It’s Judgement Day this Saturday. Ospreys v Cardiff at the Principality Stadium.
Paul Williams was born in the Swansea/ Neath area and now lives in Cardiff.
Here are his judgements – some rugby, some not…..
Judgement 1 – The Welsh Shield Matters
Four points separate Cardiff and the Ospreys in the league and thus the Welsh Shield. Many have said that the Welsh Shield isn’t important this season, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It matters this season more than any. Firstly, Champions’ Cup qualification is on the line. Which, such is the competitiveness of the URC, feels like winning a trophy in its own right. Secondly, this has been the most difficult period in the history of Welsh regional rugby. With a post-Covid hangover and difficulties at all levels of the game, Welsh regional rugby has never been under such pressure – especially financially. And that is why the Welsh Shield matters. To come out on top of the four Welsh regions, the only teams who have faced these unique challenges, is vitally important for the players, the coaches and their supporters. In adversity, to prove that your team coped the best means plenty and is the sign of a club and squad who are in it for the long haul.
Judgement 2 – Wind Street vs St Mary’s Street
It’s very difficult to choose between Swansea’s Wind Street and Cardiff’s St Mary’s Street. It’s like comparing Filo Tiatia and Xavier Rush – they’re both legends. For those who are unfamiliar with both streets, they’re like the Welsh version of ‘The Strip’ in Las Vegas - except no-one is wearing jackets (even in December) and the air is scented with Jägermeister. Outside of a BBC nature documentary, there are no finer displays of animal magnetism than plays out on these streets. To witness some of the feeding, drinking and courtship rituals on either stretch lives long in the memory. As the night wears on, and with both men and women often wearing unsuitable footwear for the conditions, only the great Shane Williams and Gerald Davies have executed finer demonstrations of footwork and the regaining of balance. It is impossible not to have a great night on either street. This Saturday, St Mary’s Street awaits you.
Judgement 3 – It’s all about the tight five.
It’s very easy to get carried away with the selection of backs. But there’s a reason why the highest earners in the elite men’s game are tight-head props and locks. There are plenty of men who are 6ft tall, will deliver GPS numbers that you’d expect to see at the Tenby Ironman, and will tackle and jackal like an actual starving jackal. But, as a matter of probability, there are only so many individuals who grow to 6ft 5 inches plus, have heads the size of a double garage and can ‘palm’ a rugby ball like it's a ‘Kinder Surprise’. Equally there are very few who can carry 18 stones plus and still run for 70 minutes whilst having forces exerted on their neck that are strong enough to trigger the San Andreas fault. It is in this regard that the Ospreys have the advantage on Saturday. The Ospreys now have two legitimate front row selections and the best tight head in Wales in Tomas Francis. In Nicky Smith and Gareth Thomas, they have two quality looseheads. Then there’s Dewi Lake, one of the most exciting prospects in European rugby, let alone Wales. But it is at lock where the Ospreys are stocked deeper than any of the other regions. With AWJ, Rhys Davies and Adam Beard they have two British Lions and a possible future 50 cap international. Backs are for show, tight fives are for dough, and it is there the Ospreys have a significant advantage.
Judgement 4 – 2023 ‘Chip Alley’ vs 1990’s Kingsway
It only seems fair to compare ‘Chip Alley’ today, with the Kingsway of yesteryear. What was once half a mile of bars, nightclubs and takeaways in the centre of Swansea, is now seemingly a section of a racetrack. But in it’s heyday, in the mid 1990’s, you couldn’t want for a finer smorgasbord of fried chicken, kebabs and curries. However, on this occasion ‘Chip Alley’ is the winner. Even the most ardent fan of Swansea and Neath couldn’t argue that Chip Alley is the Amazon Prime of fast food. If you can’t find something that you want to eat on Chip Alley, then one can only presume that you do not eat at all. But it is not only the food that makes Chip Alley the winner in this Ospreys v Cardiff judgement. In 2010 a vehicle was once left parked on Chip alley, with its driver’s side window left open by approximately 2cms. One passerby, with a bag of chips, popped a solitary morsel through the small gap in the window. A few others followed suit. 48 hours later, on Monday morning, that car was still there, and it was full, floor to ceiling, with cold chips. Even Banksy couldn’t provide such an artistic comment on city life. Glorious. Chip Alley waits, after the game.
Judgement 5 – Luke Morgan is one of the most underrated players in Wales.
There are three players from Cardiff and the Ospreys featured in the top 20 of the URC’s ‘Top 100’ list - Owen Lane, Josh Adams and Jac Morgan all feature. It’s a new dynamic player ranking system that combines recent performances across the United Rugby Championship, EPCR competitions and international rugby. It’s a fantastic bit of kit that gives you a solid idea of who the league’s top performers are. But there is one player from the Ospreys’ who rarely gets the headlines, nor the statistical data to back him up, yet delivers every week without fail. That is Luke Morgan. The Edinburgh game was a classic example. Even in defeat away at Edinburgh, Morgan was top for metres carried with 111, joint top for defenders beaten, and third for total carries. He also hit more defensive and attacking rucks than any other back. Stats aside, every other name mentioned by the commentary team in Edinburgh seemed to be Luke Morgan. He may not get the headlines, but every team needs a Luke Morgan.
Final Judgement – Judgement Day is always a fantastic day out
Regardless of the weather or the result, Judgement Day is a fantastic day out. Back-to-back Welsh Derbies in the capital city with your friends and family. What’s not to like. Have a chicken curry and a pint for me.