Italy v England
Sunday 14th February
Welcome to the first non-soccerball based blog of Dave’s TV Sports Review folks. As this is such a momentous (the more cynical readers might say me actually publishing a new blog is momentous these days) occasion I’ve decided I’d like to share with you my hopes and aims for this piece of work. First and foremost I’m hoping you enjoy it, secondly I hope my inherent lack of knowledge on the oval balled game doesn’t jump out of the screen at you and thirdly I hope the constant interruptions to my viewing by checking the scores of FA Cup 5th round games that were taking place at the same time didn’t mean I missed any vital action.
The programme predictably began with a montage of clips showing people in England and Italy Rugby clobber in various touristy spots around Rome relating to the fact that it was Valentines Day in the Eternal City (and everywhere else I hasten to add.) Presenter John Inverdale was then stood on the Stadio Flaminio pitch with regular 6 Nations summarisers Jeremy Guscott and Jonathan Davies who enthused about the previous days incredible Wales v Scotland game and France’s impressive win against Ireland.
We were then shown a section dedicated to Lawrence Dallaglio’s cycling challenge for sports relief which is taking him to each of the 6-nations stadiums (three of which I’ve been past but not in fact fans) and a review of England’s win against Wales the previous week. Back on the pitch, Inverdale told us he’d been watching Jonny Wilkinson practicing his kicking for half an hour, which was ‘totally metronomic.’
The build up continued with an interview with Italy coach Nick Mallett who largely took the opportunity to defend his teams’ widely criticised negative tactics against Ireland last week. The interview was cut short in bizarre fashion as the director decided that we’d seen enough of Mallett’s musings and that a shot of an Italian girl in the crowd holding up a sign with the legend “WILKO WILL YOU MARRY ME’ adorned across it was more important. Being a sucker for a bit of romance I hoped Jonny would accept this proposal but the beeb chose to ignore this potentially life-changing moment for England’s most recognisable player but instead concentrated on the impending but now largely irrelevant game of rugby.
Pitchside reporter Sonia McLaughlin Spoke to Kiwi legend Justin Marshall who commented on the amount of England fans who’d made the trip and suggested many of them would’ve used the ‘I’ll take you to Rome for valentines weekend love’ followed by ‘you’ll never guess but England are playing Italy that weekend’ tactic. I was surprised this ‘theory’ had took the best part of 20 minutes to come up but personally think the likelihood many used it is slim at best. If you’re into following international Rugby its pretty likely the other half is aware when the 6 nations is on and will soon put two and two together. Bit of advice for you readers but if you are going to attempt to pull such a stunt be a bit savvier and choose something like a Segunda Division game (and put the words ‘hastily rearranged’ before it) rather than something that’s likely to be advertised before Eastenders. Some of you will thank me for this in the future.
We get to see the players come out through the tunnel and line up for the national anthems. The England players as always put a lot more passion into their singing of God Save the Queen than their footballing counterparts and watching the Italians belt out Fratelli D’Italia is as entertaining as ever with the emotion getting too much for Mirco Bergamasco who couldn’t halt the waterworks.
England kicked off and immediately won posession back and attacked with the ball being tossed about the backs and Delon Armitage was very close to scoring after chasing his own chip that was scrambled away by the Italians. A great response followed by the Italians who regained their composure after the early scare and created some pressure of their own in England’s 22 with commentator Nick Mullins and summariser Brian Moore enthusing that they were re-cycling the ball far quicker than they had in the previous week’s game in Dublin. After 5 minutes we’d seen both teams looking to ‘play rugby’ which unfortunately raised expectations that this was to be an entertaining game to compliment the two the tournament had produced the day earlier.
The game ‘settled down’ after this which is a term that implies some form of benefit but in reality it just meant it became a bit of battle between both packs and England’s backs kicking the ball poorly whenever they received it in their own half. With the score at 3-3 England won a penalty just inside the Italy half and Wilkinson stepped up to inevitably put it over the posts as Commentator Mullins told us ‘he hasn’t missed one when starting a game for England since 2003.’ Well just as I’m making the note ’18 – Jonny 3-6’ (how much does that look like a bible reference btw?) the ball falls short and we’re told that ‘it’s maybe because they're using the different Mitre ball.’
Just a couple of minutes later England win another penalty just outside the 22 and slightly to the side of the posts. ‘Jonny doesn’t tend to miss 2 in a row’ announces Mullins and then quite remarkably Wilkinson puts the seemingly easy kick wide. “I blame you” Moore tells Mullins. At this point DTVSr has to hold its hands up as for the second time in a few minutes I had presumptuously recorded that England had taken a 3-6 lead before the kick had been taken which as everyone knows definitely puts the ‘kiss of death’ on world class sportsmen.
Not to be outdone, teary national anthem singer Bergamasco then missed his 2nd penalty attempt for the Azzuri. ‘He slaps it like a set of bagpipes doesn’t he’ Mullins tells us of his unique kicking style which never having witnessed a set of bagpipes ‘slapped’ I’ll have to take his word for. For the next ten minutes or so, my most stand out moment was one of the Italian players getting injured as it highlighted to us that the Italian word for ‘physio’ is ‘fisio’ which is one for all you ‘language fans’ (© great mate, Richard Salguero) out there. Bergamasco made no mistake with his next effort and with the half coming to a close Italy were leading their more fancied visitors when Riki Flutey made a break from midway inside his own half leading to a penalty and ‘with a huge sigh of relief, Wilkinson puts England level at the break.’
Half time was mainly took up by the perennially grumpy Guscott and traditionally more-chirpy Davies agreeing that England’s kicking game isn’t getting them anywhere and they need to utilise the pace and skill of their backs a lot more. We were then told the fantastically entertaining news that Wales Flanker Andy Powell was arrested for drink driving a golf-buggy down the motorway after celebrating his teams win over Scotland the previous night. As Inverdale concluded this news item he impressively suppressed a grin that was itching to make an appearance but Davies and Guscott were unable to replicate this and both broke into a schoolboy-esque giggle.
The second half kicked off and for the first couple of minutes the England players carried on where they’d left off and continued to accurately kick the ball directly into the arms of Italy full back Luke McLean. Moore then enthusiastically linked Italian fly-half Craig Gower to buggy-gate and Mullins added that he was nearly the 1st international ever to be denied a spot due to the coach reading his Wikipedia entry and if we didn’t know what he was talking about we should check it out. I for one am grateful Mullins brought this to our attention as I can now report that one of Gower’s misdemeanours was at a charity golf event back in Australia where he ‘argued with several guests, groped the teenage daughter of former league player Wayne Pearce, chased Pearce’s son with a bottle before vomiting on him, streaked around the resort, wrecked a golf cart, held a butter knife to the throat of a Sydney radio personality and threw the knife at guests before being kicked out of the resort by security.’ In fairness we’ve all been there haven’t we lads?
Back to the game and a moment our half-time summarisers had been crying out for as a break from Ugo Monye from inside his own half and a couple of passes later Matthew Tait is touching down for the games first and ultimately only try. Again Wilkinson misses a seemingly easy conversion and again Moore has a pop at his commentary partner for ‘putting the mockers on him.’ 6-11. Another break from Monye leads to another penalty and with 3 more points and the sin binning of Mauro Castrogiovanni, England looked to be setting up to kill the game off easily.
Mullins then pointed out that sin binnings have had a massive effect on earlier games in the tournament with teams decisively taking advantage with the extra man and as if to further prove the ‘kiss of death’ nonsense correct, Italy took control of the following period and by the time their man returns to the field have clawed the score back to 9-14 and England are firmly on the back foot. The crowd sensing an upset are now getting behind their team with the familiar chant of ‘EE-TAL-YA, EE-TAL-YA.’
With nine minutes to go Bergamasco put another pen over to make the score 12-14 and with a full 15 players back on the field Italy are in sight of what would be their most famous victory in the competition and Brian Moore’s ‘never heard the crowd here so loud.’ Just when it looked like the upset was possible though England produce their best phase of play for a good 20 minutes and Wilkinson executes a relatively simple but nonetheless vital drop goal to give England the winning scoreline of 12-17.
In the couple of minutes after the final whistle McLaughlin interviewed an out of breath England Captain Steve Borthwick who was stubbornly defiant about his teams underwhelming performance. This did the relatively simple task of aggrieving Guscott who then described Borthwick as ‘brainwashed. His heads played a game his body hasn’t produced.’ Inverdale then seemingly hesitantly brought up the subject of Wilkinson’s poor performance, for whom ‘its hard to be objective about as he’s such a national treasure.’ Hard to be objective about a national treasure John? Nonsense! I’m objective about them all. The Queen Mum(God rest Her Soul), David ‘Del Boy’ Jason, HP Sauce…they’re all blinking marvellous!
Wales v France
Friday 26th February
Italy v Scotland and England v Ireland
Saturday 27th of February