England 38 – 21 New Zealand
That’s right. A rejuvenating result for the sport of rugby union that struggled hards in the international credibility stakes in 2012.
New Zealand had gone unbeaten up until that match, without really actually playing that well. The only blemish on the CV was the draw against the Wallabies on Brisbane, but that was more about being dragged down to a lower level in what was a dire match.
Twickenham was different though. A side NZ doesn’t get to play that often taking on the All Blacks at their own game, and burying them. This was a dominant performance from a young side who played with accuracy and imagination. The scoreline could have been more. It was also a reminder that to head into the next World Cup with a side based on MacCaw and Carter is pretty backward looking; regardless of the number of sabbaticals they get.
This was just what Rugby Union needed if it’s to claim to be an international game. The World Cup holders and world’s best team now have a genuine contender.
Remember the next World Cup will be in England. This is perfect marketing.
Cohen and Sullivan win gold in the lightweight sculls
This was a very good Olympics for NZ, especially on the water, but there was something about this victory that made it memorable.
At the 500m mark they were coming flat last, at halfway they were fifth but still trailing by 3 ½ seconds. But the charge to the gold was perfectly timed and they hit that front with about 10 metres to go.
And then there were the post race interviews. The Southern drawl of Nathan Cohen was fantastic, and the fact Sullivan came from Picton made them seem like the People’s Champions.
Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 2nd Test
Even before the extraordinary circumstances around this win were made public it was obvious there was something special about this. Completely torn apart in the first test in under three days New Zealand put in the all-round display to record its first victory on the sub-continent, excluding Bangladesh, in over 14 years.
Must of the subsequent praise has gone on Taylor, and rightly so, but the impressive thing here was how the team had clearly learnt from the debacle in Galle. They batted with intelligence and positivity in the first innings, and Williamson and Flynn deserve credit here, avoided the traditional third innings catasprophe, and the catching was superb.
But it was the swing bowling of Southee and Boult with the new ball that was the difference. Sri Lanka were 12/3 in the first innings and 63/5 in the second. Between them they claimed 15 of the wickets to fall in conditions that were not meant to suit.
On both occasions they used the second new ball to wrap up the tail too. It’s not since the days of Richard Hadlee that taking the new ball produced such optimism.
Spain Euro 2012
Until this generation, Spain had been traditionally known as football’s biggest underachievers. But the last five years have seen this turned on its head. The opening game against eventual finalists Italy was the only time they conceded a goal. The Republic of Ireland had 4 put past them, Croatia 1, France 2, and a negative Portugal went out on penalties. And all this time Spain stuck to their close passing game; the ball moved at five metres a time.
And so they got to the final. It was hardly as if Italy played badly. But the tikatakastocrats turned on a clinic. They were so dominant that even Fernando Torres turned one in at the end.
This was the biggest margin ever in a major tournament, the first time a side had ever won three majors in a row, and two fingers in the direction of those who claimed they didn’t have the cutting edge.
Roll on Brazil 2014; the side will be well into their thirties by then, but the title of World’s Greatest Side ever will be up for grabs.
There is no athlete on the planet who is better to watch than Bolt. And this was the year of the Olympics, and he just loves that Big Stage.
The best thing about Bolt is the way he’s not so focussed on the records, he just lives the moment. The way he slows down as he crosses the finish line is quite old-fashioned.
Let’s hope he’s clean. Which brings us onto…..
The Lance Armstrong Schadenfruede Show
There has always been a thick fog over Armstrong. The self-promotion, the snarly manner, those wrist bands, and a frankly implausible record as a cyclist. It was always hard to see how an athlete in the world’s most drug-tainted event could be so dominant for so long without some outside help.
But it was always seen to be such a crime to criticise a cancer survivor.
So it was a relief to see the evidence was so damming, the web of corruption so thorough, and the weight of those testifying against him meant that there would be no more of those law suits he loves. The Tour de France can move on.
And it was quite funny to see all those old copies of “It’s not about the Bike” littering the fiction department of second hand book stall at school fairs throughout the country. If ever a bokk was ironically titled….
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