Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Guinness Premiership and Previews Predictions: Round 12

London Wasps vs Newcastle Falcons

Newcastle have never won in eight previous visits to Adams Park, whilst the Falcons only previous win on Wasps soil was 33-30 at Loftus Road on 11 November 2001.  London Wasps have won their last four encounters in all competitions since losing 6-22 at Saracens in the Guinness Premiership on 22 November. Wasps' only defeat in their last 18 home games was 9-15 against Leeds on 1 November.  Newcastle Falcons have slipped to three successive defeats in the Guinness Premiership since their 15-11 victory at London Irish on 22 November, most notably against basement boys Leeds at home in the last round.  Wasps have won their last six encounters with Newcastle in all competitions since the Falcons were victorious 37-11 at Kingston Park on 23 February 2007.  With Wasps' coming to the boil nicely I predict a home win.

My prediction:  Wasps by 8.

Saracens vs Leicester Tigers

Another week, another juicy fixture for Saracens, however after last week's away loss to London Irish, this week they have home advantage over the Tigers.  Leicester have won their last three matches against Saracens but the Fez heads continue to be the pacesetters in the Guinness Premiership despite losing their unbeaten record at London Irish on Sunday. Sarries only home defeat in any competition since November 2008 came when today's opponents Leicester visited Vicarage Road in the Premiership in April!
Leicester Tigers have won just once on the road in the Guinness Premiership this season: 15-9 at Harlequins on 12 September but have picked up at least one league point from every Premiership game since they visited Sale in November 2008.

My prediction:  It's going to be close, but Sarries to edge it by 5 points.

Northampton Saints vs London Irish

This round of the Guinness Premiership is certainly throwing up some tasty treats, and this game between second place Irish and third place Northampon is no exception.  The last six encounters between the two clubs have all been won by the home team on the day, whilst London Irish's last win at Franklin's Gardens was 21-20 in the Guinness Premiership on 13 November 2004.  Northampton Saints are the best team in the Guinness Premiership on current form, having secured 20 league points from their last six matches. The Saints have won their last eight matches in all competitions, and have suffered only one defeat at Franklin's Gardens since March 2007. London Irish are unbeaten in their last five encounters in all competitions and handed current Guinness Premiership leaders Saracens their first defeat of the season on Sunday. The Exiles are the Premiership's best away side and amazingly have not lost a game on "opposing" soil since their most recent visit to Northampton in April.

My prediction: Probably the first humdinger of a game for 2010.  London Irish to win by 6.

Leeds Carnegie vs Bath Rugby

Bath did the Premiership double over Leeds when they last met in season 2007/08 but how fortunes have changed for the West Country boys since then.  Currently languishing in a lowly 11th place, Steve Meehan's men are slowly getting their Guinness Premiership campaign on track.  Leeds Carnegie are the only team in the Guinness Premiership yet to win at home this season but they have won their last three games in all competitions and are out to record a second successive Premiership victory for the first time since November 2005.  Bath Rugby's 24-8 defeat of Gloucester on Sunday brought to an end a seven game winless run in the Guinness Premiership. Bath have not won away from home in the Premiership since a trip to Sale on 18 September.

My prediction:  An early relegation dogfight with Leeds coming out on top by 3.

Gloucester Rugby vs Worcester Warriors

Worcester have won their last three clashes against Gloucester and Gloucester's last seven matches have all been won by the home side on the day. Gloucester have won their last three encounters at Kingsholm since Cardiff Blues won there, 26-25, in the LV= Cup on 8 November.  Worcester Warriors are winless in their last seven games in all competitions, whilst their most recent victory in the Guinness Premiership was 24-18 at home to Sale on 26 September. The Warriors are the only side in the Premiership yet to record an away win this season.

My prediction:  A home win with Gloucester starting to pick up some form.  Gloucester by 7.

Sale Sharks vs Harlequins

This game will be the third between the two sides in the last 20 days, with Sale winning both clashes in the Heineken Cup in December. Quins have won just once at Edgeley Park: 19-13 in the Guinness Premiership on 19 November 2004.  Sale Sharks have slipped to back to back defeats in the Guinness Premiership, but at Edgeley Park the Sharks have won their last four matches in all competitions.
Harlequins have lost their last three games in all competitions since their 30-27 victory at Leeds in the Guinness Premiership on 4 December.

My prediction:  Looking at their Heineken Cup clashes, it's got to be Sale by 8.

So what do you think?  Am I going to beat last week's five out of six correct predictions or have I indulged in too much festive cheer?

Monday, 28 December 2009

Studs On The 22 ~ 2009 Awards

So we have almost reached the end of 2009.  This has been an action packed year for the game of rugby union, with plenty of scandal, drama, politics and posing and that's before we even turn our attention to what actually happened on the pitch.  2009 will be best forgotten for many reasons, but there have also been some fabulous moments which have helped to reignite the passion in our excellent game.  These awards will celebrate the good and commiserate the bad in the hope that 2010 will herald plenty of the former and not so much of the latter.

The first award is the Well Played Sir Moment to Remember Award.  This award exists to honour a pivotal moment in a game which helped to change the course of a match in a positive way or someone who really achieved something great in 2009.  The contenders are:

Phil Vickery: For coming out in the third Lions test and slaying the Beast who destroyed him in their previous encounter.
Dan Carter:  For passing Andrew Mehrton's record as top New Zealand points scorer of all time in the England vs New Zealand game at Twickenham this November.
Morne Steyn: For his match winning performance off the bench in the second Lions test to help the Boks win the match and the series.

And the winner is Morne Steyn, a man who also notched up 31 points in the Springboks' Tri-Nations 31-19 win against New Zealand on 31 August, a feat which broke Andrew Mehrton's record for most points by an individual in a Tri-Nations match.  Not a bad result for a man winning his fifth cap on his second start for the Boks.

Steyn was one of the stars of the year

The next award is the Oopsy Daisy Moment to Forget Award.  As the name suggests, this award is given in recognition of a defining moment which the perpetrator would really rather forget.  The runners and riders are:

Ronan O'Gara:  Who can forget that mistimed tackle at the end of the second Lions test this summer, a tackle which gifted South Africa the chance to win the match, which Morne Steyn duly took.
Matt Giteau:  Nominated for his last gasp penalty miss in the 9-8 loss to Scotland in this year's Autumn Internationals.
Tom Williams:  Comedy fake blood capsule anyone?
David Rose:  For his involvement in the ridiculous mix up that was the Sale vs Wasps match postponement.

Some strong contenders, but there can only be one winner, and that is Ronan O'Gara for that tackle:

Please just kick it into touch next time Ronan

Next up is the Boo Hiss Villain of the Year Award which is pretty self explanatory.  The contenders are:

Matt Stevens:  For falling off the wagon and stuffing stuff up his nose.
Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins: For bringing the game into disrepute and dragging Bath further into the mire following their resignations for refusing to take a drug test on three separate occasions.
Dean Richards: For his involvement in the infamous 'Bloodgate' scandal.
Schalk Burger, Julien Dupuy, Shane Jennings, David Attoub (allegedly): For their love of giving 'facials' to other players.

And the winner is: Dean Richards.
OK so you might think it's unfair that one man was singled out to take the fall for the coaching staff, medical team and committee of a rugby club, but the buck had to stop somewhere, and "Bloodgate" was the scandal of the year despite all the Class A shenanigans that were going on at Bath.

Villain of the Year

To lighten the mood and celebrate some achievements let's move on to the Slap on the Back Hero of the Year Award.  There are two candidates for this award, both of whom are equally deserving:

Ian McGeechan:  For his wonderful masterminding of the most memorable and cohesive Lions tour since the pride of 1997. Ian McGeechan (along with his team) showed that the Lions philosophy and everything it stands for still has a place in the professional game. 
Declan Kidney:  The quiet man of rugby who coached the Ireland team to a Grand Slam win in the Six Nations and an unbeaten run in 2009; a year in which they also beat the World and current Tri-Nations champions, South Africa.

It was close, but for everything he achieved this summer (despite coming away from South Africa with a series loss), the winner is Ian McGeechan.

This clip gets me every time.

Sniff back those tears and let's move on swiftly to the Team of the Year Award.
The contenders are:
Ireland:  Grand Slam winners and unbeaten in 2009.
Leinster:  Heineken Cup winners
South Africa:  Tri Nations Champions
England's Women:  For an excellent year in which they beat the Black Ferns and are hotting up nicely for next year's World Cup.
The British and Irish Lions:  For restoring Pride.

It was close, but the Team of the Year is Ireland for their unbeaten run.  South Africa had a great year but they were beaten by Leicester and Saracens and then by Ireland in the Autumn Internationals.  With Leinster winning the Heineken Cup it was a great year for Irish rugby.

More of the same for 2010?

2009 saw some classic comedy in the form of some rather strange quotes from people who should really know better.  These are honoured in the "He said what?" Quote of the Year Award.
The contenders are:

Peter de Villiers: Who defended Schalk Burger's scandalous eye-gouge of Luke Fitzgerald by saying:  "Why don't we all go to the nearest ballet shop, get some nice tutus and get some great dancing going on? No eye-gouging, no tackling, no nothing. Then enjoy."
Brian O'Driscoll:  Who turned into a wise old owl in a Six Nations press conference when he said: "Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it into a fruit salad."
Mystic Warren Gatland:  Who turned into a new age hippy when discussing the All Blacks prior to the Wales vs New Zealand game in the Autumn Internationals, when he said:  "If you lose a few games, it doesn't matter who you are, you become a little bit infallible and that aura just goes away."
Rugby fan Stuart Tinner:  On winning £250,000 after successfully drop-kicking a ball against the cross bar in the half time interval of the Saracens vs South Africa game, Tinner said:  "This is the second best day of my life.  The best day was when I lost my virginity."  Bless him.

And the winner is Brian O'Driscoll, for his Eric Cantona-esque piece of tongue in cheek comedy genius:

Brian: getting all fruity

Still with me?

Now it's time to celebrate some talent to watch for 2010 with the Young Player of the Year Award.  These are players that have been catapulted into the spotlight in 2009 who promise to deliver great things both now and in the future.  The nominees are:
Ben Youngs: The quick thinking and attacking Leicester scrum half.
Courtney Lawes:  Northampton's new Martin Johnson in the making.
Ryan Lamb:  London Irish's fly-half and midfield maestro.
Will Genia:  The Wallabies and Queensland Reds star scrum-half.

And the winner is Will Genia, who burst on the international scene as if from nowhere in 2009 and received comparisons with legendary Wallabies scrum-half George Gregan.

One to watch

And finally on to the last gong of the year which is the Not So Young Player of the Year Award.  Again, there are a few contenders, most of which are the usual suspects:
Richie McCaw:  IRB Player of the Year
Brian O'Driscoll:  The man who should have been the IRB Player of the Year (in my humble opinion!)
Fourie Du Preez:  South Africa's excellent scrum-half, and another serious contender for player of the year.
Jonny Wilkinson:  Who reignited his career in Toulon and became the top points scorer in the Top 14.

And the winner is, somewhat unsurprisingly, Brian O'Driscoll, for leading the Irish team to their first Grand Slam in sixty-one years, being an instrumental cog in the Leinster team that lifted the Heineken Cup, and for forming half of the best centre partnership in the world (alongside Jamie Roberts) during the Lions tour this summer.  Well deserved Brian.

BOD is still God.

In conclusion, 2009 has been an action packed year.  Yes there was plenty of scandal, the IRB did their best to confuse matters with their experimental laws and new rules at the breakdown, and lots has been said about rugby for all the wrong reasons.  However there was also plenty to cheer about:  there have been some brilliant games which have defied the focus on ping-pong aerial rugby and showed real attacking flair; the 2009 pride of Lions put real passion back into the red jersey under Ian McGeechan, and there were a few more comedic moments to brighten the scandal-tinged year.

Let's hope 2010 gives us plenty of good rugby to talk about and not so much of the pitch side politics.

With that said, please let me wish you all a very Happy New Year, and I will be back with more rugby based musings in 2010.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Gift of Rugby

I hope you've all had a lovely time if you've been celebrating Christmas, and that your name was scribbled down on Father Christmas' list of Good Rugby Fans and he brought you some great presents.

I must have been a good girl this year, as along with a two year subscription for Rugby World magazine my very creative best friend made me a brilliant and totally unique gift: a sparkly Leeds Carnegie hoody which will add a bit of bling to Headingley's South Stand over the next few months.

Good eh?

I was also lucky enough to spend lots of time with my family and friends, received lots of other great non-rugby related gifts and ate close to my entire body weight in turkey and mince pies.  Happy days.

I was glad not to receive the following CD though:

The mind boggles, it really does...

I hope you all had a great time.  Onwards and upwards to New Year's Eve eh?

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

...the Gods of Rugby gave to me:

Twelve scrums a-wheeling,
Eleven balls a-stealing,
Ten fly-halves hoofing,
Nine scrum-halves tooting,
Eight forwards rucking,
Seven backs a-prancing,
Six Nations slamming,
Four festive refs,
Three naff autumn tests,
Two rugby balls,
And a tinsel-wrapped Rob Kearney!

Phew!  That's the Rugby Twelve Days of Christmas finally done and dusted, and that's also it for me until after Christmas.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and that you get the chance to enjoy plenty of rugby over the festive season.  If nothing else, popping to a rugby game is a good way to escape your relatives for a couple of hours!

The forwards in the scrum go round and round, round and round, round and round... all game long.

Ho ho ho!

Guinness Premiership Previews and Predictions: Round 11

With the Heineken Cup behind us after two weekends of great rugby, it's time to don our Santa hats and jingle those bells for the festive round of Guinness Premiership games. Which teams will be on Santa's winning list and which teams will be banished back to their training grounds with neither a satsuma nor a losing bonus point? Here are my previews and predictions for this weekend's games:

Newcastle Falcons vs Leeds Carnegie
Newcastle and Leeds are both targeting a win from this game, and the men from Yorkshire will be staring relegation firmly in the face if they fail to get anything from this game and next weekend's home fixture against Bath.  Round 1 of the Guinness Premiership saw these sides battle it out in a rather dull 9-9 draw at Headingley Carnegie, and Leeds have only won once at Kingston Park which was way back on 15 February 2004.  Newcastle have only claimed a solitary 17-6 home win against Montauban in their last four games, and their only win in their last six Guinness Premiership appearances was the 14-3 victory over Worcester on 1 November.  The return of club captain Carl Hayman is therefore a welcome boost for the Falcons.  Leeds have only notched up a single win in this competition which also came on 1 November in their 15-9 victory away to Wasps.  Since then, Leeds ran Harlequins close in a 27-30 thriller and they have been using the Amlin Challenge Cup as a tool to prepare for these all important Premiership clashes.

My prediction:  This game is as tough to call as the race for the Christmas number 1, but I think Leeds have enough rage to clinch the win.  Leeds by 6.

Harlequins vs London Wasps
This fixture is also known as Big Game 2 if you love all the marketing hype.  Harlequins take on Wasps at what looks like what will be a packed to the rafters Twickenham on Sunday.  Wasps won 26-15 when the two sides met in Round 1, in a game that was also played at HQ.  Harlequins seem to be hotting up after a stuttering start to the season, and their recent Guinness Premiership form shows only one loss from four.  Contrast this to the back to back defeats against Sale in the Heineken Cup and the Quins' consistency has to be questioned.  Wasps have won five of their last six matches in all competitions and have also won on three of their last four visits to Twickenham.  With a morale boosting closely fought 24-22 home win against Leicester in their last Premiership outing before beating Bayonne twice in the Amlin Challenge Cup, I think Wasps will have the edge.

My prediction:  A post-Christmas cracker filled with plenty of goodies, with Wasps winning by 7.

London Irish vs Saracens
Undoubtedly this game is the fixture of the festive round, as first place Saracens take on second placed Irish at the Madejski Stadium.  Saracens remain the only unbeaten side in the Guinness Premiership and London Irish will be hoping to give their fans the gift of a win, having not won at the Madejski Stadium in this competition since their 18-12 victory over Leicester on 24th October.  The recent form of both teams has been strong, with both completing back to back wins in their respective European competitions in the last fortnight.  Saracens' last loss was in the LV=Cup game against Northampton on 14 November and since this defeat they have strung together an unbeaten run of six games across all competitions.  Irish were last defeated at home to Newcastle Falcons by 11-15 on the 22 November and have lost one game from their last six.  With all previous meetings between these two being won by the home side this is a close one to call.

My prediction:  Like a pair of jeans that are too tight after a large Christmas dinner - something has to give.  London Irish to win by 5.

Bath vs Gloucester
Bath, one of the early contenders for relegation, host their West Country rivals in this crucial game before their visit to bottom of the table Leeds next weekend.  Bath's failure to notch up a win in any of their last seven Guinness Premiership matches equals their worst ever run in the Premiership since 2002/2003, and Steve Meehan's men are looking to get their awful season on track after being all but out of the Heineken Cup.  Gloucester have won their last four meetings with Bath, but their only away win this season came against Leeds back on 4 October.  Neither of these sides has shown much of the quality usually expected of them this season, but a battle between these local rivals always has that extra dash of spice.

My prediction:  Gloucester to glide their way to a 9 point win on their cherry and white sleigh.

Leicester Tigers vs Sale Sharks
With the fortress that is Welford Road and the form of both teams going into this game, I can only realistically see there being one winner - and that isn't Sale.  The Tigers are unbeaten in their last 23 matches at Welford Road since Wasps turned them over 28-19 in the Guinness Premiership way back in September of 2008.  Sale did beat the East Midlands outfit in round one in a close 15-12 encounter at Edgeley Park, however despite their back to back wins over Harlequins in the Heineken Cup over the past fortnight, Sale's away form in the Guinness Premiership is nothing short of woeful as they have only won one out of their last ten games on the road.  After two tough clashes against Clermont Auvergne, the Tigers might rest some of their big name stars, but I still think they'll have enough to beat Sale, especially now that their head coach Richard Cockerill is allowed to get up off the naughty step.

My prediction:  A tinsel-wrapped 12 point winning margin for Leicester.

Worcester Warriors vs Northampton Saints
Worcester have drawn their last three Guinness Premiership matches and their last win in any competition came in the 32-6 victory at home to Newcastle in the LV= Cup on 7 November.  The Warrior's home record against the Saints is hardly glittering, as they have only won one game of their five previous encounters which was way back in 2005.  Northampton's array of stars will confidently stride into this game having won their last seven matches across all competitions, including a tough trip to snowy Treviso in the Heineken Cup last weekend.  Worcester will have to watch out for dangerman Chris Ashton who has already bagged seven tries so far this season, and will look to their top points scorer, fly-half Willie Walker, to try and take control of the game.

My prediction:  Northampton to give Worcester a good old festive stuffing by 15.

So what do you think?  Are my predictions as spot on as the perfect Christmas dinner, or have I been overdosing on egg-nog?  Please let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas...

...the Gods of Rugby gave to me:

Eleven balls a-stealing,
Ten fly-halves hoofing,
Nine scrum-halves tooting,
Eight forwards rucking,
Seven backs a-prancing,
Six Nations slamming,
Four festive refs,
Three naff autumn tests,
Two rugby balls,
And a tinsel-wrapped Rob Kearney.

The ball stealing maestro himself

Snow, Shovels and Tarpaulin Tsunamis

What did you do last Sunday morning? 

a)  Enjoy a nice relaxing lie in before propping yourself up in bed with a coffee and the Sunday papers? 
b)  Slump on the sofa in a hungover haze and watch the Hollyoaks omnibus? 
c)  Go for a run or get a sweat on at the gym?

I have to be honest and admit that I usually go for option b, although on the rare occasion that I'm feeling all virtuous or if I've overdosed on Cadbury's chocolate buttons, I head to the gym to go and masquerade as a red sweaty tomato for an hour and a half.  Attractive.

I had a slightly unusual Sunday morning last weekend as I did none of these things.  Despite my gym avoidance, by the end of my morning's activities I still ended up working the red sweaty tomato look.  Oh and to make things more attractive than usual, I was wearing a comedy bobble hat at the time.

So what was I up to?  Well, short of pulling on my Wonderwoman knickers over my trousers, I leapt to the aid of the Leeds Carnegie ground staff along with half a dozen or so other willing volunteers to help clear snow from the Headingley Carnegie pitch ahead of the Amlin Challenge Cup game against Bucharesti Oaks.

Due to the snow fall over Leeds, a call went out via the Leeds Carnegie newsletter and message boards to ask for any willing volunteers to help head groundsman Jason Booth and his team shift the snow and ice from the Headingley pitch.  Desperate to leave my Christmas present wrapping nightmare behind me for a few hours, I happily offered by bobble-hatted services to the good cause.  Well, I figured that it would be a good way to get a bit of fresh air, possibly make a few new friends and also to satisfy my inner rugby geek and take the opportunity to walk on the hallowed Headingley Carnegie turf.  That is how I found myself in the middle of the pitch at 10:30am whilst wearing about 500 layers of clothing and my trusty bobble hat.

If I said that clearing the pitch wasn't hard work then I would be lying.  Jason and his team do an absolutely brilliant job, and my three hour snow shovelling session on Sunday really made me appreciate how much work they put in so that games like the one against Bucharesti Oaks last Sunday can go ahead.

A massive eight, yes eight volunteers turned up to help, and we all started off by shovelling snow out of the in-goal areas and dumping it against the advertising hoardings.  This done, we pulled back the frost sheets to reveal the rather surprisingly squelchy mud patches underneath the posts, which immediately answered my question as to why the Leeds players always seem to try and score in the corners.

Assisting the ground staff and the fans in shifting the snow was Leeds Carnegie player Jon Pendlebury, who was sporting a rather interesting pair of saggy tracksuit bottoms.  In fairness, Jon's ensemble was much more flattering than the all white Ghostbusters-style romper suit which one of the groundstaff had decided to wear.  To make matters worse for the wannabe Dan Ackroyd, there was a worryingly large hole gaping around the bum area of his all in one jumpsuit.  Was this down to a severe bout of vindaloo arse or did he just like the cool waft of fresh air ventilation?  Maybe it was the ectoplasm?  Thankfully I never did find out, although Mr Ghostbuster did go missing during the pitch clearing duties, which did make me wonder if his snow-coloured stealth outfit had provided him with the opportunity to sneak off for a crafty fag.

Who ya gonna call? Comedy groundstaff.

Whilst flinging snow in the general direction of the side of the pitch, Mr Pendlebury decided to liven up proceedings by inadvertently showering me with a shovel full of snow.  Well, I say inadvertently but he was definitely stifling a laugh as he apologised.
"I'm sorry," he said smirking.
"Oh you will be," I replied, half joking.
Check out my smack talk, baby.

Both in-goal areas cleared and a coffee break later, we split into two X-factor style teams led by Leeds' Director of Rugby Andy Kiwi and Head Coach and world cup winner Neil Back.  Team Kiwi (along with the girls) was on snow shovelling duty, whilst Team Back (with the boys) started busying themselves with tarpaulin tugging.  It was good to see the coach and director of rugby lending a hand, especially as they managed to keep their white Leeds Carnegie fleeces pristine throughout.  They would definitely win the Daz doorstep challenge.

My new friend Tim was part of Team Back and somehow he managed to trip himself up under a tidal wave of tarpaulin which left him gasping for air and frantically crawling to his feet.  I on the other hand, had a lovely chat with Andy Key and had my rosy red cheeks and stupid hat caught on camera by the pesky roving Sky Sports cameraman.  (Despite the cameraman's total confidence that footage of me and my co-shovellers would appear on the European Rugby Special that night, thankfully there is a God, and my sweaty red tomato look wasn't broadcast to the world.  It's probably in the comedy blooper real though just waiting to be wheeled out one day, much to my delight.)

With all the snow shovelled away we were almost done.  All that was left to do was to help out the slackers of Team Back by removing the last couple of frost sheets from the pitch.  A pair of muddy gloves, a couple of bright red cheeks and 3 and a half hours later the pitch was ready for action having successfully passed the pitch inspection.

All that was left for me to do was to ask one of my snow-banishing chums if they would please take a photo of me looking triumphant on the Headingley Carnegie pitch to show that I was really there.  And looky here, they did just that:

Yes, this is a rather glamorous shot of me in my lovely bobble hat whilst wearing about 500 layers of clothing.

Look at that pitch.  Isn't it lovely?

The snow clearing team did good, and as if to repay us for our efforts, Leeds ran in seven tries to beat Bucharesti Oaks by 47-0. 

The only thing that dampened this most excellent day was that Ceiron Thomas, Leigh Hinton and Richard Welding all left the game early due to injury.  This is a big worry ahead of the resumption of the Guinness Premiership next weekend, and I hope that they're not seriously injured and will be back for Leeds soon. I, on the other hand, I don't think I'll be back on groundsman duty any time in the near future - not with the way my back feels today!  For now I'll just stick to cheering from the South Stand and writing my rugby based musings on here.

Monday, 21 December 2009

On the Tenth Day of Christmas...

...the Gods of Rugby gave to me:

Ten fly-halves hoofing,
Nine scrum-halves tooting,
Eight forwards rucking,
Seven backs a-prancing,
Six Nations slamming,
Four festive refs,
Three naff autumn tests,
Two rugby balls,
And a tinsel-wrapped Rob Kearney.

Let's go via the aerial route...

75% or Bust

My Heineken Cup predictions for Round 3 weren't exactly the best as I only successfully managed to pick 50% of the winners.  Therefore I hoped to do better with my predictions for Round 4 so I could reassure myself that I do kind of know what I'm talking about a bit.  You know, when the wind is blowing in the right direction and when Stuart Barnes and Dewi Morris disagree on The Rugby Club. (Which is, admittedly, most of the time, but I've got to have something to aim for haven't I?).

Dewi and Stuart (first and second left) post argument.

So how did my dabbling in the world of future-gazing go last week?  All is revealed...

Edinburgh 9-6 Bath
I predicted that Edinburgh would beat Bath by 7, but heavy snow and blizzard-like conditions meant that both sides opted for a kicking game to try and minimize errors which resulted in the low scoring result.  Still, at least I called the winner, so this one is CORRECT!

Leicester 20-15 Clermont Auvergne
Had it not been for a late penalty being awarded to Clermont (for which Lewis Moody knew little about when the ball bounced into him as he stood in an offside position) then Leicester would have denied Clermont the bonus point and won by a margin of 8.  I predicted that Leicester would win by 10, so it would have been close.  As it is, Clermont's Brock James slotted the penalty and Leicester won by 5.  I'll still take the win.  CORRECT!

Leinster 39-7 Scarlets
I said Leinster would win by 16 points, but men from Dublin practically laughed in the face of such a trivial score line difference and notched up a win by 32 big fat points.  Even after their impressive win at Parc Y Scarlets in round three I didn't expect quite so much ritual humiliation for the Scarlets at the RDS, but there you go.  I suppose Rob Kearney's spilling of a few high balls gave the Scarlets a glimmer of hope.... until he showed them he can also cross the try line with ease instead.  Oh well.  CORRECT!

London Irish 34-13 Brive
I predicted that London Irish would win by 18 points but Chris Malone thought an extra cheeky penalty score was the order of the day meaning that the actual win was by 21.  Again, not bad with only a 3 point swing on the Predict-o-meter, so I'm pretty pleased with my crystal ball gazing for this game.  CORRECT!

Newport-Gwent Dragons 8-26 Biarritz
I predicted Biarritz to win by 14 points and they actually triumphed by 18.  Not bad.  CORRECT!

Ospreys 45-19 Viadana
I said the Ospreys would win by 35 points, especially as 15 traffic cones would have given them a more challenging workout than Viadana did in the previous round.  As it was, the Ospreys beat Viadana by 26.  Not quite the out and out drubbing I envisaged, but still a comprehensive win.  Therefore I was CORRECT!

Toulouse 23-7 Cardiff Blues
Toulouse beat Cardiff by more than double the 6 points which I predicted.  Maybe I was being a bit kind to the Blues and was hoping that they'd take a bonus point back to Wales.  Alas this wasn't to be, but at least I predicted the winner.  CORRECT!

Treviso 18-21 Northampton
Not by 10 points as predicted, but in difficult, freezing conditions, I'm happy with the win.  CORRECT!
Gloucester 19-6 Glasgow
My prediction of Glasgow to win by 9 materialised into Gloucester winning by 7.  So pretty much the exact opposite of what I said would happen...  WRONG DIDDLY WRONG WRONG.

Perpignan 14-37 Munster
I said Perpignan to win by 5.  Munster said "A losing bonus point!  Pah!  Make that a winning bonus point to top the group."  I was miles off.  SO WRONG IT'S NOT FUNNY.

Sale 21-17 Harlequins
This is better.  I tipped Sale to win and I said I thought this game would have a much closer result than the previous round.  OK so I said that Sale would win by 6 when they actually won by 4, but that's pretty close.  I must have my new favourite spa treatment to celebrate: an Edgeley Park mud bath.  CORRECT!

Stade Francais 29-16 Ulster
Hmm, I hoped that Ulster would be able to string together two winning performances, but sadly the Samson-esque might of Ian Humphrey's beard couldn't propel them to victory in an icy Brussels.  FAUX.

That means, by my basic calculations, that I correctly predicted 9 results out of 12, which gives me a 75% success rate.  Hurrah!

Right, I'm off to go and do some last minute Christmas shopping to celebrate, and then write a post about what happened prior to the Leeds Carnegie game yesterday...

Sunday, 20 December 2009

On the Ninth Day of Christmas...

...the Gods of Rugby gave to me:

Nine scrum-halves tooting,
Eight forwards rucking,
Seven backs a-prancing,
Six Nations slamming,
Four festive refs,
Three naff autumn tests,
Two rugby balls,
And a tinsel-wrapped Rob Kearney.

How many sherrys have I had?