‘Party like it’s 1999’

What the Welsh newspapers are saying after the clash at the Millennium Stadium.

How much does this victory mean to the Welsh? Wales on Sunday has run seven pages that reflect on the contest and result against South Africa. ‘Party like it’s 1999’ screams the headline on the front page of this edition. Sam Warburton is pictured with his hands aloft, celebrating the Dragons’ 12-6 win.

‘Do not look twice because it HAS happened,’ writes Wales on Sunday rugby editor Delme Parfitt. Parfitt hopes the result marks a watershed for Warren Gatland’s Wales, and that they will continue to improve in the buildup to the 2015 World Cup.

‘It wasn’t pretty, but who cares?’ states Simon Thomas for the same paper. ‘It’s been a long time coming, but that makes this moment all the sweeter. All those dark days in Wellington, Nelspruit, Melbourne and the Millennium can now be forgotten and consigned to history. Say goodbye to that monkey!’

‘Bottom line … result is all that matters’ says Welsh great Barry John in his column. John believes the hosts won the majority of the individual battles. He also notes how Gatland’s management of the Wales bench was far better on Saturday than it was the week before against New Zealand. ‘This was a win Welsh rugby desperately needed. Let’s celebrate it’.

Another former Wales player in Graham Price says the Dragons simply didn’t allow South Africa space to operate. Price commends Wales’ defence and tactical kicking. ‘I said in my first column this autumn that it would be unacceptable if we didn’t come out of the series with two wins. We achieved that target but could have had three’.

The Sunday Times has led with the result in Cardiff. Leigh Halfpenny is shown with ball in hand on today’s front page. ’In safe hands’ reads the caption. Halfpenny is on the front of the Times’ sports section too, delivering a debilitating tackle on Bok lock Eben Etzebeth. ‘Victory at last’ barks the headline. The Times has dedicated five pages to the battle in Cardiff.

Steve Bale gives Wales their due, but writes that ‘it is proper to keep a sense of proportion amid the ecstasy that engulfed the Welsh capital last night’. Bale reflects on Wales’ poor record against the big southern hemisphere teams, and says the Dragons need to improve on that record if they want to be talked about as one of the best sides in the world.

Of the game on Saturday, Bale observed that the Boks were tired and certainly missed the star players who were unavailable due to club commitments. The writer feels that referee John Lacey’s decision to yellow card Cornal Hendricks was ‘contentious’.

In the Observer, Eddie Butler writes that the Springboks looked ‘completely spent by the end of their tour … mentally they looked shot by the end of play against Wales. Their usual ruthlessness turned to vulnerability rarely seen in the most hard-headed of players’.

Of the Test in Cardiff, Butler said: ‘This was not one for the poets, but what a place it will have in the hearts of the Welsh squad. November has been a complete stinker of a month. Now it has the sweet aroma of a bonfire still aglow. There is light and there is heat in the Welsh game’.

By Jon Cardinelli

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