The Weekend with Stage Fright for the Men in White

Six Nations Finale

In what was supposed to be a nail-biting title decider in Cardiff, Wales secured a record 30-3 victory over England and crushed their Grand Slam hopes in the process.

Wales needed a winning margin of at least seven points to hijack England’s title chances after losing the first game of their Six Nations campaign against Ireland six weeks ago.

At the interval they led by six, thanks in part to some profligate kicking from Owen Farrell, before going on to dominate with two second-half tries from winger Alex Cuthbert, four penalties from Leigh Halfpenny and eight points from Dan Biggar’s boot.

The game was played at a frenetic pace that seemed to disorganise England as they gave up 18 turnovers, conceded 12 penalties and missed six times as many tackles as Wales did in the first 50 minutes.

England will bemoan some decisions from notoriously anti-English referee Steve Walsh but in reality they were second best from the outset.

Maturity has given Wales consistency as they took the game to England and thought on their feet, putting the ball through hands or picking up and running straight at the breakdown depending on how England were aligned defensively.

Stuart Lancaster’s England side are far less experienced, ten of their starting line-up had never before played at the Millennium Stadium.

English players can reflect on a match that was played under more pressure than anything they had experienced before and use this going forward.

For Wales it remained all too ‘Easy, Easy’, even though they started by doing things the hard way.

Australian Grand Prix

There was a man in the (silvery) white of McLaren who suffered less from stage fright and more of an equipment malfunction as Jenson Button brutally determined that his McLaren won’t win a race after finishing ninth in the season opener in Melbourne.

It was Kimi Raikkonen, who’s far from the virgin white bride of Formula 1, who raced down the aisle to take victory in a strategic battle with second place Fernando Alonso.

Raikkonen made only two pit stops for fresh tyres compared to Alonso’s three and the Finn carefully managed his race to hold off the Ferrari’s challenge.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel took third ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.

Despite their significantly smaller budget, Raikkonen maintains hopes that Lotus will be able to compete with Ferrari and Red Bull throughout the season.

If the start of last season is anything to go by then the podium may be shared around a fair bit in the opening races as the gap between teams decreases, especially if Button gets his wishes and McLaren wave the white flag in regards to their shift in car technology and revert back to last season’s pacier model.

Choking Cockerels?

What a difference a week makes.

The highs of victory in the North London derby and a resounding win against Inter Milan are now contrasted with back to back Premier League defeats against Liverpool and Fulham and clinching qualification to the quarter-finals of the Europa League by the skin of their teeth for Tottenham.

They’ve now dropped back to fourth in the Premier League having played a game more than Chelsea and Arsenal.

By contrast Chelsea have continued the form displayed in their second half comeback at Old Trafford in the FA Cup last weekend by dispatching Steaua Bucharest 3-1 in the Europa League and a comfortable 2-0 home victory against West Ham.

A mere 45 minutes of football earlier Chelsea had been crashing out of the FA Cup as United went 2-0 up after 10 minutes, compiling the misery of a 1-0 away defeat to Steaua Bucharest the previous Thursday.

Arsenal’s week also took a turn for the better after their valiant effort in Munich with a battling 2-0 win away at Swansea.

With only eight games to go, the twists and turns in the race for third and fourth are set to continue. Chelsea and Spurs face the harder run-ins with greater fixture congestion so their meeting at the Bridge on 14th April could prove all deciding.

Super Frank

Final Mention goes to Super Frankie Lampard reaching the outstanding feat of 200 goals in a Chelsea shirt, tikka-boo son.

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