Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ebbw Vale 45 RGC 1404 0, SWALEC Championship, 28/12/13

Ebbw Vale continue to romp their way to another SWALEC Championship title, as this hammering of North Wales visitors RGC proved.
Let's be clear; despite the scoreline this was no easy fixture. RGC are favoured sons of the WRUseless, with financial backing and are seen as a region in waiting, but the Steelmen gave them a thorough hiding up front and clinically finished high class moves to deliver this latest try fest.
Ebbw's forward power was once more the stand out feature, but the backs have really started to click in December. With Narberth only drawing at home (to the side Ebbw beat 71-0 last week), the Vale extended their lead at the top of the table to 22 points.
The stats say it all: unbeaten in 2013, played 14 won 14 this season (12 with a 4 try bonus point), that's 68 points from 70.
From "Ebbw's try scorers were Ashley Sweet (2), Dai James, Dan Haymond, Wes Cunliffe, Cameron Reagan and a penalty try. Ian Smerdon goaled five."
Next week we turn our attention to the Cup and entertain Beddau at home.

Early lineout action

Ebbw were in total control of the scrum

Ashley Sweet, superb again

Ebbw defended well

Into the 2nd half

It was abrasive up front

Ebbw run from deep

RGC stuck at it well


Monday, December 23, 2013

Black Sabbath, LG Arena, NEC Birmingham, 20/12/13

Let me put it this simply: Black Sabbath are the originals. They were the first, and are the best, heavy metal band. Often copied, never bettered, and in their 45th year, they proved once again, in their home town of Birmingham, that they blow away groups comprised of people young enough to be their grandchildren.

In the autumn of 2012, the fab four of original members Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward announced a reformation greeted with joy by fans worldwide. Sadly, Ward was not contracted further. The resultant album '13' is stunning, album of the year for 2013 by a distance, and created a record as its appearance at number 1 in the UK album charts came some 43 years after their last chart topper.
Following the album's release the band have been touring the world. Iommi is battling cancer and Osbourne forever battling his demons. On drums has been Tommy Clufetos, and, whilst we all miss Bill Ward, in my opinion this new guy is brilliant and I'm not sure Bill is up to the task.

Geezer and Tommy Clufetos

At a packed NEC, the guys had a magnificent homecoming. The sound was brilliant, the visuals stunning and all band members on great form. Iommi, the band's backbone, still brilliant, and Geezer's bass on NIB can still make you shiver.

Tony Iommi, the riffmaster

As for Ozzy, well is he the guy who got lucky? Perhaps. He met great musicians, married a woman who exploited his notoriety to make the couple a fortune, and he should really have been kicking up the daisies years ago. But, despite now being eligible for a bus pass, he looked great; amazing what Botox and surgery can do. In fairness, you can't help but like the old rogue, and, as his voice suits their early stuff so well,  Sabbath just aren't really Sabbath without him.

Geezer, Tommy Clufetos, Ozzy and Tony

With little doubt this was my gig of the year, well worth the round trip to Birmingham on a cold December Friday night. New songs sat comfortable alongside the old classics. That siren at the start of War Pigs is still frightening. Any downsides? Well, I can always do without a drum solo, and I'd like to have heard a full Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

The one and only Mr Osbourne
All in all, a great night with a full 2 hour set from one of the great bands of rock music. 

Ozzy and Tony, putting aside years of bad blood
Set List
War Pigs
Into The Void
Under The Sun
Age Of Reason
Black Sabbath
Behind The Wall Of Sleep
End Of The Beginning
Fairies Wear Boots
Rat Salad
Iron Man
God Is Dead?
Dirty Women
Children Of The Grave
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (intro)

Many thanks to the irrepressible Steve Powis who took some great photographs in between trays of NEC lager.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ebbw Vale 71 Bonymaen 0, SWALEC Championship, 21/12/13

Ebbw Vale competed a total demolition job on Bonymaen, our visitors from the Swansea Valley, by ramming home 11 tries and, to be truthful, could been close to 100 points by the end
The writing was on the wall after 30 minutes with the 4 try bonus point completed when the score went 28-0.
The Steelmen have been awesome as we reach the halfway point in the season. Played 13, won 13 (11 with bonus points), 63 league points, and a return to Premiership rugby a matter of when, not if.

 It was lively up front, but a few '99' calls when the brawling started soon calmed it down

Once again, the pack was absolutely dominant and outstanding, 'second choice' locks Joe Bartlett and Rhys Clarke superb, and ably snapped at by lively scrum half Chris Thomas. What was even more pleasing was the progression of the backs over the last weeks, with South African centre Carl Meyer really coming into his own since he's taken the '12' berth.

Despite heavy overnight rain, Eugene Cross Park looked resplendent

Ebbw Vale's wonderful new floodlights take effect in the 2nd half

The gloom descends around 4 o'clock on the shortest day

Next Saturday, Ebbw have another home game when we entertain our visitors from North Wales, Rygbi Gogledd Cymru, I think, RGC for short.

No doubt you'll know the best paces to go for Ebbw'ish stuff:

Musings from REL
The homepage
and wonderful images (and much better than mine) here
and here

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ebbw Vale 43 Bridgend Athletic 24, SWALEC Championship, 07/12/13

It was another bonus point victory for Ebbw Vale on a Saturday afternoon, with the 4 tries banked by half time, but in fairness to Bridgend Athletic they were a decent fit side who gave the Steelmen one of their toughest outings for some weeks.
In fact, with the score 24-3 at half time, you could say that the visitors won the second half 21-19.

But, of course, and as usual, it was the power of the Ebbw pack which won through with Damien Hudd, Ashley Sweet and Ronnie Kynes outstanding up front, and South African centre Carl Meyer having his best game for the club.

Next up for Ebbw is Llanharan away next Saturday, followed by Bonymaen at home on the 21st on 'Santa hat Saturday'. Ebbw are now 14 points clear at the top.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ebbw Vale 34 Tata Steel (Port Talbot) 3, SWALEC Championship, 02/11/13

The end result suggests it was business as usual for the Steelmen of Ebbw Vale against the (still) steel producers of Port Talbot, namely a 5 try bonus point win with a defensive line unbreached by tries once again.
But, for long periods it looked as though the bonus point wouldn't come, as the 'owling (sic) wind drove horizontal rain into players faces (Sky News would have had reporters on a rolling 'stormwatch') and seemingly the referee's to judge by some of his bizarre decision making.

In fact, some of Tata's players were very keen for the sanctuary of the replacements' bench, judging by their persistent infringing resulting in 3 yellow cards, which could in all honesty have run into double figures. Even their prop forwards sought shelter, as a spell of injuries amongst their front row led to the majority of the game taking place with the dreaded passive scrums, thereby neutering much of Ebbw's powerbase.

In fact, this, together with the driving wind and rain making long ball lineouts difficult to be thrown straight, made for some frustrating passages of play as Ebbw's opposition scrapped hard and attritionally, but with little attacking intent.

Ebbw led 10-3 at half time, but were downwind second half and eventually made their forward superiority count with 5 tries overall. It was not a great day for flowing running rugby so credit goes to Jordan Howells for grapping a brace, plus a fine dummy effort from Chris Thomas, the usual score from Ronny Keynes and Joe Bartlett taking advantage of a tired defence by scoring from a 'tap and go'.

A full (and better) report is on the Ebbw Vale RFC website.
The table now looks like this, and it really looks like a race for 2nd place as Ebbw continue to romp to a 4th successive title, but this time with promotion at the end of it:

Sorry about the pics, but it's the best I could do from the shelter of the 'Bank Gazebo'.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ebbw Vale 39 Tondu 6, SWALEC Championship, 19/10/13

Ebbw Vale secured a comfortable bonus point victory over a plucky Tondu outfit largely due to a much better display after the half time break.
A deluge of rain at just about 2.15 ensured that the game began in terrible conditions and many supporters took refuge in the stand (moi) or in the magic tent at the bottom of the bank.


Ebbw started well and, despite many changes from the previous week's encounter with Pontypool, dominated the opening 10 minutes with forward drives and rolling mauls. Unfortunately they only had an 8-6 lead to show for their efforts after half an hour as Tondu responded well to the conditions.

A charge down effort just before the break ensured Ebbw would go in 15-6 up but scarcely deserved it - the score was harsh on Tondu.

The 2nd half was a different story, both weather wise (I moved back over to the bank) as the sun came out, and in terms of Ebbw's forward power, as the boys ran in another 4 tries.

There were several changes in the pack, and so they took a while to settle, but there were several good shows. Rhys Hodge, catching above, was excellent.

As the pics show, Vale dominated the half as Tondu tired. Nonetheless, the visitors rallied well late on and probably deserved a try. Ebbw's defence held firm nonetheless.
Behind the scrum we're probably not where we were last year. Those guys were Premier Division backs, this year's probably not, but they're improving and God help the rest when we do click!

It's all looking good for Ebbw however, especially with Pontypool, Newbridge and Bargoed all losing. The boys just need to keep winning and we'll be back in the Premiership soon enough...back where we belong. Here's the table:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Deep Purple, Manchester Apollo, 12/10/2013

If you visit this blog and don't know how much I love Deep Purple, then you've obviously missed something. 2013 is the 45th anniversary of the band's formation and its great that there's not too much sign of them slowing down.
I've seen them in many different places, but this was a first visit to Manchester Apollo for me, and what an excellent venue it is, with 5,000 diehards packed in to see the 'old' masters.
Roger Glover and Ian Gillan - evergreen
Support was provided by a rather bizarre 'Euro festival' style covers band, which I thought a little inappropriate - where was a young British band? 
Anyway to the main event and the usual thoughts run through your mind: What will they play? What will Big Ian's voice be like? Will this be the last time?
Well, they played 5 from the new album 'Now What!?' including surprise set opener Apres Vous, Ian's voice was fine (yes he can't quite hit the big ones like the glory years, but hey the guy is 69 next year) and let's hope it isn't the last time, as the band is running hot right now.
The first hour was quite adventurous: new numbers, lots of instrumental stuff especially from Don Airey on keyboards and Steve Morse on guitar who are big players in the band these days, dare I say it, a very proggy feel with lots of 'widdly woo'. Best of the new numbers is 'Above and Beyond', the magnificent tribute to the band's Godfather, the late and sadly missed Jon Lord.
The second hour is more familiar territory, drawn largely from Machine Head, the main set closing with that one about a fire in a casino: bamp bamp bah, bamp bamp bah bah. The encores see more solo and instrumental stuff as well as staples 'Hush' and 'Black Night'.

All in all a great show, about 1 hour 50 minutes and lots of happy punters. The only downside for me, the first time I've seen Purple and they've not played 'Highway Star', surely some of Gillan's finest words (to be honest I can do without Lazy and/or Hush).

The end will come soon enough no doubt, but what a great ride we've had since the reunion of (gulp) nearly 30 years ago. Anyway here's the setlist.
Apr├Ęs Vous
Into The Fire
Hard Lovin’ Man
Vincent Price
Strange Kind of Woman
Contact Lost
Uncommon Man
The Well-Dressed Guitar
The Mule (incl. Drum Solo by Ian Paice)
Above And Beyond
Hell To Pay
Keyboard solo
Perfect Strangers
Space Truckin’
Smoke On The Water
Encore: Green Onions/Hush
Bass solo
Black Night

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ebbw Vale 45 Blackwood 6, SWALEC Championship, 05/10/13

Ebbw Vale ultimately romped to another bonus point victory over Championship opposition in what may well turn out to be a procession to the league title en route back to the WRU Premiership.
That said, with a half time score of only 12-6, and a first half display of some disjointedness, it needed a string of second half substitutions for Ebbw to hit top gear.

Shamefully, this was my first home game of the season (see blog posts for 14st and 21st of September :)) and so there were plenty of new faces for me to get used to go alongside the familiar ones of Ross Jones, Robert Sevenoaks, Ronnie Kynes, Wes Cunliffe and Ashley Sweet. They were as good as ever, but of the newbies, Gareth Rusby-Davies was outstanding on the blind side of the pack, hooker Joe Franchi was lively, and lock Joe Bartlett put in a good hour. Liam Roberts as a livewire at 9, and Carl Meyer has the look of a class act about him at 10 or 15, whilst centre Jack Flower broke tackles down the middle.

The catch and driving maul is executed to perfection these days and is virtually undefendable. Keynes may break club try scoring records through it! The scrum is solid and Sweet continues to rule the lineout. This was the basis of Ebbw's 7 tries.

The WRU have granted Ebbw an A licence now that the floodlights have been modernised and there's some cover on the bank. This means that winning the Championship this season will take the Steelmen back to their rightful place in Welsh Rugby's top flight of club rugby, the Premiership. With 5 wins from 5 games, it looms promising, and the backs are only going to get better as they play together more.

Nonetheless, next Saturday brings probably the toughest test yet, as we visit our old friends at Pontypool, who lie second to Ebbw. Come through that one, and Ebbw have one hand on the title.