This week, football, cricket, baseball and a rugby league report from.
Chelsea and Hearts Canter Clear
In football, the English and Scottish leagues are already looking a little one-sided this season. As expected, Chelsea have surged into the lead in England winning their first seven games. Slightly less predictably, Charlton, Bolton and West Ham make up the top four. Arsenal and Man Utd are a little off the pace, European champions Liverpool are in the bottom half of the table with only one win so far and my beloved Everton, last season's fourth-placed side, are rock bottom with only one goal in six games, five of them lost. They also look dead and buried in Europe, 5-1 down after the first leg against Dynamo Burachest.
Heart of Midlothian are the unexpected runaway leaders in Scotland. Eight straight wins at the start of the season have seen them blow the two-horse old firm domination wide open - Celtic are second and last year's champions, Rangers, are fifth, eleven points behind Hearts and having lost as many games in the opening eight than the whole of last season. Although some have put Hearts' success down to the money invested in the club by Vladimir Romanov, Romanov's money has only elevated Hearts to the same level as Celtic and Rangers, not miles clear as with Chelsea in England. George Burley looks to have invested Romanov's money very wisely and the balance of foreign stars with Scottish natives is vital to their success. And long may it continue.
Cricket: End of Season Round-up
So, the cricket season's over. England won the Ashes and the series with Bangladesh and another intriguing County season provided its usual ups and downs
The County Championship was won by Nottinghamshire. Surrey, Gloucestershire and Glamorgan, three of the stronger sides of the last decade, dropped out of the first division to be replaced by sleeping giants Lancashire and Yorkshire and the much improved Durham, whose journey from laughing stock to genuine contenders seems to be complete.
The National League was also exciting - the title was won by Essex, easily in the end, but the relegation scrap ended with Lancashire surviving and sending Worcestershire down, by beating the Royals on the last day of the season. The other relegated teams were Gloucestershire and Hampshire and they were replaced by Sussex, Warwickshire, and Durham, who really are on the up now.
Baseball: Business End of the Season
The American League East Division is really going down to the wire. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were tied at the time of writing and it looks like the three games between the sides this weekend will decide the divisional winners. The runners-up in the East will be dragged into the wildcard race with the Cleveland Indians. The other playoff positions look set to be taken by the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, with Oakland fading after a good season.
Over in the National League, St Louis have won the Central Division, Atlanta look nailed on certainties from the East and, despite their losing record, San Diego will somehow contrive to win the West. Houston and Philadelphia compete for the wild card.
RUGBY League Report from Alfredo Marquez
Super League X – Round 28 (16-18 September)
Friday Night contained arguably the game with the most riding on it in the final weekend of the regular season, with Paul Cullen taking his Warrington Wolves team to the KC Stadium to face Challenge Cup winners Hull. With a team containing the inspirational trio of Lee Briers, Nathan Wood and Andrew Johns, it was not surprising that the Wolves raced into a 16-0 lead after only 15 minutes thanks to 2 tries from Logan Swann and a third from Brent Grose (2 Conversions from Johns). Hull then came back into the game with 2 tries either side of half time, the first from Stephen Kearney, converted by Paul Cooke and the second from Nathan Blacklock (unconverted), bringing the score to 18-10 to Warrington, who scored through a Johns penalty. Warrington added further points through 2 converted tried from Toa Kohe-Love and although Nathan Blacklock added a late try for Hull (converted by Cooke), it was too little, too late. Final Score – Hull 16 Warrington 30.
Also Friday Night – Relegated Leigh suffered yet another defeat at home to Salford after a poor second half performance. It finished Leigh 14 Salford 20 and Leeds ended their losing streak with a hard fought 34-26 win over the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Headingley
On Saturday 2 of the games biggest rivals squared up when the Bradford Bulls took on St Helens at Knowsley Road. Saints looked certain to win this game when they took an 18-8 lead with less than 20 minutes left, thanks to 2 tries from Willie Talau and a third from Paul Wellens all converted by Jamie Lyon. But the Bulls never say die attitude helped them immensely and they hit back with tries from Paul Johnson and Lesley Vainikolo to bring the scores to 18-16. They then carried on the scoring exploits with 3 further tries from Leon Pryce, Ben Harris and a second from Johnson bringing the final score to Saints 18 Bulls 32
The 2 games played on Sunday were decisive in who would take the sixth and final place in the end of season play offs. The London Broncos took on Widnes Vikings at Griffin Park, while Wigan Warriors played Huddersfield Giants at the Galpharm Stadium. The Warriors ran in 7 tries through Moran, Ashton (2), Orr, Brown, Sculthorpe and Carney (4 converted) and the Giants couldn't match their play going down to a 22-36 defeat. But it was to prove all in vain for Wigan as London stormed to the final play off place with a 68-10 victory over the already relegated Vikings. The Broncos raced into a 38-0 lead after the first 40 minutes and comfortably won the second half 30-10 to complete the rout. Scorers for London were Dorn (4), Lucky Luisi (2), Mateo, Wells and Temata (10 conversions from Sykes). Scorers for the Vikings were Alcock and Watts, with a conversion from Jules O’Neill.
Super League X – Play off elimination first round
On Friday 23rd Bradford were again in action, this time at home to London in the first round of the play offs. They started badly, conceding a 13th minute try to winger Jon Wells, converted by Sykes to put the Broncos into a 6-0 lead. But the Bulls fought back, with tries from Iestyn Harris and Lesley Vainikolo and a Harris conversion putting them into a 10-6 lead, before five tries in 18 second half minutes put the game beyond London. Jamie Peacock, Shontayne Hape, Ian Henderson, Lesley Vainikolo and Iestyn Harris all scored before London threatened a fightback with tries from second rower Haumono and full back Zebastian Lucky Luisi. Bradford then ended the contest with two more tries from Karl Pryce and Robbie Paul but it was London, in their last game as the Broncos, who had the final say with Haumono getting his second. Final score Bulls 44 Broncos 22.
On the Saturday, Warrington met Hull for the second weekend in succession, this time at home. This time Hull came out on top, with a clinical attacking performance backed up by excellent defence. Nathan Blacklock scored a first half hat trick (all converted by Brough) to give Hull an 18-0 half time lead. In the second half it was more of the same, but in the 55th minute Andrew Johns shook off 4 Hull tacklers to score and bring the score to 18-6, giving the home fans hope. But Chris Chester scored for Hull in the 67th minute to end the contest. Warrington heads then went down, allowing Hull to score 3 further tries at the end, bringing the final score to Warrington 6 Hull 40