Thursday, 30 September 2010

Thursday night rugby - Round 5 predictions

A weekend of rugby starts this evening with an interesting encounter between the Cardiff Blues and Connacht. The Galway side, who sit two places below the Blues at fifth in the table, have certainly been the league's surprise package this month having gained impressive wins against the Dragons and Glasgow while also drawing with Ulster last week. Tonight represents a major challenge for the province and a changed side is likley following the naming of a 25 man squad by coach Eric Ellwood with a number of last minute fitness test required.

Cardiff bring Casey Laulala back into the centre after he missed the Dragons match with a head injury. Also Xavier Rush will start at No.8 after brushing off a knee injury, while Gareth Cooper makes his first start of the season at scrum-half.

Dia Young has warned that Connacht's work rate has been a key factor in their success, but the Cardiff coach believes his side will ultimately have too much power for the Irish outfit.

He said: "They are always a difficult team to play against and they've played some great stuff this year.

"They were only 30 seconds away from being unbeaten, so I'm a little bit worried about this match.

"They have always been a potential banana skin for everybody because of their work-rate, commitment and desire.

"That's the first thing we will have to match, but they have also added a little bit of quality and innovation to their game which makes it a little bit more difficult.

I am predicting a win for Cardiff Blues with 11-15 point margin. In the Aviva Premiership I go for six home wins with big wins for Harlequins, London Irish and Northampton. In the weekend's big Irish derby I am going for Muster to get an away at Leinster.

Round 5 predictions

Bath Rugby v Gloucester Rugby - Bath by 11-15
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons - Harlequins by more than 20
London Irish v Leeds Carnegie - London Irish by more than 20
Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs - Northampton saints by more than 20
Sale Sharks v London Wasps - Sale Sharks by 6-10
Saracens v Leicester Tigers - Saracens by 6-10

Aironi Rugby v Edinburgh - Aironi Rugby by 6-10
Cardiff Blues v Connacht - Cardiff Blues by 11-15
Leinster v Munster - Munster by 6-10
Benetton Treviso v Newport Gwent Dragons v  Treviso by 11-15
Scarlets v Ospreys - Ospreys by 6-10
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors - Ulster by 11-15

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The big boys run riot - reaction from round 4

After the early season jousting and positioning, this weekend saw the big boys in the Aviva Premiership lay down a few markers for the rest of the season with some accomplished performances. London Irish went to the top with a six try rout of Newcastle Falcons while Leicester Tigers scored eight tries without response as they demolished Leeds Carnegie. A good second half from Harlequins saw them run out 40-13 winners over Exeter. Two sin binnings in the second half did not help Exeter's cause.

Connacht continued to build on their good start to the season with a hard fought 15 -15 tryless draw with Ulster. Leinster find themselves in 9th place in the league after another defeat this time at the hands of Edinburgh who gained a bonus point in their 32-24 victory. Munster welcomed back Mafi, Leamy and Wallace to a side that is starting to warm to their task. Their 43-29 away victory over Glasgow sees them sitting three points ahead of the Scarlets at the top of the table. Cardiff became the first team to win at Treviso in the Magners League with a 19-7 victory in what was a gruelling encounter.

Earlier today the rain had a major impact on the Saracens v Saints match with limited ambition from both sides as a result of the conditions. After leading at half time, Saracens went on to secure a 24 -17 win with all their points coming from the boot of Derick Hougaard. The Saints secured a bonus point in the last few minutes of the game through a try by Paul Diggin. The decisions of referee Dave Pearson who arrived late for the match certainly had a impact on the game with the two coaches having very diametrically opposed views of his performance.

I predicted nine home wins this week. Of the nine wins predicted Newcastle Falcons, Treviso and Connacht all failed to materialise. In line with some poor performances on the score marginsin the previous three rounds  I only manged to predict two correct scores!

London Irish's Mike Catt:

"Topsy had a really bad time last year and it's just great to see him back with a smile on his face,"

"We have a fantastic group of young players and when you look at Ojo, Armitage and Joseph, that's a fantastic trio.Ryan was clinical and composed and didn't throw any silly ones out there which he has been prone to do and (Seilala) Mapusua showed what three months' full pre-season prep can do - he has always been with Samoa before. That showed today, he was unbelievable."

Richard Cockerill on his side's strongest performance of the season:

"I thought the whole performance was based on a really good set-piece. Our scrum and our line-out was outstanding. The scrum was a really good foundation while our ball control was better. There were eight tries in the end. You take a bonus point win and move on.

Harlequins rugby director Conor O'Shea:

"I was very pleased with young Joe Marler. He spent some time with Jason Leonard and will work with him one-on-one regularly. We should use the former greats more. Although I thought he might take him down the pub first, it was great for the lad to have that level of advice."

Bath Captain, Luke Watson's tweet after his side beat Sale  "Yes!! 5 points in the bag! Thanks to all the Bath faithful that came down to the Rec today. Your support is amazing!! Bring on next weekend!"

Brendan Venter applauds the performance of Dave Pearson in the Saracens v Saints match:

"We studied Dave Pearson's games so far and he does the same in every game, fair penalty awards and spread across the game. He is consistent and very, very impressive."

Saints Director of Rugby, Jim Mallinder expressed a very different view:

""We think Dave Pearson had a disappointing game. When you lose you tend to look at the referee more critically, but we'll look closely at the video before saying anything further. I do believe the two sin-binnings were harsh. Calum Clark just went in to make a tackle and Shane Geraghty also made a tackle and tried to roll away quickly. A penalty, yes, but hardly a yellow card. These sin-binnings are very important."

Glasgow boss Sean Lineen after his team's home defeat against Munster:

 "I was delighted with the first half. Some of the rugby we played was outstanding. We then did a couple of silly things at the start of the second half and we will need to cut out these errors ahead of next week."

"There will be a bit of pain with all the changes to the squad, so it's going to take time. Munster are singing in the changing room because it means a lot to win at Firhill."

Edinburgh coach Rob Moffat reflected on his side's victory over Leinster:
"It was a good victory but there are plenty of aspects that will need to be better.

"What was pleasing was the way we came out at the start of the second half and played the game at a tempo that enabled us to get the try-scoring bonus point."

Benetton Treviso v Cardiff Blue Highlights

Friday, 24 September 2010

Nine home wins this weekend - Aviva Premiership and Magners League Predictions Round 4

This week we go for a set of home wins in the Aviva Premiership and a split of 3 home and 3 away wins in the Magners League. We are also predicting some very close games with very small margins of victory likely, although our score forecasts have been off beam for the last two weeks so who knows!

There is a big night of Magners League rugby tonight and both Brian ODriscoll and Jonathan Sexton return for Leinster after missing last week's defeat in Treviso.

On Saturday, Connacht will be hoping for a big crowd for their clash with second placed Ulster on Saturday. A crowd of only 1,371 were present for the home side's first League game against Newport Gwent Dragons and discussions are on-going about the development of their Galway Sportsground home and the creation of a new more sustainable business plan with the help of the IRFU. We predict another home win for Connacht who currently are in fourth position in the league.

In the Aviva Premiership, we think that Saracens might just edge their clash with Northampton Saints on Sunday. You would expect Harlequins to secure their first win of the campaign against Exeter although nothing can be taken for granted against a side who have certainly hit the ground running and impressed in their opening three games. Will Skinner and Chris Robshaw both will be making their 100th appearence for the Quins. So far Exeter have been able to name an unchanged side in their opening three fixtures.

Bath Rugby v Sale Sharks - Bath by 6-10
Gloucester Rugby v London Wasps - Gloucester by up to 5
Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs - Harlequins by 6-10
Leicester Tigers v Leeds Carnegie - Leicester by 11-15
Newcastle Falcons v London Irish - Newcastle by up to 5
Saracens v Northampton Saints - Saracens by up to 5

Benetton Treviso v Cardiff Blues - Treviso by up to 5
Connacht v Ulster - Connacht by up to 5
Edinburgh v Leinster - Leinster by 6-10
Glasgow Warriors v Munster - Munster by 11-15
Newport Gwent Dragons v Scarlets - Scarlets by up to 5
Ospreys v Aironi Rugby - Ospreys by more than 20

Thursday, 23 September 2010

To tweet or not to tweet - the new sporting dilemma

I enjoyed reading Owen Gibson's interesting article on the dilemma facing various governing bodies over the lack of control they seem to have over sports stars as they tweet their thoughts freely. Titled "There's trouble @Twitter" Gibson highlights some of the consequences when sporting stars decide to use Twitter to either convey information or truly let their feelings be known.

While Richard Cockerill has banned tweeting at Leicester Tigers and threatened violent redress to Jordan Crane and the rest of his team mates for what he saw as inappropriate tweet from Crane, other sporting stars have lost out financially from their tweeting indiscretions. The ECB has been busy lately with the Under 19 international Azeem Rafiq, Kevin Pieterson and Dimitri Mascarenhas. All have decided to use Twitter to express their thoughts on their masters. Rafiq has probably realised that it is not best as an upcoming player to call John Abrahams, the ECB's elite player development manager a "useless wanker". He was fined £500 and dropped from his captaincy position. Mascarenhas' view on Geoff Miller landed him a £1000 fine from his county as well as likely sanctions from the ECB.

For what might seem a fairly innocuous tweet, Stephanie Rice, the Australian Olympic swimming champion, has lost her sponsorship deal with Jaguar and her £60,000 car. It is somewhat ironic that her tweet that caused so much offence had nothing to do with her own sport but related to the recent Tri-Nations match between Australia and South Africa. Her tweet of "Suck on that faggots. Probs the best game I've ever seen!! Well done boys." was branded homophobic and gay activists have heaped criticism on her for the remarks which vilified homosexuals. Rice is no stranger to the potential pitfalls of social media use and in 2008 , snaps of her partying were deemed to be inappropriate with Swimming Australia banning all their swimmers from making their Facebook profile pages public.

In  late August, Chad Ochocinco, the Bengals Wide Reciever was fined $25,000 when he broke the NFL's rule which prohibits the use of Twitter during the pre-game and during the game itself. Ochocinco messages appeared on his Twitter page before and during the Begals v Eagles pre-season game. He then used his page to respond to his fine.

"@nflcommish Dad again I apologize 2 you for my tweet, as my father I understand you've to discipline, can we try timeout next time please :),"

"Dear NFL I apologize for tweeting during the game but that was 2 monthsof my Bugatti payments you just took from me,I won't do it again,"

So what about some of the most conscientious twitterers among the rugby fraternity. Two players based in Paris do seem to stand out as prolific users of Twitter.

Sebastien Chabel - the daddy of all rugby twitterers with 23,131 followers. The Racing Metro player has fully embraced twitter and also has his own website and an English translation twitter site - A recent tweet after a hard day at the office gives a flavour of Chabel's use of twitter - "Grosse journée aujourd'hui. Du physique, du physique et... du physique !"

Very much as an Englishman abroad, James Haskell's site provides regular updates on his life in Paris in what at times can be only described as self promotion which verges occassionally on narcissism. Some recent tweets include:

"A nice peaceful lunch on my own next to the river. I am wearing a stade vest and shorts, if looks could kill I would be dead"

"Dressed to dominate. I feel like a character from snatch. Who makes good smart shoes in size uk13"

As can be seen above, Haskell is a true multimedia twitterer!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Schools rugby - Big wins for Sedbergh, Bedford and John Fisher

While the plans for a National League this year have not quite materalised, a Western Super League has been established and Sedbergh took very little time on Saturday to establish their credentials for the title with a thumping 61-9 win away at Colston's. Sedbergh got off to a flying start with four tries in the first twenty minutes and went on to score 39 unanswered second half points.

After a disappointing opening day defeat at Oundle, Bedford bounced back with a comprehensive 83-0 victory over Uppingham. In another big victory, John Fisher produced an excellent performance in beating Campion 67-0. While in Wales Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf secured a 60-7 win over Cowbridge School.

Selected Results

Bryanston 33 - Marlborough 0
Cheltenham College 18 - Monmouth 22
Dulwich College 10 - Wellington College 29
Millfield 28 - RGS High Wycombe 16
Mount St Mary's College 36 - Stonyhurst 0
Tonbridge 6 - Eastbourne College 8

Further Results at Schools Rugby

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Victory for the Ath

Bedford Athletic are the latest of our winless clubs to secure their first victory of the season. On Saturday the Ath secured a 32-8 away bonus point win over Kettering. The result represented the 200th competitive league victory for the club with the forwards dominant throughout the match. Although Thorney went down 13-27 to St Neots on Saturday it is a big night for the club this evening with Shaun Edwards running a coaching session for the club.

Another first time winner at the weekend was Plymstock Albion Oaks with a 10-9 victory over Wessex. So of the six teams we are following we are now left with Manchester and Bicester who still remain without a win.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Quotes from the weekend - Round 3

We ended up with predicting nine of the twelve results correctly from the weekend's results in the Aviva Premiership and the Magners League.  The excellent wins by Connacht, Benneton Treviso and Wasps home win scuppered our predictions.We also faired less well on the correct score margins with only three successes - Saracens 12 point margin over Leeds, Exeter's 5 point margin over Newcastle Falcons and Ulster's 8 point margin over Edinburgh.

Munster's Alan Quinlan after his side's 22-10 victory over Ospreys and receiving his 200th cap:

"I'm very proud, to get an opportunity to run out in Thomond Park in front of great supporters was very special. When I started out I never thought I'd still be around now and I'm still striving for success and I'm motivated every time I pull on the jersey, and it's very special to me."

Glasgow Warriors coach Sean Lineen after his side went down to Connacht 17-19:

"There's incredible frustration and disappointment. They certainly put the effort in. Connacht had a gameplan."

"They defended well and took their try; Fionn Carr is a dangerous runner. But we just stopped going forward. They were tackling hard and we just didn't mix it up enough. We need to look at our direction and what we're doing."

Harlequins Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea after Sale's 21-17 victory:

"We were 17-6 up at half-time but we gave away goodness knows how many penalties and played 20 minutes with 14 men.

"It doesn't matter how fit you are, you are going to be run ragged and I am furious. I've got no complaints about the refereeing.

"Credit to Sale and how they played but I'm absolutely furious and we'll take a long, long hard look at ourselves next week."

Bath Head Coach Steve Meehan after his side's thumping by Northampton Saints 31-10:

"That performance was way short of our standards and it's a very early wake-up call in the season.

"Everybody was well motivated, we had a good warm-up but we lost the physical battle especially at the breakdown. It was very disappointing.

Giving his reaction in Treviso, a stunned Leinster coach Joe Schmidt said after his side's loss to Benetton Treviso 13-29:

"I'm really disappointed with the result and the performance as well.

"In those conditions you really need to have a platform to play from and I don't think we ever gave ourselves a platform from the start."

Leeds Director of rugby Andy Key on his side must start improving quickly after their defeat at the hands of Saracens.

 "We realised that it wouldn't get any easier this season. Some sides may have taken us a little easier last year but we have earned the respect of the other teams and it will be more difficult.

"However, if you want to be a big boy in the Premiership then you've got to perform for the whole 80 minutes. At the moment we are not quite understanding that puzzle."

Friday, 17 September 2010

Friday Night Showdown - Aviva Premiership and Magners League Round 3 Predictions

It is great to have a top of the table clash three weeks in to the season and it should be an intriguing night at Franklin Gardens. I predict that an unchanged Saints team will get a narrow victory over Bath. The two number tens will be under intense pressure and scrutiny with Shane Geraghty retaining his place ahead of Stephen Myler. Sam Vesty has had a good stert to the season and now has the chance to have an extended run in the team with Butch James unlikely to return until November. He will be partnered tonight by debut scrum half Mark McMillan. Bath have had to make four changes to their team as a result of injury with Matt Banahan, Lee Mears, David Flatman and Simon Taylor being replaced by Tom Biggs, Pieter Dixon, David Barnes and Andy Beattie.

In the other Friday night matches, Ulster look to build upon their two opening wins at home to Edinburgh. Jamie Smith makes his start of the season at full back and Stephen Ferris also returns to the side fresh from signing a new contract reputed to be worth £5000 a week. For Edinburgh Captain Roddy Grant and Craig Hamilton return to the side. I predict a solid Ulster win and the third successive defeat for Edinburgh.

Sale return to Edgeley looking for their second home win after being on the wrong end of an impressive Saracens perfomance last week. Mike Brewer continues to ring the changes with a completely new front row of  Eifion Lewis Roberts, Marc Jones and Jack Forster. Captain James Gaskell also returns to the side. I predict a narrow Sale victory although this is a game that is really too close to call. Harlequins will be seeking their first win of the season after pushing Northampton Saints all the way last week. In an interesting move Nick Easter starts in the second row with Tom Guest at No.8. Ollie Smith also makes his first competitive start for the club.

Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons - Exeter by 6-10
London Wasps v Leicester Tigers - Leicester by 6-10
London Irish v Gloucester Rugby - London Irish by 11-15
Leeds Carnegie v Saracens - Saracens by 11-15
Northampton Saints v Bath Rugby - Northampton by 6-10
Sale Sharks v Harlequins - Sale by up to 5

Benetton Treviso v Leinster - Leinster by 6-10
Cardiff Blues v Newport Gwent Dragons - Cardiff by 11-15
Glasgow Warriors v Connacht - Glasgow by 6-10
Munster v Ospreys - Munster by 6-10
Scarlets v Aironi Rugby - Scarlets by 11-15
Ulster v Edinburgh - Ulster by 11-15

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Some of the winless become winners

Onthetryline is following the fortunes of those clubs who last year in the various levels of the English leagues who did not win a single game.  Wotton Bassett and Thorney are the first of the six clubs to be off the mark with a win; the former winning 12-10 in a close encounter with Aylesbury. While in Midland 4 East (South), Thorney got off the mark with a 13 -6 win against close rival St Ives.

Bicester start their league campaign this week, while Manchester, Bedford Athletic and Plymstock Albion Oaks are yet to get that seemingly elusive first win. Life looks again to be tough for Manchester this season after their second 40 plus point defeat in National League 2 North this time at the hands of Luctonians.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Schools Rugby Roundup

Saturday saw the start of the season for most of the major rugby playing schools. Last year a number of teams went unbeaten in the regular season with the much travelled Sedbergh winning the Rugby World Team of the Year. Their fixture list is one of the most demanding and highlights of the year were wins against Colstons, Millfield and Wellington College.

Other worthy candidates for the award included the Daily Mail Cup winners Whitgift who lost just the one game against John Fisher and Millfield who played some great rugby at 15 a-side and in sevens. They won four out of the five sevens tournaments they entered with the climax a thirteenth triumph at the National Schools Sevens at Rosslyn Park and a convincing 34-10 victory over Filton in the final.

John Fisher who were winners of the St Joseph's Festival beating Bedford in the final 15-8, also enjoyed a good season. While Bedford went unbeaten  in regular fixtures including a titantic 11-5  victory over Wellington College.

In Wales, Llanellis Coleg Sir Gr were the dominant force winning theWelsh League, Cup and Sevens treble as well as retaining the Gullivers Super 14 title.

Selected Results - Saturday 11 September

Blundell's School 5  - Cheltenham College 15
Bristol Grammar School 19 - King Edward's Bath 15
Bryanston School 32 - Taunton School 12
Dollar Academy 10 - Edinburgh Academy 20
John Fisher School 16 - RGS, High Wycombe 26
Llandovery College  39 - Bromsgrove 6
Marlborough College 0 - Monmouth 41
Northampton School for Boys 20 - Bishop Vasey's Grammar School 27
Oakham School 19 - Stowe 12
Oundle 18 - Bedford 17
Sherborne School 16 - Wellington College 45

Monday, 13 September 2010

Down to the wire - Round 2 update

Not to shabby this week with 11 out of 12 winning teams predicted correctly with only the Newport Dragons win at home to Glasgow Warriors incorrectly forecast. Not so successful on the scores with 2 right in the Premiership and a blank in the Magners.

Key theme in a drama packed weekend in both leagues was the tightness of the games and the number of late scores. Must not also forget the new technique of missing a penalty to create a try scoring opportunity. On Friday night, Tom Varndell’s produced a try out of Van Gisbergen’s missed penalty attempt after the ball fell wide of the left post, withVarndell being the quickest to the ball to touch down. At Kingsholm a Christian Lewis-Pratt’s penalty came off the left post and as Gloucester failed to recover the bouncing ball Luther Burrell secured the ball to score.

Bath Rugby v London Irish - Bath Rugby by up to 5 points - Bath Rugby by 7
Gloucester Rugby v Leeds Carnegie - Gloucester by 11-15 points - Gloucester Rugby by 1
Harlequins v Northampton Saints - Northampton Saints by 6-10 points - Northampton Saints by 7
Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs - Leicester Tigers by more than 20 points - Leicester Tigers by 10
Newcastle Falcons v London Wasps - Newcastle Falcons by 6-10 points - Newcastle Falcons by 12
Saracens v Sale Sharks - Saracens by 11-15 points - Saracens by 15

Aironi Rugby v Ulster - Ulster by up to 5 points - Ulster by 7
Edinburgh v Munster - Munster by 6-10 points - Munster by 3
Leinster v Cardiff Blues - Leinster by 6-10 points - Leinster by 11
Newport Dragons v Glasgow Warriors - Glasgow Warriors by 6 - 10 points - Newport Dragons by 12
Ospreys v Benetton Treviso - Ospreys by 11-15 points - Ospreys by 16
Scarlets v Connacht - Scarlets by 6-10 points - Scarlets by 2

Selected Quotes from the weekend

Leicester Tigers Director of Rugby - Richard Cockerill 

"They gave us one almighty scare,"

"You'll talk about how poor we were, but a huge amount of credit goes to Exeter. They're a good team and they will cause a lot of problems for a lot of teams. I didn't know what to expect but I do know now and I think the rest of the Premiership does too.

Exeter Chiefs Forwards Coach - Robin Cowling

"It was a tremendous performance and obviously just at the moment we're very disappointed, one to have lost the game, and two not to come out with a bonus point.

Northampton Saints Director of Rugby - Jim Mallinder

"It wasn't a typical Northampton performance in terms of our attacking game. But it was good to get a breakaway try, good to score to get back in front at the end of the game but, mainly, you can put the win down to a lot of good defence.

"Ben's a good defender, he reads the game well and he put in a good tackling performance - but everyone did. I was really pleased with the defensive performance."

Saracens Director of Rugby - Brendan Venter

"At Twickenham last week, we found out the hard way that you have to produce your very best every week to be successful.

"Had we managed to win that despite playing poorly, we'd have thought we are better than we are.

Newport Gwent Dragons back row Danny Lydiate

“We played well in the first half but let things get away from us in the second 40. We did well to regain our composure towards the end but we need to work on being consistent for the full 80 minutes. We still missed a few first-up tackles in the second half and our ball handling wasn’t fantastic today. Having said that, we just have to erase a few errors and we will be a very dangerous side."

Scarlets Head Coach Nigel Davies 
"The result is great for us but the performance is not at the level we expected. We did a lot of good things when we had the ball in terms of creating opportunities but we were very loose and so inaccurate with our basic skills that we turned over 50% of our chances and that is not good enough going forward."
Leinster Coach Joe Schmidt 
“We created a few chances in the second half, but every time they attacked they seemed to have numbers out wide. If we take our opportunities it will take the pressure off us. I’m really pleased to get the win and I felt that the guys coming off the bench gave us that little bit extra."

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Winning debut for Jason Robinson

A crowd of 2,400 at the Woodlands Memorial ground saw Jason Robinson make his eagerly awaited home debut for Fylde in the local derby with Preston Grasshoppers. Although Robinson failed to get on the score sheet, his trademark dancing feet and speed were very much in evidence as he had a hand in a couple of tries and produced a good all round display.

Robinson formally retired from all rugby after the 2007 World Cup, although he has made two appearances since. Once for the Barbarians at Twickenham later that year and then in a charity match earlier this year, on behalf of an England Legends team where his two tries showed that he has still much to offer at the age of 36.

'People will come here and maybe in the back of their minds they will realise I retired three years ago, but they will still expect me to beat people and make things happen,’ said Robinson earlier in the week

‘People will still think, “Right then Billy Whizz, let’s see what you’ve got”. I know that I can still do that, so part of my job is proving that.’

Fylde who were captained by Sam Beaumont produced a fine second half performance scoring 30 unanswered points in the final 28 minutes despite playing the last quarter of the match with 14 men to run out winners 48-17. Man of the match went to Richard Kenyon for his brace of tries. Fylde now sit in third place behind Loughborough Students and Caldy in National League 2 North.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Aviva Premiership and Magners League Round 2 Predictions

There are once again some mouth-watering fixtures this weekend and in reality it is all still a bit of lottery when making any attempt to predict the outcome of the games. I managed to get 7 out of the 12 winners right last week but only ended with 3 scores predicted correctly.

I go for 9 home wins this week and predict away wins for Northampton Saints, Ulster, Munster and Glasgow Warriors.

Gloucester, Newcastle Falcons, Newport Gwent Dragons and the Scarlets will be certainly looking to make amends after a disappointing start last week and we will also know a great deal more about the credentials of Exeter and Leeds Carnegie after this weekend.

Bath Rugby v London Irish - Bath Rugby by up to 5 points
Gloucester Rugby v Leeds Carnegie - Gloucester by 11-15 points
Harlequins v Northampton Saints - Northampton Saints by 6-10 points
Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs - Leicester Tigers by more than 20 points
Newcastle Falcons v London Wasps - Newcastle Falcons by 6-10 poionts
Saracens v Sale Sharks - Saracens by 11-15 points

Aironi Rugby v Ulster - Ulster by up to 5 points
Edinburgh v Munster - Munster by 6-10 points
Leinster v Cardiff Blues - Leinster by 6-10 points
Newport Dragons v Glasgow Warriors - Glasgow Warriors by 6 - 10 points
Ospreys v Benetton Treviso - Ospreys by 11-15 points
Scarlets v Connacht - Scarlets by 6-10 points

Do let me know of your thoughts!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Buffoonery from the WRU

buf-foon-er-y - behaviour that is ridiculous but amusing

No wonder a good number of the senior Welsh players are up in arms at the ineptitude of the Welsh Rugby Union as they launch the new national kit with a giant poster of Gavin "the dancer" Henson. Chris Foy in his article for  the Mail Online reports that a number of leading players were left stunned as the launch culminated in the unveiling of a 30 metre poster on the side of the Millennium Stadium. Henson was not present at the launch.

Most vocal of the players was Jamie Roberts who on his twitter page gave vent to his feelings on the matter:

"Is this an insult to current Welsh international players... wonder what the Welsh public will think?!’

This post has now been removed and Roberts clarifies his stance with " ‘I asked a question rather than making a statement on the matter, just to see the response… some interesting feedback"

I know that he is technically on unpaid leave with Ospreys but why do we continue to describe him as an Ospreys Centre? There is no doubt that he had his moments both for the Ospreys and Wales but too often he was inconsistent and seemed to drift out of games. The chances of him making a comeback are even more remote and unless Gatland and Edwards have gone completely soft "Strictly" is not yet considered as part of the Welsh conditioning programme for the next year. I am also sure that messrs Hook and Bishop might have a few things to say about the chances of Henson appearing in the Ospreys backline.

So back to the buffoonery of the WRU. Roger Lewis, the Chief Executive of the WRU, can try to justify their choice of Henson by indicating that "Gavin is dreaming of pulling on the Wales shirt again."  He also goes on to say that "In the poster he is not wearing any boots.."

You just need to admit it Roger that he hasn't got any boots because he is not going to be playing again!

Soane Tonga'uiha - The Ultimate Prop?

In a posting a couple of weeks ago I suggested that only time will tell whether the decision by Northampton Saints to retain Soane Tonga'uiha will be one of the most important factors in determining their level of success this season. No one probaby would have expected that the 28 year old Tongan prop would make such a stunning start to the season with two tries in the frst five minutes against Leicester Tigers.  

Tonga'uiha was named as both the Saints Supporters' Player of the Season and Players' Player of the Season for a campaign in which he finished as the Premiership's top try scoring prop and among the league's top ten ball carriers. His performances last year were a far cry from the prop who clearly struggled  in his early days at the Saints after his move from Bedford Blues in 2006. I watched him being replaced early in the second half of the Heineken Cup semi final against Wasps in 2007 when he clearly struggled in dealing with the intensity of the game - those days are long behind him now.

Many of Tonga'uiha's outstanding moments from last season have been captured in an excellent video produced by the Rugby Forum and titled "Is It a Tongan?" set to the Automatics "Monster". Now I am afraid not available - so here is an alternative!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

A year on and 96 fewer points conceded

Onthetryline is following this season the fortunes of those teams in the English leagues who last year were winless. Top of the list were Manchester who endured a hugely difficult season in National League 1. On Saturday they started their campaign in National League 2 North with a home fixture aginst Loughborough Students. This time last year Esher put 142 unanswered points past Manchester so a defeat  46-3 last Saturday was progress against a side who must be one of the favourites for the top spot in the league.

It was totally surprising that Elaine Vassie, the Manchester Director of Rugby spoke of how a lack of belief before the match impacted on their performance. Even with two Loughborough players in the sin bin at the same time, Manchester were not able to cross for a try.

Manchester captain Danny Carlton had this to say after the match: "Everyone was aware that Loughborough first up was always going to be tough start to the season, but it has presented us with as honest an assessment of ourselves as a team, than probably any other fixture would have done".

Manchester have another home match against newly promoted Luctonians next week.

Bedford Athletic also started their league season on Saturday with a 34 -27  defeat at the hands of  Coalville in Midlands One East. After being 27-6 down at one stage Bedford Ath mounted a comeback in the latter stages and after such a difficult season last year, this was a promising start for the club.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Predicting the unpredictable - Round 1 update

As always at the start of the season there is bound to be some results that catch everyone by surprise, but the weekend certainly provided some food for thought. I suggested last week in my prediction posting that this could be one of the most competitve seasons in all competitions and if the first round of matches is anything to go by we are in for an intriguing and highly entertaining season.

I managed to get 3 of the 6 results correct of the Aviva Premiership and  4 out of 6 in the Magners League with only 1 score correct in the premiership and 2 right in the Magners!

Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons - Sale Sharks by up to 5 points - Sale Sharks by 17 points
London Irish v Saracens - Saracens by 6-10 points - London Irish by 17 points
Exeter Chiefs v Gloucester Rugby - Gloucester Rugby by up to 5 points - Exeter by 12 points
London Wasps v Harlequins - Harlequins by up to 5 points - Draw
Leeds Carnegie v Bath Rugby - Bath Rugby by 11-15 points - Bath by 16 points
Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers - Northampton Saints by 6-10 points - Saints by 8 points

Benetton Treviso v Scarlets - Scarlets by 6-10 points - Treviso by 6 points
Cardiff Blues v Edinburgh - Cardiff Blues by 11-15 points - Cardiff by 11 points
Connacht v Newport Gwent Dragons - Connacht by 11-15 points - Connacht by 23 points
Glasgow Warriors v Leinster - Glasgow Warriors by up to 5 points - Glasgow by 3 points
Munster v Aironi Rugby - Munster by more than 20 points - Munster by 16 points
Ulster v Ospreys - Ospreys by 11-15 points  - Ulster by 1 point

Must do better this week!

Friday, 3 September 2010

A good age for a second row

Saturday represents another landmark for Simon Shaw as he lines up for Wasps against Harlequins at Twickenham in what will be his 20th season of top flight rugby. At the age of 36, Shaw’s enthusiasm for the game shows no sign of waning and he clearly has no intention to quit top level rugby. Capped 59 times for England and a current member of the Elite Player Squad, he holds the record number of premiership apprearances with 224 games for Bristol and Wasps.

While in the South of France, Kris Chesney also at 36, continues to be stalwart of the Toulon squad. The former Saracens player who started his career as a winger and played 209 premiership games was the only try scorer in Toulon’s recent away win at Biarritz.

In the Southern Hemisphere, Brad Thorn another 36 year old has been in outstanding form for the All Blacks during the current Tri-Nations series. Thorn’s work rate and his all round contribution has been notable with the strength of his ball carrying being a major feature of the All Blacks success. In the recent Soweto test his powerful break was the catalyst which led to Woodcock’s stroll in try out wide and he also pulled off an amazing cover tackle on Gio Aplen the Springboks full back.

Brad Thorn's big tackle on Bryan Habana

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Aviva Premiership and Magners League Round 1 Predictions

All the signs point to this being a great season with the prospect of some hugely entertaining and positive rugby. Most coaches are talking about how they wish to play at a high tempo and with ambition which can only be good for everyone. The manner in which the All Blacks have developed their game has shown that it is possible to attack from deep and to look after the ball through the phases. Their off loading and support play has at times been outstanding and it will be interesting to see which teams in both the Aviva Premiership and the Magners League adopt this blueprint. Possession rather than territory is likely to become the order of the day with the game becoming far less structured. You feel that those teams who developed such a style last season will have an edge over the initial part of the forthcoming campaign.

The other exciting aspect of this year is that in all the major club competitions it is difficult to see any one team dominating and both the Premiership and Magners are going to be hugely competitive. The same applies to the Heineken Cup and by the time we get to the Six Nations I am sure we will also be in a position where it is going to be difficult to predict the outcome with much security.

Without the aid of any spurious marine life we will be attempting to predict the result and score of each round of the Aviva Premiership and Magners League throughout the season. As well as predicting the winner of each game we will be attempting to predict the winning margin along the following lines:

Up to 5 points
6 to 10 points
11 to 15 points
16 to 20 points
More than 20 points

We will keep you posted on our success rate

Round 1

Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons - Sale Sharks by up to 5 points
London Irish v Saracens - Saracens by 6-10 points
Exeter Chiefs v Gloucester Rugby - Gloucester Rugby by up to 5 points
London Wasps v Harlequins - Harlequins by up to 5 points
Leeds Carnegie v Bath Rugby - Bath Rugby by 11-15 points
Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers - Northampton Saints by 6-10 points

Benetton Treviso v Scarlets - Scarlets by 6-10 points
Cardiff Blues v Edinburgh - Cardiff Blues by 11-15 points
Connacht v Newport Gwent Dragons - Connacht by 11-15 points
Glasgow Warriors v Leinster - Glasgow Warriors by up to 5 points
Munster v Aironi Rugby - Munster by more than 20 points
Ulster v Ospreys - Ospreys by 11-15 points