The story goes that a good big man will always beat a good little man. Not so when it comes to the diminutive winger from Swansea, Shakin’ Shane Williams.
Wales have a habit of producing outstanding fleet-footed wingers every decade or so like Ken Jones from the Fifties, Gerald Davies the Sixties, J.J. Williams, Ieuan Evans and so forth, most of whom were on the smallish side.
George North is probably going to be the next one although he’s a brute of a boy…
Yesterday’s Welsh test was all about Shakin’ Shane (some of his fans call him ‘ickle’ which is Brit slang for little) and his final test for Wales. He’s been around the international scene since 2000 and now retires with 87 caps for Wales and 4 for the British and Irish Lions.
The Welsh are a passionate lot and it was no surprise that the little man was a complete emotional mess both before and after this match. There was no place to hide to blubber in private but you’d be a hard hearted prick if you weren’t endeared to this guy.
A legend at 80kg wringing wet, he got the send-off he deserved apart from not actually winning the match, which has been a common Welsh trait since the coal mining industry collapsed in the Seventies.
On the opposite wing was one Lachlan Turner Overdrive. Lachie has been around the Wallabies since 2008 but never quite cemented his position in the team, or in fact in the squad. I guess he’s on this tour because of injuries to others.
But in both matches on this junket he’s had storming games (yesterday he contained Shane Williams well). He’s used his pace and swerve to score classic winger’s tries but most importantly, he’s stopped putting boot to ball every time he’s confronted with an obstacle.
Lachie’s backed himself and now looks like becoming competitive for a wing spot within his own right. You can see how much he’s improved and he’s certainly justified his selection. This is going to be important now that JOC has been slated ‘for higher honours’.
I’m not sure that QC will be shaking in his boots just yet as some have predicted — the next Dan Carter — eh? JOC consolidated yesterday from the Baa-Baas free-for-all and in a more pressured environment looked quite the busy and skilful ball playing five eighth.
His cut-out pass to a flying LTO for the winger’s try was QCesque. I wonder whether he can do that left handed as well?
He’s bigger and stronger than you think and uses his core strength, footwork and guile when he takes on the line. This always challenges the defence and yesterday he frequently got over the gain line and was always looking for a sneaky offload if he could get his arms free.
The game plan was about width and he spent most of the time distributing the pill. Yeah, needs to work on his kicking game but this experiment has provided us with another option and should be persevered with at some stage. That tackle on Jamie Roberts was a goodie too.
I thought that Berrick Barnes should have been the MOTM. Don’t get me wrong, Diggers was everywhere and quite the battering ram but I think it became a little too predictable. It would have been nice if they found a bit more space for him to rampage. Isn’t it great that he’s signed for another three years?
Berrick is Mr Mature personified and supremely suited to test rugby. He offered solidity and calmness in the midfield and his option-taking second-to-none. His kicking game was first class (the chip for LTO’s ‘no try’ superb) and frequently moved into first receiver. He was rewarded with a meat pie after backing up DK.
The set piece work by the forwards was impressive. Most of our lineouts were won and we looked the more dominant at scrum time. We were heavily penalised by Kaplan at first half breakdowns with Bam Pocock lucky not to be carded.
Ben McCalman and Higgers were the pick of the forwards and both got through a power of work. I don’t have any of the defensive statistics available but Diggers (not Higgers) was actually involved in more rucks than any of the forwards…
McCalman really shone as a ball carrying option and supposedly took over the no. 7 role when Pocock went off at halftime with a serious ankle injury. In fact, they effectively didn’t have a fetcher in the second half although it probably didn’t matter as much as it has in some other games but when will they ever learn?
I thought the match itself was a bit flat in the first half and there were similarities to our last outing against Wales. Arm wrestle in the first half, get ahead in the second but defending at the end against a Welsh comeback.
We scored our three tries in the second half during the ten minute period that Leigh Halfpenny spent in the sin-bin for an early tackle on JOC (Genia off the base of a ruck, Turner and Barnes).
Oh, and the score was 24-18 with the little man dotting down his final international try on the bell. It naturally brought the house down…
The short tour — pass mark+ to Robbie Deans and co. It could have been a potential disaster but the crew were focussed and tactically played to their strengths.