29 May 2011

The underdog lives on in rugby

No pictures for this post as the games are too recent for me to be able to find any on the web.

This is just a short and general comment on the three games I watched this weekend. Both the English and the French rugby championships are now in their final phases or have finished.

The English championship final was played yesterday (Saturday) between the Leicester Tigers and the Saracens, from London. It was a replay of last years final between the same two teams, but this time the Saracens won, having made most of the play and then by just hanging on in an interminable last sequence, defending courageously their goal line against incessant pick and go pummelling by Leicester. Until then however the match had been, for the most part, very pleasant to watch and Saracens deserved their win, showing far more initiative and play than Leicester, who were solid but very uninspired favourites for this game. This is the first time the London team has won an English championship.

The French final will be played next Saturday. It will be between Toulouse, who convincingly beat Clermont, last year's champion, in the semi-final payed on Friday evening, and Montpellier, surprising victors of Racing Metro, one of the two Paris teams. The latter was a heart-stopper of a game that saw Montpellier win by just one point (26/25) right at the end of the game. Clearly the underdogs, they also showed more flair and, finally, guts to believe in their chances to the finish. They dominated the first half before Racing pulled back and went ahead in the second half, looking to have the game tied up 5 minutes from the end. Montpellier never gave up however and deserved their victory.

So out of the three games, two were won by the underdogs. I like the message that this delivers for sport and for the rest.

Toulouse are clear favourites for the French final. They will have had one more day to recuperate than Montpellier. They also have huge experience of final stage of top competitions, as well as a very cohesive team. But Montpellier, unless they have exhausted themslves in yesterday's game where they gave just about everything, could cause another upset. They have nothing to lose and have shown that they can beat any team in France this year, provided they manage to hold their discipline, clearly their weak point.