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O60-65 Celtic Cup, Lille, France, Sept 2016

By walesdragons, Sep 18 2016 05:22PM

And what an end to the season it was for the Over 65s! Not content with their 6th place at the World Cup in Australia and 2nd place at the Home Nations, they achieved the first ever international tournament victory by a Wales Masters age group, emphatically winning the Celtic Cup with clean sheet victories over France, Scotland and Ireland.

Wales were able to build on the platform of those earlier tournaments in terms of fitness, experience, tactics and team awareness to succeed where in the past they have faltered, especially against bogey team Scotland.

The first match was somewhat of a mismatch, it was France’s first appearance as an O65 nation and they were blown away by Wales 9-0. Debutant Mike De Silva Jones scored a hat-trick, Richard Chapman added two and Derek Wright, Derek Salisbury, Phil Withers and Richard Harbottle all contributed.

Scotland beat Ireland 1-0 on day one and so the match against them on Saturday was always likely to be the defining moment of the tournament for Wales. A slow start has often hindered Wales in the past, but on this occasion Scotland were rocked back from the start and the early pressure brought a fine narrow angle goal from Ramesh Gangotra and when this was followed by a direct penalty corner strike by Richard Chapman, Wales were in the driving seat. Sticking to their tactical plan of high energy forward play and a complete denial of any ball to Scotland’s strength on their right, they comfortably saw the game out.

A third clean sheet against Ireland on Sunday would ensure tournament victory, but Wales did not make life easy for themselves with a more tentative start and an initial inability to work around Ireland’s central midfield strengths. However, Wales slowly gained in confidence culminating in the second quarter in a superb multi-player move to the right by-line followed by an excellent cross leaving Derek Wright to finish off from close range. Ireland continued to fight hard and the Celtic Cup was not safely in Welsh hands until deep in the final quarter when pressure on the right drew the defence across and Ralph Thomas was able to find an unmarked Ben Johnson to slot home and make the game safe.

The winning goal for Ben was fitting as he had announced his retirement from the captaincy after leading Wales O65s to unprecedented success over three years through personal inspiration and the adoption of a sound tactical system [playing to our strengths. It was equally fitting that the goal was created by Ralph Thomas, whose return to the Welsh shirt after some years away, was welcomed by all and boosted the bite and creativity of the midfield.

Results: Wales 9, France 0; Scotland 1, Ireland 0; Wales 2, Scotland 0; Ireland 4, France 0; Scotland 7, France 0; Wales 2, Ireland 0.

A young and inexperienced O60s side, hit by injuries and unavailability but boosted by the presence of three O55s who will be qualified next year, came third in their tournament. Travel problems meant a number of players only arrived minutes before the start of their first game with a very strong and well organised Scotland and they were never able to get going, losing 8-0. On Saturday, spirits were raised with a 3-1 victory over France with goals from Charlie Lane, Peter Williams and Bruce Perkins, but a strange 5-1 defeat followed to Ireland on Sunday – strange because the balance of play was very even but Ireland took every half chance. Wales goal was again scored by Charlie Lane. Scotland were convincing winners of the event.

Results: Ireland 3, France 2; Scotland 8, Wales 0; Wales 3, France 1; Scotland 2, Ireland 0; Scotland 7, France 0; Ireland 5, Wales 1.

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