On the local front, it was pretty humdrum all round, ultimately. The Kiwis-England game, which should have been the highlight, was just depressing. This whole world cup has got me feeling like maybe we don’t need international league? Maybe expand State of Origin every second series to include Great Britain and the Kiwis, and just leave it at that. The English seem happy with their comp, and the NRL will never die. It just feels like every game of international league serves only to make the sport seem provincial and backward, when this year’s NRL did anything but.
The ABs were little better. They were operating on an entirely different skill plain to the league counterparts, obviously, and are an infinitely more impressive unit, but that was a curiously heartless win, with only Thorne’s bullocking (league-style) try and Nonu’s end to a nice backline run really worth cheering about. I put most of the blame on Ireland, who looked a far dowdier team than last week’s plucky Scots. The one stat I liked out of the game was that the All Blacks are yet to concede a second half point on this tour in 120 minutes of rugby. That’s pretty cold-hearted shit.
I watched some the IAAF athletics final from Stuttgart on Friday, with both Vili and Willis repeating their Olympic positions impressively, but I was most struck by the high jump. Is it just me or does the Russian Olympic champ Andrey Silnov bear an uncanny, and extremely unfortunate resemblance to bad teen movie regular DJ Qualls?
Aside from that searing insight, I thought Murray’s victory over Federer in Shanghai was pretty bloody impressive. I only caught the last 45 minutes, but it was scintillating tennis. Federer’s clearly way out of sorts at the moment, which bodes well for tennis, really, as if he comes back the field and Nadal doesn’t stretch too far ahead on anything outside of clay we could have a fairly competitive few years ahead.
What I find most fascinating about Murray is his complete lack of a game face.
He is visibly furious with himself when he tools a shot, a picture of stifled adolescent discontent. It’s disarming, and extremely enjoyable to see such a familiar expression in such an unfamiliar environment. We’re used to sporting icons arriving bronzed and perfectly formed, with those terrifying modern visages projecting nothing but benign good humour. Then Murray wanders in all pale and fidgety… It’s a good time.
Lastly I watched the new-look AI-led Pistons somehow take down the might of the (previously unbeaten) Lakers at the Staples Centre. It wasn’t like LA was playing badly, but Detroit, backing up from a win the previous night over Golden State, just looked full of running, making their first six baskets and that was pretty much the ball game, as LA could never quite close the ten point margin they ran up early. More on that from Justin in a bit.
– Duncan Greive