[imagesource: Getty Images]
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…
Another bumper weekend of sporting action has wrapped up. Given that yesterday was Valentine’s Day, there’s a decent chance you may have been otherwise occupied, so let’s dive right in.
Starting with rugby, and the Six Nations, where England gave the Italians a solid hiding at Twickenham.
Owen Farrell and his men scored six tries en route to a 41-18 win, with winger Jonny May scoring the pick of the bunch.
How about this for some acrobatics?
What a finish from Jonny May! pic.twitter.com/596IPi02bh
— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) February 13, 2021
The legality of the try has been questioned by recently retired referee Nigel Owens, who said it should have been a penalty to Italy as May “jumps up to avoid tackle” and it’s “not a dive for the line”.
In contrast, former South African referee Jonathan Kaplan told The Telegraph “this was a brilliant finish that was quite rightly awarded”.
Farrell’s tackling technique was also under the spotlight, with the referee missing a late hit on Italian scrumhalf Stephen Varney in the lead-up to Anthony Watson’s intercept try.
You can see that hit briefly around the 2:25 mark below (keep an eye on the Italian number nine), as part of the match highlights:
TMO Joy Neville did call play back, but referee Mike Adamson decided that because there was no “head contact”, it wasn’t foul play.
I’m not so sure about that, but perhaps Farrell has suffered enough over the past 18 or so months, waking up in the middle of the night covered in sweat and wondering if Cheslin Kolbe is hiding under his bed.
Wales versus Scotland was a far closer affair, with the Welsh pipping the home side 25-24, aided by the sending off of Scottish prop Zander Fagerson 13 minutes into the second half.
The Glasgow forward made contact with Alun Wyn Jones’ head as he cleared a ruck:
Scotland v Wales – Zander Fagerson red card.
Harsh or fair?#WalvSco #CymvAlb@thepaulwilliams @Steffan_Thomas1 @RhysapWilliam @ShaneWilliams11 @geraint_hardy @WelshCharityVet pic.twitter.com/tq6WLo4htb
— 218 Events (@218Events) February 13, 2021
At the time of the sending off, Scotland held a narrow lead, but couldn’t hang on with 14 men.
The full highlights package below:
Finally, France beat Ireland 15-13 at Lansdowne Road yesterday, having led 15-3 at one stage in the second half:
The win means France top the Six Nations log after two rounds of action:
The biggest local rugby news of the weekend was the confirmation that Siya Kolisi was leaving Western Province, having signed for the Sharks, as the wheels continue to come off over at Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU).
Led by president Zelt Marais, the union seems determined to sink itself into oblivion, and total financial collapse now seems all but certain.
Craig Ray has written an excellent piece on the latest follies here.
A similarly spectacular unravelling is taking place in the English Premier League, with defending champions Liverpool falling apart against Leicester City.
Having taken a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Mo Salah strike, Jurgen Klopp’s men crumbled, with Brazilian ‘keeper Alisson building on last week’s disastrous display by once more gifting the opposition a goal.
Shortly after a very tight VAR decision went against Liverpool, Alisson and debutant central defender Ozan Kabak were involved in a horrible mix-up, leaving Jamie Vardy to put the ball into an empty net.
Harvey Barnes would score in the 85th minute to clinch a 3-1 win, and three goals conceded inside seven minutes from Liverpool.
You can see the Kabak / Alisson shocker around 1:20 below, featuring a Vardy guitar solo on the corner flag:
After the match, a clearly emotional Klopp admitted that Liverpool’s title defence was over:
An emotional Jurgen Klopp has conceded the Premier League title 💔 pic.twitter.com/amxZISu6cl
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 13, 2021
That may seem premature, but when you consider the sort of form that Manchester City is in, it’s not surprising.
Ilkay Gundogan scored twice in the second half, with Rodrigo having netted from the penalty spot in the first, to inspire Pep Guardiola’s side to a comfortable 3-0 win over Jose Mourinho’s Spurs.
The former ‘Special One’ can feel aggrieved by the fact that Harry Kane’s sweetly struck free-kick rattled the post, and the penalty was soft, but there’s no denying that his side was outclassed:
Manchester United’s tame 1-1 draw with West Brom means that Manchester City are now seven points clear of their cross-city rivals, and also have a game in hand.
If Everton perform as poorly as they did against Fulham last night in Wednesday’s clash with City, that lead will grow to 10.
Thanks for nothing, Everton. Now the gap between 18th placed Fulham and my beloved Newcastle in 17th is just seven points, and Scott Parker’s side look far more likely to pick up points in the short-term than Steve Bruce’s Toon do.
I just hope that in the final round of matches, when Fulham take on Newcastle, our Premier League survival isn’t on the line.
Over in Germany, Borussia Dortmund’s wonderkid Erling Haaland sparked controversy with his leveller against Hoffenheim.
The Norwegian scored with 10 minutes remaining to make it 2-2, but Hoffenheim’s players were fuming that he didn’t put the ball out of play, as Mu’nas Dabbur was down injured:
Things got heated after Erling Haaland scored while a Hoffenheim player was down with an injury. pic.twitter.com/9QRv9BeKE7
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 13, 2021
Hoffenheim’s argument isn’t helped by the fact that they had the ball when Dabbur went down, and thus could have put the ball out themselves.
Instead, they played on, Haaland intercepted a pass, and bagged his 15th Bundesliga goal of the season in his 16th match. He has 23 in 23 across all competitions.
The draw means that Dortmund may struggle to secure Champion League football this season, and that would surely mean a big-money move for Haaland.
As long as he winds up in the Premier League, I’m not fussed about who he signs for.
For a goal celebration that is a touch unusual, we swing past Serie A, and Riccardo Saponara’s reaction to his teammate scoring.
What’s Riccardo Saponara doing? 👀 pic.twitter.com/akIowRvCxx
— Conor Clancy (@ConJClancy) February 13, 2021
Spezia did beat AC Milan 2-0, in a major upset, so I suppose we can give him this one.
The one and only Leo Messi was in fine form again, scoring twice as Barcelona beat Alaves 5-1.
Both strikes were from well outside of the box, and a reminder of why he remains the greatest footballer to ever walk this planet:
Is there anything Messi can’t do? 🙆♂️
Going into the Champions League round of 16 off the back of this ridiculous brace against Alaves from outside the box. pic.twitter.com/uQf3AArvI2
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) February 15, 2021
Down Under, the Australian Open continues, although there are no crowds present due to Melbourne returning to a five-day lockdown from Friday.
Nick Kyrgios doesn’t need a crowd to continue his assault on Novak Djokovic, though. The two have been verbally sparring for a number of weeks, and Kyrgios used his Margaret Court Arena entrance for a doubles match yesterday to poke fun at the Serbian.
The Australian was mocking Djokovic’s ‘heart-throwing’ post-match celebration:
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) February 14, 2021
After the match, Kyrgios said it was just a way to get him and his doubles partner, Thanasi Kokkinakis, psyched for the match with no crowd present:
“We’re just having some fun…Novak, I’m sure, doesn’t like me and we both have respect for each other, but I don’t like him at all, so it’s fun.”
Sounds like a blast.
Kyrgios and Kokkinakis lost, and Kyrgios also lost in his singles match to Dominic Thiem on Friday, so I’d say it’s Djokovic having the last laugh.
While we’re feeling a touch petty, let’s watch a professional golfer have the sort of putting nightmare usually reserved for weekend amateurs.
Nate Lashley was tied for the lead at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, before he fell apart on the 16th and four-putted his way to a triple-bogey.
He eventually finished fifth, having blown his chance to win his second PGA Tour title:
4 putts from 13 feet.
Nate Lashley was tied for the lead before this triple bogey. pic.twitter.com/kGR3YQbUzG
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 14, 2021
The PGA Tour account was kind enough to leave out the part where he banged his putter into the green.
Watch from the 10-second mark:
All things considered, I think he held his emotions in check pretty well.
I felt a similar urge to smash things when watching the Proteas T20 men’s side competing against Pakistan in this past week’s three-match series, although any proper fan knows this was very much a B team.
The bulk of our stars have returned home, for what should have been a test series against Australia (I’ve had my rant on that front), so a 2-1 series loss, and competing in all three matches, is actually a fair return.
I’ll conveniently skip over the first and third matches, which we lost, and plonk the highlights of the second T20 below:
Having pulled off a truly remarkable run chase in the first test match against Bangladesh, the West Indies completed a 2-0 series sweep thanks to a wonderful moment involving Rakheem Cornwall.
For some backstory, Cornwall is 1,96 metres tall, and has tipped the scale at more than 140 kilograms in the past.
He’s a big unit, but it was his lightning reflexes at slip that wrapped up the win:
— Catch Mate. (@CatchMate_) February 14, 2021
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) February 14, 2021
The good times carried on in the dressing room, too:
West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite didn’t see that coming 🤣 #BANvWI
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) February 15, 2021
You can see the full highlights of the fourth day below:
Finally, as I write this, England are under the pump in Chennai, and staring at a sizeable loss in the second test as India’s spinners tighten the screws.
The pitch at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium has come under fire for turning sharply from day one, particularly from English pundits, but India racking up 329 and 286, including a century from number eight Ravichandran Ashwin, will be used to counter that.
You tour India, you play on dustbowls – everybody knows the drill.
Day three ended with England 53-3, chasing 429, and the Poms will do well to reach 150 from here.
Yeah, that’s a wrap, folks.
There’s plenty of midweek football coming up this week, including the return of the Champions League, so prepare for some late nights and coffee-fuelled mornings.
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