Saturday, February 21, 2004

Weekend Sport part 1

Well, since I'm slightly more organised I thought I break this up. I managed to watch all of both Six Nations games this afternoon. Both good games. First off

France vs Italy

Final Score: 25-0 to France. The Italians were unlucky not to get score in this match, but the French score about accurately reflected the French ability. That is to say that the French were lethargic and inconsistent throughout, with only moments of brilliance. The Italians made plenty of mistakes, a bundle-full. They also started once more to tire at the end, but no nearly so much as they did against England, I suspect because the French weren't working them as hard as England did.

I have to say though that this game brought home to me that basically commentators know nothing more about any sport game than the averagely well-informed viewer. The French pack did poorly against the Italians, except in the line-out where the French did dominate. I thought they did not perform well against the Irish, and this is an area where they are clearly vulnerable. The French back defence remained strong however, and that showed.

The French performance though was epitomised by a missed try. Domenici was over the try-line, but for reason did not put it down immediately. As he got near the end of the box his own knee dislogded the ball, and it went out of play. The slack, lazy play was typical of most of the entire French performance. Added together with their game against Ireland you simply have to wonder when the French team will step up its performance, because if they continue playing like this then England and Wales are going to have some very agreeable games.

England vs Scotland

The 125th anniversary of the Calcutta Cup, and this annual match-up is a true grudge match. Lots of politics in that of course. As one of the commentators said near the end of the first half "this half has been ... strange". That remark goes for the entire game. In soccer they use a round ball, but in rugby its oval. Its a strange ball, and odd things happen. In this game the bounce that oval ball produces was more than usually fickle.

Final score: 35-13 to England. Scotland played, imo, a great deal like Italy. I was rather surprised when none of the talking heads made this comparison, but I guess the idea of a long-standing rugby playing nation playing like the newcomers is too much for many to get. Too outside the box, but it makes sense when one considers that this Scottish team is extremely young, and like Italy, relatively inexperienced. Like Italy too they played with fire and determination. Like Italy they made a barrel-full of costly mistakes in attack, but their defence was very good.

There was one main blot of their performance, and that was the sin-binning of Simon Talyor for a professional fowl that probably robbed England of a try. While he was out England made up for it. Otherwise Scotland's own try was the only time the bounce of the ball really worked for them, and they deserved it for a gutsy game, that is likely to pick up the adjective 'dogged' as bestowed on them by Josh Lewsey, the man of the match.

England did not play at their best either. I have the feeling that England were experimenting, and it showed. Jason Robinson was all over the back line, but he did do a very nice little move in the tail-end of the first half. He was the receiver of a pass from a ruck, he passed it on and then quickly ran onto the outside to receive it again, before charging down the touch-line. The Scots had men there, and there was not much room to work with, but I feel that with another 5-6 feet that would have been a try. Definitely a little move that has future potential.

Other than that there was a lot of very good forward play from both teams, but there was also far too much kicking. I entirely dislike kicking. Sometimes I think it is justified, to get it up the field. Line-outs are chancy, and you always have the chance of winning an opponents line. But in this game far too many of the kicks when straight into the hands of other players, and that just gives the other side possession. OK, sometimes there is a chance that someone form your own side might be able to get underneath it, but all too often that is not the case.

England clearly need to concentrate on finding a set-up they like. Its Ireland next, iirc, in 2 weeks time. Clive Woodward and his boys need to make some decisions about what they want to play, otherwise the other 3 matches of this tournament are going to be a lot tougher than they need to be.

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