Several A/K/A Random's 'sporting blues'
Well, and let's see... last week's AmSports report was somewhat, shall we say, lacking, and this Post correspondent must needs thank our Esteemed Editor and Quizzical, of 'Running With Scissors' fame for their comprehensive assistance.
I further encourage anyone who happens across 'this place' on Hootoo that they are more than welcome to contribute their comments, reports, questions and another case of Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters... whoops, white choco and caffeine to the clickie at the bottom, and one may actually get a reply of some sorts.
But what we have here is gonna be 'my take' on the current steroids deal going down in the US Congress that extends into international sporting competitions and the differing levels of dope testing. I shall attempt to skirt the issue, for fear or censorship and ensuing litigation and, insofar as I have no personal knowledge of any such activities in sports, I am extremely limited in my comments.
But it's wrong. Doping is wrong.
Yeah, I've done some. Every morning and some evenings, I caffeine-up, and then add sugar, which is natural amphetamines. Some days I even take sinus pills. Yes, I know a little more than those specifics after 48-plus years of Life, the Universe and Everything, but I'd say I ain't no druggie with extreme confidence.
After the shameful episode Major League Baseball went through last week in testimony before a US Congress subcommitee one can only hope that it will educate some of the populace AGAINST the use of these legal, quasi-legal and illegal substances.
But comma however, I too had been 'educated' and will admit to some abusive situations, so I have a certain amount of understanding in the pressures one feels, sometimes just paying the bills. Last week's column was an example of that, and I offer my apologies to The Post and its readers with that 'mea culpa' and am afraid I won't discuss much more in the sporting world this week either.
I can tell ya's that Major League Baseball games are being televised, that college men's and women's basketball tournaments are also, and there is golf being played in much warmer places than here on the shore of the Great Lake named Erie, and that y'all know about auto racing in all kindsa weather in more detail than I care to describe at present.
I firmly believe I heard a massive SPROING the past weekend and am pleased to say that white choco Easter bunnies are available for purchase at a store near me, if not you. The college basketball is well worth watching on a teevee near you this weekend, when you're not living Real Life. This would be several, a/k/a random with the old 'over and out.'
Elsewhere, in a Small Place Called Europe
The feast of Rugby on Saturday was well worth the trade-off with TM that I could watch all afternoon if I tackled the huge pile of ironing at the same time.
1pm and the French had travelled to Stadio Flaminio in Rome knowing that they had a chance of clinching the championship if they crushed Italy, built up a good points difference - and Ireland beat Wales by a lesser difference. Despite Italy snatching an early lead the French really didn't look under any pressure as they cruised into a 10-3 lead by the tenth minute. The Italians aided their cause when their captain, Marco Bortolami, was sin-binned. France swarmed all over the depleted Italian pack and boosted their score with another try and conversion. Italy refused to lie down, however, and pulled back to 7 points adrift with a try from Robertson converted by Peens. France hit back with another 7 pointer, but a penalty from Peens saw Italy clinging on at half time with the score standing at 24-13.
That penalty score proved to be the last of the championship for Italy as France dominated the second half with penalties, tries and all-bar-one conversions. France left the field victorious with 7 tries, 3 penalties and 6 conversions under their belts. They had fought their way to the top of the table and recorded a good enough points difference to put Ireland under pressure to win, score high and keep Wales low. Wales only had to win as posting 10 points for no losses on the board would see them home and dry.
France 56 Italy 13
So, the scene was set. The next match would decide the championship one way or the other. Would it be France, Ireland or Wales? The Irish had been runners-up in the last four championships and beaten Wales at home every match since 1983 whereas Wales had started this year as 50-1 outsiders.
The home crowd were whipped to fever pitch by Max Boyce, curly-haired Welsh comedian and folk singer. The match started and it was clear, from the outset, that Wales were determined to capitalise despite Ireland taking first blood with a penalty early on. First came a try and conversion closely followed by a brilliant penalty by Henson which soared 52 metres. The Irish appeared over-eager and made an unforced error which resulted in a successful penalty attempt by Jones. A consolation Irish penalty reduced the lead but at Half Time Wales led 16-6.
The first 15 minutes of the second half were pure magic from Wales. They chalked up two penalty scores whilst Ireland missed theirs and also failed with a try attempt. Another Welsh try/conversion followed and the tension both on and off the field was obvious with a few minor scraps between opposing players1 marring an otherwise sin-free game. With 20 minutes to play the Welsh pressure eased and Ireland took full advantage, scoring a try, conversion and further try in a matter of minutes. With the score now standing at just 12 points difference Ireland could still win the game if not the championship. Wales had other ideas, however. The triple crown was in their sites and they had no intention of surrendering it to the French. Seven tense minutes later the whistle blew and the stadium erupted in a sea of green and red with dragons flying everywhere you looked. The award ceremony was brief, then the teams posed and the Welsh nation looked set to drink their country dry over the course of the next few hours - or days!
Wales 32 Ireland 20
You would be forgiven for thinking that the final match of the competition would be an anti-climax after having already seen the trophy awarded. Not so! Old rivals England and Scotland both sat on 2 points apiece and they were both determined to end fourth. There were thrills and spills a-plenty. A slightly nervous start saw Hodgson miss a reasonably easy penalty shot in the tenth minute. 'Oh no, not again!' I thought. 'England are going to blow it again'. I forgave him two minutes later, however, when he made a great break, safely handed the ball to Noon for a try and, this time, was on target for the conversion. Scotland also missed their first penalty but crept onto the scoreboard two minutes later when Paterson didn't miss with his second attempt. There then came, for an England fan anyway, ten minutes of bliss as England stormed away with 3 tries and 2 conversions although this joy was tempered a little by a spate of injuries to players of both sides. England seemed to be in control but Scotland managed to close the gap just before half time when Sean Lamont touched down and Paterson converted. Scotland were still fighting hard.
The second half witnessed a third England player quitting the field due to injury - at that rate they could run out of subs! Perhaps this played on their minds because a lapse of attention led to a conceded scrum and a flowing series of passes from Scotland brought them right back into contention with a converted try. England responded with a converted try of their own only to leave gaps in their defence to let Scotland through to score again. The game lulled for a few minutes then the English thundered back into action scoring two further tries. Hodgson, battling the wind, failed to convert either of them. There is almost another try right on the whistle but, in the end, England had to settle for 7. The rivals had fought long and hard, played some very entertaining rugby but it was England who walked away with the Calcutta Cup this time.
England 43 Scotland 22
So another 6 Nations finished and, for once, one of the underdogs walked away with the grand prize. France, in general, played an uninspiring set of games and showed none of the brilliance of previous years. England, to be fair, were fielding quite a different pack to the one which lifted the World Cup in 2003. They will need to consolidate the line-up and encourage Hodgson if he is ever to shine as Jonny Wilkinson did and score impossible and easy penalties and conversions. Poor Italy did their best and, despite the sad figures on the score card, gave a good account of the state of play in that country. Ireland promised much but seemed to lose the plot and didn't have the fire we all expected. Scotland did the opposite playing nervous, lack-lustre games early on but improving with each match. Wales? Ahhhhh... It was good to see the glory days return. I have always had a soft spot for the Welsh and remember a time when the words 'rugby' and 'Wales' were interchangeable. After having failed to win a single match two years ago I guess that the only way really was up. They increased in confidence with every game and lit up the field with their play. I will remember their game against France for a long time to come.
Some general stats: Top try-scorers were Wales with 17. Second were England with 16. France managed 13, Ireland 12, Scotland 8 and Italy 5.
This Saturday: Northampton v Harlequins. My old team The Saints. They are languishing down the bottom of the premier table so need the points!
British Lions: The team to tour New Zealand will be announced on April 11th