Advertisement

The top ten Welsh sporting moments of the decade

Credit: PA Images

Goodness this year has gone fast.

I can just about keep up with the sports events in one year - let alone a decade!

But I’ve managed to whittle down my favourite sporting moments to just ten. And the one thing they all have in common is, of course, Wales!

I don’t expect people to agree with my choices and everyone will have their favourites, but I've chosen mine on the basis that , quite simply, still to this day they evoke a feeling of nostalgia, emotion and of course Welsh pride.

So in chronological order:

  • 2012 - Jade Jones winning Gold at London 2012 Olympics
Jade Jones winning gold at London 2012 Olympics Credit: PA Images

I approach the Olympics like Christmas; Wary, uninspired and thinking it will be the same old thing again. But just like the Christmas spirit, the Olympic spirit hits me for six - and for the two and a bit weeks I. AM. HOOKED!

The anticipation for London 2012 was greater than a six-year-old expecting Santa's overnight delivery - and it did not disappoint. Team GB brought home the medals and inspired not only a nation, but a generation. Just when you thought you were all 'Union Jacked' out, there was one 19 -year-old waiting in the wings for her moment; Jade Jones, the girl from Flint. Jones had made the final and was fighting against China's twice world Champion Yuzhuo Hou.

I had never heard of Jade Jones before the Olympics, but as I was standing in my kitchen literally screaming at a 20-inch TV, this athlete became imprinted in my head and heart forever as the clock counted down to her winning an Olympic gold. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried my eyes out as the Welsh girl threw her head guard higher than a graduation cap to become the first Briton to ever win a Taekwondo Olympic gold.

Of course, from that point, she became an overnight star and even more impressively repeated the feat again at Rio 2016 Olympics!

  • 2015 - Wales beating England at the 2015 Rugby World Cup
Gareth Davies scoring a try against England at the 2015 Rugby World Cup Credit: PA Images

When I interviewed Warren Gatlanda few weeks ago, I asked him what was the favourite moment of his Wales reign. He answered, "Any time you play England".

And wow hasn't the last decade delivered some matches versus the "old enemy"! Wales have played England 16 times in the last ten years. England may have won ten, but boy we won some corkers!

Who could forget the 30- 3 thrashing in 2013 or most recently that 21-13 win in February this year.

But the moment I'm going for is THAT 25-28 win at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

First of all, Wales' record at Twickenham wasn't great, but add on England hosting the Rugby World Cup, the betting odds for a Wales win weren't great!

It was looking that way with England taking a 22-12 lead at halftime and dominating the game. Scott Williams, Liam Williams and Hallam Amos all went off with injuries during the game, and time was running out.

Dan Biggar chipped away at the scoreboard with two penalties. And then during the 71st minute the magic happened - a Lloyd Williams grubber ball and a freak bounce found its way into Gareth Davies' hands and he sent Wales and its fans into absolute dream land!

Final score was 25-28 to Wales in the most testing of circumstances and sending England half way out of the World Cup door. In my opinion, Wales' greatest ever win on foreign soil.

  • 2016 - Aled Sion Davies winning Gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympics
Aled Sion Davies winning gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympics Credit: PA Images

Aled Sion Davies first came to my attention during the London 2012 Paralympics when the fresh faced 21-year-old won Gold in the F42 discuss and bronze in the F42 Shot Put.

Honours, awards and world records followed this feat, but my favourite moment was in 2016.

With his favoured event the discuss being completely dropped from the Paralympics, Davies had to put all his efforts into the shot put that he had won bronze in four years earlier.

He got a new coach, lost six stone and he threw a new Paralympic record of 15.97m to win Gold, beating his rivals by over a metre! Another gold medal around his neck in the most testing of circumstances.

  • 2016 - Wales Football Men v Belgium Euro 2016
Hal Robson-Kanu scoring a goal against Belgium in Euro 2016 Credit: PA Images

To be frank I could have lumped the whole of the Euro 2016 campaign in because how could you choose just ONE moment! Aaron Ramsey's hair alone could have even made it.

So was it going to be Bale's free kick against Slovakia or England? Or was it against Russia when James Chester's interception lead to a Joe Allen genius pass for Ramsey then to score?

Whenever I think about the Euros, I think of this moment. I think I have watched it about 100 times!

HAL ROBSON-KANU.

Wales were drawing 1-1 in the quarter-finals and were under some serious Belgium pressure.

But during the 55th minute, Robson-Kanu, who was a free agent at the time, produced a moment of magic that even Paul Daniels would struggle to compete with.

A jaw-dropping Cruyff turn and shot sent Wales to dreamland with a 2-1 lead. With 35 minutes left, Wales fans had their hearts in their mouth wondering if this was too good to be true. Surely not? Surely yes - Wales got their third through a Sam Vokes header and a place in the semi-finals. The greatest game I have ever watched.

The greatest night in Welsh footballing history.

  • 2018 - Wales Women's hockey team beating India 3-2 at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
Natasha Marke-Jones scoring the winner against India Credit: PA Images

For those who don't know I used to play hockey for Wales, and because these are my favourite moments, I obviously get to choose! But I promise there isn't too much bias here.

Let me set the scene.

Wales' Women hockey team train and play for Wales on top of their full time jobs. I know first hand the commitment it takes for these athletes to compete at the highest level. At the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, they were playing India, reigning Asian champions, in their opening group game.

Ranked 16 places below world number 10 ranked India, Wales came out firing and led 2-0 at half time. India then rallied back to 2-2 with Welsh fans and myself in the crowd thinking the dream start was over. India piled on the pressure searching for the winner, with Wales barely able to get out of their own half. But the Welsh defence stood firm.

Then the moment I will never ever forget.

Natasha Marke-Jones was then at the right place at the right time to pounce on a mistake from the Indians three minutes from the final hooter to find the winner. The players went mad, I went mad and the Welsh fans went mad.

An historic moment for Wales and for my ex teammates.

  • 2018- Geraint Thomas winning the Tour de France
Geraint Thomas Credit: PA Images

From Cardiff to the Maillot Jaune at the Tour de France 2018; Geraint Thomas’ story really is made of fairytale stuff!

With every good fairytale, there are ups and downs.

Thomas had already won almost everything there was to win on the cycling circuit. Olympic golds, Commonwealth golds and a host of world titles.

But there was one thing missing - the elusive Yellow jersey of the Tour de France. And also missing was a bit of luck.

He fractured his pelvis during stage one in 2013 but rode the remaining 20 stages to help Froome win. He crashed head first into a telegraph pole in 2015, and in 2017, broke a collarbone during stage nine.

But, in 2018, the stars and the pelotons aligned.

Cycling is about team work and individual winning power and in this instance, Thomas had both.

Froome was the favourite to win with Thomas second in command but as the most gruelling race on the planet went on, it was obvious that it was in fact the Welshman who was the one to back - and he got the backing alright.

Wales suddenly sat up as they witnessed a boy from Birchgrove cycle down the Champs Elysees with a glass of champagne in his hand and the yellow jersey on his back!

And if that moment was one to savour, so was his return to the motherland as thousands of people welcomed home their new champion. It was the moment the red of Wales turned yellow!

  • 2018- Mark Williams winning Snooker World Championship
Mark Williams Credit: PA Images

We all love an underdog and for this sporting moment, they don’t get more underdog than this!

Two months before the World Championships, Mark Williams was thinking of chucking in the metaphorical towel on his snooker career as his form had taken a serious nose dive.

Even the man himself said he would strip if he won the 2018 Snooker World Championship. That was the level of confidence he had in his own ability.

But Williams, who had previously won the title in 2000 and 2003, kept winning frames and matches much to the surprise to himself and the snooker world!

In fact, after his semi-final win over Barry Hawkins, the Welshman was eating a kebab and chips in the early hours of the morning. In the final he met John Higgins and despite taking a 14-7 frame lead, Higgins rallied back to bring the frames level at 15-15.

But Williams, 43, superbly fought back to win 18-16 and became the oldest champion in 40 years to win the title.

Just in case you were wondering, Williams kept his promise of stripping if he won!

Credit: PA Images
  • 2018- Wales Women football vs England (World Cup Qualifiers)
Wales women's football team singing the anthem against England Credit: PA Images

There was a moment in 2018 when I felt like the perception of women’s football in Wales changed forever. That was during the World Cup qualifying matches.

Wales had built up tremendous momentum during the campaign which included seven clean sheets from seven matches.

They went into their final group game against England knowing a win could potentially see them qualify for the World Cup the following year.

Remember for many of these players; Jess Fishlock, Tash Harding and Loren Dykes for example, they had played for Wales for a number of years wearing hand-me-down shirts from the men’s team and playing in front of a crowd no more than a few hundred.

But this game was different.

A record 5,000 people packed into Rodney Parade to watch Wales take on England. There was a buzz around the stadium like I had never felt before.

Girls, boys, Dad’s and Mums making a sea of red. I’ve sung the anthem at sports events many, many times in crowds ten times the size, but if you closed your eyes you would have sworn the whole of Wales was there that night.

The team lost to England 3-0 but in my opinion, they won something bigger – the heart and support of the nation.

  • 2019- Lauren Price becomes Boxing World Champion
Lauren Price boxing for gold at the World Championships Credit: PA Images

Very few people have the honour of representing their country.

Even fewer get to do it in three different sports!

Lauren Price started her sporting career as a kickboxer. She then got scouted to play football for Cardiff City and made her Wales football senior debut in 2012.

But she left the field to concentrate all her efforts in the ring as a middle-weight boxer.

At the age of 20, she became the first Welsh woman to claim a boxing medal after she won bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Four years later at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, she upgraded the colour to gold.

Her achievements haven’t just been in Wales vest. Price is part of Team GB’s boxing squad and has worked her way up the ranks to become one of the best boxers in the country.

Her crowning moment came this October when she became the World Champion when she beat Netherlands' Nouchka Fontijn in the final. In dramatic circumstances, her Dutch opponent had initially been awarded a 3-2 victory by the ringside judges after a close and cagey contest. But an appeal by the GB Boxing team led the Bout Review Jury to decide unanimously to re-score the second round in favour of Price, which meant she had won the bout and the Championship.

The feat meant the 25-year-old from Caerphilly became Wales’ first ever amateur boxing World Champion!

  • 2019 - Wales Rugby Women v Barbarians
Wales women's rugby team Credit: PA Images

I have been a Welsh rugby supporter all my life. I remember the first time I went to the Cardiff Arms park to watch Wales play. I can’t remember who was playing, the score, or any match detail. I just remember the smell of stale beer and the sound of the anthem being sung. At that moment I was hooked and fell in love with the oval ball. But as I grew older, I knew that despite it being my favourite sport, rugby wasn’t as accessible for girls as it was for boys.

So my final favourite moment of the decade goes to the Wales women’s rugby team.

The team has fought hard for their own space within the rugby community and Welsh sport.

Players past and present have worn the three feathers in front of crowds of hundreds rather than thousands.

This autumn, the team had a successful run of games against Ireland, Scotland and Crawshays ending with a historic match against the Barbarians.

It was the first time Wales women had played against the invitational side and only the third time they had ever played in the Principality Stadium.

The game didn’t start very well for the home side with them trailing 0-29 at half time. But as the crowds grew, so did Wales’ confidence, and the tries started to come. And so did the moment I shall remember forever.

During a lineout in the 70th minute, the ball popped out to Wales’ scrum half Keira Bevan and she cut through to score.

As she went over the line, the crowd of 12,600 roared like it does when it is full. And my heart felt full.

It was the first time I had heard that beautiful noise at a women’s match and I am sure it won’t be the last. Wales eventually lost the match 29-15 but for many young fans who were there for the first time and won't remember the score, they will certainly remember the roar.