MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: County should follow example of triumphant Welsh rugby team
9:10am Tuesday 19th March 2013 in Sport
IF it’s a muse they need, dare I suggest Newport County look no further than the Welsh rugby team?
Yes, I know, columns by this reporter that contain the word rugby are usually as well received as Nick Clegg visiting a students union, but in this instance, it’s entirely appropriate.
In light of Saturday’s unforeseen and unfortunate postponement, County are facing up to an almighty fixture backlog as they chase Conference promotion.
It’s far bigger than just an irritating trip to York, or Berwick, or Bahrain or wherever the Gateshead game is this week, it’s a schedule of doom.
The smart money, the big bucks, will be on Mansfield to win the title and for County to end up crawling over the line in fourth or fifth place with very little left to give in the playoffs.
The bookies haven’t fancied Newport all season and still don’t now, games in hand coming out of their ears not enough to shorten County from 6/1 to win the league (fourth favourites) and 9/2 to be promoted (fifth favourites).
It’s an incredibly tough ask, without question, but County can still be major title contenders if they can squash the schedule and show fortitude in the face of adversity.
Just like Rob Howley’s men.
I may not comprehend every intricacy or minutiae of rugby but I understand enough to know that when a team is 30 points in arrears in their first game of the Six Nations – Wales trailed Ireland 30-3 shortly after the interval – that’s basically all she wrote.
You don’t come back to win the tournament unless it’s a US film version where everyone learns a life lesson before a stirring finale.
Think Friday Night Lights or Coach Carter. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”, that kind of thing.
Add to the fact you’ve lost seven games on the spin even coming into the competition and it’s clear there is a national crisis looming.
And yet, from all that, Wales emerged as Six Nations champions.
Little by little they ticked them off. Get that first win. Then a second. Maintain the pressure. Triumph in Paris, in Rome, in Edin-burgh and then attempt to overcome the home hoodoo and beat a strong English side.
And beat them they did. Not in a nailbiter, not with a little luck and plenty of endeavour, they smashed England to bits in a one-sided massacre.
I watched the match in a central London ale establishment and the shocked faces and incredulity was all too obvious.
The English fans didn’t see it coming. Not to lose by such a landslide, how could this be happening?
That’s exactly the attitude County should adopt. They’ve been written off as title contenders, just as Wales were.
They say it’s not possible for the Exiles to defy their own fatigue and win game in hand after game in hand.
Except it is possible. Anything is possible, the unlikely is achievable. A fortnight ago Grimsby were home and hosed as the likely Blue Square Bet champions. County trailed them by eight points. Look what’s happened since.
Mansfield’s form is stunning, but they aren’t clear in terms of knowing their destiny. If County win their games in hand, they catch them.
Mansfield are the current best in the division and yet the Exiles have taken six points from them this term and neither victory was a fluke. On their day, Newport County are the finest team in the Confer-ence and as long as they know that, who cares what everybody else thinks?
Precisely no one would’ve predicted a Welsh Six Nations victory back in February after the woeful first half against Ireland, and yet here we are.
In a fortnight that will go a long way to defining their season, County must do all they can to emulate the rugby boys.
I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet.
Dream the impossible dream, Wales did it and County can too.