Deaf Sports Events13th May 2014

Broadstreet Cup Retained by Superb Welsh Performance

England versus Wales Deaf Rugby Teams competed for the Broadstreet Cup at Franklin Gardens, Wales winning 30 - 0

by Sarah Lawrence

Since the last international match between the England and Wales deaf rugby teams at the Cardiff Arms Park, England have been doing a great deal to promote deaf rugby and to get investment and sponsorship to support player development. Making the mad dash from the England Deaf Football League Finals in Nottingham to the home of the Northampton Saints, Franklin Gardens, I could not help wonder whether the comfortable win for Wales in the last game would be overturned met the teams met again to compete for the Broadstreet Cup.

Arriving at Franklin Gardens moments before the game between Northampton and Wasps finished, we made our way to the ground through the euphonic Saints supporters who had just thrashed their Premier Division challengers. On route we passed some of the rugby pitches on the outside of the main ground, all of which looked sumptuous, with the grass so well manicured they good enough to play cricket on, let alone rugby.

On one of those pitches, we stumbled across the England Deaf team warming up and it was good to see a good number of the Northampton supporters stopping to watch. With free entry to the deaf international, it is a shame these supporters did not stay behind to cheer them on during the game. I hadn’t visited the ground at Franklin Gardens previously, but it was impressive, a small drinks and food village just inside the gates thronging with supporters as we entered the ground.

We made our way to the press benches, where we had a great view of the ground and I was pleased to see a decent crowd gathered in the stand opposite. With the Welsh team doing some last minute warm up, manager Claire Lewis had arranged a special treat for them in this her last game as manager for the team. Having scored in the match beforehand, George North made his way back onto the pitch to shake hands with each of the Welsh players and to wish them well. Catching a quick photo with one of the Welsh stars, Claire would return with something to cheer regardless of the result.

As the teams walked onto the pitch, the supporters seemed in buoyant mood, cheering the English team as they lined up for the national anthems. With cheers still ringing around the ground as the game got underway, Wales gained possession just into the England half and a swift movement of the ball across the back line, left wing and Welsh Captain Gareth John was left to use his speed to evade the covering defence to slide in for the first try of the game in the far left corner. Wales could not have enjoyed a better start to the game. Despite being out on the touchline, Celyn Ashton struck the conversion beautifully to land the additional two points. Tow minutes on the clock and Wales were 7 – 0 ahead.

Despite the good start by Wales, England enjoyed some early possession, thrusting at the Welsh trying to find a gap in the defence, the Welsh giving an early warning of their organisation and determination by turning the ball over several times from ruck positions. With some hefty tackles being made, the first injury stoppage came in the seventh minute with Wales’ 6 staying down injured after a Welsh knock in the tackle, giving England their first attacking opportunity in the game.

Ten minutes into the game the lively England centre Cameron Roberts kicked into the Wales 22 for left wing Lee Woollard to run onto, only for the ball to trickle in touch for a Wales line-out. Two minutes later, England were again on the attack, with Wales being adjudged to be offside. England’s attacking intent was obvious when the penalty was ticked to touch, giving England the put in at the line-out, 5 metres from the Welsh try line. Defending with great heart, Wales were able to keep the England from crossing their line and were able to clear the ball up-field.

Shortly after and from sustained pressure in the middle of the park, Wales conceded a further penalty which was again kicked to touch. With all eight Welsh forwards showing predatory instincts at the break down, Wales were again able to hold England out by stealing the ball at the breakdown. A decent kicked clearance was followed up well by the Wales backline, forcing an error from England with the ball going out into touch and Wales able to relieve the pressure.

Approaching the mid point of the first half, Wales applied good pressure to the England half backs, forcing a mistimed kick that went straight into the hands of the Taunton based Wales full-back Wes Pooley. A hat-trick sky scorer in the previous game, this is not a man to give too much room to on the counter attack, and his burst of pace opened up space for Captain Gareth John to sprint for the line, only for a last ditched cover tackle to push him into touch.

Despite being behind, England were playing with great belief, led up front by combative Number 8 Aaron Beasley. Following some good work by the forwards the ball found its way to Cameron Roberts in mid-field who broke through the tackle to make a 50m dash towards the Welsh try line. Hauled down 5 metres out, the England forwards arrived to make several short ranged lunges at the line, with the Welsh defence holding firm and once again turning the ball over in the tackle to make a defensive clearance. It was scant reward for a superb break by Roberts.

Twenty-one minutes into the game saw the first injury replacement with the England scrum half Graham Sage having to leave the pitch with a shoulder injury, replaced by number 23, Liam Rowe Royal. A period of constant England pressure followed with several penalties conceded by Wales resulting in a warning being given by the referee  for repeated  infringements.  Taking advantage of the penalties, England pushed into the Welsh 22, putting together a barrage of attacks fully testing the Welsh defence who stood steadfast against the onslaught. Despite the pressure and the ball retention, Wales were again able to hold out and eventually clear their line.

Moments later, it looked like England would make a breakthrough, the impressive Roberts again slipping the tackle. Jinking his way towards the try-line, England replacement Royal crossed in front of him drawing tacklers away and bringing about the inevitable intervention of the referee who awarded a penalty for crossing. Even at this early stage of the game, you wondered if that penalty would prove a pivotal point in the game.

With 10 minutes to go before the half time whistle, Wales’ outside half Richard Lewis put in another excellent clearing kick allowing the Welsh players to put pressure on the England defence who were forced to make a hurried kick to touch. The resulting throw just inside the England 22 allowed Wales to enjoy a period of sustained pressure. Looking dangerous in attack, the Welsh pack kept the ball tight and rumbled towards the try line. Well defended initially, Wales kept up the pressure, with the ball suddenly moved out to Lewis who was able to cross for a try, touching down underneath the posts. Converting the easiest of conversions, Celyn Ashton was able to secure a 14 – 0 lead for Wales.

From the re-start a resurgent Wales started to mount an attack, forcing England into an infringement just inside their own half. Maintaining a points scoring intention in the game, Ashton timed the kick beautifully and even from 42 metres out, the kick sailed over the bar, to secure a 17 – 0 lead. Playing with great urgency, England challenged for the ball at the kick off, taking themselves into the Wales 22 again. A further battery of charges followed, only for one of the England team to go off their feet at a ruck, metres from the line, allowing Wales to escape with the relieving penalty bringing up the half time whistle.

In a largely even first half, England would have gone back to the changing rooms wondering how they were 17 – 0 behind, the only difference being a steadfast Welsh defence and some clinical finishing when opportunities presented themselves.

Into the second half, England started well forcing an early penalty. Chasing the game, and in need of an early score, England kicked for touch, taking the game to the edge of Wales’ 22. Against a combative Welsh pack, England struggled to maintain possession and the attack just fizzled out. With substitutions being made early in the second through injury and tactical replacements, the game entered a period of stalemate, with neither team able to threaten the opposing team’s 22.

Ten minutes into the half Wales sought to put the game to bed when a series of English indiscretions allowed Wales to kick for touch deep into the English half. On this occasion it was England’s turn to defend with great determination, finally stealing the ball and making a clearance. An increasingly desperate England saw the players get on the wrong side of the referee a few times with a penalty awarded 24 minutes into the half, giving Ashton the opportunity to slot home again from 35 metres out to extend Wales’ lead to 20 – 0.

With 11 minutes remaining in the game, another turnover by Wales in their own 22 resulted in a clearing kick up the right hand touch line. Contested in the air by a chasing Welsh player, the England prop Peter Altham took the player out in the air, resulting in the award of a penalty and a yellow card for dangerous play.  Down to 14 men for all but the final minute of the game, England were put under pressure by the Wales team who maintained their relentless grip on the game.

With the game safe, Wales might have been expected to cut lose in attack, but another penalty award just inside the England 22, saw the Captain again calling up Ashton to extend the lead to 23 – 0. With the substitutes benches being used extensively in the last 10 minutes of the game, Wales began to run from deep and always looking threatening England did well to thwart them.  That was until the final play of the game, when a speculative kick through deceived the England winger and the ever sharp Welsh Captain Gareth John rushed on to the ball to go over again in the corner for his second try. Maintaining an almost faultless display with the boot, Ashton knocked the ball over to bring an end to the game, Wales running out worthy winners 30 – 0.

Despondent in defeat the England team had played with great spirit and huge credit must go to the defensive coach of the Wales team who had put in a perfect performance to keep a clean sheet. The Welsh players, jubilant in victory, proudly hoisted the Broadstreet Cup once again, giving their manager Claire Lewis the perfect send off.


Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Events

13th May 2014