A France Encounter

When I did my predictions earlier in the week I didn’t include the two Challenge Cup semi-finals.

If I had I would have gone for La Rochelle in last night’s game!

After all, they were at home, currently lead the Top14 and haven’t been beaten at Stade Marcel-Deflandre this season. Their lead in the Top14 is 9 points and they are already guaranteed a play-off place as well as Champions Cup qualification for next season.

By contrast Gloucester have had a mixed season – they’ve won only 7 matches in the Premiership and lie 8th.

A no-brainer right?

Wrong!

Gloucester were immense last night and they had to be – if there are bigger packs on the planet than at La Rochelle they must be sponsored by McDonald’s and Krispy Crème.

Former Springbok number 9, Rickie Januarie must now weigh more than most of the Gloucester pack and looks like he’s a fan of les grand pasties du porc, washed down with lashings of pastis.

 

Gloucester had heroes all around the park and it would be unfair to pick individuals out – but then when have I ever been fair?

Special mentions should go to –

Gloucester: Marshall; May, Trinder, Atkinson, Halaifonua; Burns, Heinz (capt); Hohneck, Hibbard, Afoa, Savage, Thrush, Moriarty, Rowan, Morgan.

Replacements: Matu’u, McAllister, Thomas, Galarza, Ludlow, Laidlaw, Twelvetrees, Sharples.

It was a brilliant performance and I hold my hands up that I would never have predicted that one.

Full marks to David Humphreys team – and none to me!

The second semi-final is on now and I’m recording it as I’ve been out all morning helping clean up our estate – so for the last 4 hours I’ve been rubbing out rude graffiti and picking up Happy Meal boxes.

It quite reminded me of doing Community Service – only kidding, CS was much bleeding easier. Still joking, I’ve never had to do CS – haven’t been caught, obviously!

I’ll watch both today’s semi-finals when I’ve finished scribbling.

I’m going with Bath – despite them being the away team. I’m banking on Toby sorting out Sergio.

In the other game I’ve already picked Clermont (‘Pride of Place’).

Right just 2 posts today – I’m bored with trying to avoid the scores in the semi’s (nudge nudge) and expect you are too (bored not getting a semi)

 

Odd Ball

Some very odd results and scores in Super Rugby this week.

I did okay on my predictions – again! I had 6 right, a draw and one loss – but, apart from the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Highlanders I was miles out on the score differences.

And don’t ask about the Waratahs – how did then star studded Aussies lose in Sydney to the doomed Kings?

My brilliant prediction was the Tahs by 20+ ffs!

Almost as bad was the draw – in their entire Super (sic) history the rebels have never won a game in South Africa. They still haven’t of course but they held the Sharks to 9-9. The Sharks lost Andre Esterhuizen to a red card for a tip tackle but should still have romped it.

It was just about the most boring game of rugby that I have ever seen – at halftime I almost tuned over for the TOWIE Omnibus. Not really of course, but it was touch and go – which was pretty much what the match was.

I’ve decided not to award myself a half point for the draw – nothing to do with Airdy’s moaning about my scoring this time. But it was such a crap game and my score was so out (I had the Sharks by 20+ again) that I deserve bugger all – much like the players.

Due to the stupidity of the SR format the Brumbies remain in 4th having won only 3 matches so far and are heading for the play-offs. Teams 5 to 9 have all won more games and have more points – the team in 10th has the same number of points and is way off a play-off place.

Go figure!

 

 

 

 

Close Encounters

Why is it when two planes come close to bumping into each other it’s described as a ‘near miss’?

Surely that’s a ‘near hit’ isn’t it?

If you look on YouTube there are a whole series of ‘near hits’ where people have almost been taken out by cars, train and other fast moving objects.

This is number 16 – so there have been a whole shedload of lucky escapes –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-TdNP3eHOg

I had a close up of one of these type incidents after the Middlesex 7’s one year. We had arrived back at Twickenham station having spent much of the afternoon increasing the profits of the breweries. We had somehow found (half-inched) a rugby ball from the ground and were passing it about

Our expertise and soft hands would not have worried the current England team (or a kindergarten team frankly) – but at least the others could blame the beer. Speaking for myself I was probably better with a shedload of Guinness inside me – still crap but better!

Anyway Harro chucked out a loose pass and the ball ended up on the tracks. We were going to leave it but Lee, the mad Aussie flanker jumped down on the tracks and fetched it. Just as he rolled back on the platform a fast train shot through the station.

I remember Jools screaming and Lee lost a bit of his tan. I’d like to say that we sobered up and acted more sensibly on the way home. I’d like to say that, but it wouldn’t be true!

I always thought Lee should have gone and bought a lottery ticket – but  the lottery hadn’t been invented then, so I didn’t suggest it.

 

League of their Own

There has been a fair bit of sniping over the last couple of days about England’s inclusion of Denny Solomona in the squad for the Argentina tour.

To be honest I’m in favour of a longer period of residency for eligibility, but as the rules stand it is legitimate for Denny to be selected. It’s also no big surprise if you’ve seen him play for the Sharks this season – or indeed before when he was in league rugby –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKiSegMZrO8

Not all League converts make it in Union and there have been more high profile failures than successes – but when they do they make it big.

Skill levels in League are high and there are some exceptional tries to admire –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed2T3pknD0Q

And just yesterday Brisbane Broncos winger Corey Oates scored this remarkable touchdown –

http://www.the42.ie/corey-oates-brilliant-try-3351581-Apr2017/

Of course there have been some pretty impressive finishes in Union too –

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st6iQhlm6Z4

Not least this one by Askean Dick Hills playing for Kent. Dick was also one half of the writing team for Morecambe and Wise – Ben, Jimmy, Lunny and I played alongside him when we first joined the club. Which dates us a bit – although he was about to retire from rugby at the time.

 

Head Case

A worrying report this week has gone largely unnoticed amongst all the stuff on the Lions and the build up to the semi-finals of the Champions Cup.

Arguably it is the most important article of all –

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/39630540

Whilst much has been made of the need to address player welfare and burn out there appears to be little actually being done. Just this week the Pro12 is looking at becoming the Pro14 and the so-called global calendar has drawn criticism from players who see it as adding rather than lessening the burden.

This report should be the focus of World rugby’s attention – more so than residency rules and the draw for the World Cup.

 

Bad Aditude

Last week I included a reference to a racist bit in Fawlty Towers that wouldn’t be allowed today (It’s Not Cricket’).

There are a lot of old ads that wouldn’t (and definitely shouldn’t)  be allowed to run today.

Many are not just racist and/or sexist

– they are poor creatively in the first place and you wonder who the hell wrote them – and worse which idiots approved them.

 

And some are simply nonsensical

There’s a lot of ads that are bad now – but at least they aren’t so blatantly wrong!

Pride of Place

download

 

A fair number of the Lions squad announced earlier this week will be lining up in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup over the weekend.

Munster v Saracens at the Aviva in Dublin will feature 8 of them, although Connor Murray will be missing because of injury.

Leinster will have 4 Lions against Clermont – another one, Sean O’Brien is out because of a hamstring injury.

If you assumed that Warren Gatland was a neutral (and he probably is) I imagine he will be hoping for a Munster v Clermont final on May 13th in Edinburgh.

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That way around 10 of his squad would be spared at least one game from their schedule leading up to the plane taking off for New Zealand at the end of May.

My own prediction is that he will get half of his wish – I think Clermont in Lyon will just about hold off Leinster on Sunday.

However I have Saracens knocking over Munster, despite the hordes of red shirts that will be at the Aviva tomorrow afternoon.

It will be very close but I believe that Saracens will come out on top by around 10 (points not pm – I don’t think it will go to extra time).

Of course it may well turn out to be an all Irish affair.

That’s called hedging your bets!