Rhys Fisher rounds up the best of what’s on offer in March for sports fans in south Wales.
Tiger Bay Brawlers
Cardiff House Of Sport
Those of you who are tired of the football/rugby monopoly on sport this March should head down to Butetown to support the Tiger Bay Brawlers: the team introducing south Wales to the joys of roller derby.
For those of you who haven’t seen Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore tear it up in Whip It, roller derby might seem like one of those American sporting enigmas that you’ve heard mentioned in high school rom-coms, but have no clue what it actually is – like pep rallies or softball. The sport involves two teams skating around a track, attempting to either block an opponent or assist a teammate in getting to the front of the pack. Picture a velodrome with rollerbladers rather than bikes, a hefty dollop of physicality, and way more fun.
After a highly successful season in 2018, where the Brawlers jumped an impressive 38 places in the rankings, the time seems ripe to get behind a team on the rise. Their next home game is against Mancunians Rainy City on Sat 16 Mar – but if you’re interested in learning how to play roller derby, the Brawlers will be running weekly training sessions from Thurs 14 Mar.
Wales v Slovakia / Wales v Trinidad & Tobago
Cardiff City Stadium, Sun 24 Mar, The Racecourse, Wrexham, Wed 20 Mar
March marks the beginning of Wales football’s European qualification process after the mediocre Nations League campaign, with hopes of evoking ecstasy-inducing memories of the 2016 tournament. Manager Ryan Giggs will be hoping to stop the current rot – four losses in the last five games – when they take on a Slovakian side whose recent record is only marginally better. Of course, Euro 2016 began for Wales with a win in the group games against Slovakia, so who knows.
Before that, they play a friendly against Trinidad & Tobago in Wrexham. Whilst the small Caribbean nation can count Dwight Yorke and Kenwyne Jones as former players, the majority of their current team plays either in the domestic league or in the US. You would back Wales to win this one.
Key to Giggs’ plans for a triumphant qualification campaign will be the form of established stalwarts and 2016 lynchpins, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. Someone who did not appear in 2016, but could prove just as important this time around, is David Brooks, one of a number of young Welshmen currently impressing. The nation will be hoping he replicates his recent form for Bournemouth in a Welsh shirt.
Meanwhile, in the women’s half of the game, manager Jayne Ludlow will be preparing for the Euro 2021 qualifiers with some friendlies – one against Ireland, played in Spain on Tue 5 Mar and a game at Newport’s Rodney Parade against the Czech Republic on Thurs 4 Apr. The draw for the Euro qualifiers has put Wales women in with Norway, Northern Ireland, Belarus and the Faroe Islands. The Scandi-nations have some of the best women’s football teams, and Norway is no exception having been both World Cup and European Cup winners in the past, but as runners-up also have a chance of going to the finals, there is still a promising pathway for Wales.
Wales v Ireland – Men’s Rugby Union
Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Sat 16 Mar
After following up the second-half heroics in Paris with a tame, stodgy affair against Italy that was anything but convincing, few Welsh fans could have predicted the behemoth of a performance against England that was responsible for a nationwide hangover that will live long in the memory. Standing between Gatland and a third Grand Slam is a daunting trip north to face a truculent Scottish side who won’t have forgotten last year’s mauling in Cardiff. This will be followed by a mouth-watering final day clash against Ireland – who, despite wobbling somewhat on their perch, will be heading to the Principality looking to cement their position as the premier side in the northern hemisphere.
Wales v Ireland – Women’s Rugby Union
Arms Park, Cardiff, Sun 17 Mar
After a European tour to forget, which included a thrashing in Paris and a drab draw in Rome, Wales were welcomed back to Cardiff with another heavy defeat at the hands of a powerful English side who have their eye set on a Grand Slam of their own. Despite this poor start to the campaign, Wales will be targeting a strong finish against Scottish and Irish sides who have also struggled thus far.