France 7-8 New Zealand. That’s the scoreline that ends 24 years of hurt for the All Blacks. It was hardly a pretty match, it could probably be inferred from the scoreline that it was very attritional. New Zealand never trailed, but it was a bad handling error that led to France’s try. They had a very fraught last ten minutes in which they had to work hard to stop France and not concede a penalty inside their own half. It would have been a little bit more comfortable, but the All Blacks only got three points from kicks out of eleven attempted. (It was worse for France, who only got two from eleven.) France played well, they fought harder than I or a lot of people expected. New Zealand were the better side though and just about made it count.
Archive for Rugby
Tomorrow morning at 03.00 CDT/09.00 BST is the fourth ODI between India and England. I’m hoping for an England fightback (and some changes to the XI) but I’m not optimistic. I’ll be missing the first part of the match because it is conveniently at the same time as the final of the Rugby World Cup. (Actually it is quite convenient because I probably wouldn’t get up just to see England play like shite again.)
New Zealand play France in a match that the All Blacks ought to win because they are the better side and ought to lose because they have a World Cup hoodoo against France. Though actually it’s probably fairer to just say that New Zealand have a World Cup hoodoo; against France they have actually won three and lost two. The problem for the All Blacks is that those two losses have both been in knockout matches, whilst of their three victories only one has been in a knockout match (the 1987 final). The other two were in the 2003 third place playoff (or Bronze Final as they’re calling it now) and in the group stage of this World Cup.
France have had their much publicised mutiny in the ranks, but are riding on a wave of confidence. They’ve pulled off two upsets in the knockout stages already and they clearly feel that they can pull off another. They will certainly have to play better than they did against Wales, however and will be unlikely to be aided by dodgy refereeing. By comparison, the All Blacks looked a bit fraught in the first half against Argentina, but quite comfortable since then. They have coped well with the loss of Dan Carter and look strong favourites. But then, when have New Zealand ever not looked strong favourites? (In rugby, I mean.) Despite being consistently the best side they have not won since the opening tournament. And, going off the media reports, the side and their fans actually seem to have less confidence than Les Bleus. Perhaps that’s a good thing for them. Their could be accused of overconfidence in their previous losses.
My prediction: France 9-22 New Zealand.
Today England have been thrashed by India. But that is not the only sporting event; game five of the NLCS is tonight and Zach Greinke pitches for Milwaukee. Both the ALCS and NLCS are guaranteed to go at least six games, and if Greinke can get another win (he got the win in game one as well) the Brewers would be very much in the driving seat going back to Milwaukee for Sunday’s game. The Rangers have a similar edge in the ALCS, though the Tigers have a bit of momentum after finally getting their offence going behind Verlander and sending the series back to Texas. Their game six is tomorrow. My prediction is that the Brewers will win the next two games to secure the NL pennant and that the Tigers will force a game seven, but lose and the Rangers will win the AL crown.
That is my take on the cricket and baseball, which like all good sports are played on weekdays and weekends. Because anyone who values high workplace productivity over sport is not a real fan. It’s coming up on the weekend though so there are some lesser, but still fun, events coming up.
The most important one is this Saturday at 12.45 BST/06.45 CDT. Liverpool v Manchester United. Liverpool won last year’s fixture 3-1 with Dirk Kuyt netting one of the easiest hat-tricks in history. That was during Liverpool’s late season resurgence. This year they have had a slightly mercurial but mostly indifferent start. I think I was in the majority of Reds in expecting a bit more bang from our big signings. Suarez has been consistently impressive, however, and Carroll finally broke his duck so things may be looking up. United, meanwhile, are United and thus will be a) hard to beat and b) bring with them the most loud-mouthed and ignorant fans outside of New York. My prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Man Utd, Suarez scoring a late winner.
Still in football, this morning UEFA handed down a three match ban for Wayne Rooney. Seeing as England will play at most six games in Euro 2012, (and in reality will probably not play more than four) there is a chance now that Rooney will be omitted from the squad entirely. As I stated last week, I’m not sure that will be a bad thing.
Tomorrow morning and Sunday morning (09.00 BST/03.00 CDT) are the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup. Wales will play France and Australia will play New Zealand. In the quarter-finals Wales played outstandingly well against Ireland; France played well enough as England imploded; the Wallabies were pretty fortunate to win, but beat South Africa in the breakdowns and New Zealand were shaky early, but settled down to beat Argentina fairly comfortably. I’d be pretty surprised if Wales and New Zealand don’t see each other in the final, but the All Blacks have historically lost when they shouldn’t and les Bleus have historically done the exact opposite of what everyone expects, so I’m looking forward to watching those matches.
It has not been a good 24 hours for England sport. Yesterday in Podgorica the England football team blew a 2-0 lead and drew 2-2 to Montenegro. Today the England rugby team played France in a world cup quarter final. Well I say ‘played’, but ‘stood like statues whilst the French ran riot’ might be a better description. On Twitter TMS scorer Malcolm Ashton suggested that France were playing a Madame Tussaud’s XV. Jonathan Agnew asked why ITV were showing an X-rated horror movie. England went into halftime trailing 0-16. They gave glimpses of a fightback in the second half, but just as in the group stages they were sloppy. They conceded fewer (far fewer) penalties, but these were offset by handling errors. I lost count of how many times England knocked the ball on in the French 22. (Though part of that was probably due to the fact that I switched from tea to brandy at halftime.) England did score a brace of tries to maintain interest, but it wasn’t enough. The full time result was England 12-19 France and not even the most partial of England supporters would say that it was unfair. In a way, this gives France the double over England, as the most recent football encounter was also a French victory, at Wembley last year. We need to try playing them at cricket.
So England’s RWC has ended in much the same manner as the cricket and football versions: Bitter knockout disappointment. The next knockout tournament is Euro 2012, followed by the World T20. I’d suggest maybe England have a chance at the latter, but as I type this England’s cricket side are 35-3 in a warmup match against Hyderabad. I’m going to bed.
England v France kicks off in about fifteen minutes in Auckland. It’s the second Six Nations quarter final of the day (or night, depending on your location). The first match was a proper upset with Wales, who failed to beat South Africa in their group and always looked a little sketchy, beating an Irish side who had shocked the Wallabies to top their group. I didn’t see anyone who expected Wales to win, I certainly didn’t. But their defence was superb, twice early on Ireland got down to within a metre of a try, only for Wales to force them back and eventually force an error. The second time Ireland went a full fifteen metres backward before conceding a penalty. It was a very, very solid performance, capped by a brace of second half tries after Ireland had equalised. The full time result was a fair one: Ireland 10-22 Wales.
So the two old protagonists meet again. England and France, adversaries for the past thousand years give or take. England should win. England have a very good record in knockout matches against France and won at Twickenham during the Six Nation. France’s world cup has been abysmal. Poor play and a player rebellion was capped by a defeat to Tonga in their last group match. They had done enough to qualify anyway (and were never going to top a group containing New Zealand), but could hardly have gone into the quarter finals in a worse way.
Still, England have not been overwhelming. They won all their group matches, but needed a late try against Argentina and a very late try against Scotland. They played sloppily throughout the group stages. Not only did they concede a staggering number of penalties, they had a fair share of handling errors as well. Only against a depleted Romanian side did they look comfortable. They also had off pitch troubles most notably with regard to the balls provided to Wilko.
In the end, I do think England will win. They haven’t played well, but they have always managed to do just enough to win. (And no more.) France have not. Also, England are starting both Flood and Wilko which I think is a good idea. I think this will put the French defence off, as there will be more kicking opportunities, and will improve the distribution to the backs with more width.
We’ve already seen one upset today though. COME ON ENGLAND!
Tomorrow is set to be a busy day. My schedule is currently:
14.00 – 16.00 (CDT): Montenegro v England
16.00 – 17.00: Errands
17.00 – 20.30: Brewers v Diamondbacks
20.30 – 00.00: Phillies v Cardinals
00.00 – 01.45: Ireland v Wales
01.45 – 02.30: Tea (nonstop consumption)
02.30 – 04.15: England v France
04.15 – ? Sleep.
Luckily there is nothing on the calendar for the rest of Saturday. Not so next weekend: England have their first ODI against India, there will probably be a playoff game, a RWC semi-final and Liverpool v Man Utd. I can sleep on Sunday.