris penalty (8omins) a Kurtley Beale try (80+1 mins) and a Berrick Barnes penalty (75mins) decided the outcomes.

It remains to be seen whether Warren Gatland’s men can turn dreams into reality in a fixture that was once so rare, but had now become as regular an autumn event as Beaujolais nouveau day and Bonfire night.

The mystery of thirteen successive defeats against the green and gold, would baffle even the great Sherlock Holmes, but maybe the key lies with his arch-enemy.

When Wales defeated Australia at the Arms Park in 1981 (18-13) one of the try scorers was named Moriarty (Richard), incidentally Wales scrum half that day was Holmes (Terry).

At the 1987 Rugby World Cup, when Wales beat Australia 22-21 in the third place play off, one of the try scorers that day was also named Moriarty (Paul).

It must therefore seems elementary to suggest that all Wales have to do is pick yet another Moriarty (Ross), to face the Wallabies on Saturday.

If the case was that simple, but sadly Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will not be writing the script for this one.

As appears to be the case at virtually every Rugby World Cup, Wales are in the same Pool as Australia in  Japan 2019, there is no doubt a win for the men in the blood-red shirts would be a huge psychological boost.

As Sherlock Holmes once said “There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you “, after thirteen straight defeats Wales will be hoping that “A study in Scarlet” will prove to be the perfect bed time reading come Saturday night.

Quins Swat Team See Off Wasps

There was a real buzz at the Stoop yesterday, and with the visit of Wasps you would expect nothing less.

Wasps started lively but it was Quins who took an early lead with an Ellie Green penalty after 5 minutes.

Lizzie Goulding equalised for Wasps with a 19th minute penalty.

There is an old rugby adage, that states forwards win matches, and the backs decide by how much.

A quote that sums up this match in a nutshell.

The Quins pack began to dominate proceedings with bullocking runs from Shaunagh Brown along with line out dominance from Abbie Scott and Zoe Sayner.

On 25 minutes that dominance bore fruit as Davina Catlin crashed over at the back of a rolling maul for a try which the “Green Machine” converted.

With the score at 10-3 to the home side Catlin crashed over in the 38th minute, with a carbon copy of her first try, which Ellie Green converted.

A half time lead of 17-3 was no more than Quins deserved.

In the 53rd minute the dominant Quins scrum went over from five metres, and Fiona Fletcher touched down for a try once again converted by error free Ellie.

Four yellow cards in 14 minutes disrupted the flow of the game.

Quins Ellie Green got the first on 55 mins, before Wasps Lizzie Goulden and Quins Emily Scott were dismissed, after attempting to exchange jerseys rather earlier than is the usual custom, Wasps Claudia MacDonald also saw yellow in the 69th minute.

Wasps looked livelier when Danielle Waterman switched to scrum half, and they were rewarded with a try on 79 minutes from Garnet Mackinder

As Twickenham’s finest launched their Waitrose fireworks, providing a colourful backdrop to proceedings, Quins pushed for a fourth, and bonus point gaining, try but it was not to be.

Quins will be delighted to go into the autumn break with a fifth consecutive win, they are improving game by game and have a mean old pack that will be a huge asset when winter truly arrives.

Forever Autumn (Internationals) Rugby War Of The Worlds

“The summer sun is fading as the year grows old,
And darker days are drawing near,
The winter winds will be much colder,
Now you’re not here”.
Yes it’s that time of year again, when fixtures that used to be so magical, so rare and so hugely anticipated have sadly become repetitive and run of the mill.
In Wales, we face Australia and South Africa for the umpteenth year in a row and nothing much changes, except hopefully the results.
Australia always seem to visit Cardiff in a state of crisis only to find their mojo at the Principality stadium on what appears to be an annual basis.
“Like the sun through the trees you came to love me
like a leaf on a breeze you blew away”
Just as the Lions are being devalued, I find the autumn international fixtures equally so, it was the rarerity of these fixtures that made them so anticpated and so special,but this is the professional era and I guess I have to move with the times, and in the build up to the Rugby World Cup they are great preparation exercises.
As the saying goes nostalgia is not what it used to be, and to be fair there are some intriguing matches across Europe next month.
England v New Zealand, France v Fiji, and Ireland v New Zealand  are the three that I would choose to attend but sadly I will not be going to any of them, however France v Argentina in Lille is one game I am looking forward to covering.
It’s worth remembering that the women’s game also has a comprehensive programme this autumn, perhaps the most intriguing event being the two test series between France and NZ Black Ferns who play each other in Toulon and Grenoble.
The Red Roses of England face USA, Canada and Ireland on consecutive weekends, whilst The Flowers  of Scotland face Italy in Calvisano and Canada at Scotstoun.
Wales Women play three matches at Cardiff Arms Park against South Africa, Hong Kong and Canada.
Ireland as well as Playing England at Twickenham, following the match between the men of England and Australia, also face the USA in Donnybrook.
Elsewhere in Europe Spain lionesses will play Hong Kong and South Africa in the relative warmth of Villajoysa, near Alicante.
Maybe there is some freshness despite the familiarity and Autumn may not be so bad after all.
Through autumn’s golden gown we used to kick our way,
You always loved this time of year
Those fallen leaves lie undisturbed now
‘Cause you’re not here.

Quins Win Warms The Heart

What a difference a week makes, last weekend at the Stoop we basked in warm sunshine, this afternoon it felt like Siberia at Richmond Athletic Ground as icy rain gave way to a northerly wind that cut you in half.

One thing that didn’t change from last week however was the fact that Quins earned another win, this time with a try scoring bonus point,

I’m not sure what Shaunagh Brown has been eating this week but she was like a runaway buffalo stampeding over Richmond defenders at regular intervals indeed at one point she left two opposition players lying prostrate on the ground as she rampaged into the opposition twenty-two.

Chloe Edwards also had some barnstorming runs taking the ball as first receiver and breaking the gain line time and time again.

Leanne Riley sniped and made some superb breaks whilst being the team metronome and constantly attempting to up the tempo with quick tap penalties.

Richmond starter the better scoring a try after 5 minutes when Libby Povey went over for the hosts.

On 12 minutes Shaunagh Brown steamrolled over for a try converted by the points machine Ellie Green.

Fiona Fletcher rounded off some great handling with a try on 20mins which the Green Machine converted to give Quins a 14-5 lead.

Emily Scott scores a try three minutes later before a sublime pass from Rachael Burford put Beth Dainton over in the left hand corner.

Richmond responded in the 40th minute with a try from Anna Caplice which made the half time score 26-10 to Quins.

The second half was a much less entertaining affair dominated by the referee’s whistle.

Quins had a penalty try on the 63rd minute following a scrum. The Quins scrum totally dominated constantly marching Richmond backwards even on their own put in.

At one point it looked like they might end up in Starbucks in the High had the referees whistle not intervened.

The Queensland born super sub Chloe Butler stormed over for try in the 80th minute converted by Emily Scott to make the final score 40-10 to Harlequins, a bonus point win which takes them to third in the table.

Quins Sizzle In The Stoop Sunshine

The origin of name Saracens comes from the Latin “Saraceni” “to steal, Rob, plunder” and also from the Arabic noun “Sariq” which means “Thief, marauder, plunderer.

But the 21st century Saracens found fortress Stoop impenetrable on a warm sunny autumn Saturday afternoon, and on this wonderful colourful occasion it was Harlequins who did the plundering.

Roared on by a crowd of 1,254 the home side appeared to feed off the mostly home support that applauded and cheered every thing that moved in a Quins shirt.

This was the performance Quins have been looking for, they never took a backward step and showed a cutting edge in attack against one of the best defences in the league.

Marlie Packer the Saracens flanker is a plumber by trade but it was the Quins boiler room of Abbie Scott and Zoe Saynor that proved too hot to handle.

Sarries found Quins cooking on gas as they turned up the rugby thermostat with a gutsy high tempo performance that was too much for last seasons champions.

A sun-baked crowd cheered Quins to victory as heroic first half defence gave way to some searing second half breaks from Shaunagh Brown, and scrum half Leanne Riley, who was back to her very best barking orders and keeping up the high tempo game that Quins thrive on with quick tap penalties.

Ellie Green kicked Quins into a 3-0 lead with a penalty in the 13th minute.

Saracens responded with two tries in two minutes from Botterman and Wardle to lead 12-3 after 28mins.

The flying Swede, Tove Viksten, crashed over in the 31st minute and Ellie Green converted to bring Quins back to within two points 10-12 a score that remained unchanged up to half time.

Saracens started the second half with all guns blazing and a Marlie Packer try extended Sarries lead to 17-10.

In the 60th munute, Kay Searcey was yellow carded for taking out Abbie Scott in the air, Quins responded with verve and panache to take full advantage an Ellie Green penalty brought Quins back to 13-17, and on 67 mins Heather Cowell finished off a wonderful back line move with a glorious try , Quins 30th of the season, superbly converted by Green taking Quins in front 20-17

Quins defence held firm and they ended the match firmly ensconced in the Saracens half.

The final whistle was greeted with a Roar from a knowledgeable home support that fully appreciated how significant a win this was

As the sun dipped behind the east stand, the players were still on the pitch signing autographs taking part in selfies, revelling in the wonderful warm glow that a memorable victory and such an occasion brings.

There was an accuracy and precision at training last week which was transferred into the matchday performance on Saturday, all credit to the coaches and players, and who knows maybe even my welsh cakes may have played a tiny part

As the ground slowly emptied a group of young girls in the crowd  began singing “We love you Gary”, on this occasion it was not for Mr Barlow but for Mr Street, and after a tough few weeks off the field for the likeable Quins coach it was a song we’d all like to join in with.

Scoring sequence 3-0 3-5 3-7 3-12 8-12 10-12 Half Time 10-17 13-17 18-17 20-17

Friends United Harlequins Ladies

Imagine a mild damp Autumn evening in Guildford, the car headlights from the busy A3 dual carriageway, high above the floodlit pitches, reflect through the leafless trees, and shimmer off the illuminated bright green turf at a misty Surrey Sports Park.

Amidst the distant whining engine noise, cascading down from the vehicles of weary commuters heading home, Harlequins ladies start their Thursday night training session, warming up under the watchful eye of head coaches Gary Street and Karen Findlay.

The chemistry teacher, the office worker all arrive straight from their day jobs, something many of us forget when we watch their relatively pampered male counterparts go about their business.

It was here twelve months ago where a cynical old rugby hack discovered a rugby paradise.

I arrived to interview Quins and Scottish international lock Debs McCormack, after a wonderful hour with “The Flower of Scotland”  I stayed behind to watch training, and what hit me straight away about this group of players, and coaches, was their togetherness, their amazing friendliness and the total absence of any cliques in the squad.

I later found those humble and thoroughly decent qualities were matched by a steeliness and determination on and off the field by players, coaches, support staff and everyone involved with the team.

I only had one written assignment with Quins Ladies, but something kept calling me back, I found myself hooked, and before long I found myself at training sessions, the players and coaches who were once strangers, became friends, especially when I started bringing Welsh cakes for everyone.

The Welsh cakes have now become almost a weekly ritual, and in some cases an addiction especially for a red-headed winger and one particular strength and fitness coach, who shall rename nameless, for now.

The fact is, I found myself refreshed by the true rugby values that were on display from this incredible bunch, it gave me a journalistic lease of life, and wonderful contrast to the ever decreasing openness between press and players and coaches in the mens game,

When I lost both my parents, suddenly, this year, as you might expect they were there for me offering support, compassion and comfort in equal measure.

The women’s game has moved on in leaps and bounds since the Womens Rugby World Cup of 2017, Harlequins have been at the cutting edge of development and improvement, and indeed “professionalism” whilst maintaining the “old” values, which is not always an easy balance to strike.

So, as the Autumn light fades into winter darkness, there will be some huge battles ahead, times of joy and times of having to dig deep in an effort to ensure that when the days lengthen in early spring Quins are in a position to compete in the knock out stages of the Tyrells Premiership.

All that is a long way off, and the rugby road is a long one with many twists and turns, and I for one am delighted and privileged to join Quins on their journey.

Simon Middleton On Red Roses Squad Selection

The Red Roses play USA, Canada and Ireland in the three-Test series at Allianz Park, Castle Park and Twickenham Stadium this November with every game available live on Sky Sports. 

28 players have been included, including seven uncapped names. Lucy Attwood (Bristol Bears), Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo Ladies), Ellie Mulhearn (Bristol Bears), and Ellena Perry (Saracens Women) all featured in England Women U20’s summer tour to Canada, with established Red Roses Hannah Botterman (Saracens), Zoe Harrison (Saracens) and Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies) also named having toured with the development side in August.

 

In addition, Wasps scrum half Claudia Macdonald, Gloucester-Hartpury centre Tatyana Heard and Loughborough Lightning centre Carys Williams will all be looking for their first appearance for the Red Roses.

 

Alongside the new talent are a number of established players with long-time Red Rose captain Sarah Hunter again named to lead the side. Katy Daley-Mclean will make her 100th international appearance if named to play in one of the three games.

 

Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens), Sarah McKenna (Saracens) and Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries) will be looking for their first international 15-aside starts since the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup having returned to the 15-aside setup after time in the England Sevens programme last season.

 

England Women open their campaign against USA at Allianz Park on Friday 9 November.

 

“As a group, we are really looking forward to getting the Quilter Internationals underway and performing to our maximum,” said Middleton.
“We have made a number of changes within the squad, with 12 new faces named since the 2018 Six Nations. While there is a great feel of youthfulness, with seven players fresh from the Under 20’s summer tour, we have critically been able to retain a number of world class performers from the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, ensuring an essential balance of quality, youth and experience.
“As we start our journey towards the 2021 World Cup, the focus over the Quilter Internationals is not only on winning but performance. We have reshaped our game and we will be looking to see which players can bring the plan to life in the intensity of an international match environment. 
“With full-time contracts on the horizon and a great season of international rugby in front of us, the challenge and opportunity is there for individuals to stake their claim as a Red Rose.”

 

Three Bristol Bears players, Sarah Bern, Lagi Tuima, and Amber Reed, are unavailable through injury. Wasps FC Ladies hooker Amy Cokayne is unavailable for the three Tests due to commitments with the Royal Air Force.

 

Forwards

Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury)

Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo Ladies)

Jo Brown (Loughborough Lightning)

Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women)

Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies)

Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women)

Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies)

Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries)

Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women)

Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning)

Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)

Ellie Mulhearn (Bristol Bears)

Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning)

Marlie Packer (Saracens Women)

Ellena Perry (Saracens Women)

Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)

 

Backs

Lucy Attwood (Bristol Bears)

Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies)

Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning)

Abigail Dow (Wasps FC Ladies)

Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women)

Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury)

Claudia Macdonald (Wasps FC Ladies)

Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women)

Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies)

Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury)

Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries)

Carys Williams (Loughborough Lightning)