Monday, September 26, 2011

Sports musings

Rugby Notes

Number 8 Ashley Sweet gets his try
Ebbw Vale got back on winning ways on Saturday with a convincing 44-18 win over previously unbeaten Gilfach Goch.

The pack dominated, completely unlike last week. The reshuffled pack seemed to work with Calum Brennan adding some size to the second row, Ashley Sweet played at number 8 for the first time, and Ben Parry had his best game for the club, and was my MotM.

Derrick Tredray made sure the ball was used quicker than in previous weeks, Tristan Davies brought some experience to a backline which sometimes is a bit like a headless chicken.

It also has to be said that the referee, Phil Connett has a top game; from the start he didn’t take any nonsense and made sure that both sides were allowed room to play rugby.

Scorers: 3 tries for Wes Cunliffe and one each for Tom Daly, Dan Dearden and Ashley Sweet, with 4 conversions and 2 penalties for Dorian Jones.

Next up, Treorchy away.

RWC Thoughts

Wales v Namibia in shadow of Mount Taranaki
I think that I take back what I said. On the form they showed against France, there is only one winner in this tournament. It was a game for the first ten minutes and then New Zealand exploded with three tries and it was all over.

I think that Scotland blew a golden chance to beat Argentina yesterday. Not the best game of the tournament but certainly the tensest.

I think that Wales haven’t been that clinical in finishing off a team for many years. The 12 tries in the 81-7 demolition showed a confidence that’s been missing for a long, long time.

I think that the best two quotes of the completion so far came this weekend:

·         Fancois Pienaar: “the only difference between my jog and my flat-out run was the expression on my face.”

·         “Alfie” Thomas on Gethin Jenkins’ try: “at that point I think he could smell the burger van behind the try line.”

I think that the commentators need to shut up a bit more. We never get to hear the referee’s explanation of a decision; rather we get some idiot guessing.

I think that Wales playing at Taranaki reminded me of watching a Taranaki side featuring All Black hooker Hika Reid playing at Tredegar many years ago. It seems that club tours have become a thing of the past.

I think that Scotland coach Andy Robinson is looking more and more like Clive Anderson.

I think that barring a freak result (Scotland thrashing England or South Africa losing to Samoa) the quarter finals are now set:
·         Wales v Ireland
·         England v France
·         South Africa v Australia
·         New Zealand v Argentina

Glamorgan Notes

In an enormous act of faith in a) Glamorgan cricket and b) the weather, I have purchased a Glamorgan season ticket for 2012. Its early bird price of just £99 makes a lot more sense than their pricing policies of the last few years.

I will probably be investing in a ticket for the England v South Africa game at Sophia Gardens too, but might wait to see what Santa brings me.

As he’s going to have to be busy over the next few years too, as in the last week Glamorgan has been announced as hosts of test matches against New Zealand (2013) and Australia (2015).

There is a good review of the not-so-good season on the Turn and Bounce blog.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

This week's stuff

Rugby Notes
Bargoed mugging

Ebbw got beaten (and beaten up) by Bargoed in D1E. Lost 18-19 and Bargoed deserved the win. They played like they wanted it more, and scored the only two tries of the game. All Ebbw’s points came from the boot of Dorian Jones.

The referee struggled to keep up with all of the off-the-ball nonsense which started with a collection of high tackles, and deteriorated to an emormous brawl towards the end – not quite a “99” call but not far away. Bargoed had a player sent off for kicking that one off but it was too late in the game to affect the result.

My Ebbw man of the match was number 8 David Barry who seemed to be a main target of the Bargoed mugging (see pic).

RWC Notes

Wales sneaked past Samoa today. They survived through a stunning defensive effort, including a couple of goal line stands. But they need to improve in attack if they are going to make an impression in the competition.

Little Shane
One piece of good news for Wales is that Ireland’s win over Australia means that Wales’ half of the draw (assuming they finish second in the group) is likely to have none of the bog 3 southern hemisphere teams. If games go according to form (and that is a huge “if”) then it could be a quarter final against Ireland and a semi final against either England or France.

Russia gave the USA a scare. Kingsley Jones’ Russian isn’t very good, but from what they showed on TV be seemed to be getting his message across in English.

It was refreshing to listening to Talk Sport’s radio coverage when driving to Aberystwyth last week. Never-the-diplomat Brain Moore was better than any of the frankly poor ITV commentators.

Start the Car
Top game of cricket at Sophia Gardens (er, SWALEC Stadium) on Friday. There was nothing to play for in the last One Day International between England and India but, fair play, both sides played hard. Of course it being Autumn and it being Wales it rained quite a bit (see 2010 Ryder Cup) but the rain seemed to add to the tension.

Dravid and Bairstow
Pre-game there were so many ex-internationals around it was hard to keep score. TV crews from Sky (Gower, Botham, Bumble), Channel 5 (Boycott, Nicholas) and TMS (er, Vic Marks) were present in abundance.

It was the end of one great one-day career (Rahul Dravid) and the start of another one (Jonny Bairstow the son David Bairstow, Yorkshire keeper and one of the players I aspired to be growing up).

Bopara and Bairstow’s hitting at the end was very impressive – the umpires has to send for extra balls as at least four went into the Taff. Poor Samit Patel though, his fielding was shocking and simply not up to international standard. He put down two catches, the first of which, as Boycott once said “my mam could have caught that in her pinny”.

Huge crowd with a majority of them being India fans. I reckon the West Midlands was empty as I heard Brummie accents aplenty. A top day out, and I shall be getting a ticket to see South Africa in Cardiff next season.

Glamorgan Notes

There will be a new name in one day cricket next season as Glamorgan Dragons change their name to the Welsh Dragons. The Welsh Dragons will compete in the CB40 and Friends Life t20 competitions from 2012.

What a pile of marketing tosh. An excuse for new replica shirts at fifty quid a throw. Why not spend a little more time trying to get a better product on the field?

At least next year Glamorgan/Wales will have a local boy, Abergavenny-born Mark Wallace, as captain.

Website of the Week

The Kraken Wakes is a new blog from the Janes/Veale household, and it isn’t mine. So note that the rantings contained therein are not suitable for family viewing. But they are very funny.

Things I Think

I think that Dragon’s Den is almost unwatchable. No, it’s not Duncan Bannatyne’s “I’m oot”. It’s the endless recapping from Evan Davies, probably the most annoying man on TV. The show is now dumbed down to such an extent that almost every “I’m out” (or oot) is followed by a voiceover “another dragon is out”. Argh!

I think that I had almost given up on Doctor Who. After a pretty poor run back in the early summer, I wasn’t overly excited at its return. But the last few episodes have been excellent. Spotted the Millennium Centre and Duffryn Gardens as settings for last week’s episode too.

I think that, conversely, Torchwood set off at a cracking pace and ended at a crawl. The deeply annoying and unlikeable Rex hasn’t helped. If he grabs his chest one more time I’m going to send him to Category Zero with my own hands.

I think that it was great to watch the Tour of Britain cycle race. The Welsh stage was Welshpool to Caerphilly, and I reckon the tourist board couldn’t have done a better job of promoting Wales. The helicopter views of mid Wales were spectacular.

I think the best TV review I’ve read in a long time was about Page Eight: “vacuous, pinko tosh.”

I think that Justin Lee Collins’ comment when sitting in for Dermot O’Leary on BBC Radio 2 speaks volumes. “He’s off hugging idiots.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

This week's musings...

Mellow Fruitfulness
As you can see, we harvested our pear tree on the weekend. And a bumper crop it was too. Picked a good 60 pears on Sunday, and that was after a goodly windfall caused by the seasonal storms.

Now I’m in the market for some pear recipes. Pear and plum crumble has been done. Now what?

Ava’s diary

Back in Rhydyfelin Nursery for my last year before infants school proper. Mrs Luxton and the other teachers have a fairytale theme planned for this term, and there is already a trip to Castell Coch scheduled for next month.

Getting into the habit of going swimming on Sunday mornings. Dad usually comes too. After some initial nerves, I’m now a big fan and my party trick is jumping into the pool. Daddy usually catches me. Pool was quiet on Sunday morning; dad mumbled something about being thankful for Sky+.

Had a taste of coca cola on the weekend and pronounced “this tastes spiky”. Haven’t comes across the word fizzy, so spiky is the next best description.

Rugby World Cup

Rugby overload on the first weekend. Romania gave Scotland a good game, as did Japan France. Two modern miracles. How did England win? And how did Wales lose?

Looks like its going to be a good tournament, as the lesser teams seem to have closed the gap.

Respite for a couple of days. Georgia to beat Scotland on Wednesday?

Rugby Notes

Ebbw Vale made it two out of two with a 19-9 win at home to Beddau. The new jerseys were on display, but look a bit too red for my taste.

The game featured a strong wind and occasional downpours (a summer’s day for Ebbw). Ebbw’s pace out wide was under-utilised, but again the ball got turned over too readily. Full back and MotM Tom Daly (pictured) made many a good break, and it will be interesting to see how Charlie Simpson fits into the side when he returns.

Scorers: Try for Dan Deardon, four penalties for Dan Haymond and a penalty for sub Dorian Jones (whose dad is currently part of the Russia rugby set up at the RWC.

Travel Notes

Driving down Nantgarw hill on Saturday, I saw a yellow Reliant Robin. As starred in Only Fools and Horses. As I pulled alongside I could see the full Trotters Independent Trading logo, New York, Paris, Peckham. And to finish the look, the bloke driving had the Del Boy sheepskin coat. Lovely Jubbly.


A coffee shop has opened up in Cathays, right opposite the University. Costa Coffee has moved into what used to be the registry office. Went to go in last week, but the queue was out the door. Literally. I’ll try it out sometime, but I’m not waiting 20 minutes for my cup of joe.

The Art of Tidying Up

Splendid new book out by Austrian comedian Ursus Wehrli. Called the The Art of Tidying Up, it does pretty much what you expect. Appeals hugely to my (some would say anal) sense of order.

There’s a terrific video on YouTube of Wehrli tidying up some famous pieces of art. Excellent stuff.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Things I Think

I think this is probably the finest Season Ticket I have ever seen. The late, great Clive Burgess in all his scary majesty. Simply the best rugby player I have ever had the fortune to see. He even has his own Wikipedia entry.

I think I was robbed. Got charged £8 to get into Glamorgan Wanderers ground on Saturday. The standard for this division is £5. Even that’s expensive though since, to quote DJL, “I’m only here to see one side”.

I think this is a top video. Its Bumble (David Lloyd) smashing a car window with a six during a charity cricket match. “You park at your own risk” is his comment.

WRU and drinks events at breweries

Reorganisation of the WRU Premiership is afoot. It will go down from 14 teams to 10 next season. The 4 “relegated” teams will form a new National Championship division along with the top 6 from each of Division One East and West.

Now, you’d think this would be based on results this season. But you’d be wrong. The complex set of criteria (“meritocracy calculations”) includes the awarding of points for finishing positions in each of the last five seasons, along with other criteria.

The decisions have all been taken based on these criteria. Letters have been sent by the WRU. Which means that we are back of playing for fun. Just like in the old Merit Table days. Now, all we need is the resurrection of the Floodlit Alliance and we will all be in clover.

Good news, if hardly unexpected, is that Ebbw Vale will play in the newly coined National Championship in 12/13. Confirmation is on the Ebbw Vale RFC website.

The reformed ten team Premiership for the 12/13 season will be: Aberavon, Bedwas, Cardiff, Cross Keys, Llandovery, Llanelli, Neath, Newport, Pontypridd and Swansea.

And the National Championship teams are: Bargoed, Blackwood, Bonymaen, Bridgend, Carmarthen, Ebbw Vale, Glamorgan Wanderers, Llanharan, Narbeth, Newbridge, Pontypool, Tata Steel, Tonmawr & UWIC. 

There will be promotion and relegation in the National Championship and Divisions 1E and 1W from 12/13, although the four displaced Premiership clubs will be safeguarded from relegation for the first two seasons. But promotion to the Premiership is something of a dark art, with it being based on “criteria which can be amended by the WRU year on year”. WTF?

Now that’s all very straightforward then. How long do you give it before another reorganisation comes along? Two years?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Things I think

I think that whatever the concerns about ITV only covering rugby once every four years, the enormous upside is that we won’t have Jonathan Davies whining for 6 weeks. We may, however, be subject to Bob Symonds doing the same commentary that he’s done for 40 years.

I think that Quade Cooper has a good chance of being the RWC’s MVP.

I think that I can’t wait to see how many fans buy Ebbw Vale’s new white, pink and navy away shirt when it goes on sale. Not exactly traditional Ebbw or Gwent colours. Whatever happened to sky blue for the alternate shirt?

I think that I’m hoping India will continue to show some interest in the One Day International series. I’ve got a ticket for the final ODI in Cardiff next week, and am hoping that both teams will be bothered to show up.

I think that Glamorgan cricket got its marketing all wrong this season. Unlike in 2010 there was no way of buying a T20 season ticket. As a result of that, lots of travelling with work, and lousy results I’ve been to Sophia Gardens (sorry, the SWALEC stadium) just once this year.

I think that I’m pleased that Would I Lie To You is back on BBC1 this week. On its day it’s one of the funniest programmes on TV, as witnessed by this clip of Kevin Bridges explaining how he bought a horse whilst on holiday in Bulgaria (or not, as the case may be).

I think that Torchwood isn’t half being dragged out. I feel like I need to watch it on fast forward.

I think that as the guy on the toy stall at Abergavenny market was happy to point out last week, its just 16 weeks to Christmas. And that can only mean one thing. It’s The X Factor. Gary Barlow’s age “has given him the regal stillness of a wise meerkat elder” (@petepaphides). Some of the contestants are borderline mental health cases. And Sidewinder do a better job that the vast majority of what I’ve seen so far – go see them if you’re ever in Aberystwyth!

This week's stuff

Ava’s Diary

Spent most of last week down at mam and dad’s caravan in Tresaith. Spent some time on the beach where I saw a baby seal, and a crab who ran away as fast as I did. I paddled in the sea and built sandcastles. We also went to St Dogmael’s fair where I had my face painted pink and white. Dad has posted some photos on Flickr.

Today was my friend Seren’s 4th birthday party. There was a bouncy castle and lots of cake. Who could ask for anything more. On the way home mam said she needed a stiff drink and I said I needed a “stiff pink milk”.

School starts again next week, or rather my pre-school nursery. It’s great fun, and I’m learning new things every day.

Ebbw Rugby Notes

Today marked the start of the Welsh rugby season, and Ebbw Vale got off to a great 30-14, bonus point win at Glamorgan Wanderers. Without the ringers they brought in for the playoffs they didn’t offer a lot of original thought (a bit like watching England) but Ebbw were turned over at the ruck and tackle for the Wands to have the majority of the ball. Ebbw looked very quick behind with the returning Wes Cunliffe and newbie Tom Ashmead on the wing and Tom Daly (no, not the diver) at fullback.

As was the case last season, things took a while to settle down, and Ebbw’s play wasn’t as calm and assured as it was late last year. A worrying trend was the way Ebbw lost the ball in the tackle and ruck areas. The Wands were good at turning Ebbw over and Ebbw clearing at the fringes combined with an apparent lack of urgency to get the ball away led to too may turnovers. Something for the coaches to work on in the friendly against Blaenavon next Tuesday.

Tries for Nicky Coughlin (catch and drive from a 5 metre line out), Tom Daly (after great work from Wes), Dan Deardon, Ross Jones (another short range effort) and a final length of the field effort from Tom Ashmead. One conversion and a penalty from sub outside half Dan Haymond.

I hope to be borrowing pictures from Ebbw’s two (!) official photographers Graham and Robbo, but in the meantime here’s one I took. Official reports are on the Ebbw Vale RFC website.

Other Rugby Notes

Watched quite a bit of the World Cup warm-up games and, for what its worth, here’s my two-penneth. The Australia-New Zeland game last weekend was a different sport to that being played in the Northern Hemisphere. Australia could well be the team to upset New Zealand this time around. As a commentator said at the weekend “New Zealand seem to be the best team in the world for 3 years and 10 months, but implode when the World Cup comes around. We’ll see if that happens again this time.

Wales seem to be the only one of the Home countries who want to play with enough pace to keep up with the Southern style of play. But anything beyond the quarter-finals would be enough to see Gatland canonised.

Er, RaboDirect Pro 12? OK. Hands up all those who thought this that it was something that Thora Hird would advertise? Is it a chairlift or a walk-in shower? No, it’s the Magners League.

Fantasy Football Notes

If it wasn’t enough to have the start of the rugby season, next week is the start of the NFL football season. As usual I’ve got a fantasy football team, and it looks good for the beginning of the season. Ava’s Steelmen looks like it could do well. The team is:

QB Peyton Manning (Colts)
RB Chris Johnson (Titans)
RB Tim Hightower (Redskins)
WR Anquan Boldin (Ravens)
WR Roddy White (Falcons)
WR Chad Ochocinco (Patriots)
TE Owen Daniels (Texans)

It’s going to be hard to root for all my guys though as I’m not exactly a fan of Manning’s style of football.  

Useless List of the Week

Twitter has its benefits. Danny Baker (@prodnose) and others have been contributing songs which could fit under the title of Rock and Roll StaNav. Here are a few:

Right back where we started from – Maine Nightingale 
(After 250 yards turn right into) the danger zone – Kenny Loggins
We're on the road to nowhere – Talking Heads            
Stop! (In the name of love) – Supremes 
Satellite of Nav – Lou Reed
Where do you go to my lovely? – Peter Starstedt
Paradise by the dashboard light – Meatloaf 
Where the streets have no name – U2
Down on the corner - CCR 
Highway 61 revisited – Bob Dylan

And the obvious winner:

Turn Turn Turn – The Byrds.