Monday, February 16, 2004

Weekend Sport

For a moment I was tempted to type "sports", but when you get down to it I am British, and sports sounds just so ... American ;).

Six Nations

Anyway, on Saturday I watched most of the second half of the France-Ireland game. Final score 35-17 to France, when I started watching Ireland had 10 and I think France was on 25, but to be honest I can't quite remember. The only reason I didn't watch more was because I got carried away in a computer game (it happens). What I saw was some very good rugby from both sides. France was undoubtledly the superior side, and should have won, though the winning margin was a little larger than it should have been. Ireland were very unlucky a couple of times. The Irish forwards were very impressive, and really challenged the French defence. Indeed, I never really felt that the French defence managed the Irifh forwards terribly well, there was a desperate quality to their defence. Ireland's problems was in the backs, and there the French defence was quite simply superior. There were occasional flashes of Irish brilliance, but the open field was France's territory. When the French turned to the attack it was much the same. The Irish forward defence was good, holding the French up well, but when the French backs broke through the Irish lost territory, and points. Of course, the Irish team was badly hit by injury, so while they must be disappointed I think they can look forward to their match-up with Wales with confidence.

I did not have a chance to watch Scotland-Wales match. Final score 23-10 to Wales. By all accounts the Welsh, still riding high from their impressive World Cup form, basically outclassed the Scottish team. Since I was born in Scotland I do have some sympathy for the Scots, and there is clearly a serious problem with Scottish Rugby at the moment. Wales will of course go to face Ireland with confidence too, and that is surely going to be one of the great match-ups of the tournament (I think only France-England has the potential to be greater). Scotland of course have to face England nex weekend, and that, by all indications, is not going to be pretty.

I watched the entirety of England-Italy. Final score 50-9 to England. Italy is the newcomer to the tournament (until a few years ago it was the Five Nations). It shows in as much as their team still has many weaknesses, but every year the Italians have raised their game, and despute the scoreline this opening match was no exception. Indeed, Italy could well beat Scotland, and possible Wales or Ireland. It is a shame in some ways that their beginning games are against England and, next weekend, France.

The Italians were fiery and physical, and showed some masterful forward play. There were early problems in the line-out, but these sorted themselves out after the first quarter or so. Despite the score-line this was no walk-over, Italy made England work for every point, and early on scored a magnificent drop-goal that was strikingly similar to the one when England won the World Cup. Even the camera angle was the same.

Of course, England has lost players to injury, not least a certain kicker called Wilkinson who has been put out of the entire tournament. It did not show. There were moments of weakness, but England looked a lot more together than they did in some of the World Cup games, where they had looked decidely wobbly. Jason Robinson scored a hat-trick. All the focus on Wilkinson and now retired Martin Johnson has perhaps meant some of the rest of the talent in the England squad has been overlooked. Italy made England do the work, but at the end of the day they were simply out-fought. Towards the end of the game teh differing levels of fitness really began to show, the Italians just getting tired, but they remained determined to the end. Once or twice they caused moments of danger, and came ever so close to scoring a try, but England's defence only got better the closer to the line.

Italy did make one or two serious mistakes, the prime one imo being kicking the ball to Robinson in open field, which led quickly to a magnificent back's try. I generally prefer forward play, but every so often the back's do something that the forwards can never manage. There is gracefulness to the best back play that the roughness of forward play does not allow. In the end I think Italy will be able to hold their heads high and go forward in the tournament with pride. France showed itself to be surprisingly weak in defence several times in the World Cup, especially against the quickness of Japan. The Italians are quick, and I think will give the French a good run for their money. As for England-Scotland, I really can't see at their current form how Scotland will be able to do anything against England.

And then, if all that wasn't enough, just after England-Italy finished I went up to my room, hooked up the Sky, and switched on...

NASCAR Daytona 500

Don't ask me why I like NASCAR. I don't know. As (probably) many people have commented, all it is a bunch of rednecks turning left. Well, of course it is hardly a bunch of rednecks these days (the current defending champion is from Wisconsin after all) but there is a lot of turning left. Towards the end of last season I decided that the two drivers I really liked where Dale Earnhardt Jr and Ryan Newman. Which made it particularly sweet that Earnhardt won this race. Bad luck for Newman - I actually support him 'more', but he got tangled up in the crash that also took out Waltrip and a bunch of others.

Not too many cautious though, which meant strategy came into it a lot. And ability, and their was some fine ability on show throughout the race. This was especially true of Steward and Earnhardt, though several others deserve honourble mentions which I am going to have to omit, since time is running on. If this is a hint of the season to come, I'm going to be happy.

And finally...



How could you? The Yankees are evil EVIL EVIL EVIL. *stamps* I know that the Rangers were a poor spot, but are you telling me that with a but more work you couldn't have sorted something out with the Red Sox, or anyone OTHER THAN the Yankees.

Allow me to indulge my sorrows in some alcohol.

Note to self: Lewis, why are you getting so expressive about a sport you only started watching in July? Who knows - let's just say that it didn't take long for me to work out that the Yankees are the Man U of MLB, and I hate teams that buy their way to success.

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