Each Monday, I’ll be putting together a wrap of the weekend’s sporting action, standout moments, and major talking points, with a focus on football, cricket, and rugby.
So, off we go…
Conor McGregor may have arrived at Fight Island in style, but he left with his tail between his legs, having suffered defeat at the hands of American Dustin Poirier at UFC 257.
The lightweight division main event was stopped with just under two-and-a-half minutes left in the second round, after Poirier landed a number of stinging blows:
— DraftKings (@DraftKings) January 24, 2021
The American had to wait a long while to enact his revenge, having been knocked out by McGregor in the first round back in 2014, and the two fighters are now nicely set up for a third fight, and a big payday.
After the fight, McGregor and Poirier met backstage, with the Irishman sporting a very noticeable limp:
That fight above wasn’t the only talking point from the night (or morning, here in South Africa), with Michael Chandler’s UFC debut going rather well.
He defeated Dan Hooker in an upset victory, and then nailed a backflip to celebrate, as one does:
— ESPN (@espn) January 24, 2021
As you can tell from his postfight interview, he’s not short on confidence:
Moving from the Octagon to the Carling Currie Cup, where the finalists have been decided after this weekend’s semi-final clashes.
The Bulls overcame the Golden Lions 26-21 at Loftus, in a match that won’t go down in history as the most entertaining (watch those highlights here), but it was a far sight better than the horror show at Newlands.
What is likely to be the final match ever played at the iconic stadium was anything but a fitting send-off, with the Sharks triumphing over Western Province 19-9.
On social media, there wasn’t much enthusiasm about the quality on show:
The product is poor and I don’t detect mass interest in it. I believe domestic rugby needs to disappear until at least mid-March, and begin a ‘proper’ winter season. This stuff is counterproductive.
— Rob Houwing (@RobHouwing) January 23, 2021
— Craig Ray (@craigray11) January 23, 2021
As a counterpoint to the negativity, Sharks Rugby CEO Eduard Coetzee shared some of the struggles that teams have faced just to get on the field, so perhaps we should be a little more sympathetic.
The whole Twitter thread is worth a read, but here’s the start:
Seen some valid comments around the quality of some CC matches…not trying to justify or defend it, just aiming to add some context. In 13 rounds of rugby since Covid hit…not once did we get to train a full week…the semi final week was first one without Covid absentees…
— Eduard Coetzee (@coetzee_eduard) January 24, 2021
If, after all that, you still want to watch the highlights, go right ahead:
I know you’re reading this, Mikey P, so well done to your boys.
In cricket, England wrapped up a 2-0 series win against Sri Lanka today, with the home side having capitulated after taking a first-innings lead.
The Poms have Joe Root to thank, as the in-form skipper followed up his double century in the first test with a superb 186 under pressure in the second.
Down Under, in the Big Bash, there was the rather unique sight of Jake Weatherald being run out at both ends, much to the amusement of the commentary team.
hahahaha run out at both ends 😂pic.twitter.com/nddqtNzbj1
— That’s so Village (@ThatsSoVillage) January 24, 2021
Nathan Ellis can feel slightly aggrieved about the delivery below, which you can see clip the bail, which then lights up, but doesn’t dislodge:
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 24, 2021
Finally, we should mention Cricket South Africa’s director of cricket, Graeme Smith, and his recent Zoom interview, which most parents working from home can probably relate to:
Daddy, tie my shoelace – Graeme Smith’s bat-wielding son crashes Zoom call 😃 pic.twitter.com/I99wiZRmgE
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) January 22, 2021
Doesn’t matter where you hide, Graeme. They will find you.
The Proteas’ first test match in Pakistan in a generation starts tomorrow, at around 7AM South African time, so here’s hoping we can combat what are likely to be very spinner-friendly conditions.
Football-wise, it was another weekend of FA Cup action across the UK, which kicked off on Friday night with a David versus Goliath clash between Chorley FC and Wolves.
Chorley, a semi-professional club which competes in the National League North, the sixth tier of English football, did themselves proud, but went down 0-1 to a great strike from Vitinha:
Chorley 0-1 Wolves – Vitinha great goalpic.twitter.com/zPCLBQJtWM
— noobfcb (@noob_fcb) January 22, 2021
No shame in that.
Respect must also be given to fourth-tier Cheltenham, who led the mighty Manchester City 1-0 until a late blitz saw Pep Guardiola’s team win 3-1.
A full 72 league places separated the two teams at kick-off, to give you a sense of the gulf between the sides.
South Africans are still eagerly awaiting Percy Tau’s first goal for Brighton, but at least he was back in the starting lineup for their clash against Blackpool on Saturday.
Brighton won 2-1, taking the lead in the 27th minute with a beaut of a long-range strike from Yves Bissouma:
🤩 Yves Bissouma fires @OfficialBHAFC ahead with an absolute screamer.
— SPORF (@Sporf) January 23, 2021
The lack of crowd helps, but it’s always great to hear the ball smash into the back of the net.
As far as FA Cup fourth round fixtures went, there was one that everybody was keeping an eye on, and it didn’t disappoint.
Despite some recent stalemates in the league, Manchester United and Liverpool turned it on at Old Trafford. The home side won 3-2, courtesy of a Bruno Fernandes free-kick.
At least Liverpool, and their Egyptian talisman Mo Salah, were back in the goals after a worrying drought.
Here are the match’s key moments, with Bruno’s winner just after the 1:30 mark:
Speaking of goal droughts, I must sadly mention that Newcastle United again failed to score in a 0-2 loss, this time against Aston Villa in the weekend’s sole Premier League match.
Jack Grealish and co tore the Toon apart, meaning it’s now 10 matches without a win, five straight defeats, and a single goal in eight matches.
In today’s press briefing, manager Steve Bruce said he “will never shy away”, and then refused to take questions from the written media.
His sacking cannot come soon enough, which brings us nicely on to the fact that Chelsea has just announced the sacking of Frank Lampard.
The Telegraph reports that former PSG manager Thomas Tuchel has been lined up as his replacement.
Having spent so handsomely in the previous transfer window, Roman Abramovich’s patience was always going to be limited, and Chelsea sitting 9th after 19 games didn’t quite cut it.
Let’s wrap up the football coverage with a wonderful thread covering Gary Neville’s commentary, and the varying levels of enthusiasm in his ‘ooooo’ outbursts:
6/10. The length is there, but quite monotone. pic.twitter.com/EfuqNFpjUZ
— Josh (@UtdJL) January 20, 2021
Do watch the rest of that thread, as it’s bound to bring a smile to your face.
Finally, to American Football, and yet another example of why Tom Brady is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
At the ripe old age of 43, having left the New England Patriots and headed to Tampa Bay, Brady has secured his team a place in Super Bowl 55.
The Buccaneers overcame Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers 31-26 in the NFC Championship game, meaning Brady will now feature in his 10th Super Bowl, on February 7, against reigning champions the Kansas City Chiefs.
It was a tight-run thing, with the match still in the balance in the final few minutes, but the Buccaneers clung on.
You can watch those highlights here.
With the Proteas taking on Pakistan tomorrow, and English Premier League matches tomorrow night (plus Spurs in the FA Cup tonight), there really is no rest.
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