Deaf Sports Events1st February 2015

Wales Deaf Rugby Stars Serve Up Another Winning Performance

Competing for the Broadstreet Cup, Wales run out worthy winners in a close encounter

by Natasha Hirst, Photographer and Deaf Life Writer

The last day of January was crisp and cold with bursts of bright sunshine, but this was no average day.  Following on from last year’s historic international match on the brand new astroturf of Cardiff Arms Park, you’d be forgiven for wondering if Deaf Rugby Union could have run out of momentum in gathering support for the sport. Definitely not! This year saw the Welsh Deaf team being bigger and stronger than before, proving that deafness is no barrier to playing rugby at international level.  

It also marked an exhilarating first for Women’s Deaf Rugby Union as the England Deaf Women’s team took on local team the Penallta Minerbirds, showing that Deaf women in the sport are no pushover either. Penallta Minerbirds lost 12-22 to the England team which had started with just four members last September and has grown to twenty in just four months. It is clearly time for Deaf Welsh women to get a team together and even the score out next year! 

The SLFirst team arrived, huddled in coats and scarves and clutching hot cups of coffee, ready to document the next stage of the well-deserved and long-overdue rise of Deaf Rugby Union.

As the crowds flowed in, the Cardiff Blues Choir, Côr y Gleision, built up the atmosphere with an vibrant concert, whilst deaf children wearing No Barriers t-shirts enjoyed a little rugby tuition out on the pitch. During the choir warm up, SLFirst spoke to choir member Jonathan Smith, who said he had been interested to discover the Welsh Deaf Rugby team, and is looking forward to starting BSL lessons through his workplace. It is small actions like this that can go a long way towards making rugby a more inclusive sport for Deaf players and fans.

Adam Brake, Wales' No. 8,  was all geared up for his first international match as Captain of the Wales team. He praised his team mates for their dedication and hard work in training during the build up to their most important fixture in the rugby calendar. Although the players are drawn from a range of different clubs, Adam told me how proud he is of the “strong bond” that the team has and how they have improved their game over the last year. It was with this team spirit that the Wales Deaf team set out to gain a hat-trick on home ground against a tough and talented England Deaf team.

England started the game strongly, forcing Wales to defend in their own half, and making for an anxious start for the Welsh fans. England were awarded a string of penalties, keeping Wales under pressure for the first quarter. However, England turned down an opportunity to kick for the posts, which worked against them as Wales turned the ball over to launch an attack of their own, Adam Brake crashing over from a rolling maul with 25 minutes on the clock for the first try of the match and giving Wales the lead. Centre Celyn Ashton, narrowly missed the conversion but ten minutes later succeeded in slotting a penalty from 38 meters, extended the Wales lead to 8 - 0. With no further score in the first half, the Welsh team went back to the changing at half time with a solid first half lead.

Bolstered by their lead, Wales demonstrated good tactics as they strengthened their grip on the game throughout the second half. Within 5 minutes of the restart, Damien David scored a try, followed by Ashton’s excellent conversion from near the touch line, taking Wales’ lead to 15 - 0. A nail-biting period of play inside England’s half saw Wales come tantalisingly close to the line on a few more occasions, only to be held off by England’s determined defence. Nonetheless, with 18 minutes to go, Ashton kicked another penalty giving Wales a 18 points to nil lead.

With time clicking down and the England squad questioning if they would get a score on the board, England’s Cameron Roberts took advantage of Wales’ lapse in concentration, sprinting through the defence to score a consolation try. The missed conversion brought the final score to 18-5 with Wales retaining the Broadstreet Cup.  With both teams showing an improved performance from their two head to heads last year, the crowd were royally with some high quality entertaining rugby, well worthy of its place on the pitch at Cardiff Arms Park.

Wales Deaf Rugby coach, Nigel Francis told SLFirst he was “ecstatic” and “very proud of the team”, who fully deserved the victory. He was keen to state that, “deafness is no barrier to playing at a high level of sport, this is something to aspire to.”

So what does the future hold for Deaf Rugby? In the not too distant future, we want to see the Wales v England Deaf Rugby fixture as the crucial rugby event to be seen at in the lead up to the Six Nations. With Welsh rugby stars Jamie Roberts and Richie Rees turning up in support of the Deaf teams, the local fans were delighted to see them come along to cheer on Wales Deaf. It was also fantastic to see the First Minister and Welsh Assembly Members tweeting their congratulations, but wouldn’t it be even better to see them in the audience with us next year? Cardiff Arms Park should be packed out with supporters for our Deaf rugby fixtures.

Tony Stoyles, Chair of England Deaf Rugby Union is passionate about promoting the importance of Deaf rugby, which offers something for people of all ages. He believes it is important to develop centres of excellence for Deaf Rugby, to make it easier for local Deaf people to play, something that England Deaf Rugby Union aims to put into place.

Wales Deaf Captain Adam Brake talked to us about the importance of strong role models for the Deaf children who are the future of Wales’ Deaf Rugby Union. His message to Deaf children is a simple one; “Don’t be afraid. There’s nothing to stop you from playing rugby. It’s such a great community sport and there are opportunities out there for all of you.”

Article by Natasha Hirst, Photographer and Deaf Life Writer

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Events

1st February 2015