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Newspilez – Week Ending 30th January 2011 February 1, 2011

Amid the madness of the Manpilez Awards and the building hype of the Six Nations, this week’s Newspilez is set to be a whistlestop tour through a weekend of Anglo Welsh showdowns as we recap the happenings in the LV= Cup.

 
Being the time of year that it is, every team is subject to losing their finest and brightest to national selection for the aforementioned 6 Nations. The difference between now and when this happened for the autumn internationals is that approximately 86.7% of players have done gone got themselves busted up in recent weeks, meaning that pickings which were already slim are now veering dangerously close to size zero. So it was that clubs from the north of England to, er, the Middle East found themselves sending out some of their fledglings with misty eyes and fond hair ruffling. Seems like only yesterday that they were in their “Born to play for…” babygrows, doesn’t it?
 
I digress. The attention grabber of the weekend was of course the London Abu Dherbi (this pun has gone through various reworkings, but we’re going with this one), which saw “London” Wasps stretch their definition of location just a little bit further by setting up a specially built stadium in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. Like you do. Sadly for the High Wycombe wanderers (arf), a repeat of their recent H-Cup thrashing at the hands of Harlequins was on the cards. The baby Quins put on an impressive show and added insult to injury when Sam Smith crossed over to well and truly seal the deal 13-38. Harlequins are now enjoying the view from the top of pool four as a result.
 
In less exotic climes, a handful of obscure Ospreys stepped up to the plate to take on some nondescript Cardiff Blues. Again, it was only a few weeks back that the two sides last clashed, but the differences couldn’t have been more marked with all of the familiar faces squirreled away practising trust exercises in Warren Gatland’s back garden. Probably. Sloppy in some places and downright wince-inducing at times, some promise still shone through with a solid Ospreys pack still domineering the scrum even when two yellow cards reduced them to six men. Ospreys fly half Matthew Morgan deserves a shout out, too, simply for being the Anti-Biggar.
 
Leicester Tigers had another upset following their round two trouncing by the Ospreys. This time it was the season’s shockers, Exeter Chiefs, who did the bossing. Having lost out to the Tigers twice this season in Aviva Premiership fixtures, the Chiefs made sure Leciester hadn’t even got a score on the board by half time before going on to a 35-10 win. The Aviva’s other big boys, Northampton Saints, also came a cropper at the Madejski Stadium as London Irish kept their completely random form flowing and dealt the Saints their biggest defeat of the season.
 
Our beloved Barks had a literal hit and miss day at the Rec, but it was his boot that kept Bath’s LV hopes alive after they took an 11-6 victory over Newcastle Falcons. Elsewhere, Saracens saved all their effort for the second half of their showdown with the Scarlets to go home with a solid 34-7 win, while Sale had a 20-28 upset on home soil courtesy of Newport Dragons and Gloucester redeemed themselves after their last clash with Leeds Carnegie with by securing a 30-16 victory. Next weekend will see the final matches in the pools stages, though you’ll be forgiven if that slips by you…
 
… which leads me nicely into my little addendum to this week’s Newspilez. My esteemed colleague Lauren has been posting her Six Nations previews, but I can’t let her have all the fun. So, my thoughts in three bullet points: 
 
– As an Ospreys supporter who is in no way Welsh, Friday’s Wales v England match may cause me to have a nervous breakdown. Don’t tell Lauren, but there’s a red rose over my heart that won’t wilt despite the sea of daffodils that have grown around it.
 
– I’ve joked about Italy being my neutral go-to in the tournament, but I am genuinely excited to see if and how the Azzurri will attempt to capitalise on the injury-strewn squads they face. And hey, I’ll add Luke McLean and Alessandro Zanni to the “One to Perv Over” category while I’m at it.
 
– Finally – and most importantly – I would just like to make it absolutely clear that, despite claims that the Manpilez ladies would opt for Baileys over Guinness, mine is a pint of the black stuff every time.
Words by Anna
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Newspilez – week ending 9th January 2011 January 10, 2011

Happy New Year and welcome to the first Newspilez of 2011. With thoughts of tinsel and turkey already distant in our minds, it’s time to meet January head on. With the ongoing drama of the Aviva Premiership, H-Cup and Magners League to keep us busy, plus the Six Nations and a small grassroots tournament which we believe is known as the Rugby World Cup lined up, we’re going to do our best to keep bringing you our quirked-eyebrow, tongue-in-cheek, sometimes slightly capslocky and hysterical brand of rugby coverage over the next year. To that end…

Aironi put Cardiff Blues through their paces on Friday night at the Cardiff City Stadium, though they’re still sitting at the bottom of the Magner’s League having failed to land a victory so far this season. Leigh Halfpenny made a triumphant return from injury with a try which helped Blues to their eventual 24-13 win.

The Ospreys continued in their quest to make Lauren and Anna pull all their hair out by the end of the season during their clash with Leinster. There were bursts of promise which had us on the edges of our seats, with first-time Ospreys captain Justin Tipuric landing himself a try, but it just wasn’t Dan Biggar’s night. Leinster took a 15-10 victory and we heaved heavy sighs.

The Scottish press is up in arms concerning Munster’s 22-20 win over Glasgow on Saturday, questioning the try awarded to David Wallace (The Herald has made some implications about video ref Dermot Moloney being from Munster…) and the sin binning of Glasgow fullback Bernardo Stortoni which led to Ronan O’Gara’s winning penalty kick. Expect the resultant debate about the need for neutral officials in the league to go on for some time…

Elsewhere in the Magner’s League, Ulster pulled their socks firmly up and saw off Treviso 32-13, Dragons slipped past Connacht 17-16 and Scarlets were doubtlessly making snow angels in delight after beating Edinburgh by 21 points to 16 at Murrayfield.

Saturday was derby day in London, as Quins took on Wasps at the packed out Stoop. Quins went in fighting and put on a great team show in the first half, setting up well deserved tries for Joe Marler and Mike Brown. Wasps put up a tough fight and even though Andy Powell was slogging it out all over the pitch, Nick Easter edged over for a third try and Quins went into the break 17-7 up. Wasps dominated possession in the second half, but only managed to put 3 more points on the board and while Quins took the win 17-10, Chris Robshaw admitted that his squad were “a little flat” in the second half.

Of course the real derby took place in the east Midlands on Saturday evening as Aviva Premiership table leaders Leicester Tigers took on second place rivals Northampton Saints. As far as exciting starts to games go, you’re going to be hard pressed to beat Ben Foden touching down just 53 seconds into this tough, injury-strewn head to head.

Both Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton went off early in the game with a knackered knee and quad muscle respectively, but it was Geordan Murphy who came off worse, stretchered off in the last quarter.

Despite the early show and a great fight from Saints, Leicester went into the game at an advantage as they were six points clear in the league and had a five game winning streak and the roar of the Welford Road faithful in their ears. Tries from Craig Newby and Marcos Ayerza and seventeen points courtesy of Toby Flood’s boot secured Tigers a 27-16 victory.

Other premiership matches saw Bath scrape past Leeds 16-13 thanks to Barks and Bendy and London Irish reaching double figure doom with their tenth consecutive loss as Saracens beat them 12-6. Exeter’s smashing season opener against Gloucester was a distant memory with a 37-23 defeat in the re-match and Sale drew with Newcastle 19 points apiece.

Over in France, Toulouse are still the heavy hitters in the Top 14 despite a monster 31-3 defeat at the hands of Stade Francais on Saturday. Racing Metro edged out Toulon on Sunday night in a 15-12 home victory which has put them in second place on the league table, just two points behind Toulouse.

Two small matters to finish with: if you haven’t already seen the posts and the social media barrage, voting for the 2010/11 Manpilez Awards is now open! The blog had its busiest ever day on Saturday after a number of your lovely nominees were kind enough to promote us in the hopes of getting their hands on the coveted (and we hasten to add metaphorical) awards. If you haven’t already casted your vote, you have until Saturday 15 January!

And finally, if you only follow one new Twitter account this week, why not make it @sebchabal_eng. Yes, that’s right, Seabass himself, translated into English. Where else will you get gems like “Yes, mushrooms are scrumptious. That’s a fact”?

Words by Anna

 

Newspilez: week ending 12 September 2010 September 13, 2010

Given that we Manpilez ladies are 75% Ospreys loyal (with the remaining 25% having both feet firmly in Wales), a certain issue about a certain twinkly-toed hypothermic man has not passed us by this week and we’re sure it didn’t miss you, either. Bearing that in mind…

  • The week ended on a positive for the Ospreys who, after having their four point defecit suspended on Friday morning, saw off Italian Magners newcomers Benetton Treviso at the Liberty Stadium with a 32-16 win. A more coherent performance than last week’s show against Ulster, the Ospreys went in on the attack and exploited a weak Treviso defence. Hideous weather conditions failed to improve throughout the game and there were plenty of slips and slides, not to mention a gutted Gareth Owen losing out on a try in a lamentable butterfingers moment. Pieman, Peddlar and Stig did some proper business, but we’ve not seen the best of the boys from Llandarcy yet this season. For about twenty lovely minutes, the Ospreys were roosting snugly at the top of the league, but were usurped once Munster fought to seal a three point victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

 

  • The big Saturday showdown saw Leinster take on Cardiff Blues in a game with more ups and downs than a kangaroo on a pogo stick. The first half was definitely in Leinster’s favour, but the Blues made a step change in the second and levelled before Leinster booted themselves up the behind for a charged final twenty minutes. Two tries in the last ten saw Leinster seal the deal 34-23.

 

  • Elsewhere in the Magners League, Newport Gwent Dragons seem to be upping their game and saw off Glasgow Warriors 23-11 in a scrappy clashing of heads at Rodney Park, while Scarlets slipped by with 35-33 win despite an early lead from Connacht. Kudos to Aironi, who, despite falling foul of Ulster in the final quarter to end on 15-22, really bit back in their first Magners League home game. Two Irish competitors down and two Welsh lined up in the coming weeks, only time will tell if the fire in their bellies be enough to keep Aironi afloat…

 

  • Over in England’s green and pleasant land, the Aviva Premiership is gathering pace with Bath currently leading the pack. Despite injurygeddon coming to the Rec, Bath managed a 20-13 victory over London Irish with everyone’s favourite reformed bad boy, Olly Barkley, putting the boot in to land five penalty kicks. In your face, Johnno.

 

  • Wasps suffered a massive upset at the hands of Newcastle Falcons, falling from 14 point lead grace to stumble home with a 29-17 defeat swimming before their eyes. With tries being disallowed left, right and centre, Quins were no doubt spitting to lose out 16-20 to Northampton Saints at the Stoop, while Sarries rose from the ashes of last week’s Twickenham defeat to beat Sale Sharks 28-13. Gloucester clawed back some dignity after their first round trouncing from Exeter but landed only the slimmest of victories over Leeds Carnegie with a final score of 22-21. Speaking of Exeter, the Chiefs were back to their old tricks at Welford Road on Saturday, at least for the first half of their head-to-head with current Aviva champs Leicester Tigers. Going into half time with a 20-10 lead, Exeter fought tooth and nail but were denied a second win as the Tigers finally pulled their socks up and turned the tide for an epic 11 point comeback in the final 16 minutes. Newcastle, you’re next and you’d be wise to not underestimate the west country boys!

 

  • Finally, a quick hop over the Channel to review the state of the Top 14. Our favourite boyband Stade Francais are having a bit of a shocker, currently practising their choreography and lipsynching in the bottom end of the league (stifle those giggles in the back) while their historic bitchslap counterparts Racing Metro 92 are flying high, three points behind leaders Aviron Bayonnais. The Racing boys took La Rochelle to the cleaners on Saturday 43-18 win that saw perennial injury-magnet Juan Martin Hernandez duck out early with a thigh complaint. Let’s hope he’s not Iantoed himself and will be fighting fit soon.

 

Words by Anna (ably abetted 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.

 

The ‘Pilez to Watch in 2010/11 September 5, 2010

So, this weekend the UK season has well and truly kicked off. To say we’ve waitied with baited breath would be an understatement. Our first season as a ‘proper’ blog means not only do we now have a cast iron excuse to watch barely healthy amounts of the truly beautiful game, but also that we get to share all of our hair-brained theories with you lovely folk.
Coming up is the Manpilez guide to this year’s passers and ruckers…
 

 

The Aviva Premiership
Now we’re going to be honest here, we’ve never really paid that much attention to the tournament formerly known as Guinness before, but not only do we feel it’s our duty to sit up and take notice of what’s happening in England now we’ve got a blog to write, but it’s actually looking to be quite exciting this time around. We’ve been crunching numbers and reading articles out the wazoo to come up with our top three seeds. You guys feel free to argue, and we’ll get ready to eat our words if need be.
 

 

Leicester
800,000 times winners Leicester are a consistently strong side and after taking the trophy in a really rather dramatic final at the end of last season, they’re going into 2010/11 on a high. These boys are also gunning quite fiercely for European victory this year after consistently butting heads with the Ospreys in the group stages for the last few years. This year, safe in the knowledge that their arch rivals are in the Pool Of Death, they’ll be going the extra mile to prove their mettle.
Expected placing: Top two
One to Watch: Tom Croft, he’s big *and fast*
One to force yourself not to get distracted by: Tom Croft…. and sexy too…
 

 

Bath
After a rather shaky start to last season caused by some severe unrest in both the team and the management structure, Bath started to come into their own towards the end of term and with new coach God – sorry – Ian McGeechan on board, along with some high profile new signings including England captain Lewis Moody, it really feels like something exciting is happening over in the land of Spas.
Expected placing: Top two
One To Watch: Matt O’Banahanahanahan
One to force yourself not to get distracted by: Olly ‘Oh sorry we’re not used to seeing you with clothes on’ Barkley
 

 

Saracens
Even with their chief Brendan Ventner seeming to have a very public nervous breakdown pitchside for most of it, Sarries  had an almost perfect season, even defeating a little team called the Springboks during their run of about 4,000 victories before they eventually lost out to Leicester for the title. We suspect they’ll be back with a little extra fire in their belly this season, out to prove their success last year was no fluke.
Expected placing: 3rd
One to watch: Steve Borthwick
One to force yourself not to get distracted by: Richard Wigglesworth

 

 

 

The Magners League

Even our usual comfort zone of the Magners League has been shaken up this season. After last year saw the first ever playoffs, this year sees the extension of the term ‘Celtic’ to incorporate two Italian teams. Benetton Treviso will be known to many from such heady delights as the middle of the Heineken Cup scoreboards, but their fellow Italians Aironi will be less familiar to even themselves as a new team freshly hatched in a merger reminiscent of the formation of the Welsh Regions back on 2003.

For our top four seeds we’re going to attempt to put bias aside….
 

 

Ospreys
Okay, okay, we didn’t put it very far aside but in our defence, any pre-season round up worth its salt is going to put the Ospreys high on the watch list. Previously the first team to ever win the trophy twice, the boys extended their record to a third victory and are now gunning to be the first team ever to defend the title. Though they’re coming into this season on a 4 point deficit (unless they win their appeal next Tuesday), this year is starting off a lot more positively with far fewer of their ‘big hitters’ on long term injurywatch than last year when the Lions tour left some members of the squad out till getting on for Christmas.

Our boys in black are also raring to get out of the traps in the Heineken Cup after being denied at the Quarter Final stage two years in a row. With new skipper Alun Wyn Jones stating this ethos for the season: ‘I want to win more than anyone else and that’s the lead I want to set’, it’s hard to contemplate an empty trophy cabinet next year.
Expected placing: Top three
One to Watch: Shane Williams. He’s usually fast, but this time out he’s had a good rest over the summer so we might have to give up blinking for the next nine months.
One to force yourself not to be distracted by: Ryan Jones. He’s not got to worry about being captain outside of International season this year so he can concentrate on being sexy… not that he had a problem with it before.
 

 

Cardiff Blues
The Blue seem to have been gathering momentum over the last few seasons and there is a sense of groundswell around Leckwith as the last two years have seen shiny trophies head to the Welsh capital in the form of the EDF (now LV=) Cup in 08/09 and the Amlin Challenge Cup last season. This year they’re not going to be satisfied if they have to pack away the brasso. Chief Dai Jones has spoken out about how they’re going to be taking the Magners League a lot more seriously this year after focussing on their Heineken chances for the last few years and they’re going to want to capitalise on their Amlin success with the Main Prize as well. With new signing Dan Parks and newly massive and superspeedy Leigh Halfpenny  in their midst, they’re going to be difficult to beat.
Expected placing: Top three
One to Watch: Leigh Halfpenny – will all that new muscle affect the superhuman speed we’ve seen in past seasons? We’re not sure but I suspect it’s going to be fun finding out.
One to force yourself not to be distracted by: Bruce Wayne, sorry, Jamie Roberts.  It’s the accent, mainly…

 

Leinster
After coming top of the table only to lose out in the last minutes of the grand final last year, the Dublin boys are going to be out for blood. Blood and points. Given their current form and the fact that they’ve still got BOD Almighty in their midst, we’re already feeling the fear.
Expected placing: top three
One to Watch: BOD, obviously.
One to force yourself not to be distracted by: Nathan Hines

 

 

Aironi
Shocker, I  know as we’ve acknowledged in previous posts that the Italians in all their forms are regarded as the underdogs of the Six Nations and even more shocking is…. that’s exactly why I’ve put them in. Aironi are entering this tournament as the ultimate underdogs: they’ve been a team for mere weeks before being thrown into a league that’s well established with teams that contain some of the most talented players in the Northern hemisphere. It’s fight or flight for them and they’ve got to prove themselves as a team and a competitor and  I firmly believe that, like the Ospreys back in 2003, they may just surprise us by rising above all that and meeting the challenge.
Expected placing: Top five
One to watch: Marco Bortolami
One to force yourself not to get distracted by: Josh Sole

So, over to you… thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Feel a burning need to discuss Tom Croft’s thighs? Drop us a comment…

Words by Lauren

 

Rawr Data Player Profile: Tom Croft August 26, 2010

Change of tack now… we’re going to the dark side as Lauren tries to prove that team rivalry doesn’t blind her to the quality of a player by profiling Tom Croft of Ospreys arch rivals Leicester Tigers.

Tom Croft

Picture source unknown

Thomas Richard ‘Crafty Crofty’ Croft is 24 years old, 6’5”, 16st 5lbs and plays at both flanker and lock for Leicester Tigers, England and the Lions.

Hailing originally from Basingstoke, Tom Croft’s rugby career began at Newbury RFC in Berkshire before Leicester Tigers snapped him up in 2005 at the tender age of 19.

Dubbed as one of the fastest forwards around, Crafty Crofty is one of the ultimate utility players, meaning he plays both blind and openside flanker and also at lock, but takes on each position with the speed and agility of a back.

All this means that despite stiff competition for back row slots in the England squad, Tom has quickly become a regular fixture in the match day line up since his first cap for Saxons in 2007.

In 2009, after Alan Quinlan’s unfortunately timed ban, Tom was called up by Ian McGeechan to take his place on the Lions Tour, where he went on to play in all three tests and became the first forward ever to gain two tries in one test.

Croft’s versatility is one of the reasons Leicester tigers have become the team to beat in recent years, with the last two Guinness premiership trophies in their cabinet and seemingly only the Ospreys able to stop them in the Heineken cup (sorry, couldn’t resist!) so it’s clear to see we’ll be seeing a lot of Crofty over the course of the season.

Words by Lauren, Picture source unknown