Lions win


I won’t say too much about this. The tour is history now for 4 more years and I’m sure much has been said. I would have commented earlier but travel, or more precisely, a lost charger made it impossible. I will say this though.

I am glad they won. I repeat this obvious statement because in my view they had to win. This squad was far too talented to lose. Despite the difficulties of throwing together a squad of men over a 6 week tour, if this squad lost I’d have serious questions about the Northern Hemisphere’s ability to step up to challenges. Too often we’ve seen spirited performances, a phrase meaning worked hard but had no real chance from the North.

This squad looked the most professional I’ve seen. There appeared to be few wankers in the squad. They were young, skilled and dedicated with some exceptional talents. The pack also possessed the power to confront and dominate. The decision-makers generally got it there especially in the front row as well as the easy decision (from my point of view) to ignore Richie Gray and the tough decisions in the backrow.

Australia is of course the weakest of the Tri-Nations. Its players are drawn to many sports and the talent diluted. However all these sports are ball-handling games. The ability to cross-sport is easier there and evident on the field. Their front five, a part of the game not found in their other main sports remains underpowered. However the talent across the backline and in the back row was clear. How Deans used them remained the enigma.

This series might have been less fun than previous ones. The amateur era and the fun that went with it seems gone. Gatland should stay on should he wish. That Welsh team is clearly on a run and the toughest Lions series of all awaits.


O’Ryan’s Belt

With all this talk of Jupiter and Venus being in close proximity in the sky right now (and St Patrick’s Day tomorrow) , I was reminded of one of the funniest moments of my life. It’s loosely connected to the stars through some man-made haze. I hope it comes across ok because this conversation really happened.

I was with Emmo in the small town of Punakaiki on the West coast of New Zealand´s South island. It was 2008. Punakaiki itself isn´t very famous apart from the Pancake Rocks which funnel the Tasman Sea into spectacular displays of water fireworks. The sea can be rough there. The winds whip up the waves and it comes together on the West Coast. Kiwis call it the Wet Coast.

Despite its limitations of one hostel, store and pub, the place (I can’t even call it a town) is peaceful with rivers to canoe up, some trails into the verdant forest and great views. I´d stayed on my first trip to NZ and was determined to stay again. I wasn´t let down.

The hostel was now owned by a German and I arrived at the same time with a German girl and two Brazilians. That night I persuaded them to go to the pub down the road. I wanted to watch some rugby. The two locals in the pub had never met Brazilian girls and were frankly astounded taking me aside as if I was their pimp. We all went out for a smoke and then the Kiwi locals invited back to their batch when the pub closed. We all went.

Kiwis use the word batch to describe a beach house. I’d stayed in one on Coramandel with Mel a few weeks earlier but the locals promoted this one as the oldest in town. In a town of maybe 20 houses, I’m not sure what status that deserves. So after some beers and a lot of smoking, we were all pretty baked. I went quiet and started mulling over the world while Emmo chatted away. The two locals went out for some air. What happened next still makes me giggle.

Upon returning, they were discussing what they’d seen particularly in the sky. Once the conversation started I had some clairvoyant instincts. I could feel the smile coming all the way from my intestines.

‘So its called Orion´s Belt then…yeah.’

‘Which bit?’

‘That bit, up there.’

‘It looks more like a bucket.’

‘Yeah I suppose.’

By this point I was smiling away. Sure being stoned helped but I felt I saw the joke coming and yet had no idea these two could inadvertently pull out this comic masterpiece. After ten seconds of confused silence, one turned to the other and with dead-pan seriousness said,

‘I didn’t know the Irish were into astrology.’

I completely exploded in to hysterics, turning away to face the fire and laughing until my guts could take it no more. Tears were rolling down my cheeks and I was gasping for air. The Kiwis had sat down and Emmo was laughing at my uncontrollable giggling. I’m not sure if anyone except me got the joke. Or even if there was one.

We left soon after that. The air was cold and I continued gasping and giggling. I went to bed and woke up radiant. It was time to move on.

England 6 – 19 New Zealand

Far better performance. We looked…dare I say it… dynamic at times.

The backrow looked aggressive and scrambled well. Shaw brings a lot of power and nous. Does the hard yeards around the fringes too. Considering the front row is missing maybe 4 guys, the pack is looking up.

Hodgson looked game. Cipriani is an England Saxon for a while. Wilkinson not only controls the game well but makes his presence felt defensively positionally and in the tackle. The centres are waiting for Flutey’s guile to come back. Really not convinced by Gerathy. He makes bad distribution decisions, looks lightweight and constantly runs into brick walls. His job is to take the pressure off Wilkinson but right now he almost always puts the team under pressure. Cueto should always have been full back in present circumstances. Neither winger convinces me.
And the guys from the bench were important too. Fairly deep there considering the injuries.

It’s not a win and wins, no matter how, are all that matter. But it’s progress.