In Wales, rugby is the equivalent of hockey in Canada: it is a religion, a source of dreams, a topic of constant conversation. England, of course, is the old enemy.
Today, Wales played England in the Rugby World Cup in a game in which a defeat for either team could well mean the end of their hopes to proceed in the competition. It was perhaps the most important game in Welsh rugby history for a very long time. As you can guess from the headline, Wales won! But such a game it was.
Wales, although weakened by injuries, came storming out to a 10 point lead in front of 80,000+ mostly English fans at Twickenham. England quickly absorbed their attacks and then moved ahead. At the halftime break, England led by seven and moved further ahead early in the second half. Meanwhile, Wales were losing players to injury (three senior men were carried off the pitch) but were kept in the game by a perfect display of penalty kicking by Dan Biggar (who was himself in the game only because of an earlier injury to the main Welsh kicker).
With less than 10 minutes left, Wales scored a glorious opportunistic try, and the conversion brought them level at 25-25. Just a few minutes later, England gave up another penalty and Biggar kicked it over to move Wales three points ahead. As the clock ticked down, England moved back down the pitch and eventually forced Wales into a penalty. However, instead of kicking for the points and a draw, they chose to go for a try, and failed. Wales held on and the game finished.
I don’t know about the players, but I was emotionally exhausted and couldn’t resist the urge to cry with joy. I had always hoped Wales would win, but the inspiring way in which they overcame so many injuries and refused to give up was overwhelmingly powerful.
No matter what happens as the tournament moves through the next three weeks, this Rugby World Cup will always be remembered by supporters of Welsh rugby for an historic fight back against enormous odds.