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Weekend (so far) sporting review

Having settled in for a weekend to be spent (well, whaddya know?) largely watching televised sport, there seem to be a number of interesting issues buzzing at the moment and so I thought I’d bring Rusters up to speed with my impressions upon some of them as follows:-

 

RUGBY UNION

With our columnist Derek Willliams having temporarily retired from reporting upon events at the Harlequins, on Friday evening I decided to watch their home clash with Leicester Tigers, who have endured an awful season in which the threat of relegation has loomed large.

The fare – like so much of the Premiership these days – was full of effort and heavy contact but for the most part devoid of flair or guile and (for the record) ended in a 23-19 victory for the hosts who earlier in the day had stunned their supporters by announcing that 16 of their playing squad would be departing at the end of the season. The result left Quins with an outside chance of making the top four play-offs and yesterday Newcastle Falcons at last ‘saved’ Tigers from the drop by losing to Gloucester and thereby being relegated.

 

WOMEN’S SPORT

Yesterday from 5.10pm I tuned in to BBC1 to watch the Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley live on terrestrial television – great exposure in this 2019 world of PC-advancement if you can get it – between Manchester City and massive underdogs West Ham United.

See here for a report of the match by Suzanne Wrack as appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

Quite what persuaded an official crowd of 43,264 to pitch up (well, apart from the novelty value) was slightly beyond me. The occasion had all the razzle-dazzle that the organisers could possibly have thrown at it but the quality of football was distinctly average or worse.

One felt considerable sympathy for ebullient commentator Jonathan Pearce and his accompanying female expert who had their work cut out filling the airwaves with a combination of cod-analysis of the progress of the game and overblown discussion of tactics and other trivia, but the evidence was all too clear to this beholder sitting at home nursing a cup of tea and several slices of fruitcake.

For all anyone might crow about the statistics and development of the women’s version of the sport in recent times – and with the Women’s World Cup fast approaching on the horizon – the authorities might have provided a far-superior product if they’d somehow managed to drag 43,000 punters to a boys’ Under-16 match.

The opening thirty minutes offered not a single shot on goal and interminable bouts of pedestrian sideways and backwards passing by both teams’ defences and midfields whilst under little or no pressure from the opposition.

It was at this point that, against the run of play, West Ham made a rare excursion into the opposing half with intent.

A player whom I now know to have been Erin Simon, having been put into the wide open spaces, trundled down the right wing to deliver an excellent cross towards the 6-yard box where her colleague Jane Ross was making a timely run between two defenders.

As the appropriate millisecond arrived she rose above them … and directed the ball into the ground, straight to the keeper. Thereafter she was to be seen lying prostrate on the Wembley turf, slapping it with the kind of frustration that one sees every day in the men’s professional game when a striker butchers such a golden opportunity and in the aftermath feels a mixture of embarrassment and luck being against them.

Immediately afterwards BBC1 viewers were shown the replay in slow motion.

Everything about the move had been perfect bar one. At the point of impact, had Ross made the slightest nod of her head, or even perhaps somehow even just added her run’s momentum to the ball, it would have gone straight into the back of the net like a dum-dum bullet.

Instead the ball just brushed her forehead and glanced to the floor. One might have been tempted to add the eternal cry of the armchair critic of no discernible sporting aptitude at all: “I could have scored that!” …

Enough said.

Again, for the record, in the end Manchester City won the match via 3 goals without reply in the second half but long before that I had moved on to other things.

Like the first half hour W-Series (female) race at Hockenheim being shown live on Channel Four.

See here for a report on the race by reporter Phillip Duncan as appears today upon the website of – THE INDEPENDENT

This format is designed to give female motor racing drivers the chance to show their wares to a wider public and is not without controversy.

Some with the interests of female drivers at heart are whingeing that it does the species no favours because it pigeon-holes them by gender in a sport at which females with the right degree of potential could easily compete on an equal level with men if only they were afforded the opportunity. Arguably, the problem for the advancement of women in the elite – sorry, I should perhaps say “rich man’s” (or “person’s”) – versions of the sport is simply their lack of financial backing.

In Formula One, for example, any two-bit son of a multi-millionaire with the requisite balls and any ability at all can gain access to the lower ranks of the starting grid – a leg-up seemingly denied to his sister.

On the other hand, those in favour of the W-series hold that, by providing an opportunity to show what female drivers can do, it will eventually attract the financial backing we’re all talking about.

We shall see.

 

BOXING

Rust columnist James Westacott and others have posted previously about professional boxing’s mix of its participants’ nobility and fighting spirit and the mountain of disarray, lack of integrity, naked greed, corruption, confetti-numbered world boxing associations and unhealthy underworld-type ne-er-do-wells operating not far below the surface.

As I sit here typing, the clock on the wall is showing British time as 0334 hours, just under an hour until the world middleweight title-fight between Saul (“Canelo”) Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs taking place in Las Vegas is scheduled to begin.

Canelo is putting his WBA and WBC titles on the line and Jacobs his IBF version. If you believe the build-up hype, this could be one of the epic bouts of the year.

However, one small thing. When I visited the newspaper websites this morning and alighted upon the latest bulletin, I learned that all is not as it should be.

By negotiated agreement, the fighters had agreed that they both had to make the required 170 pound limit at the official weigh-in and also weigh no more than 170 pounds at a confidential further weigh-in at 8.00am on the day of the fight.

Canelo was on the money – or indeed just under it – at both of those. However, Jacobs is reported to have weighed 173.6 pounds at the latter.

Ergo, he’s failed to abide by his contractual agreement. However, all the promoter (Oscar De La Hoya) is doing about it is fine him US$750,000 of his fight purse.

See here for a report upon the development by Jack de Menezes as appears today upon the website of – THE INDEPENDENT

Plus ça change, folks … this is boxing, after all.

About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts