Jezza’s Sports Report
Hi there, sports fans, and another week of scintillating and exciting sports action to report on! So, straight in and no beating about the bush this week.
Let’s start, for a change, with Rugby Union, and in the English Premiership, t’was the Semifinals of the play-offs and both matches were great adverts for the English game. Firstly, Northampton took on perennial winners Leicester at Franklin Gardens and what a match, with the Saints squeezing through 21-20 in a typically thunderous local derby, to reach the Final at Twickers in a fortnight’s time. There they will meet the League winners Saracens, who mastered Harlequins 31-17, although it wasn’t until the second half, with Sarries down by 6 points and reduced to 13 players, that the eventual winners came through with England wing Chris Ashton to the fore. However, both teams have pressing engagements in Europe this weekend before they play each other, as Northampton take on Bath in the Final of the Amlin Cup and Saracens take on Toulon in the Final of the Heineken Cup, both Finals being played in Cardiff. The latter should be a real classic, the best of England agin the best of France, with a shoot-out between old and new England flyhalves, legend Jonny Wilkinson, playing in his final match before retirement, and current England star Owen Farrell. Don’t miss it on TV, because, on paper at least, it should be a stunner!
On to Tennis, and although Our Andy Murray lost against Rafael Nadal in the Rome Open, even with a set start, apparently he feels he is on song for the upcoming French Open so we’ll see! In the Final it was a classic, between World No 1 Rafa and No 2 Djokovic with the latter coming through to upset the form book and win in 3 sets.
Cycling now, and congrats, once again, to Sir Bradley Wiggins as he won the Tour of California by a 30 second margin but congrats too to Brit Mark Cavendish who won the final sprint finish, as he is wont to do!
Now, as my regular reader(s) know, I have passed over Motor Racing to Rhian because it’s her passion, but I had to have a chuckle when I heard that Our Lewis Hamilton, F1 championship leader and used to driving at 180 mph+, turned over a Robin Reliant by mistake in a charity event over the weekend. Seems he’s a master of 4 wheels but not as good as Rodders in a 3 wheeler!
On to Footie, and although World Cup mania is beginning to kick in, there were a few important matches taking place over the weekend in Europe. Firstly, in England, at last, at last, a trophy for Arsenal as they won the FA Cup Final, beating Hull City 3-2 after extra time. However, even then, Mnsr Wenger didn’t raise a smile, even though his relief was tangible, as he held aloft the Cup, the only trophy his team have won in the last nine long seasons. You have to feel for the Tigers though, as they were 2-0 up within 6 minutes and had the perfect opportunity to kill the match with a third goal before the Gunners came back to be 2-2 at full time. Even then, Hull had opportunities but couldn’t quite make them count. So, the Emirates can clear out their trophy cabinet of moths and spiders webs and at last put in some silverware – ’bout time too!
North of the Border, it was the Scottish Cup Final and new holders here as well, as St Johnstone beat Dundee Utd 2-0 at Celtic Park, to claim their first Cup in their 130 year history. In Germany, Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, humiliated by Real Madrid in the Champions League Semis, took on runners up Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup Final and completed the Double as they won 2-0 to at least give Pep something to cheer!
And what a finish to La Liga in Spain, where leaders Atlético Madrid needing at least a draw to win the league, played their final league match against Barcelona, at the Camp Nou, themselves needing a win to secure the title. It didn’t look too good for Atlético as they went
1-0 down in the first half as well as losing two of their main stars through injury but whatever manager Simeone said at half-time obviously worked, as a second half header from a corner proved decisive for the Madrillenos and they ended up 1-1, to take the title by 3 points. So, Part 1 of Atlético’s dream double completed as they now face city opponents Real in the Champions League Final on Saturday evening in Lisbon. As I mentioned last week, should be a cracker, altho’ the Rojiblancos could well be without striker Diego Costa (Chelsea-bound I hear!) through injury. Certainly one to watch, methinks, so that’s Saturday’s TV sorted – first both rugby finals in Cardiff then straight on to the footie so I had better warn “´er indoors who must be obeyed!” who I am sure won’t be best pleased but then, like most women, she does love Wilko!
Also, on the footie front, the month’s worst kept secret was outed as Manchester Utd confirmed their appointment of Dutchman and current Holland manager Louis van Gaal as their manager, taking effect immediately after the World Cup, with United legend Ryan Giggs being appointed as his assistant. Works well for Giggsy, now retired from all football, as no doubt he will learn lots from the Dutch meister with a view to taking the reigns when LvG decides he’s had enough (probably next season!) So, lots to look forward to for the English media next season, as I would love to be a fly on the wall when he tackles Jose and Mnsr Wenger when they go head to head at their press conferences!
Talking managers, good luck to both Steve McLaren and Our ‘Arry Redknapp and their respective clubs, Derby County and QPR, as they go head to head at the w/end at Wembley in the Championship Final Play Off for the right to join the elite in the Premier League and that massive incentive of some ₤30 million prize.
Am running outta time and space, so sorry, guys an’ gals, will have to postpone my much-anticipated (I understand!) End-of-Season Awards until next week so until then, have a good ‘un and enjoy our much needed rain!
Friends and colleagues have been paying tribute to three-time Formula One world champion Sir Jack Brabham who has died at the age of 88.
Brabham, who claimed the drivers’ title in 1959, ’60 and ’66 – and who remains the only man to have won a championship in a car bearing his own name – passed away peacefully at his home in Australia on Monday morning.
His first two titles in a Cooper-Climax marked the end for front-engined Formula One cars, while his third made him the only driver in history to win a world championship in a car of his own manufacture, the Brabham BT19 – a feat unlikely to be repeated.