Come in, sit down, relax, grab a drink from the fridge and enjoy the latest edition of Sports News.
Mrs Sports News was pleased to hear that there was no Premier League football this week. Great, she thought, and produced a list of jobs for Sports News to get done. Imagine the wrath Sports news encountered when Mrs Sports News realised that there was International Football, Rugby World Cup warm-up games, World Rowing Championships and One-Day Cricket on the TV! Put that jobs list away!
The qualifiers for the 2016 Euros are coming to an end, and this week saw the first few countries qualify. There were high hopes amongst the Home Nations. Wales were looking to qualify for a major tournament for the first time in 57 years, Northern Ireland were keen to make history and qualify for their first ever European Championship. England wanted to continue their success and finish qualifying unbeaten, Scotland and Republic of Ireland still had some hope of qualifying, but had a lot of work to do.
Brave Wales had to beat Cyprus and Israel to ensure they qualified for their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup. Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey wanted to do something that Ryan Giggs, Ian Rush, Dean Saunders, Neville Southall, and, erm, Vinnie Jones could not do. A hard fought win over Cyprus in stifling heat kept them on course for qualification. However, a quick turnaround and tough 0-0 draw against Israel meant that Wales will have to wait until October to seal their fate. It’s in their hands, though, they need just one point from an away game in Bosnia-Herzegovina on 10 October or at home to Andorra on 13 October to qualify. No-one mention Paul Bodin.
Norman Whiteside, Gerry Armstrong, Pat Jennings, and Nigel Worthington. These luminaries of Northern Irish football were the mainstay of the last squad from Northern Ireland to qualify for a major tournament in Mexico, 1986. So much has changed since then. David Healey’s stellar international career has come and gone, the barren no goal spell has ended, and Michael O’Neill’s men look like they’re about to make history. Like Wales, Northern Ireland could seal qualification in this round of games. Unfortunately, also like Wales, they will have to wait until October. After beating the Faroe Islands 3-1 and other results going their way, Northern Ireland needed to beat Hungary in Belfast to qualify. Things did not go to plan, and they needed a 94th minute equaliser from Norwich City cast off Kyle Lafferty to gain a draw and keep their hopes alive. Two points from the final two matches against Greece and Finland will see the boys in green to France.
England had all but sealed qualification; they needed to beat San Marino to confirm it. A 6-1 rout ensued, but, more pertinently, Wayne Rooney took one step closer to becoming England’ all-time leading goal scorer. Unlike Gary Lineker who was stuck on 48 goals, missed a penalty, and was then subbed in his final game for England, it was very likely Rooney would beat Bobby Charlton’s record. Wayne had to wait until England took on Switzerland at Wembley to achieve that feat. 50 goals for his country in 107 caps, what an achievement. With that goal, England maintained their unbeaten qualification record, heading to the Euros with something resembling confidence.
The Republic of Ireland and Scotland have found themselves in the same qualifying group. Along with Germany and Poland, it was always going to be a tough ask for them to get to France. Scotland gave the Republic of Ireland a helping hand by losing to Georgia 1-0 and Germany. Scotland’s chances of qualifying are very slim, but the Republic need one win from two games against Germany and Poland to make it to the play-offs. A tough ask, but let’s see what October brings.
The final round of warm-up games for the Home Nations took place this weekend. England were looking to avenge their loss against France and Wales were looking to solidify their first choice XV against Italy.
Twickenham played host to Ireland, who, for most of the match against England, looked awful. The Red Roses took advantage of this and racked up a 12-3 lead at half-time. Ireland found their rugby brain in the second half, but, it was too little, too late and could not prevent a morale boosting 21-13 victory for Stuart Lancaster’s men. Fortunately, both teams managed to escape injury free (bar Conor Murray’s concussion, which could be cause for concern should he not recover).
Warren Gatland’s Wales were not so fortunate. Talismanic goal kicker and all-round decent chap, Leigh Halfpenny tore his ACL against Italy. This has ruled him out for at least six months. Speaking from experience, Sports News knows how painful this injury can be and it will be a test of the man to see if he can come back with the same metronomic goal kicking we know him for. Scrum-half Rhys Webb was also injured, forcing Gatland to call up veteran Mike Phillips and Eli Walker as replacements.
Scotland lost a hard fought match against France, and will take solace in keeping the score so tight. They have a tough pool at the Rugby World Cup and will need to be at their best to overcome Samoa and Japan, who are presumably their rivals for second spot behind South Africa.
It’s only a matter of days until the Rugby World Cup kicks off, and Sports News is excited about it. Mrs Sports News, not so much, although she does have a penchant for Irish full-back Rob Kearney.
With just one year to go until the Rio Olympics, the folks at GB Rowing were looking to ensure they were on track for another decent medal haul, in what has become one of Team GB’s sure things at Olympics. Sports News was not disappointed, and, given that Mrs Sports News has a penchant for rowing (she knew someone who had GB trials, you know), there was hush in Sports News towers when this was on the TV.
The championships went well for GB rowing, with six boats qualifying for their respective finals, and therefore, the Rio Olympics.
The formidable pair Helen Glover and Heather Stanning won their 28th race in a row to claim gold at the World Championships. They exerted their dominance over their counterparts by winning with what was described as a “training row”. Sports News, and Mrs Sports News, hopes that these two have another golden summer in 2016.
The men’s eight took the world title for a third consecutive year after a hard fought race against the epic German boat. It will be interesting to see if coach Jurgen Grobler continues to coach the men’s eight all the way to Rio, or, if he will concentrate on the blue riband four, as he has done in the past.
England were looking to avoid a second defeat by Australia in the five match Royal London one-day series at Lord’s. The match was overshadowed by Ben Stokes dismissal for “wilfully obstructing the field” by putting his arm out as the ball was thrown toward the stumps.
Stokes denied doing so, but the umpires and Australia captain, Steve Smith disagreed. It rounded off an awful day for England as they slumped to a second defeat, losing by 64 runs.
England will need to sharpen up to avoid 3 in a row at Hedingly.