By Rob Cole
Don’t you just hate it when newspapers and websites churn out ‘Five Things You Need to Know’ about every sporting event under the sun?
What does it tell you? Do you need to know half of what they tell you and was the author there in the first place?
Well, there is so much to tell you about the stunning win by the Welsh Women’s Hockey team over India in the opening game of the Commonwealth Games that we thought we would bring you the dreaded ‘Five Things’ from a simply amazing result, with Wales winning 3-2. We have stopped at five, but we could have given you a lot more.
It was only the third win by the Welsh women in 16 games at the Commonwealth Games and their first Pool win since they beat Malaysia 2-1 in Delhi in 2010.
This author wasn’t there, but did stay up long into the night to watch the game not once, but twice on BBC TV. It was well worth it and proved exactly what players from the both the men’s and women’s teams were saying before they headed for the Gold Coast that ‘something special is happening in Welsh hockey.’
- Leah Wilkinson really is ‘Captain Fantastic’
Leah Wilkinson made history by becoming the most capped Welsh woman with her 142nd appearance (Gethin Jenkins’ 129 for men’s rugby, Louise Rickard 112 in women’s rugby, Helen Weston’s 112 in netball, Jess Fishlock 108 in women’s football, and Neville Southall’s 92 for men’s football are all in the shade).
More than that, the three-time Commonwealth Games defender looked world class at the back and kept the team together after they let go a two-goal lead. If you build from the back, then there is no bigger or stronger rock on which to forge a foundation.
- GB experience has helped
It was the quality of the performance as much as the victory that shocked the neutrals. Rose Thomas showed how much she has benefitted from her trip to Argentina with the senior British team. Her shot-stopping and command of the defensive zone was critical in securing the famous 3-2 win.
Thomas is the first Welsh women to win a GB cap since 2012, but others in the team have had a taste of other GB squads and looked all the better for it.
— Team Wales (@TeamWales) April 5, 2018
- Eloise Laity is a chip off the old block
Four years ago the tough-as-teak midfielder had her Games ruined by a serious knee injury in a warm-up match against India in Glasgow. That led to her leaving the Village on the morning of the opening ceremony and forced her out of the game for two years.
Fast forward to 2018 and she was back in the thick of the action against the Indians once again, taking a fierce knock to the face that forced her off the field for a period.
But she came back – just as she had done after her bitter disappointment in Glasgow. But when your Dad is a Wales B and Barbarians centre there is obviously some family grit to pass down in the genes. She epitomised the strength of character shown by the whole Welsh squad – cool, calm, determined and never any thought of taking a backward step.
- Was it the best Welsh women’s performance of all-time?
There were 60,000 fans at Wembley on 9 September, 1963 to see Wales beat England for the first time. That was quite something! Wins over Australia (2-1) and the Netherlands (3-2) in Scotland at the inaugural World Championships sent Wales into the final against England.
There have been a few other triumphs over England and, of course, there was a 6-1 win over Austria at home in the European Championships II in Cardiff in September. But never before has Wales beaten a team ranked so high in the official world rankings.
The Indians, Commonwealth champions in 2002 and runners-up four years later, started the tournament in 10th place in the rankings – 13 places ahead of Wales.
It was the first time they had lost to Wales and they were pretty shocked and pretty sick about it! So, if you want to debate which is the best Wales win of all-time, it is going to take an inspired argument to overtake what happened this week. Until they beat England in round 2!
☀️ Waking up to a big Wales win!
Women’s hockey team beat a top 10 side for first time in decades!
Wales 3 – 2 India
— Team Wales (@TeamWales) April 5, 2018
- Natasha Marke-Jones is pretty handy
The Bridgend-born match-winner scored a sensational goal in the 57th minute as she twisted and turned in front of the Indian keeper before backhanding the goal that won the game. It was her best goal in 74 appearances for her country.
She was a handful throughout the game and will take some taming as Wales go in search of more upsets. Sian French kept her cool to send the keeper the wrong way with her penalty stroke and Lisa Daley came up with the opening game of the tournament to give Wales the dream start after only seven minutes.
Now it is on to the next game against World ranked No 2, England. Wales also meet South Africa (No 14) and Malaysia (No 22) in their other pool games. The game against England starts at 10.32am BST on Friday morning.