peteg's blog - noise - sport

U.S. Eagles vs Wallabies, Soldier Field.

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$97.44 ($75 face value), bought 2015-05-30. I bought these as early as I could as I was expecting something like last year, when more than 60,000 people went to see the All Blacks. Well, the second or third string of the momentarily number two team in the world doesn't have that kind of drawing power, with only about 23,000 people turning out. The result was 47 to 10, with the hosts scoring a try (!). Before the game I thought par was a fifty point margin, and afterwards simply much more discipline. (The biffo in the middle of the second half was farcical.) If any of the first-string players get injured at the world cup, the jig is up for Australia.

It was a beautiful day for cycling around, though I didn't do too much of that. Some wag put Springsteen's Born in the USA on as a warm up: not too much killing of the yellow man here today, or even conscripting of the man in yellow to help with that. And yeah, Khe San. The fashion question for the Americans fans was whether to go with the stars or the stripes: revolution or one happy union?

U.S. Eagles vs All Blacks, Soldier Field.

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Like Bowie, about six months in the making. I have no idea why the All Blacks decided to stop here for what amounted to an exhibition match, but I'm thankful they did. I shouted Grégoire a ticket (for a total of $194.71 back in June) as a thank-you for me being here. I biked there, wearing my super-heavy jacket, beanie and gloves. One guy called them retro 90s ski gloves, but they are in fact genuine 1985 Orange K-Mart thinsulate specials which don't work as well as they once did. This was my first time actually at a test match. After yesterday's snow/sleet/rain and sub-zero windchill, we were blessed by a cold and clear day, no wind, with the sun coming out around 2pm while I waited at Roosevelt Station for Grégoire's red line L to get in. The traffic was totally nuts, and the people trying to control it really enjoyed arguing with everyone who tried to be individuals.

I wasn't at all sure who'd show up for the ABs; as it was we got a mix of the old reliables (Keven Mealamu (!), Kieran Read, Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ben Franks), the show pony (Sonny Bill Williams), the bad boy (Aaron Cruden), the new (Julian Savea and many others I hadn't heard of), and I was very happy to see Dan Carter play for the first time in a year, albeit only for the final twenty minutes or so. His first pass was way too ambitious, but that was pretty much his only mistake, which does not bode well for England next weekend. I'm a little glad Sir Richie wasn't there, for otherwise the Eagles would have really struggled at the rucks. The referee was Craig Joubert, who masterfully accounted for the difference in skill levels. The Eagles forwards did some pretty decent work from time-to-time, and even looked to be putting up enough of a fight in the scrum for it to be competitive at times. The lineout seemed sound for both sides. The Eagles' goalkicker will be able to tell his grandkids that he put six points on the best team ever. It took them a while to figure out that you don't give the All Blacks an inch of room, so kicking for field position is quite unwise. One of their quick-lineout throws was a gridiron-style one-handed overarm throw that made it more than halfway across the pitch.

The result was a predictable 74 - 6, as the Kiwis are always gracious to their hosts. I'd never seen so many New Zealand flags, even in their own country. Some feared they're be taken for Australians and had NEW ZEALAND written along the bottom. Soldier Field is going to be re-sod before the next gridiron game.

Wallabies 25, All Blacks 20 at Suncorp Stadium, Brisvegas

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The Wallabies sure learnt their lessons over the past few weeks, and came out more strongly than they have in a long time. The backline was far from flawless but the All Blacks let them off the hook with even more costly mistakes. Ashley-Cooper had his best game all year on the wing, and Anthony Faingaa was solid in the centres. The Australian forwards were very impressive. Deans is going to have trouble shuffling in the recovering / returning players.

I watched the game with a couple of Australians and a sole Kiwi in The Dubliner on Ă–stra Hamngatan in Göteborg, where I saw some of the Rugby World Cup in 2003. The current exchange rate takes some of the sting out of the beer prices: whereas it used to be $AU10 for a pint of Guiness, it is now only $AU9.

All Blacks 30, Wallabies 14 at Eden Park

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Not as bad as it could have been, but the Wallabies still don't know how to turn possession and territory into points. Disappointingly Vickerman looked lost when he came on, at least in the lineout where he should have been running noise. Conversely the pack did hold up all night. Genia did the work of two men, and Ioane often looked like most of the attack. Ashley-Cooper seems invisible these days, and Rocky needs to get fit. I was surprised to see the Kiwis fumble a certain try; their backline usually has impeccable handling skills. The refereeing was abysmal (he made dodgy non-decisions against both teams: knock-ons, crooked lineout throws, offsides, ...). I hope they get that right for the World Cup.

Super Rugby: Queensland Reds 18, Canterbury Crusaders 13

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I headed down to the Duke of Gloucester for the first time in ages to watch a Super Rugby match. This one was far superior to the Brumbies versus the Western Force farce from a few months ago, almost enough to restore my faith in Australian provincial rugby. (Now if the Waratahs could field a full-strength side for more than half a season...)

In brief, there was some great work from the Reds early on when they lacked possession but still scored first points (Cooper kicked a penalty after Carter missed one). I was slightly worried when Cooper made a massive knock-on under no pressure whatsoever, as if he was auditioning for the Wallabies circa 2005, but no, that seemed to be his only egregious stuff-up for the night. He didn't get to do much, which was unsurprising as the Crusaders are canny enough to shut out the playmaker more often than not. Genia worked hard, as did Saia Faingaa. The personal tries for Genia and Ioane were awesome, both untouchable, as was Carter's effort. All reminded me of Latham's ability to score from anywhere, something Kurtley Beale is doing for the Waratahs and the Wallabies. Hopefully they can play off each other.

Richie McCaw was all over the rucks, and one can only hope that Pocock will address that for the Wallabies. Also the Reds scrum was pushed around pretty much all night, which doesn't bode too well. I see that the Reds number eight Radike Samo is making a return to the national squad, and I hope he is more disciplined there than he was here in the dying stages of the match.

I have never seen so many people in a pub in New South Wales barracking for Queensland and New Zealand, or so glad to see a Queensland victory.

ACT Brumbies versus Western Force

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I figured I'd risk going to see another rugby match at the ground; it's getting on to three years since I last went, and this game reminded me why: it was complete rubbish.

The game itself can be dispensed with quickly. The Brumbies had a few more ideas in attack but their defence fell to bits in the final quarter, resulting in a come-from-behind scoreline of 25 — 17 to the Force. Giteau (for the Brumbies) was mostly jeered (when he kicked for goal from anywhere and everywhere), and cheered only when he kicked a penalty out just before half time. (The Brumbies proceeded to fumble that attacking opportunity.) Ashley-Cooper came on in the last twenty minutes or so and did nothing much.

The afternoon cost me $43, consisting of $37.95 ($33 for a student ticket and $4.95 for the pleasure of booking it with the nice lady at the ANU Ticketek office) and $5 for parking. This is too much for a game of this quality; I've avoided seeing better rugby at Coogee Oval because they charge $20. My seat was in the "inner bowl" on the eastern side of Canberra Stadium (previously Bruce Stadium), so I was staring into the sun (but warm) until the final quarter, when it got cold, dark and bad for the Brumbies all at once. That spot would have been OK if the game had grabbed the crowd, but as it was there were many people standing around aimlessly, blocking the view.

There is no doubt the club realises it has problems when only 13,500 supporters turn up for a likely win (which wasn't). Long gone are the glory days of Gregan and Larkham, and now even George Smith. I'm certainly not likely to go back. The pick of the games this year will presumably be the Reds versus the Waratahs, provided the Tahs field a full-strength team and bring their pride. It strikes me that Australian rugby stretches to support three decent teams in the Super Rugby competition, let alone five. We're going the way of South Africa. One can only hope that the Wallabies will play entertaining rugby before they exit the world cup in the first elimination round.

Wallabies v Wales: 29-29 at Millenium Stadium (Cardiff).

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What a fiasco, a 29-all draw. The Welsh number 13 is a magician. Playing Giteau at number 9 was a bad move. Larkham came off sometime around the 60 minute mark rubbing his shoulder, so it may yet be holidays for him. Latham was the only back to shine.

AFL Grand Final: Swans lose to West Coast, 85 to 84.

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Irritatingly the Swans came home very strongly in the second half, readily making up the circa-twenty-point deficit of the first, but not quite enough to win it.

Rugby: Wallabies v Springboks in Johannesburg

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Being the final Tri Nations fixture of the year, the hype outstripped all other aspects of this game. The Springboks did the All Blacks last weekend so I held little hope for the Wallabies. As it was they did their best to lose, once again failing to support each other and to capitalise on some fairly good set-up play. The ref was both blind and imaginative, so I expect there'll be some backroom brawling over him in the weeks to come. 24 to 16, not really worth staying up for.

Tooheys New Cup Final: Randwick v Sydney University.

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The big game at Aussie Stadium (née the Sydney Football Stadium). Unfortunately Randwick played like a mix of the Wallabies teams of the past five years — some flashes of brilliance and occasional complete incompetency at basic things, like passing the ball. It is almost as if they thought the competition ended when they comfortably took out the minor premiership. Not to take anything away from Sydney University, it was a game where one team clearly lost.

The final score line was 16 to 10, with Randwick putting in a heroic after-the-siren Wallabies-from-2001 drive to score a winning try. The push came to an end with a colossal knock-on, which aptly summarised the afternoon.

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Watched Australia beat Ireland 37 to 15 in Perth, with mrak at the Cheers sportsbar on George St. The Irish are pretty good but need to play a full 80 minutes of football, and perhaps that's just a matter of fitness or having a holiday. The backlines of both teams was pretty solid, making for one of the most exciting games with Australia in it since before Eddie Jones (2002?).

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Australia scores its first three goals in a World Cup against Japan after spending 84 minutes one-down.

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Australia beats England 34 to 3 in the rugby. Our fowards are much improved but our backs need to meet each other.

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I see that France has beaten England 31 to 6 in the Six Nations Rugby, in France. One must begin to think that France will win the (rather scrappy) competition this year, and is on track to thrash all comers at the next world cup.

I hear they're playing rugby in the Southern Hemisphere presently but there's no way I'm following that until it's cold enough for a blanket on the bed.

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Went to watch South Africa play cricket against Australia at the SCG with my Dad. The SA batting was fairly tedious — they are masters at slow scoring, as they proved in the first Test in Perth. The last hour or so saw the collapse of the Australian top-order, which was perhaps a bit over-eager, understandably so given the crappy weather on the first day and an exhausting day in the field today.

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Rugby: Australia v Ireland at Lansdowne Road. It started at roughly 1:30am in Australia. A pretty crappy match, with O'Driscoll out injured and the Irish number 10 somehow having an off day. Latham played well and the (starting) front row didn't cave in.

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Went over to the Duke of Gloucester to watch the roundball football (as my SBS reception is no good). Wow, we beat Uruguay at long last. I think they should field a team consisting of clones of the goalkeeper and Harry Kewell and let the rest go.

As I walked over I thought the worst thing that could happen is for us to win the match 1-0 and still miss out on going to the World Cup. When the extra time kicked in I got thinking that having a super goalkeeper meant we really had nothing to fear from a penalty shootout, as indeed we didn't. Still, not the best way to win a game, and I fear we're in for a mauling at the hands of a real team (Brazil or France, or heck, even a north European one). I'll be satisfied if all the Soceroos do on the field in Germany is to score a goal against the Frenchmen, especially if Bartez comes out of retirement.