In which I look forward to the London Double Header, 2008
On Sunday we travelled to Reading to see the Irish vs. Wasps game. This was to be our first away fixture. We didn't start as early as we'd hoped. We wanted an early start as we didn't want to miss any of the party. Irish were putting on a St. Patrick's event, trying to reclaim their attendance record for the Premiership. At Reading, the bus situation was not as it should be, there was a massive queue, four of five buses waiting and they loaded them one at a time (rather than simultaneously, sending the buses off as fast as possible). Just as we got near to the buses, they worked this out and everything speeded up.
Arriving at the Madejski stadium we were greeted by a vast number of people in the car park, with music playing from the stage. All very pleasant, but very busy.
It wasn't long before we went into the stadium though, and inside we had some Irish dancing, and Irish music over the tannoy. I know it was 'London Irish', but there was such a thing as overdoing it!
Soon enough, the teams came out to warm up. We had pretty good seats, and were not far from the pitch. Though some of the big names were on International duty from the six nations, we still had people like Josh Lewsey and Lawrence Dallaglio out there.
The Irish mascot made the rounds a few times, but no Sting to be seen.
In the game itself, Irish took an early lead, going 10-3 up at the break. In the second half, Chris Bishay scored a great try, but unfortunately just the one.
It got to 13-13, and then Riki Flutey kicked a penalty to make it 16-13 in the 75th minute.
It looked at the end that Wasps may have scored a try, but it wasn't to be. In the end, alas, it was the just result, I think. It wasn't the result I wanted though!
Manuel Leguizamon from the London Irish provided my highlight of the match though, and some much needed comedy. He made a break, fantastic stuff, and was clear for the line. He made a dive for the line, leaping majestically through the air.... and dropped the ball mid flight, knocking it on. This happened right in front of us, and turned Wasp anguish to humour.
The Wasp players patted him on the head as he lay on the ground - he didn't look a happy bunny. After the match, Irish's coach was asked if Leguizamon would be buying the drinks, the coach replied "As long as he is not carrying them!"
This was a moment that'll live on in video out-takes shows and 'what happened next' rounds of quizzes.
After the match, we went round to the players' exit. We were the only Wasps there, there were a few Irish supporters. We took the view that we wouldn't hassle players and we'd let the kids get in first, so when Josh Lewsey limped past we just asked how his leg was and left it at that, Daniel Leo also went past.
Alex King came over, and was very pleasant. He signed my diary, and Monica took a picture. I did make an exception to the 'no hassle' rule for Dallaglio and went over. He signed my shirt, unfortunately Monica didn't take the lens cap off, and so no photo!
It was getting bitterly cold, and we'd been standing about, so discretion became the watchword and we went over to the soundstage where a DJ was playing Queen numbers (messing with the speed of the song, which wasn't welcome).
They were throwing St. paddies party hats into the crowd, I managed to get one for Monica, which made her look very silly. We tried out the prototype for the future seat design, the 'Guinness Evolver' - it was pretty good.
On the bus on the way back, there was a rather drunk Irish 'fan' who took the tinge of the day by being quite unpleasant about the visiting supporters, it wasn't tremendously comfortable. They were singing Irish tunes all the way back, in distinctly non-Irish brogues! Another Irish supporter (an actual Irishman) was quite dismissive of them, calling them 'plastic paddies'. There were a few of these about, for example, near us in the stands was a bloke who kept standing, turning and baiting the Wasps fans. He was dutifully ignored.
A handful of oafs aside, the Irish supporters were welcoming and pleasant (even if a significant number's only association with Ireland is the black stuff that they serve in glasses!)
The Irish ground is actually the most convenient for me to get to, but given how much they play to their Irish roots it's not a team I could go along to support - I have no Irish links, and it doesn't seem right!
The premiership is now has Bristol in third, Saracens in fourth and Wasps in fifth, all on 52 points. Irish are sixth on 47. Gloucester is on 59 and Leicester is on 62.
The remaining premiership games for Wasps are Saracens, Northampton and Leicester (away). To get a top four place, we really need them all to be wins. Given our good home form, and atrocious away form, Leicester will be the sticking point.
The next game is against the Irish side, Leinster, at Adams Park in the Heineken Cup quarter final.
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|
Update: 12:45 - the last six minutes of the game are on youtube.