They say empty vessels make the loudest noise.
That can often be true, but it’s not exactly a hard and fast rule.
For 40-odd minutes in Cardiff, Welsh bodies dropped. So did their spirits. Most worryingly of all, their voices were distinctly missing.
On the other hand, Irish vessels were vocal. Very vocal.
Despite going down to 14 men only 12 minutes after Peter O’Mahony’s red card, Ireland were loud and rambunctious as they sought to pile the pressure on Wayne Pivac.
Just as James Lowe had whooped and hollered in the autumn as Ireland handed a Dublin demolition to Wales, he was vocal again. He wasn’t the only one.
Every man in green could be heard over the deathly silence of the empty Principality Stadium. You couldn’t say the same about the men in red.
It was a problem Wales wrestled with throughout the autumn campaign. Being their own cheerleaders doesn’t seem to come easily for the Welsh players in these strange times.
Apart from Dan Biggar, that is.
These 80 minutes against Ireland won’t go down as his best in a Welsh jersey. There are still those who doubt whether he’s the right man to wear the coveted 10 jersey in Pivac’s team.
But even as the bodies dropped around him, forcing him to spend most of the second-half as a makeshift full-back of sorts, the voice remained a constant.
Even when they were handed the numerical advantage following O’Mahony’s moment of madness, it was still Irish voices that largely echoed into the chilled Cardiff sky.
Biggar did all he could to change that.
After one positive spell of possession where Wales moved with genuine pace and verve, the fly-half was the perfect mix of cheerleader and on-field coach.
“This is more like it, boys,” he bellowed, before turning to team-mate Taulupe Faletau for a more insightful inquest. “Toby, really go at the tight five,” was the advice he offered, presumably referring to an inside ball the No. 8 had taken from Biggar mere minutes earlier..
Not too long later, the advice was a little more determined in its tone as Wales allowed Ireland to build pressure and take the lead late in the first-half.
“Let’s f***ing lift ourselves! Let’s go. Ken, f***ing hit something. Let’s go.”
The message hardly gets clearer than that.
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In the second-half, Wales worked their way back into proceedings with quiet resolve. Biggar was still the effusive cheerleader, dictating from the back-field and encouraging others to find their voice.
When George North went over for Wales’ first try, that voice began to break through. While the centre barely let out a peep after dotting down, refusing to break his steely, determined glare, it was the captain, Alun Wyn Jones, who sent out a big message.
Everyone was called into a huddle on half-way. The hand gestures indicated that Wales needed to carry on playing in Ireland’s half, not their own.
The verbals – “Don’t f**k about” – reiterated that.
As Wales set back into their positions for the Irish kick-off, a voice rang back from near their own try-line.
“They don’t f**king like that, do they?”
Whether it came from the half-backs, sat near their line, or the replacements warming up was unclear, but the the voice had well and truly been found.
When Louis Rees-Zammit dived over in spectacular fashion, there were, again, no great histrionics. Another dead-eye gaze from the try-scorer, but the shouts of “come on” after Halfpenny kicked the conversion pierced through the ground.
Late on, Rees-Zammit certainly found his voice, with the encouragement of Biggar. “Zam, keep that width. Talk to them and scream at them. Trust them, Zam.”
In truth, Biggar never stopped. When something good happened, he was the first to pipe up with some encouragement or congratulations.
When Nick Tompkins made a crucial hit in midfield to force a knock-on, Biggar was the first to the scene – charging up the field to pat the centre on the back.
At every crucial interval, he was the one voice heard above all others. “Great set, let’s have some f**king noise about us, boys. Let’s make some f**king noise about us”
Not everyone needed to be heard to be heard. As Justin Tipuric gave his captain some scraps of wisdom late in the match, the words were quiet but the face was clenched with quiet determination.
And the on-field coaching of Callum Sheedy was a welcome addition when he came on.
But naturally, the final word went to Biggar. After 80 minutes of constant chat, his final utterance was one of sheer incredulity.
“Come on George, f**k me,” he shouted in disbelief after North gave away a crucial penalty.
When Billy Burns missed touch, Biggar was simply silent.
The talking was done.
The tank was empty, but an empty vessel? No, never.