By Rugby World reader, Mark Shanahan
I didn’t see Max Boyce on Saturday, but just about everything else combined to make my trip to Cardiff memorable. From the piper’s lament to Bill McLaren to the primal roar that greeted Shane Williams’ match-winning try, the spectacle built to a cataclysmic triumph for the home side.
I only found out I was heading to the Millennium two days before the match. Born in England to Irish parents, I have a foot in two of the Six Nations but faced the rare privilege of attending a game as a complete neutral. The Millennium Stadium’s a curate’s egg. It’s great to have the venue smack in the middle of Cardiff. I loved the intensity of crowds crammed into its steepling stands, far closer to the pitch than the other 6N venues. The rendering of the anthems and subsequent singing has a terrific choral quality, passionate people drawn together in old-style Chapel hymns. But the lower tier raking is too shallow so that we were up and down, up and down whenever the play moved along the nearside wing. Equally we were up and down, up and down to accommodate the endless stream of beer refills that seem a necessity for those whose only live rugby watching happens around 6N time. But that was merely a minor quibble.
On the pitch: an epic. Wales didn’t turn up first half, perhaps complacent. Scotland don’t break lines; Scotland don’t score tries. The Scots targeted Cooper, ran right through him. Two tries to the good by the interval. But the signs were ominous. Patterson, so warmly applauded for reaching his century of caps had left the fray. So too the prone Thom Evans. The Scots bench looked thin. Could they hold out? It would seem so for so long. Parks can’t run a game, my neighbour told me. Well, he had a darned good go. But he finished his game on one leg. He missed the tackle that let in Halfpenny. Wales were roaring back. For the Scots, the final few minutes took at least half an hour. Card followed card and there was a painful inevitability that Wales would claw this one back. The ‘fans’ who’d left early were madly dashing back as Blair inexplicably failed to put the final restart into the stands. Shane Williams is a hero. Shane Williams is an icon. In the land of the giants this little fella is King. His final contribution dotting down under the posts unleashed the mightiest roar. This script was Oscar-winning.
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The greatest 6N match? Probably not. The greatest comeback? Perhaps. One for the annals? Definitely – and I know, ‘cause I was there!
But what do you think? Were you there or did you watch it on tv?