Friday, November 30, 2007

Rugby Notes III

There’s an excellent column by the legendary REL on the new and improved, best ever Ebbw Vale RFC website, reproduced here. All I can say is here, here!

Things I don’t want for Christmas – books by Dallaglio, Catt and Thomas. Things I was once happy to have for Christmas – books by Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett and Bleddyn Williams.

Another thing I would like for Christmas is a local derby on Boxing Day. You will remember we had to travel to Llandovery last year, and they will have to travel to us this time. What a coincidence!

The Boxing Day fixtures for 26 December 2006 were:- Aberavon v Neath; Bedwas v Cardiff; Bridgend v Maesteg; Cross Keys v Newport, Swansea v Llanelli (all local derbies) and Llandovery v Ebbw Vale (anything but).

The Boxing Day fixtures for 26 December 2007 will be:- Neath v Aberavon; Cardiff v Bedwas; Maesteg v Bridgend; Newport v Cross Keys, Llanelli v Swansea (where have we heard that before?) and Ebbw Vale v Llandovery (Oh! No, not again).

We have had some close games with our friends The Drovers, but isn’t it time someone else had to travel more than a few miles the day after Christmas? Isn’t it obvious that every year the same neighbours play each other EXCEPT US?

I am not suggesting someone Down There (they would say UP there), has it in for Ebbw and Llandovery, but travelling a few miles for a Boxing Day game is good for players and supporters and it’s a benefit that should be shared. But don’t hold your frosty breath, the Spirit of Christmas does not permeate the fixture making department. It must be run by a Scrooge before he saw the light.

Rugby Notes II

There are a bunch of rule laws (not rules, this is rugby not soccer) being proposed for next season.

The key changes include allowing hands in the ruck, no number restrictions at lineout, no passing back into the 22 for a kick into touch on the full, and a 5m offside line from the base of the scrum in defence.

The IRB is hoping to trial the new laws in the Super 14 this coming (northern hemisphere) summer. As this link to a great New Zealand site Rugby Heaven shows, the arrangements are yet to be finalised.

Rugby Notes I

Ebbw Vale are flying high again this season. They are currently second in the Premiership and it’s this, plus the advent of SatNav, that will bring the cameras of S4C up the valley to televise our game against Llanelli this Saturday.

5:30 kick-off. Be there if you can, but if you can’t watch it on TV (in Welsh).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rugby Notes

Rather predictably, Wales went down 12-34 to South Africa, who showed some clinical finishing despite never really needing to be at full speed for most of the game.

Congratulations to Colin Charvis who set the record for the most international tries by a forward with his 22nd score. On a similar subject, Mark Jones must be closing in on a record for most times a player has coughed the ball up and given the opposition a try.

What’s in a name?

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink scored for Celtic on the weekend. My reaction was, Wow, what a fantastic name. So I did a bit of research (quiet weekend visiting friends).

His name - one of the longest in European football - derives from the 17th century, when two farming families in Netherlands intermarried. Both the Vennegoor and Hesselink names carried equal social weight, and so rather than choose between them they chose to use both. "Of" in Dutch translates to "or" in English, which would mean that a strict translation of his name would read “Jan Vennegoor or Hesselink”'. So effectively he’s got a double-barrel surname.

And there was me thinking that Celtic had a part-time baron or duke playing for them.

Blog Notes

Dave & Lou recommended this link to me - Book the Cook. It’s a haven for all foodies, written by a chef, writer & food TV presenter David Hall. I can heartily recommend the chicken and bacon pasta dish which Dave knocked out on the weekend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cup Rugby Notes

It’s the Konica Minolta Cup on Saturday 15 December. It’s the third round where the Premiership clubs join in.

Following a contrived WRU draw to ensure that they were kept apart, these are the 14 (of 32) games that feature the Premiership teams.

Ammanford v Pontypridd
Bedwas v Nantyffyllon
Blackwood Stars v Neath
Bryncethin v Bridgend
Carmarthen Ath v Newport
Cross Keys v Loughor
Felinfoel v Maesteg
Glamorgan Wanderers v Rumney
Llanelli v Llangennech
Llantrisant v Ebbw Vale
Pontypool v Cardiff
Swansea v Tredegar Ironsides
Tredegar v Aberavon
UWIC v Llandovery

I fancy that Tredegar v Aberavon should be interesting, and Pooler v Cardiff could be an upset. As for me, I’ll be popping five miles down the road to see the Steelmen visit the Black Army.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Thanksgiving Day in the United States is an annual day of thanks for the blessings of the past year, observed on the fourth Thursday in November, 22 November this year.

It is a historical, national, and religious holiday that began with the Pilgrims. After the survival of their first colony through the bitter winter, and the gathering of the harvest, Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth Colony issued a thanksgiving proclamation in the autumn of 1621. This first thanksgiving lasted three days, during which the Pilgrims feasted on wild turkey and venison with their Indian guests.

Lots more on Wikipedia.

Happy thanksgiving for this Thursday.

British Library

I had a meeting in the British Library in London last week. As well as learning about the risks associated with storing some 150 million books including some of the rarest books in the world. Their collection expands by some 7 miles of shelving every year. (I know the feeling; I was in IKEA last week buying a new bookcase.)

I was able to spend a short while in their ‘Treasures’ museum, which includes the Magna Carta as well as original manuscripts for Handel’s Messiah and Lennon and McCartney’s Yesterday. Side by side.

And it's a library rather than a museum, so you can actually get to touch and read almost all of these books.

TV Notes

Nowadays it’s a diet of repeats – The Sopranos is being shown from the very beginning, and The West Wing is in the middle of a re-run. Both of them on More 4.

Of course the weekend TV viewing, what there is of it, is Heineken Cup rugby and the NFL, both on Sky Sports.

Other Blogs of Note

Interesting to see how many journalists use people’s blogs as the basis for their stories.

This past weekend the papers have been full of the information gleaned from the blog of Alex Allan, newly appointed chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee and Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice. As a board member of a probation board, I guess in some way he is my boss.

Anyway, as well as being a Grateful Dead fan, he also once windsurfed to work up the Thames. Oh, and his home address and phone numbers were published. I say “were”, because they have been hastily deleted.

You, and other journos, can find the blog at

Rugby Notes

After last week’s great win over Newport at Dave Parade, there was a poor showing by Ebbw Vale yesterday at Glamorgan Wanderers, going down 8-16.

Details as always on the newly updated and jazzier than ever Ebbw Vale RFC website.

Scorers: A try for Rhys Williams and a penalty for Simon Hunt.

Highlights: Not too many. I guess the fact that Ebbw came back from a 16-0 half-time deficit after a dismal first 40 minutes should be some encouragement.

Lowlight: The laughable passive scrums after Wands got a prop sin-binned lat on. It’s a stupid rule in those circumstances since the 7-man pack doesn’t get penalised at the set piece.

Man of the Match: John Bowd for another tireless effort.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Pontypridd fireworks show

A picture I took last night of the fireworks display put on by the Council in Ponty Park. Great display.

The weather was perfect and, judging by the traffic, people came from all over to see the show. The best view though was looking out of our bedroom window.

Hopefully I'll get around to putting a few more fireworks photos up on my Flickr site (there's a link in the right-hand column).

Rugby Notes

Another fine win for Ebbw Vale on the weekend, 16-12 at Pontypridd. I say “at Pontypridd” because it’s still an away game for me even though its only less than half a mile walk to Sardis Road.

The pack dominated again but failed to convert lots of early pressure into points. Mental mistakes are still killing us, keeping Ponty and their fans interested. A yellow card for a high tackle by Nio Aiono just before half time helped let Ponty back into the game. Ponty’s Nathan Strong was outstanding in the loose, but Ebbw pack made life difficult and Neil Edwards gave yet another lineout masterclass.

The backs suffered from being switched around, and a few new combinations failed to click. Both wings (Williams and Bevan) were substituted and the reshaped backline defended superbly late on to keep a surging Ponty out.

Ebbw didn’t play well, but came away with the win. No easy achievement down at Sardis Road.

The Western Mail’s report is here and the Wales on Sunday’s here. A less objective view is on the Ebbw Vale RFC site here. As a result Ebbw stay second, and look forward to a trip to the Evil Empire Newport next Saturday.

Scorers: Tries for Bryan Shelbourne and Will Thomas, two penalties for Simon Hunt.

Highlight: Yet again the pack was excellent. As Ponty tried to disrupt the scrum by wheeling, Ebbw’s loosehead Alistair Lyons would have nothing of it. Instead of being pulled around, he simply stood up with his hands in the air when the Ponty tighthead was going backwards.

Lowlight: A couple of lapses of concentration and/or commitment led to Ebbw conceding tries. Need to ‘switch on’ for the full 80 minutes.

Man of the Match: Will Thomas (pictured, from Graham's site), excellent in the tight and showing up everywhere on the field, including on the wing to nab his try.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Baseball Notes

The Boston Red Sox won the World Series over the weekend, beating the Colorado Rockies 4-0 in the best of seven series. Lots of reports all over the ‘net, including an electronic tree’s worth on the Boston Globe’s website.

But here’s my view, bleary eyed from staying up to late to watch the games or else trying to avoid the score to watch the game on Sky+ from the night before.

Pitching wins matches in the post season. Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Dice-K and Jon Lester all pitched well, and Jonathan Pabelbon closed games with nerves of steel. Next season expect Clay Buchholz to come through as well.

Rookies Justin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury played their parts too, and they look like names to watch. Big Papi and Manny were awesome in getting the Sox to the World Series, but the rest of the team played so well that they weren’t overly relied on to get the job done. Mike Lowell was deservedly named MVP for the series.

There’s no resting on laurels though. Already the world has moved on though, with many players at the end of their contracts registering for free agency. One such story is on Curt Schilling’s own website.

Rugby Notes

Excellent 12-9 win by Ebbw Vale over Cardiff last weekend. Despite a poor showing by the ref Phil Fear, and Cardiff’s ability to be permanently a yard offside, Ebbw held up well. After trying a wide range of kickers with mixed success this year (McCarthy, Bramwell and Shelbourne to name but three), this week winger Simon Hunt stepped up and landed 4 of 5.

Until the last five minutes when panic started to set in, Cardiff seemed unwilling to play any sort of attractive rugby, settling instead of hoofing it downfield or keeping it up the jumper.

Ebbw’s pack was awesome again, but need to be a bit more organised to stop the opposition disrupting at scrum and maul.

You can read some more reports in the Western Mail, the South Wales Andrex or on Ebbw Vale’s own website.

Scorers: Four penalties by Simon Hunt.

Highlight: Excellent defence late on. As the Western Mail says, Cardiff had eight phases of ball at the death, and didn’t make a yard, let alone look like scoring a try.

Lowlight: The shambolic line-outs. Cardiff had clearly been watching the World Cup, as the new tactic of stepping away from the opposition when they start to form a maul was much in evidence. It leads to the bizarre sight of the opposition running away from the maul. The rules have to be changed to a) stop the game be ruined, and b) stop Cardiff looking as though they don’t want to play any rugby.

Man of the Match: Nio Aniono for his tireless work.