SHIT/GOOD Ratings: Heineken Cup, round one
Sam Warburton - Seems harsh to single out Sam given how unutterably SHIT his whole team were, but he is Lions captain and one of the best players in Europe. No matter how bad France play, Dusautoir still looks the business, so team performance is no excuse. Is it because he is on his way back from injury, or is it because he is simply a bit inconsistent? There are advocates on both sides of the argument.
Munster - The printout simply said: "HA HA HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" The computer, in its defence, has never claimed to be beyond immaturity.
Nick Evans - What happened to him? Things must be really bad when you are not only the poorest NZ out-half of the weekend, but that the person better than you is Jimmy Gopperth.
Dave Ewers - The Exeter number eight was a man possessed on Saturday, rampaging in his carries and maiming in his defence. This means that in the space of a few seasons England have gone from having only the lumbering Nick Easter or the inexplicable Haskell to the options of Morgan, Vunipola and now this fella.
Scott Williams - Since he scored that decisive rip n' kick try against England in 2012, the Scarlets centre has been on something of a back burner in terms of attention domestically and internationally. After his try and performance at the Stoop this situation will surely be rectified in the Autumn Internationals.
Paddy Jackson* - Looks about 12 and is ginger with freckles, so just putting one foot in front of the other is worthy of note for the little lad, but he did much more than that vs Leicester. Kicked superbly, including the cross-kick for the Bowe score, did a great job for his team and looked a long way from the nervous shambles he was on Ireland debut.
*The computer would like to point out that Paddy's rating is not solely due to him contributing to a Leicester defeat and that such accusations of bias are uncalled for. It was only largely due to that, not solely.
The key sticking point in the Heineken Cup negotiations
Nigel Wray is a massive twat.
Seriously, look at him. Imagine having to talk to that all day.
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: Heineken Cup Final
The Big Cup final ended with a piece of grand larceny by Toulon to pip Clermont to the title, which we sort of predicted, but what did the ratings computer make of it all?
Danie Roussow - Not a great day on the park for the big blind-side. Looked very lumbering in letting Rougerie go in the lead up to the Nalaga try and bossed by opposite number Bonnaire.
Delon Armitage - People will say that his wave and tongue-out shenanigans are at least "different" and add colour to the game. I'm not one of those people, I say he's a twat.
Wesley Fofana - The best centre in Europe is a title that no-one would argue with so it was a real shame that he didn't look anything like that in the biggest game in Europe.
Aurelien Rougerie - I've never been the greatest fan of the champion the wonder horse like winger cum centre. But he was at the heart of everything that was good for Clermont
Jamie Cudmore - won all his line-outs and carried tirelessly off the 10 channel right to the end.
Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe - Great turnover and vision to set up that twat Armitage for the winning score, obviously, but more than that he was everywhere all game leading his pack. Perfect example of his level of effort was when he ran off the pitch, over a load of tackle bags to catch a touchfinder to enable him to take a quick throw in from nearly in the stands.
That's mine, you give us yours in the comments.
For those that didn't know, I had a go at alternative commentary for this match and it would help me out a great deal if you could have a listen to my commentaries so I can bump up the listener numbers on YouCommentate. Plus you never know, you might enjoy them...
First half is here: http://bit.ly/13FzUVd
Second Half Part 1: http://bit.ly/13wqYhi
Second Half Part 2: http://bit.ly/YSiW4c
Heineken Cup Final Preview: Clermont Auvergne vs Toulouse
The final of The Big Cup is here and it is to be fought out by two French teams for the fourth time, once again proving that the cheese-chompers really are the mack daddies when it comes to this tournament. And chomping cheese.
Few would argue that these two are not the best teams in Europe - Stuart Barnes probably would, the contrary bellend - each one featuring superstars rubbing shoulders with super players of less renown. This should be a feast for the senses for all rugby fans, especially if you watch it a bit drunk, which given the kick off time is a certainty in my house.
This match will be all about partnerships and which ones come out on top. The craft & bosh of Giteau/Bastareaud vs the craft and running of Fofana/Rougerie; the power and seething anger of Cudmore/Hines vs the rage & jumpy, jumpy of Botha & Kennedy. The half backs is a pushover as Clermont have Parra, the cocky-faced master of insouciant class while Toulon have some no-mark with a double barrelled name.
But, what of St Jonny of Wilkinson? I've a feeling that Toulon's frighteningly good back row will best the not quite as frightening offering from Clermont, which will lead to more penalties for Toulon which will lead to...well you know the rest. Given it's probably going to be pissing down, that will likely be enough.
Don't forget, that to enhance your viewing experience, your favourite blog will be having a go at commentating on this match. Check in at http://youcommentate.com/s/bloodandmud/ just before kick-off to hear me a bit tipsy and ranting.
B&M Prediction: Toulon by 5
Spotter's Badge: Nick Kennedy stands in the middle while Cudmore, Hines & Botha rub around him fighting in a Looney Tunes style.
Toulon: D.Armitage; Wulf, Bastareaud, Giteau, Palisson; Wilkinson (Capt.), Tillous-Borde; Sheridan, Bruno, Hayman; Botha, Kennedy; Rossouw; Fernandez Lobbe, Masoe.
Replacements: Orioli, Jenkins, Kubriashvili, Van Niekerk, S.Armitage, Mermoz, Michalak, Suta.
Clermont: Byrne; Sivivatu, Rougerie (Capt.), Fofana, Nalaga; James, Parra; Domingo, Kayser, Zirakashvili; Cudmore, Hines; Bonnaire, Vosloo, Chouly.
Replacements: Paulo, Debaty, Ric, Pierre, Bardy, Radosavljevic, Skrela, King.
Rugby Video: Wayne Barnes get smashed on the napper with a rugby ball
Wayne Barnes takes and absolute screamer of a kick full on the cranium then falls over. What more do you want?
I predict this video will become a viral sensation in New Zealand.
Rugby Video: Ronan O'Gara kicking Edinburgh's Sean Cox
There are two good things here. Firstly, O'Gara is likely to be banned for a little while; and second it's good to see the Munsterman continuing the long held fly-half's tradition of having a sly dig at a forward, shitting it and then running away as fast as possible.
In an ever-changing game, it gives the heart succour to see some things never change.
Yachvili was brazen in the Amlin Final, but cheating is an integral part of Rugby
There have been many examples of blatant cheating down the rugby years. Neil Back's slap at the ball in the Heineken Cup final may stand out as the most infamous, but it is not an isolated incident, and that's leaving aside the many punches thrown over the years.
In last week's Amlin Cup final Dimitri Yachvili blatantly fouled his opposite number, it was missed by the official and Toulon were robbed of possession at a crucial moment. Was it blatant? Yes. Was it illegal? Yes. Does Yachvili deserve to be vilified? No.
We love our game for many reasons, uppermost is that there are certain standards that are expected on the field. These are so respected that officials or governing bodies generally do not need to enforce them. Talking back to a ref will bring a rebuke from your own team stronger than any from an official; injured players from either side are applauded off the field by both teams; and at the final whistle handshakes and tunnels are made without prompting to acknowledge mutual effort and respect.
On the flip side of this, cheap shots and violence were prevalent for a long time and everyone is glad that this is being addressed via the citing system, tougher sanctions and a shift in culture in the modern professional era. While this change is a welcome one, one thing that will never change about rugby is that cheating, or more specifically technical cheating, is a fundamental part of the game.
Every player in every position, from Llanmaes 3rds to the All Blacks, has deliberately infringed in their career. It might be blocking a runner, retreating slowly, putting hands in the ruck, holding a tackled player or running a lazy blocking scissors to name but a few, but whatever form it took it was deliberate abd intended to gain an advantage. Sometimes the ref pinged you but often he didn't.
Moreover, the best players in certain positions are defined by their superiorority in what commentators often call the "dark arts" - the palatable euphemism for technical fouling - with front row and openside being the most obvious examples. Richie McCaw is the best breakaway in the world because, among other things, he infringes to the advantage of his team without incurring the attention of the referee. However frustrating this might be for non-Kiwis, we would all love it and accept it if he was on our team.
Yachvili took a chance and got away with it, none of us can honestly say we would not have done the same. Twas ever thus, and I invite you all to tell us of the greatest cheat you got away with on the rugby field in the comments....
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: Heineken Cup
BIlly Twelvetrees - Found out terribly at Ravenhill on Friday night. Haplessness of evening summed up by the Ulster quick-tap bonus point try, when he stood like a statue gawping into space while a player whizzed past him.
Gareth Davies & Rhodri Williams - Not a great day for the young Scarlets scrum-halves. Rhodri Williams in particular butchered good possession in the latter stages of the final Scarlets drive to the line and threw the interception for Foden that killed the game. In his defence, he's not yet 19 and looks a decent prospect.
Bath - Redefining what it means to be SHIT this season.
Andrew Trimble - Could have put any one of the Ulster players in here to be honest, but Trimble was exceptional. Scored two and was also magnificent in attack, often popping up in midfield with a great run or to link play intelligently. It's been a mystery for some time how the likes of Keith Earls start Ireland games ahead of him, after this game it become Sherlock-esque in its complexity.
Ben Foden - One of the most depressing aspects of the late Johnson era was how poorly Foden played in the white shirt, this display vs Scarlets is ample evidence of how this deterioration was about coaching rather than the player. We all know of Foden's attacking abilities, but the most impressive part of this performance was how solid his defence was; positioning, tackling, high balls, all were dealt with with aplomb.
Casey Laulala - Showed the only true bit of class in the game vs Irish. His wonderful dummy and break, in and out around the full-back and calm offload to Warburton leading to the Blues try that ultimately made the difference in this tie. Much of the midfield attention paid to the Blues is inevitably on Henson, but Laulala is the true class act in there.
Honourable mentions to Owen Farrell and Akapusi Qera.
Who caught your attention this weekend, for the right or wrong reasons?
Bloodandmud.com (predictably daft) predictions for 2012
1. IRB to address the scrum issue; ruling that all scrums will now require the forwards to make a heap of bodies on the floor while a back either quick-taps or kicks for touch. This will save 3.4 years in lost game time across an average season.
2. Rob Andrew will chair a press conference about the Olympics; he will have an official badge on and speak with great confidence about what his role at the 2012 Games does not involve. After an hour of questioning no-one will be any clearer about what he was doing there.
3. Dan Parks will be replaced as a Scotland impact sub by an upturned yard brush stuck in the ground. No-one will notice.
4. The national press's main rugby writers will publish a "My Current Lions Fifteen" column every hour, on the hour, for what will seem like the whole of eternity.
5. Stuart Lancaster will select a young and promising squad. They will lose by 3 points in Rome on the opening weekend on the Six Nations, prompting the recall of Simon Shaw, Mike Tindall, Phil Vickery and Dean Richards. Stephen Jones of The Times will blame it all on rugby league.
6. Wales will win the Six Nations. Or at least they should. If they don't then Gatland, Edwards et al need a good hiding. (NB. The blog is not voluteering to carry this out)
7. Ireland will cope without the injured semi-deity O'Driscoll as his dad will send a certain ancient carpenter who happens to be a handy outside centre down to plug the gap. They never mentioned that in the good book or at mass, did they?
8. Phillipe Saint-Andre will introduce consistency of selection to the French team, this will bore the players and they will resort to performing show tunes in defence. Marc Lievremont will be seen smiling in the crowd.
9. Inspired by Tom Cruise in the "The Last Samurai", Haskell-San will go native and be unavailable for England selection due to dedicating his next twelve months to making origami sculptures of himself in various masculine poses.
Give us your predictions in the comments.
Thanks for your attention, comments and interest in 2011; your patronage of this simple little blog is always appreciated and never taken for granted.
Look forward to seeing you all here again in 2012. Happy New Year!
Rugby Video: Leicester commit two yellow card offences at the same time within a two-feet radius
Leicester are famous for their uncompromising, solid and let's be honest very successful play. However, even for them this must be a first - two players binned for simultaneous, separate offences, on different opposition players, occuring right next to each other!
George Chuter hits Morgan Parra late after the Clermont man pops a pass, and Manu Tuilagi immediately windpipes the bloke that receives Parra's pass. Oustanding work.
As an aside, the more we see of Morgan Parra the more our man-crush on him increases. He looks about 12 and weighs about 9 stones, plays with a style of such insouciance it's like he hits a huge bong before kick-off; yet he tackles like a demon, will play in any position with flamboyant aplomb, and now it seems he will mix it with a gnarled hooker if he feels aggrieved. Brilliant.
And as for Manu Tuilagi: for all his talent, he really needs to stop being such a knob-end.
Thanks, as ever, to Rugby Dump for the vid.