Deaf Sports Events15th April 2015

Wales Maintain Dominance Against Spirited Opposition

Running out 20 - 8 winners Wales retain the Broadstreet Cup

by Sarah Lawrence

It might not have the media circus and hype of a 6 nations rugby international, but when Wales and England Deaf rugby teams take to the field, the players and management teams feel every bit as passionate about the result as their hearing counterparts. In recent times, Wales have been on a role when it comes to this fixture, but taking great strides behind the scenes under the expert umbrella of England’s Rugby Union, the England players took to the field on Sunday with a steely determined look, every player seemingly prepared to put their body on the line to get that much needed victory.

This fixture was played at Moseley RFC in Birmingham, a club with a great history and judging by all the building work on site, with big plans for the future. A new stand was not yet open to the public so spectators either stood pitch-side or took their seats bravely in a small open stand on the far side of the pitch. I say bravely because despite some warm clement weather over Easter, the game was played in a strong bitter wind travelling the length of the pitch, making viewing in the small stand something of an endurance test for the hardy rugby supporters who turned up to support the teams.

There seems to be little in the way of Deaf culture involved in Deaf rugby now, and despite only one Deaf BSL user being involved in the game, it was good to see the local Deaf community turn up to support the players, including magazine favourite Sean Noone, or Sean Midnight to use his professional wrestling name. He was looking forward to the game and looking forward to an England victory.

With the England Deaf Ladies playing their match beforehand and with lots of other teams playing/training on other parts of the club’s estate, the clubhouse was a hive of activity, with plenty of hand wagging going on between Wales and England supporters about who might win the game.

Under the watchful eye of referee Luke Haskins the game got under way with England playing with the strong wind at their backs. Within minutes of the kick off, and showing that spirits were high, handbags were quickly drawn at the first line out, neither pack willing to give an inch. Nipped in the bud by Mr Haskins and his assistants, this undertone of aggression and fronting up to the opposition was to remain for the duration of the game.

England applied the early pressure, their defensive line looking to rattle the Welsh ball handlers, and it was from a good tackle that Wales were adjudged to be holding on, England awarded a penalty and the chance to put the first points on the board. The kick, taken by Ollie Fountain from Hitchen RFC, sailed through the middle of the posts, giving England a 3 - 0 lead with 5 minutes on the clock.

The next score followed seven minutes later when England were able to mount sustained pressure deep in the Welsh half. Despite valiant defence from the Welsh, England’s combative pack drove close to the line, allowing scrum half Fountain to dive over from close range to extend England’s lead to 8 - 0. In difficult kicking conditions, Fountain’s conversion attempt slipped wide of the post.

Playing against the stiff wind, there were no signs of panic in the Wales side and a period of cut and thrust followed with the Welsh forwards repeatedly driving through the middle to try and get a foot hold in the game. Some expansive moves from both sides saw some decent tackles out wide, but it was to be a good old fashioned maul that was to lead to the next score.

Forming a maul 10 metres out from the English try line, the Welsh forwards started to make painstaking progress but with the added bulk of a few joining backs, hooker Dan Vella from Tata Steel RFC kept control superbly at the base to crash over for Wales’ first score of the game after 28 minutes. Experienced kicker Celyn Ashton from Treorchy RFC, expertly slotted the conversion to bring Wales back within a point. England 8 Wales 7.

The under-current of tension remained and 5 minutes after the score and with Wales again enjoying some good possession, England’s try scorer, Aaron Beesley, was to receive the first yellow card of the game, a swinging arm in the tackle meeting the disapproval of the referee. Playing with 14 men but with the wind at their backs early signs were that the other English forwards would see the game out to half time, but with time almost up the Welsh forwards again went through a series of pick and drive close to the England line. Heroic in defence at the breakdown, Wales scrum half Sam Gallagher from Duvant RFC flashed the ball out to the attacking line. A couple of slick passes saw the ball arrive in the hands of Vella who seemed to take the wrong option in driving at two covering defenders, but with a long reach of his arm, he was just able to touch down on the try line, securing his and Wales’ second try of the game close to the right-hand upright. The extra points were added by Ashton bringing the score England 8 Wales 14.

Keen to score themselves before the break, England pushed forward through a series of drives and off-loads in the tackle. Looking dangerous as they broke through the middle and with only one Welsh defender to beat, Wales’ left winger Tim Parkinson from Milton Keynes RFC held back England’s support runner Cameron Roberts from Hartpury College, taking him out of the game and allowing a scurrying Welsh defence to get back to prevent the try.

An inevitable penalty followed accompanied by a yellow card for the professional foul. Fountain again kicked for goal but with another narrow miss, the half ended with Wales in a 14 - 8 lead.

With Wales playing with the incessant wind in the second half, some in the crowd expected something of a landslide victory, but early in the second half it was apparent that England had other ideas. However, over exuberance was to be their downfall with Aaron Beesley not learning from his first half mistake and once again coming in high with a leading shoulder in the tackle, his misjudgement earning him his second yellow card, and a place on the side line for the remainder of the game.

It is to England’s considerable credit that they remained competitive in the game despite playing with 14 men for most of the second half against the strong wind. Both teams enjoyed periods of possession and showed great attacking endeavour, with each back line given plenty of ball to work with. With England always on the look-out for a counter attack, Wales were restricted to managing their lead, their own cause dented by the replacement Ryan Shallish from Dinas Powys RFC swinging his forearm several times into the body of debutant centre Ben Jordan during a tackle. Refereeing the game consistently Shallish was sent to the sin-bin only minutes after coming on.

Moving into the final stages of the game, Wales’ lead did not look in jeopardy despite the efforts of the hard working England pack and some positive running out of defence by Cameron Roberts. An infringement in the ruck with eight minutes remaining saw Ashton slotting over another penalty to extend the Wales lead to 17 - 8 and a further penalty in the dying embers of the game giving Ashton another penalty to make the final score England 8 Wales 20.

Retaining the Broadstreet Cup once again, Wales’ Captain Adam Brake from Caerleon RFC gratefully received the trophy from Tony Stoyles the Chairman of the England Deaf Rugby team at the end of the game. Watching the players as they left the pitch, there was no doubt that England started this game believing that they could win. Whilst Wales were able to control the game in the second half, I had the sense that Wales’ dominance is going to be put under greater pressure the next time the teams meet.

It is also hoped that there will be development of the international game with Deaf teams either in place or in development in Italy, France, Argentina, Australia, Fiji, Japan, South Africa and of course New Zealand, the only country to hold the Deaf Rugby World Championships so far. We will watch that development with interest and hope to see more investment in the grass roots of Deaf rugby here in the UK.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Events

15th April 2015