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.