Sunday, October 07, 2007

Two Miracles and a Realisation

Bit of a mixed bag of a weekend. I've been at work for almost all of it and yet I've witnessed amazing things and made profound discoveries.

Yesterday was almost certainly the most improbable day of rugby union I've ever seen. I say "seen" but in the case of England vs Australia it was more "listened to" as I was still at work but could at least have the game on the radio. And what a game. An England side far from peak form, with injuries and a very poor record in the World Cup came up against an Asutralia side who had put in solid performances in the cup and were hungry to avenge their final defeat at home to the English four years ago. It didn't help that the chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union had upped the ante last week by saying, "It doesn't matter whether it's cricket, rugby union, rugby league – we all hate England." and latter continued, "I stand by that. Everyone does. All I'm doing is stating the bleeding obvious... If they want further proof, how do they think France won the right to host this World Cup? It is simple. No one would vote for England, and they were the only other country in the running." Strong words and with pre-match odds massively in Australia's favour it seemed like a dead game. And then England played their hearts out. In a game of gripping tension and boiling intensity England bested Australia in almost every department of the game. The scrum proved utterly catastrophic for the Wallabies who simply had no answer to the massive power that England fielded at numbers 1 to 3. With my hands shaking and my pulse racing the clock ticked down, achingly slowly, until as 80 minutes of play came to close England pulled off the seemingly impossible to win the match 12-10 and book a place in the semis.

I'd witnessed one of the greatest upsets of recent time. How could anything possibly top that? That was until the evening when France took on red-hot title favourites New Zealand. France signalled their intent by marching right up to the half-way line and staring the Kiwis down as they performed the haka. If proof were ever needed that the mystique of the All Blacks is waning this was it, a defining moment. In years gone by the haka epitomised New Zealand's ability to intimidate a side, to dent their will before the first whistle. But we live in different times now. New Zealand believe themselves to be the best rugby playing nation on earth, their team is used to crushing all before them and yet they have not been world champions for twenty years and will not get the chance again for another four. France played solidly but defensively and were hit hard. The Kiwis were 13-0 up towards the end of the first half. In times of yore that would have been that. The opposition would roll over and let themselves get crushed beneath the slick All Black machine. But since France showed in the 1999 semi-final that you can come back against the Kiwis from a massive deficit if you believe, the power of the Kiwis to have a side beaten before kick-off has evaporated. Yesterday the French were magnificent, they defended like lions and played a wiley game up front. They frustrated the Kiwis into making a petulent foul resulting in a sin-binning for McAlister. This allowed the French the room they need to level the match and then they powered home. One gets the impression that the Kiwis only know how to crush a willing opposition. They seem unable to play from a losing position. If they can't win easily, they can't win. France play brilliantly from a position of pressure and once again proved their mastery of the art. Frederic Michelak and my current favouite Bleu, Sebastien Chabal, came on for the final quarter of the game to, in the case of Michelak, set up the winning try, and in the case of Chabal to shore up the defenses and keep the Kiwis at bay. "They shall not pass".

This was a bigger upset than even the England game. To see either match is a treat, practically a miracle. To see both on a single day is definitely a miracle.

Rock And Roll Home

Beyond the rugby, my profound personal insight came when I realised that the Flying V I bought a while back is not the guitar for me. Tinseltroos and I have a couple of guitars out in the living room ready to be played and I noticed that I was always reaching for her Strat rather than my Flying V. I have finally realised that the impracticality of the design annoys me more than the beauty delights me and though it is a pleasant enough instrument it is going to have to go on eBay and I will begin the search for a new Atrocity Axe. I had a quick window shop on my way home yesterday afternoon and it appears that, once again, my tastes do not accord with the general populus. The current vogue seems to be for skinny indie kids in skinny jeans with fringes bigger than their heads to play 1960s style Burns and Hofner type guitars. This is all very well for those wanting to play The Arctic Monkeys but it is not going to stand up to having Hot For Teacher belted out on it. For that you need a proper guitar, built for the purpose; built like a tank. It seems that I shall have to search for something second hand. Let the eBay browsing begin.

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