Remembering the East terrace of the Arms Park

The latest round of Autumn Test matches has reminded me of the first international that I ever went to see.

Cardiff Arms Park, February 19, 1994. I’d just turned ten and, as a birthday present, Dad had got us tickets to see Wales v France in the Five Nations Championship.

I remember walking onto the packed East Terrace of the old Arms Park – standing room only – and feeling the atmosphere build as kick-off approached. Most of the 1990s were particularly unhappy times results-wise for Wales, but 1994 was a rare high.

They had already beaten both Scotland and Ireland, but weren’t particularly confident about winning against France, who we hadn’t beaten in 12 years.

At half-time, the prospect of getting to the toilet and back in time for the second-half was a non-starter, and I remember numerous calls of: “Watch yourself” as guys who had spent a few hours in the pub relieved themselves where they stood.

You really didn’t want to fall over on the old East Terrace as you would find yourself getting a little damp – whether it was raining or not!

But my most vivid memory of this match is the barnstorming performance of the young Welsh No 8, a guy who I’d have the pleasure of playing with as my rugby career was starting and his was coming to an end.

That afternoon, Scott Quinnell was involved in absolutely everything. In the first half, he had caught the ball at the back of a lineout just inside the French half and blasted his way through four attempted tackles in a 40-metre run to the line.

Then, late in the second half, as the game was in the balance, he robbed N’tamack of the ball on the French 10-metre line and offloaded to Nigel Walker, the former Olympic hurdler. Walker was halfway to the tryline before the French had even realised what had happened and scored the try to clinch the game.

There was only one candidate for man-of-the-match and that was Quinnell.

I obviously thought that every match was going to be like that one so spent most of the rest of the 90s being permanently disappointed!

I’d just like to pay tribute to all the lads at London Welsh who embraced Movember and earned so much for charity.

I was sporting a pretty decent handlebar effort and Adam Brown had a mean ‘Gomez Adams’ going on. Lee Beach was a dead ringer for Keith Lemon with his attempt but Martin Purdy takes the award for the most effort put in – stocking up on various products to shape and style his – it reminded me of the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz!

And of course, there’s always one who can’t grow anything more than a bit of bum fluff – step forward James Lewis. Shocking attempt – absolutely shocking.

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