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Monday, February 23, 2004

Weekend Sports - part 2

Well, I didn't, in the end, watch any ice-hockey. Mostly because I ended up doing other things, which were dominated by catching-up on a forum that I had been absent from for only 36 hours. Talk about being busy. Anyway, one reason why I had been absent for that length of time of course was the rugby on Saturday day, as related below, by another couple of programmes on Saturday evening I wanted to watch: The Day the world was born - a documentary comparing the formation of the earth to a 24-hour clock. Quite good and recent, only done last year; and the offering of Britain's Best Sitcom, which was Porridge, a now somewhat dated but still very entertaining sitcom set in a jail.

So, onto Sunday, and I did maintain my intentions here.

Six Nations

Wales vs Ireland. Final Score 36-15 to Ireland.

I, along with most others, thought this was the most important match-up of the weekend, and thought it could go down the wire. Well, it probably was the most important match-up, but as a game it was mostly disappointing. Wales simply underperformed.

But that doesn't tell the story. Wales underperformed in one very significant area. Their forwards. From the first minute Ireland established dominance in forward game (and scored the first try), and that was the way the game went. Out in the backs the Welsh and Irish were evenly matched, with some fierce Welsh attacks, but the backs can't do anything without the ball, and the forwards consistenly failed to get them it. The Irish tactics become computer-game predictable. If they won a line-out within or near the Welsh 22-line it was simply huddle into a maul and drive. All credit to them for finding and exploiting the Welsh weakness.

When Wales did get the ball however they really tested the Irish defence, and twice broke it in the second half. But in the first half it was like England v Italy. The second half was basically a draw, though the Irish did play marginally better than the Welsh. But the damage in points had been done.

The Irish back-line performed far better than against France, and that performance can be put down to one man: Brian O'Driscoll, who was out with injury last week. He played a full fiery game, and his presence simply electrified the Irish backs. It's a 15-man game, but sometimes one man can make all the difference, not by the points that he scores, but by the simply presence of his being on the field. O'Driscoll is such a man.

NASCAR Subway 400 @ Rockingham NC

Quick and slick. This was an exciting race mercifully free of a large crash. Lots of passing and battling for the lead, even if it was mostly held by Matt Kenseth. For most of this race I only had half-an-eye on the screen, or no eyes at all, as I did various bits and bobs about the house. But I sat down and watched enthralled at the last 30 laps. By that time the race for the lead had come down to 3 cars really, Kenseth, Kasey Kahne (a rookie), and Jamie McMurray in that order. As the laps counted down the cars got closer and closer together. In the final lap McMurray fell away, and it became a two-car race, each moment vital. At the final turn Kenseth went high, Kahne went low, and was pipped at the post by a photo-finish 0.1 second finish by Kenseth. If there had been an extra ten feet of track, it would have been different, but what happens at the checkered flag counts.

It was great race by Kahne, who had some serious difficulties earlier one. I don't know if Kenseth has answered his critics in any meanginful way, certainly in the post-race interview I thought he could have said something more positive about how well Kahne had done. Second only start, coming second. That is a far greater acheivement, and though no one can begrudge Kenseth's win one feels it would have been an even better race if he had been the one pipped at the post. Oh well.

Other News

First impressions of the Orioles new coach seem to be good. Not that one would expect any different reaction of course on the first day, but still, hopefully the Birds can do something this season.

Incidentally my reason for liking the Orioles is entirely because I went and saw a game at Camden Yards in August when I was Stateside. Much like I support the Pats in Football because they were playing the first game of NFL I ever watched on telly. Silly reasons perhaps to support a team, but hey, one reason is much like another for me considering that there is no way I could have a 'local' team.

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