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Friday, September 12, 2014

Up Early Trying to Buy Rugby World Cup Tickets….

It's 2:40 AM right now in Los Angeles. I am trying to apply for my tickets for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. I should not be surprised that there are a lot of other fans crashing the web site to apply for tickets for the matches of their choice.  I'm on a holding pattern for about the last 40 minutes. At this point, I am looking at getting tickets for the September 26th and 27th matches that will take place in Leeds. The first one will be Canada-Italy and the second one will be Scotland-USA.  The thing that is different with buying tickets for this World Cup compared to 2007 and 2011 is that it will be weeks before my purchase will actually be confirmed.

My wife and I are planning on being in the UK next year-well, I don't know how United the United Kingdom will be, as they will be going to the polls in Scotland next Thursday to see if the Scots want to break away from the UK to be an independent nation. At any rate, we plan on being in Scotland for a week and England for a week next year. I will know more of what our itinerary will be once I am able to buy tickets and get my purchase confirmed. In the meantime…I am still in a holding pattern to try to buy the tickets on line.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Waratahs Dump Crusaders for their first Super Rugby Crown

I guess it's a good thing I don't bet on sporting events. After what I saw of the Crusaders beat down on the Sharks last week, and with all of the experienced All Blacks playing with the Crusaders. I really expected them to win another Super Rugby crown. I was mistaken.

In what was probably the most dramatic Super Rugby Final since Bryan Habana's miracle try for the Bulls against the Sharks in stoppage time in 2007, the New South Wales Waratahs grabbed a last minute win over the Crusaders in a back and forth contest, with some great tries scored by both sides, including a brace from that Swiss Army Knife of a back for the Wallaby's and the Waratahs, Adam Ashley Cooper.

With The Rugby Championship(the former Tri Nations) about to start, a lot of rugby fans wonder if this 2014 version is going to be another stroll for the almighty All Blacks. The Waratahs dumped a Crusaders side that is laden with All Blacks like Ritchie McCaw and Dan Carter, to name but a few.

Can this loss be a sign for the Wallabies, Springboks and Pumas that New Zealand may be ripe for the taking? Time will tell-but in the meantime, a massive pat on the back for the Waratahs for winning their first ever Super Rugby crown.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Super Bowl Champs Learning from Rugby

Logo for the Super Bowl Champs of American Football, the Seattle Seahawks

Word is out the the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks have a training video out, and that part of it is that they are teaching tackling in such a way as to try to make it safer for NFL players"

How we teach this system of tackling was recently inspired by those who play rugby around the world. Rugby players have taken the head out of the game and truly exemplified shoulder tackling." - Pete Carroll

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Super Rugby Semi-finals: Sharks Crunched in Christchurch

Geography can be a cruel thing. My apartment in Los Angeles has a northern exposure, which means I cannot get Direct TV, which means I cannot get any Southern Hemisphere Rugby. (Unless it's rugby league on Fox) All of this means that whatever I have seen of Super Rugby this season has been either on You Tube, or the New Zealand Herald.

As luck would have it, we have a place called the Springbok Bar and Grill http://www.springbokbarandgrill.comthat is over in Van Nuys, where the South African ownership tries to get some Super Rugby on TV when they are open-the problem is that most of the matches are in the middle of the night here on the left coast, which means even the Bok cannot show too many games.

As luck would have it, when I noticed that the start time of the Crusaders-Sharks Super Rugby Semi-final would take place at half past midnight here on the left coast. This gave me a chance to actually watch a game.

I expected a few South African expats in LA to show up to watch the Sharks try to replicate an earlier season win in Christchurch. I think the SoCal Saffas knew the Sharks just would not have it in them. I was the only person there to watch the game.

What I saw on a super-large screen TV was an utter mauling. The Crusaders, playing in front of a full house on a cold night in Christchurch, just did not let their foot off the pedal. They dominated possession, territory, the line outs…hell, you name it. The Sharks did not look like they were going to get a whiff of the try line. Crusader pressure paid off early as Kieran Read scored a nice try after breaking a tackle.

Nadolo, wearing the 11 shirt for the Crusaders played a helluva match for the Crusaders. He ran hard all night whenever he had ball in hand.

Patrick Lamby, on the other hand, did not have a great night either with ball in hand or kicking for the Sharks.

Crusader dominance was capped off by Todd scoring on a totally dominant maul by the Crusaders-an homage to a front line who had played an utterly dominant match.

From what I saw last night, I think this Crusader team can go to Sydney and beat the Waratahs, and win back the Super Rugby title-which they have won a record 7 times already. In watching the 38-6 drubbing, I think after two years of the Chiefs winning the Super Rugby title, I think the Super Rugby title will stay in Kiwi hands.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Namibia Nail a 5th Straight Rugby World Cup appearance.

I think a lot of rugby fans, myself included, thought that this would be the year where Kenya would transfer some of the success they have had in the 7 man game of rugby and translate it to their 15 man game. God knows Kenya has a ton of talent and some players with great pace and are very athletic.

In the recent tournament in Madagascar which would give the Rugby World Cup it's second qualifier from the African Continent that was played in Madagascar, it would seem that stars were aligned for Kenya to finally punch their ticket for the first time. They really had to believe in their chances after they beat Namibia 29-22 in the first game. All they needed was to avoid a decisive defeat to Zimbabwe, and they could pack their luggage for England.

It was not meant to be. Zimbabwe smoked the Kenyans and then Namibia-the plucky country from Southwest Africa punched their ticket for England-the 5th straight time they will participate in the big show. - with a 89-10 drubbing of Madagascar.

All this means that Kenya is out, and Zimbabwe will play the Russians in the Semifinals of the Repechage tournament. The winner gets the winner of Uruguay Vs Hong Kong to decide who will be the last team to fill out the field for Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.

Namibia has never won a game at the Rugby World Cup, and will be in the same group as Georgia, Tonga, Argentina and New Zealand. In their previous four World Cup, the vastly outmanned and outgunned Namibians have not won a single world Cup game. Can this be their time next year in England?

For Zimbabwe, a rugby team that has has to overcome much, given the travails it has been through playing in a country with a malevolent leader in President Mugabe, can this be the first time that Zimbabwe can punch it's ticket to the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1991?
Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My 2014 FIFA World Cup Confession

For my friends in the rugby blogosphere, it's rare when I write about the round ball as opposed to the oval ball, but I was a soccer/football fan before I ever discovered rugby, so please excuse me while I digress about the current FIFA World Cup.
I may stand like a rock-but I am not infallible.

Before the World Cup Started, I had a lot of thoughts and predictions. As the round of 16 matches ended today with victories by Belgium and Argentina, I have to admit that there is much about this World Cup where I have been mistaken.

-I did not think the USA would get out of the "Group of Death" with Germany, Ghana and Portugal. American and Everton Goalkeeper Tim Howard helped the Americans stay in every game with some heroic goalkeeping.

-I thought there would be two African teams that would make it to the round of 16, but I was wrong about the countries. I thought Ghana and the Ivory Coast would go through, instead Algeria and Nigeria made it.

-I never would have imagined little Costa Rica, not only make the second round, but they would win their group that had former World Cup Champs Uruguay, Italy and England. The Ticos would also, for good measure, make it to the quarterfinals for the first time in that countries history.(They get Holland in the Quarterfinals).

-I never thought CONCACAF would produce 3 round of 16 participants in the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica.

I never thought I would find myself actually rooting for Mexico and their boisterous, colorful coach, Señor Herrera. I usually hate "El Tri", but I really liked this Latino version of the late comedian, Chris Farley.

_ I did not  think that England, Italy and Spain would ALL crash out the first round.

-I did not think that Julian Green would even get on the field during this World Cup, but the young American born, German-raised forward scored a great goal after coming on as a sub for the Yanks to make the game interesting against Belgium.

-When French and Bayern Munich forward Franck Ribéry  had to forfeit for this world cup because of a sore back, I really wondered if Les Bleus would be able to be a factor. Well, they play Germany in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

-I thought that a FIFA World Cup played in tropical Brazil, with day time start times to cater to European TV, would be a yawn fest of boring games. What we ended up with was  a World Cup that has had the most goals since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden that introduced the world to Pélé and Frenchman Just Fointaine and his 13 goals in that World Cup-a record that will probably be never broken in my lifetime. There have been some seriously entertaining matches in this World Cup.
My son Ian(Named after Ian Rush) and my Grandson Duncan play some ball.

Twenty some years ago, It would have been impossible to imagine a couple of thousand people in Omaha, Nebraska gathered around multiple TV screens at a bar/Restaurant watching, cheering and holding their breath as the USA and Portugal played out their drama in 4 parts that ended with Portugal tying the game with about 30 seconds left in the match, after some pulsating end-to-end action. But yet, my son Ian and I were part of the fun at World Cup watch parties in Omaha, Denver, Montrose, Colorado and Los Angeles. The game has come a long way in my country.

There. I feel so much better after getting all of this off my chest.
The Horsefly Brewing Company in Montrose, Colorado-one of several places  my son  Ian and I  caught World Cup action as we drove from Minnesota to Los Angeles.

This World Cup shows what can be great in sport. Even if you have been a long time fan, you can still be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Japan Beats the USA Eagles-again-in LA.

After last week's 24-6 loss to Scotland in Houston, the USA Eagles brought their road show to Carson, California and the Stub Hub center for an IRB Pacific Nations Cup match against Japan. A crowd of 5,100 fans showed up at the Stub Hub Center to see the Eagles and Cherry Blossoms lock horns on a very pleasant Saturday evening in SoCal.
A Couple of friendly volunteers from the Cal-State Fullerton Women's Rugby Team.
The match started off well for the Yanks, as 8 man Cam Dolan intercepted an errant Japanese pass and rumbled in for the try, which Chris Wyles converted to give the Americans an early 7-0 lead.
Wyles with an early conversion to make it 7-0.
The Japanese did not panic. In the past few years, the Japanese have brought in some of the best coaching New Zealand has to offer, and having a professional league has also really helped in developing their game. They just looked better at almost every aspect of the game. The passes sharper, the Japanese hit the gain line with pace, and it ripped the USA defense to shreds….
Japanese Wing Akihito Yamada breaks the USA Defense on his way to a try.

The USA were fighting back the entire second half. With time running out, they scored a try in the corner to make things interesting for the USA Faithful….
After the try from Blaine Scully, the Eagles tried to keep the heat on the Japanese defense…
Late USA Scrum deep in Japanese territory with time running out...
The Cherry Blossoms held on to win the game, and the Japanese players thanked the crowd for doing their part to support international rugby in the USA. 
The scoreboard doesn't lie...

A good game by the Japanese. Back to the drawing board for the Eagles.

Japan now owns the USA Eagles, which is bad news, as we will be seeing them again next year at the Rugby World Cup in England, as they will be in the same group as the Americans. Next up for the Americans is a game up the I-5 in Sacramento next weekend against the Auld Enemy from north of the border, who gave the Scots a really tough game in losing 19-17 in Toronto.