A memorable day of Welsh passion among the red dragons
Walking through Cardiff city centre on a Six Nations match day is like being part of a street carnival in which the main feature is a sea of red dragons.
Whether they are on shirts, hung up in shop windows or painted on faces, it’s clear to see how proud the Welsh people are to be supporting their national.
Wales were taking on France in the final game for the tournament. Neither team were going to be taking the top spot, but still, seeing Welsh and French supporters flocking through the streets, I knew it was going to be a good day out.
Before making my way to the Principality Stadium, I took to the streets to join in on the pre-match build up. Luckily, my friend is Welsh and knew the places to go to get the best atmosphere.
What I found most interesting was whether you were Welsh or French, everyone was there for the same reason, to watch their team try and win and there was no bad energy or negativity between the two sets of supporters.
Sea of red
There were loud choruses of “Bread of Heaven” being sung among the crowds with the occasional “Allez La France!” being heard, but it was very clear that we were in Welsh territory.
After experiencing the build-up and excitement, I was ready to make my way to the stadium, I had no chance of getting lost, as the massive sea of red and waving flags and shouts made it obvious which direction to take.
The Principality Stadium was something else. I have been to Twickenham a few times, but the atmosphere in the packed 74,500-capacity venue was incredibly different.
After an ongoing roar of Welsh chants it was very clear how patriotic and proud they were of their team and this was before the players even appeared on the pitch.
After an amazing rendition of the Welsh national anthem, something that was filled with a lot emotion, it was time to see what the match would bring.
Being an Englishman among a Welsh crowd and not knowing what they were singing, or being able to join in, was something I thought was going to be quite difficult, but I was wrong.
The match itself was anyone’s throughout. But towards the end it was clear that France that should have won.
Luckily for the home fans, it was the opposite, with Liam Williams’ try securing a 14-13 victory for the home side as Trinh-Duc’s penalty miss let Wales off the hook.
The first half was a yo-yo of points between each side, with a couple of penalties and only one try, but this would prove to be the most eventful action, with not a single point being scored in last half hour.
This didn’t stop the home fans from cheering and chanting for their team from start to finish.
What struck me as most surprising throughout the whole day was that even with their team putting on a poor show, the Welsh fans were consistently upbeat and happy.
Even when we got back outside the stadium after the match, a win was a win, no matter how small the margin of victory.
The end of the match didn’t signal the end of the celebrations. A lot of the fans were more excited about the fact England had finished fifth than their team managing to make second, or even winning the match for that matter.
Being a football fan, going to my first rugby match among Welsh fans in their home territory, I wasn’t sure if it was something that was going to be that enjoyable.
I have never experienced that kind of atmosphere, where everyone is there for one reason, to support their country and their team.
There was no animosity between each side and this was clear when I left the stadium and on the streets later, where Welshmen and Frenchmen were singing together walking down the road.
After a low-ranking result for England in this Six Nations, I’m glad I got to experience a win for Wales in their own stadium and was lucky enough to be a part of something so rare for me, but obviously very normal for Wales.