Grand finale blurs view of game of Parks' life
Sunday 14 February 2010
"I put my cock on the block and I guess it paid off." So Ryan Jones gave this most jaw-dropping of finishes the jaw-dropping quote it deserved. The Wales captain elected to go for the three points with seconds left on the clock and the score at 24-21 to Scotland. Everyone watching thought that the overwhelming favourites had been forced to accept the draw. They had not.
There was one play left and folklore already shows that after what Scotland's coach, Andy Robinson, believed to be the mother of all botch-ups – as far as he was concerned, if the replacement Mike Blair had kicked the restart dead, the game would have been over – it proved to be one almighty play. Robinson tried to get the message on to the pitch to put the ball in the stands, but between them Chris Cusiter and Blair decided otherwise. The block was not nearly so kind to the Tartan pair.
Pity poor Scotland. As Robinson said: "The headlines will all be about the Welsh fightback, but I thought the way we played today was truly phenomenal. But for 10 minutes of sheer madness we would have won."
It would have taken a brave man to admit in the Welsh capital last night, but the Scots deserved to have done so.
Robinson always said the toughest blow he ever experienced came courtesy of Dale McIntosh – also known as "the Chief" – when he was playing on the flank for Bath against Pontypridd in the 1990s. That was until yesterday. This savage blow made the Chief's hit seem like a Valentine's embrace. "I don't think I have ever felt like this after any game I've ever been involved in," Robinson said. When one considers the number of upsets he suffered as England coach, that was some statement. It was, however, perfectly understandable when one thought that Robinson's team were 10 points to the good with four minutes left. And they ended up losing by seven.
Robinson admitted to "having mixed emotions". In truth, the bitterness was the strongest ingredient. He had just seen the tapes of Phil Godman's supposed trip on Lee Byrne, which led to the penalty, and he was not happy. Scott Lawson's trip to the sin-bin in the 73rd minute, for a ruck infringement and which triggered the red resurgence, was fully justified, he said. Godman's, he maintained, was not. Before he went off to find the Irish referee, George Clancy, to "discuss the issue", he urged the media "to be positive about the Scotland performance".
Robinson mentioned a few of their heroes. Cusiter, for one. But he gave special mention to Dan Parks.
Even allowing for the fact that this Wales team are like the culprit in a episode of Miss Marple – they never turn up until the 60th minute – Parks enjoyed the finest hour of his career. When he stood in the 65th minute with his arms aloft, he must have believed this was his moment. He had just kicked a drop-goal from nigh on halfway and with the score-board at 24-14, glory beckoned.
Parks has always put the "much" before "maligned". In the build-up even Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, had pointed to the Glasgow fly-half's selection over Godman and highlighted how limited the visitors' gameplan would be. Well, Gatland was right: Parks' tactical kicking was crucial to the Scottish performance. Yet so was every facet of Parks' game.
If his drop-goal might have been – probably should have been – the afternoon's defining score then his brilliant left-foot grubber kick to set up Max Evans' first-half try was just as spectacular. He is heading to the Cardiff Blues in the summer and there had been whispers of discontent in reaction to the signing. There were none last night.
For the Blues faithful, this was a win-win situation. For the man of the match, there was only agony. "There's no justice," said Parks. "To have it taken away from us like this... heartbroken is the only word."
The numbers game
3 Scrums won 3
0 Scrums lost 0
9 Line-outs won 9
3 Line-outs lost 0
5 Penalties conceded 12
3 Turnovers won 2
227 Passes completed 103
4 Line breaks 6
22 Possession kicked 32
73 Tackles made 136
11 Tackles missed 9
16 Total errors 7
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