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Newspilez – November 25th 2010 November 25, 2010

Sorry we’re late folks, there’s been too much rugby. So here we go…

England landed their second win of the autumn internationals with a 26-13 victory over Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday. The game might not have been up there in terms of the sheer excitement of the previous clash with Australia, but Johnno’s boys put up a (somewhat messy) fight in what was a fiercely physical eighty minutes and we can’t expect an Ashton moment in every game, can we? Manpilez favourites Matt Banahan and Tom Croft were England’s try scorers and were ably abetted by Toby Flood’s boot. Responses that I’ve seen to Banahan’s performance have been a bit luke warm; while his contribution has been noted, no one is really raving. I’m going to. I think he’s bloody great and was surprised that his inclusion in the squad came late. His try might not have been heartstopping or full of finesse, but his part in the set-up for Crofty’s was swift and without fanfare. Banas needs to be given more of a chance, because he knows how to make his mark.

Over to our cousins on the continent and Italy stood up to Australia on Saturday following their 22-16 defeat at the hands of Argentina. Although they put up a staunch defense, the Azzuri failed to shine and the Aussies had a 32-14 win to help ease their woes after the previous weekend’s Twickenham upset. The big news for Italy this week is that Mauro Bergamasco, who has yet to make an appearance in the autumn tests due to a recent injury, now faces shoulder surgery and a possible four month recovery period. Given that Italy are set to kick off their Six Nations bid in February, Nick Mallett will no doubt be biting his nails come the new year. Get well soon, Mauro!

So then, the Wales game. We very nearly didn’t write about it. We’ve spent the days since trying not to think about it to be perfectly honest but it would appear to have been quite an important event.

Eighty minutes of mediocrity stood between Wales and Fiji. In usual circumstances out home nations can be forgiven for taking their eyes off the ball against the Fijians when they’re the meat in the sandwich between Springboks and the All Blacks but in this case the whole of Wales was poised for a grudge match that never came.

Granted, our boys almost had them beat by a rather disappointing three points until one slip up by Captain Ryan Jones allowed Fiji the final kick… right between the posts. The game, much like the 2007 world cup game between the two was painful to watch but it’s the fall out that has been most interesting, and ultimately concerning.

Within minutes of the final, agonising whistle, Warren Gatland had snubbed the amassed media and publically stripped Ryan Jones of the Captaincy, passing the baton to Matthew Rees in the changing room.

Since then there have been clandestine meetings of the ‘senior’ members of the squad lead by Rees and reinstatements of players who last hit the headlines for their criticism of Gatland and more mud raking in the press than we really wanted to see.

Are we facing a player revolt of the kind that unseated Mike Ruddock? Will Gatland have to tear up that brand new contract before the ink has dried? The only thing that is for sure right now is that if Wales have any hopes at World cup or even Six Nations success we’re going to see a lot of changes over the next few months, and we might not like all of it…

To add insult to injury, Scotland bounced back from the utter drubbing by New Zealand to beat World Champions South Africa 21-17, wiping the smiles they’d been sporting after beating Wales the previous weeks right off their faces whilst also rubbing Gats’ nose in it. Thanks boys!

On a lighter note, the nominations have been revealed for this year’s IRB player of the Year. However, this year there is not a single brit named as Richie McCaw heads towards a somewhat controversial Hat trick against team mate Mils Muliana, Victor Matfield, Imanol Harinordoquy and Wallabies David Pocock and Kurtley Beale.

Player of the Week

this week is another Joint one, firstly for Matt Banahan for scoring one try and assisting another against Samoa and secondly to Ryan Jones. Because he’ll always be our captain.

And finally; a new feature…

What The Shit Is This?

James Haskell has an iPhone App.

We’re not even going to bother elaborating on that, we’re just going to let the information sink in for a while.

A whole App. Of James Haskell.

Words by Lauren and Anna

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Newspilez – Week Ending 14th November 2010 November 16, 2010

What a weekend, hey, dear readers?

Week two of the Autumn International Series was an out and out nail biter from start to bitter end.
Saturday saw an ill-advised simultaneous kick off of the Ireland V Samoa, Wales V South Africa and
England V Australia games.

Sadly, this meant we didn’t get to see BOD almighty’s boys take on Samoa, but all reports we’ve seen
heard and read have described their 20-10 win as ‘unconvincing’. I’d call 10 points pretty convincing
but then I didn’t see it…

However, it was this side of the sea where all the excitement was happening. Wales very nearly kept
the South African wolves from the Millennium Stadium door with one of the most nailbiting and
controversial displays this reporter has seen in a very long time. From the starting whistle, our boys
in red were fierce and seemed to get the Springboks on the back foot for much of the first half, going
into the break leading by 20-9 after a scorching try from newcomer George North and some spot on
Kicking from Superstephen. However, the beginning of the second half saw the ‘Boks have a golden
spell, crashing over the line twice within five minutes and creating a four point lead from which the
Cymro’s could not recover, despite valliant efforts.

Fair play to the Springboks (that makes a change!) their defence was SOLID in the face of some
stellar Welsh attack, and the ball was firmly in the South African 22 for most of the last 20 minutes
as our boys tried to eake out one last, winning try but sadly it was not to be.

As if our pulses weren’t already racing, by the time the final whistle blew in the Millennium stadium
we were already getting word that something amazing had happened at Twickenham. England had
beaten Australia. Again. Convincingly.

A lot will be said about the fiercness of the pack in the face of the Aussie’s woeful scrimmaging, a lot
will be said about Ben Young’s mad skillz at 9, and Crofty’s Is-He-A-Flanker-Is-He-A-Winger presence
all over the field but most of the talk is of Chris Ashton. The Northampton Saints winger placed
himself firmly in the heart of every rubgy loving Englishman and woman after having scored a brace
against the Wallabies, both fantastic tries but non so much as his second.

From Deep in Enemy territory, inches away from the English try line, Good ole Ashy got the ball, saw
a gap…. and run the ENTIRE length of the field. The papers have been doing their best over the last
few days to describe how epic it was, some have done it in words, but many have tried graphics with
varying degrees of success. To us, it looked a bit like this:

 

That is to say, pretty impressive, and the kind of try we’ll be talking about for years (like that
diagram, huh?).

Of course, the RFU don’t do humble, so now it’s a New English Renaissance, they’ve been pushed up
to fourth in the world rankings and they’re CONVINCED the World Cup is a formality.

Come on boys, that was awesome, don’t ruin it by running your mouths off. Oh, too late…

Up in Bonnie Scotland, Murrayfield was done up to look like Brigadoon with lone pipers, smoke and
fire and some incredible atmosphere. They got us so fired up that for a moment we even started
to believe they might actually give The Best Team In The World (TM) a run for their money. Sadly
the whistle blew and all that went south, way south, pretty quickly and after 78 painful minutes of
seeing earnest Scotsman after Earnest Scotsman fall to the Kiwis, the ref blew the whistle, with the
score at 3-49, clearly not wanting to add insult to Max Evans’ shoulder injury that had halted play.

More provincially, the LV= kicked off for the last time till January this weekend, with two big grudge
matches. Ospreys v Leicester in Bridgend and Wasps V Bath down in High Wycombe. We were very
pleased to see the Ospreys storm the Brewery Field with our gaggle of youngsters managing to
put 46 points past the Tigers who clocked up 13 points of their own. Wasps and Bath fought it out
valiantly to end 18-16 to the alleged Londoners. Elsewhere the Scarlets travelled to London Irish
and thoroughly trounced them with 26 points to 35 and Harlequins won 28-20 against Newcastle
Falcons.

Sadly, the Weekend did not end on as positive note as it started. It was announced on Sunday
Evening that two players from the Springbok camp had failed their random drug tests after their
game against Ireland a week previously. Both Chiliboy Ralepelle and Bjorn Basson have taken early
planes back to South Africa after being handed bans by the IRB on the recommendation of Six
Nations Rugby who carried out the test. Both tested positive for ‘non specified’ banned stimulant
methylhexaneamine, a nasal decongestant only recently added to the watch list, and one which
Springbok Management are claiming, somewhat plausibly, came from flu medication. Either way this
may not be as serious as it sounds, but it’s put everyone on alert. Are players fully aware of what is a
supplement and what is going to ruin their career? Or is this part of a deeper problem?

As ever, we like to end on a hormonal note. This week we’re turning our sights to the impending
Bottom of the Ruck Awards.  What started off as a bit of a lark on twitter has turned into a glitzy awards
ceremony at Twickenham with a raft of Rugby Stars.
Austin Healey will be presiding over the event and many of the nominees will be trying to prove their
bottom is best, all in the name of Beating Bowel Cancer. We’ve already voted but if you want to rate
Dan Carter against Adam Jones or Brian O’Driscoll against James Haskell, get to the website then get
your glad rags on!

And before we go: Player Of the week!

A shared award this week as, in complete tandem two men put themselves in the history books of
rugby in fine style this Saturday.

The First; George North: The third youngest player to be capped for Wales came out of the traps
like he’d been ready for it since the day he was born. He worked the entire field and went over for a
brace of stunning tries. His future looks bright.

Chris Ashton: Because that try was more than great.

Words by Lauren, bad photoshop by Lauren

 

Newspilez: Week Ending 5th September 2010 September 6, 2010

Aaaah, can you smell that? It’s the season, it’s here and it’s fresh and lush and exciting. It’s like a little touch of Spring just as Autumn is peeking it’s head around the corner. Okay, that might be an analogy too far but still, the two main UK tournaments kicked off in fine style this week and it’s made us come over all romantic.

Opening Weekend was one of surprises as Connacht went straight to the top of the Magners League after beating  the Dragons 40-17 at the Sportsground.  Meanwhile, our beloved Ospreys managed to knock a single notch off that deficit after losing by one lousy point against Ulster at Ravenhill and the Scarlets fell foul of new boys Benetton Treviso. It wasn’t all bad news for the Welsh sides, however as Cardiff Blues trounced Edinburgh 34-23, securing their first bonus point win of the season. In better news for the Scots, Glasgow Warriors secured a 22-19 win against last year’s runners up Leinster, while poor Aironi sadly proved our blind faith wrong by losing quite dramatically to Munster.  We’re sure they’ll pick up… right?

Over the borders in England, the Aviva Premiership also got off to a gasp-making start when new boys Exeter Chiefs proved their mettle with a convincing 22-10 win over Gloucester, while last year’s winners Leicester Tigers failed to get out of their cages and conceded 27 points to Northampton, able only to answer back with 19 of their own. I’m pretty sure that result made them feel as sick as their away kit made us.

From Leicestertigers.com we're sure they'e hoping we'll buy one... ew!

I mean really, even Manpilez poster boy Tom Croft’s not going to be able to look good in that. Bath, however, lived up to our hype and ratcheted up a convincing win against Leeds at Headingley.

In the capital, the season was kicked off in fine style with the showpiece of the premiership calendar – The London Double Header. In a messy and unfocussed first match, London Irish managed to come back from being 10-6 down at half time to beat Saracens 33-6 after a brace of excellent flourishes by Topsy Ojo got the fire back in their bellies. Later that afternoon, the Twickenham pitch was set alight in a fierce battle between London Wasps and Harlequins which ended in a 29 all draw despite both teams giving it their all. Our London branch (Lauren and Anna) were there and despite entering the ground completely neutral, we couldn’t help but cheer proudly when former Cardiff Blue Andy Powell got his first try in black and yellow. More full report to come once we’ve recovered from Girlflu and technical issues…

In international waters, we’re very sad to report that the England girls, after what seemed like a fight to the death, came second in the Women’s Rugby World cup after the Black Ferns put in a last gasp penalty to take the title with 13-10. The England ladies put in one hell of a fight so New Zealand may have to take extra care of that trophy this time around as it might be it’s last trip back to the Southern hemisphere. We hope.

The Tri Nations is still going on, apparently, despite having effectively been won by New Zealand about three weeks ago. This week Australia beat South Africa 39-41 in what was apparently a very exciting game.

The new laws at the breakdown have been coming under a lot of scrutiny over the last few days, so far we’ve only really seen them in the Tri Nations but now it’s time for teams closer to home to put them into effect it seems it’s all people can talk about. The new laws now put the onus on the tackler to ensure the speed of the recycled ball by giving the tackle more space to roll away, present the ball to his team mates. So far it seems to be reducing the amount of kicking, making runners slightly more confident with ball in hand and it will hopefully lead to a reduction in penalties being given for players not rolling away when they can barely move under the ruck.

In more hormonal news, this week sees one of our favourite pastimes go mainstream: Insane Publicity Stunt Watch hits Britain’s Next Top Model. Oh yes. We thought Bath becoming firemen for the day was the height of this year’s insanity (which did, in fairness make Ospreys stint as bin men last year look tame) but now London Wasps are getting their kit on with the girls vying for Elle McPhearson’s seal of approval. Will Shawsy keep his clothes on? Anna’s hoping not, but we’ll know at 9pm Monday and every night from then to infinity based on LivingTV’s repeat schedule.

And now for our inaugural players of the week.

It’s close this week, for it’s been rather a dramatic week in the land of Rugger but we’re going to have to let our heart rule our head and award this to Mr. Daniel Biggar. Responsible for 21 of the Ospreys 26 points against Ulster, it’s fair to say his boot saved the day and kept the boys in black and purple within bonus point range.

Runners up included Topsy Ojo for his two stunning tries for London Irish at Twickenham, Luke Watson for his at Headingley and the entire Exeter Chiefs squad for coming straight into the premiership fighting.

Words by Lauren, picture by Leicester Tigers.