And we’re rolling…my latest showreel

This 3 minute piece features interviews from London and Hong Kong with England rugby sevens captain, Ben Gollings, The Pegasus NZ Women’s Open golf champion, Kristie Smith, former England internationals, John Bentley and Peter Wheeler, and several others.

Saracens crunch, but don’t crumble

The Aviva Premiership title race ended this weekend with Saracens claiming their first ever Premiership victory. I’m not inclined to applaud, having deep rooted Tigers affiliation, but the Saracens wall of defence showed little signs of crumbling and I’ve got to hand it to them. But not on a plate…

Both teams were equally matched with only two points between them in the table. Saracens, as the challengers, had surprisingly won more games this season, but Tigers were in front by tries scored. It was a close call to predict the winner and both teams knew that any mistake could cost them dear.

As Toby Flood’s boot had left the Tigers wanting against Northampton in the semi-final, his kicking was a vast improvement this time around with each penalty awarded by Saracens kicked to success. His counterpart Owen Farrell too was on form with his five penalties flying over with ease. Throughout the game I listened with intent as my lacking ESPN subscription meant BBC 5 Live became my informer.

I crouched, staring, exasperated, at the little black box sitting on my coffee table when the Leicester Tigers found themselves within a metre of edging a point up on Saracens in the final moment of the match. A try would have taken the trailing Tigers into the lead from 18-22 to 23-22. A match changing opportunity. But, an incredible 32 phase attack from Leicester Tigers still couldn’t penetrate the Saracens line and as a penalty was awarded to the black and reds, I buried my hands in my face. Triumphantly kicked to touch by Farrell, much to the delight of his Dad and Saracens first-team coach, Andy, the ball went out and ref Wayne Barnes blew the final whistle.

Thankfully I didn’t have to watch the celebrations of the Sarries, and could switch off the radio and try to forget. “At least it’s a bank holiday”, I thought…

Messicre on a Saturday night

When Messi comfortably slid a goal past Van De Sar last night to put the Spaniards up 2-1 in the game of the year, the irony of the name on the 23 year olds back caught my breath. How clean and organised his execution, that one could not dare to compare his football to that of a primary school paint class. Perhaps his name is more fitting for the effect had on opposing defenders. His seamless change of direction and control at high-speed certainly made a mess of Ferguson’s backs last night, which, from the sullen face of the Scot after 90 minutes, opened up more than just the goal. Manchester United were shown as beatable second best, unable to contain a powerful side as Barcelona. A far cry from the jubilation of the previous week when United reigned supreme as the super club of the Premier League. A win surely would have opened the gate of retirement for Alex too, turning 70 on top of the world, but that’s off the cards now, his work is simply, yet done.

In the first half Manchester United looked fresh and managed to hold the ball for some time, putting pressure on the likes of Dani Alves and Mascherano. It was clear to me that the reds had appreciated their outing to the theatre on Thursday night when they had arrived in London. Part of the resting period had involved a civilised visit to the West End and, although I’m not informed as to what they saw, I imagine Legally Blonde The Musical would have given morale a suitable lift…

During the first twenty minutes though, Barcelona had played doubly as many passes as their opponents and made some superb tackles to claim possession. Whether Guardiola had planned a high pass rate to tire United early, I don’t know, but it seemed that his tactics did the trick. With the score level at 1-1 at half time after Rooney’s superb equaliser seven minutes after Pedro Rodriguez hit home first for Barcelona, United looked pleased to hear the whistle. Although safely level 45 minutes in, predictions of the result from former England captain, Gary Lineker, were ringing in a lot of Mancunian ears:  “If Barcelona turn up, they win” .

The second half saw the same amount of goals, but no one was sharing. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi curled a ball past Van De Sar into the top right of the net after  54 minutes which set the winning precedent for the remaining half an hour. Pep Guardiola watched his team dominate play and after 70 minutes David Villa shot one home to seal the cup for certain. I watched with a strange sense of sadness as Ferguson clenched his fists discretely as he watched his prized team falter. Although not a Manchester United fan myself, I couldn’t help but support them as a patriot of British football. The red rose donned by the 19th premier league title winning manager was not only the red rose for Manchester, but for England, and as Liverpool hadn’t sniffed at a chance at the European Cup this year, for one night only I backed their arch rivals. Though, I repeat, for one night only.

Surprisingly for a fraught, high profile match such as this, only five yellow cards were dished out by referee Viktor Cassai. Michael Carrick’s foul tackle on Andres Iniesta was in no doubt of a booking, and the time wasting of goalie Víctor Valdés in the later stages deserved one too. Though I’m in half a mind to submit a request for bookings when a substitute is made with one and a half minutes to go. Forget the ego of the top player being brought off and save him the standing ovation, don’t let him walk off the pitch wasting 30 seconds of valuable time and don’t bring players on that may not even have time to touch the ball. Maybe a rule could be brought in that makes it mandatory for all managers who do this to be banished to the stands with the supporters, like José Mourinho at the Bernabeu? That was, after all, highly entertaining.

However, on the other, err, foot, if I was getting a medal for winning the Champions League, I’d have at least wanted to have stepped onto the pitch and claimed my few seconds of match winning glory.

Would I have paid £800 to be there last night? Probably not. The pub down the road had a big screen, a mix of fans and an expectant atmosphere which suited me this time. But, if Kenny Dalglish makes the most of his pricey Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll next season and gets us into the top four in 2012. Who knows where my cash might flash, I quite fancy a stroll down La Rambla…