Leicester Tigers

Champions! (or not)

Outsized BallIt's 5pm, and we should now have the result of the Guinness Premiership Final between Wasps and Leicester. Gloucester supporters may lament the fact that their side finished top of the premiership but bottled the big occasion of the semi final, but the playoffs are the price you pay for fixture congestion - it reduces the disparity due to players being called up to play for England. I'm writing this in the morning, before the game, and am slightly apprehensive. Last year, Wasps beat Leicester in the Heineken Cup Final, denying their captain the opportunity to retire on a high - the story may be that history repeats itself. It's a possibility - however (and here is where I write myself a hostage to fortune) - it doesn't feel like that'll happen. Wasps have had a good run to finish second in the table. We were in tenth place after the world cup (so many players were absent, we really suffered) - but then we had a run of success like nothing people had seen before.

Sting does a little danceAfter the Generation Game last week the story doesn't feel like Wasps can do anything other than upset Leicester. The mood last week was good, the players seemed relaxed - bullish, almost.

After a run like we've had to get to the top this season, we can't do anything other than win.

Can we?

My prediction (which, given that this is futureposted should be immediately checkable) is that in the first half it will be tight. Leicester may well go ahead. Wasps will come back and at half time it's anybody's game. In the second half, Wasps will pull away and get a clear margin - though it won't be until the final seconds that we can breath easily. It'll be something like 25-15 to Wasps.

I hope. If it turns out that Leicester won, I'm hoping for some 'there, there' comments by the time I get home.

Premiership Final Cockups.

Dallaglio and Shaun watch the endWasps and Leicester, having got through to the Rugby Union Guinness Premiership Final, were allocated 9000 tickets each. in a stadium of capacity 82000. Lots of tickets had already been sold. This is a shockingly low allocation for a big event (especially for a club like Leicester), but nevertheless, the clubs made their plans and began to sell tickets today.

Then, later on the same day, news comes through from English Premier Rugby.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: London Wasps have today been told that their 9,000 Guinness Premiership Final ticket allocation has been reduced by PRL to 5,438.

Excuse me? Wasps Season Ticket holders alone cover that (give or take) - what hope is there for the regular non-season ticket holder, or even the 'occasional' supporter.

... and Leicester are in an even worse position having, as they do, a larger regular attendance.

Anybody would think that the club allocation were being intentionally squeezed so that next year they sell more advance tickets. Cynical, moi?

It shouldn't be hard. At the start of the season decide the allocation. Reserve that number of seats in the different price bands of the stadium. Keep some back for the corporates etc. Sell the rest with impunity. Everybody's happy, and the organisers don't look like incompetents.

Yesterday's Rugby Games

Yesterday, we watched a little of the Rugby on television. There were two six nations games. First up was Ireland vs. Scotland. This was a much closer run thing than it had any right to be. Scotland should have been hammered, but they kept fighting and it went to the line with an Irish win of 19-18. There is some controversy surrounding this game as one of the Irish players had his airway restricted, and the Irish coach is claiming it was deliberate (a very serious charge indeed, and to my mind, potentially a police matter).

Next was Wales vs. Italy. This was always going to be a much closer affair, with Wales desperate to avoid the wooden spoon, and Italy keen to show that their victory against Scotland was not a flash in the pan. This was a really good game, and I was on the edge of my seat.... however, sorry Wales, I was supporting Italy. The game went back and forth between the two sides, but the controversy came at the end. Update: I've made a timeline of the events, available here.

With 3 points in it and seconds to go, Wales were awarded a penalty. A kick would have seen them draw, but a try would see them win. They appeared to ask the referee if there was enough time to attempt the win, and the ref appeared to say yes. They decided to forego the draw and kick to touch. The ref then blew for full time before the lineout. I could not believe this, nor could the Welsh, as they appeared to have asked explicitly. On the other hand, comments on the 606 board on the BBC website seem to say the sequence was a little different to how I perceived it:

'Hook asked how long we had left and White said there was about 10 seconds.

Hook asked if we could kick to touch and White said 'yes, carry on'.

So according to this the Ref was NOT asked if there was time for the line out.

Either way, it was a tough call - and as someone said in this discussion, perhaps the rules should allow for a single lineout after a penalty, even if the clock has ticked past the 80 minutes.

As someone else said:

I don't see the referee being lambasted for not noticing it was a Welsh hand that created the 'knock-on' preventing a very good opportunity for an Italian try in the first half. These things have a habit of evening themselves out

I quite agree, overall, though the Welsh were hard-done-by at the end, the result of 23-20 to Italy was just.

In the Guinness Premiership, Wasps were playing Harlequins, and when I checked earlier in the game Wasps were trailing (unsurprising, it was an away game after all) - but at the end we had clawed it back, to what, I think, is our first away win in the premiership this season! The score was 23-16.

Elsewhere in the Guinness Premiership, Bath beat Northampton 22-17. I'm quite pleased with that as it keeps the relegation battle alive - and I've a slightly soft spot for Worcester as I've seen them play twice this season - losing both times, but losing with such style that they I've wondered why they're not higher in the table.

Bristol lost to London Irish, 7-12. This is good from a partisan perspective, as it means that Bristol are just two points ahead of Wasps (with a game in hand though), but Wasps are still 8 points clear of Irish.

On Friday, Sale lost to Worcester, 12 to 18, which I'm happy with for the reasons given for Bath-Northampton result.

Gloucester are to play Leicester today. I'm unsure what the ideal result would be - a Gloucester win would see them leapfrog Wasps with a game in hand, but keep Leicester in the sights. A Leicester win would keep Wasps above Gloucester, but only just - and they've still a game to play.

I'm not sure who I want to win!

The Premiership as of 10th March '07
1 Leicester 17 11 1 5 437 322 10 56
2 Bristol 17 11 1 5 297 274 6 52
3 Wasps 18 10 1 7 403 320 9 51
4 Gloucester 16 11 1 4 377 284 4 50
5 Saracens 17 9 2 6 415 319 7 47
6 London Irish 17 10 0 7 310 295 3 43
7 Harlequins 18 8 0 10 376 354 8 40
8 Bath 18 7 1 10 339 405 7 37
9 Sale 18 7 0 11 346 384 7 35
10 Newcastle 17 7 0 10 349 442 6 34
11 Northampton 17 5 0 12 242 377 6 26
12 Worcester 18 4 1 13 268 383 7 25

Update: 12:45 - the last six minutes of the game are on youtube.