Friday, February 4, 2011

Wales v. England

Contrary to what most Americans believe, soccer is not the most popular sport in all countries outside North America. In fact, most English-speaking nations (other than England and Scotland) have some other sport that they prefer. India likes cricket. Canada likes hockey. And Wales likes rugby.

Wales is, in many ways, the Kentucky of Europe -- a small country (around 3 million people) -- with a long history of coal mining, Bible-based protestantism, and hymn-singing. And, of course, a determination to preserve its own identity and to stand up to the rich folk from the big city. Anyone who knows Kentucky should not be surprised that nothing makes the Welsh happier than to knock off England -- their bigger and richer neighbor -- in rugby. Traditionally, therefore, the biggest sporting event in Wales is the annual match with England that kicks off the "Six Nations" rugby championship.

Since 1883, the "Home Nations" of the United Kingdom -- Wales, England, Scotland, and Ireland -- have played a series of rugby matches against each other. Each nation plays the others once, and the team with the most victories is the winner. France started playing in 1910, and has participated in every tournament since (except for the tournaments played from 1932 to 1939). Until 1999, therefore, the tournament was known as the "Five Nations." But in that year, Italy joined, and since then the tourney has been known as the Six Nations.

Although Wales is the smallest of the nations, historically it has done very well. Here is the all-time list of outright winners (with shared titles in parentheses):

England: 25 (10)
Wales: 24 (11)
France: 17 (8)
Scotland: 14 (8)
Ireland: 11 (8)
Italy: 0 (0)

Here are the last 10 winners:

2001: England
2002: France
2003: England
2004: France
2005: Wales
2006: France
2007: France
2008: Wales
2009: Ireland
2010: France

This year's tournament starts tonight with England traveling to Cardiff to take on Wales. This will be the 120th meeting between these two ancient rivals. England leads the series by one match (54-53-12), but Wales has won the last three matches played in Wales.

Nevertheless, Wales are somewhat banged up, and England are supposed to be loaded this year, so the English are favored in this match. We at the Heath Post, of course, will be supporting Wales, and we hope they give England the pasting that we always wanted to give Tilghman.


  1. After 14 minutes (rugby games are 80 minutes long), England lead 7-0 on a try (touchdown) and conversion.

  2. 20 minutes: Wales 0 - 10 England

    England kicked a penalty for 3 points (just like a field goal).

    Not looking good for the Welsh so far.

  3. 21 minutes: Wales 3 - 10 England

    Wales quickly responds with its own penalty.

  4. 26 minutes: Wales 6 - 10 England

    The Wales fightback (as the Brits call a comeback) continues with another penalty kick. Also, England has had a player sent off for 10 minutes, so Wales will have a man advantage.

  5. 30 minutes: Wales 6 - 13 England

    The extra man didn't do Wales much good, as England has now converted another penalty.

  6. Halftime: Wales 6 - 13 England

    The game is still up for grabs, although it is discouraging that Wales couldn't do more with their man advantage.

  7. 43 minutes: Wales 9 - 13 England

    Wales gets things going with yet another penalty kick.

  8. 46 minutes: Wales 9 - 16 England

    And now Wales are down a man thanks to a penalty. Not looking good for Wales at all.

  9. 57 minutes: Wales 9 - 23 England

    Well, there you go. Another try and conversion for England. Wales in huge trouble now. This isn't like football where you can start throwing the ball when you need to come from behind.

  10. 61 minutes: Wales 16 - 23 England

    But Wales battle back with a try and conversion of their own. They need one more before time runs out. The next few minutes should be pretty frantic.

  11. 70 minutes: Wales 19 - 23 England

    Wales, still fighting back, kicks another penalty. A try now would put them in the lead, even if they didn't make the conversion.

  12. 72 minutes: Wales 19 - 23 England

    England come very close to scoring, but the Welsh defense holds. Now Wales has the ball.

  13. 76 minutes: Wales 19 - 26 England

    Disaster strikes Wales, as they give up a penalty 30 meters out and England bangs it home to restore their 7-point lead.

  14. Final: Wales 19 - 26 England

    A real heart-breaker for Wales, who will have to regroup for a trip to Scotland next week. An ideal start for England, who play three of their remaining four Six Nation games at home.

  15. Here's how the Guardian summarized the game:

    "Final thoughts: England were very clinical but still conceded silly penalties, their age old achilles heel. Wales had some vim in the backs and power in the forwards but, as Moore pointed out, they kept running laterally, not making enough forward bursts over the famed gainline. I thought Youngs played well for Engalnd and Easter, too, but Flood is the stand-out man in white, coming of age since joining Leicester. Wales need to get Hook in the game more and trust him to deliver. 'The distant roaring is the England fans in Austria,' writes Mike Tittensor. And here's Val Davey: 'You can see Johnson's NFL interest in the blocking lines England have run today. I know the Kwis have been doing it for years, but that doesn't make it legal (Wales have done it as well, so have I missed a rule change?)' You haven't Val, everyone turns a Nelsonian eye to it. Thanks for all your emails and sorry for a daft scoring error earlier. Excitement got the better of me. Good night.

  16. Sorry about Wales, but hooray for this fabulous report and the original-post background.

    "Vim" is so great.