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Friday, July 18, 2014

Namibia Nail a 5th Straight Rugby World Cup appearance.

I think a lot of rugby fans, myself included, thought that this would be the year where Kenya would transfer some of the success they have had in the 7 man game of rugby and translate it to their 15 man game. God knows Kenya has a ton of talent and some players with great pace and are very athletic.

In the recent tournament in Madagascar which would give the Rugby World Cup it's second qualifier from the African Continent that was played in Madagascar, it would seem that stars were aligned for Kenya to finally punch their ticket for the first time. They really had to believe in their chances after they beat Namibia 29-22 in the first game. All they needed was to avoid a decisive defeat to Zimbabwe, and they could pack their luggage for England.

It was not meant to be. Zimbabwe smoked the Kenyans and then Namibia-the plucky country from Southwest Africa punched their ticket for England-the 5th straight time they will participate in the big show. - with a 89-10 drubbing of Madagascar.

All this means that Kenya is out, and Zimbabwe will play the Russians in the Semifinals of the Repechage tournament. The winner gets the winner of Uruguay Vs Hong Kong to decide who will be the last team to fill out the field for Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.

Namibia has never won a game at the Rugby World Cup, and will be in the same group as Georgia, Tonga, Argentina and New Zealand. In their previous four World Cup, the vastly outmanned and outgunned Namibians have not won a single world Cup game. Can this be their time next year in England?

For Zimbabwe, a rugby team that has has to overcome much, given the travails it has been through playing in a country with a malevolent leader in President Mugabe, can this be the first time that Zimbabwe can punch it's ticket to the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1991?
Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My 2014 FIFA World Cup Confession

For my friends in the rugby blogosphere, it's rare when I write about the round ball as opposed to the oval ball, but I was a soccer/football fan before I ever discovered rugby, so please excuse me while I digress about the current FIFA World Cup.
I may stand like a rock-but I am not infallible.

Before the World Cup Started, I had a lot of thoughts and predictions. As the round of 16 matches ended today with victories by Belgium and Argentina, I have to admit that there is much about this World Cup where I have been mistaken.

-I did not think the USA would get out of the "Group of Death" with Germany, Ghana and Portugal. American and Everton Goalkeeper Tim Howard helped the Americans stay in every game with some heroic goalkeeping.

-I thought there would be two African teams that would make it to the round of 16, but I was wrong about the countries. I thought Ghana and the Ivory Coast would go through, instead Algeria and Nigeria made it.

-I never would have imagined little Costa Rica, not only make the second round, but they would win their group that had former World Cup Champs Uruguay, Italy and England. The Ticos would also, for good measure, make it to the quarterfinals for the first time in that countries history.(They get Holland in the Quarterfinals).

-I never thought CONCACAF would produce 3 round of 16 participants in the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica.

I never thought I would find myself actually rooting for Mexico and their boisterous, colorful coach, Señor Herrera. I usually hate "El Tri", but I really liked this Latino version of the late comedian, Chris Farley.

_ I did not  think that England, Italy and Spain would ALL crash out the first round.

-I did not think that Julian Green would even get on the field during this World Cup, but the young American born, German-raised forward scored a great goal after coming on as a sub for the Yanks to make the game interesting against Belgium.

-When French and Bayern Munich forward Franck Ribéry  had to forfeit for this world cup because of a sore back, I really wondered if Les Bleus would be able to be a factor. Well, they play Germany in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

-I thought that a FIFA World Cup played in tropical Brazil, with day time start times to cater to European TV, would be a yawn fest of boring games. What we ended up with was  a World Cup that has had the most goals since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden that introduced the world to Pélé and Frenchman Just Fointaine and his 13 goals in that World Cup-a record that will probably be never broken in my lifetime. There have been some seriously entertaining matches in this World Cup.
My son Ian(Named after Ian Rush) and my Grandson Duncan play some ball.

Twenty some years ago, It would have been impossible to imagine a couple of thousand people in Omaha, Nebraska gathered around multiple TV screens at a bar/Restaurant watching, cheering and holding their breath as the USA and Portugal played out their drama in 4 parts that ended with Portugal tying the game with about 30 seconds left in the match, after some pulsating end-to-end action. But yet, my son Ian and I were part of the fun at World Cup watch parties in Omaha, Denver, Montrose, Colorado and Los Angeles. The game has come a long way in my country.

There. I feel so much better after getting all of this off my chest.
The Horsefly Brewing Company in Montrose, Colorado-one of several places  my son  Ian and I  caught World Cup action as we drove from Minnesota to Los Angeles.

This World Cup shows what can be great in sport. Even if you have been a long time fan, you can still be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Japan Beats the USA Eagles-again-in LA.

After last week's 24-6 loss to Scotland in Houston, the USA Eagles brought their road show to Carson, California and the Stub Hub center for an IRB Pacific Nations Cup match against Japan. A crowd of 5,100 fans showed up at the Stub Hub Center to see the Eagles and Cherry Blossoms lock horns on a very pleasant Saturday evening in SoCal.
A Couple of friendly volunteers from the Cal-State Fullerton Women's Rugby Team.
The match started off well for the Yanks, as 8 man Cam Dolan intercepted an errant Japanese pass and rumbled in for the try, which Chris Wyles converted to give the Americans an early 7-0 lead.
Wyles with an early conversion to make it 7-0.
The Japanese did not panic. In the past few years, the Japanese have brought in some of the best coaching New Zealand has to offer, and having a professional league has also really helped in developing their game. They just looked better at almost every aspect of the game. The passes sharper, the Japanese hit the gain line with pace, and it ripped the USA defense to shreds….
Japanese Wing Akihito Yamada breaks the USA Defense on his way to a try.

The USA were fighting back the entire second half. With time running out, they scored a try in the corner to make things interesting for the USA Faithful….
After the try from Blaine Scully, the Eagles tried to keep the heat on the Japanese defense…
Late USA Scrum deep in Japanese territory with time running out...
The Cherry Blossoms held on to win the game, and the Japanese players thanked the crowd for doing their part to support international rugby in the USA. 
The scoreboard doesn't lie...

A good game by the Japanese. Back to the drawing board for the Eagles.

Japan now owns the USA Eagles, which is bad news, as we will be seeing them again next year at the Rugby World Cup in England, as they will be in the same group as the Americans. Next up for the Americans is a game up the I-5 in Sacramento next weekend against the Auld Enemy from north of the border, who gave the Scots a really tough game in losing 19-17 in Toronto.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Got My Tickets to See the All Blacks in Chicago.

Will get a chance to see the more modern All Black's Jersey in Chicago
Yesterday was the day that USA Rugby opened up sales to see the USA Eagles host the New Zealand All Blacks in an international match to played in my wife's home town of Chicago, where it will be played on the first Saturday in November at Soldiers Field-a venue more known as the home of the Chicago Bears of the NFL.

As I am about to go to Minnesota for a week to see my kids and grandson, and then swing by Colorado to check on my ailing mom, the budget was a little tight. As much as I would have liked to have gotten some really top flight tickets, I went towards the lower end of the scale, and got two tickets for my buddy Tom Daniels and I to go witness the Eagles-All Blacks game in what will probably be colder conditions than the All Blacks are used to playing in during the first weekend in November in the Midwest.
Kiwi fans better bring their cold weather gear if they plan on coming to Chicago in November.

So, I have a weekend to look forward to getting some top-flight ribs and pizza, and see the USA Eagles  face the unenviable challenge of hosting the defending Rugby World Cup Champs, and number one ranked All Blacks, as they work their way towards Europe for the November internationals.

At any rate, I am very psyched to see the All Blacks live.
The All Blacks should be prepared to see a lot of cows on their trip to the Midwest.

As for today, Tom and I are going to see the USA take on Japan at the Stub Hub center in Carson. The Cherry Blossoms have owned the Eagles in the last 4-5 matches they have played. I will settle for an improved performance today after last weekend's  24-6 loss to Scotland in Houston.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pasadena loses a tough one to Oceanside

Going into yesterday's championship game for the Division II for the Southern California Rugby title, everybody knew it was going to be a tough and intense match. What the fans got was a lot of drama, hard-hitting, and an unbelievable amount of trash talking from Oceanside. Pasadena had a great deal of the ball possession, and they owned the scrum against a predominantly South Pacific Oceanside squad. Oceanside was able to take advantage of Pasadena mistakes, and their eight-man had several linebreaks and ran with a great deal of speed and power. Pasadena scored a last minute try and make a particularly difficult conversion, to send the game into overtime. In the and Oceanside prevailed, 43 -36. Pasadena season is now done, with Oceanside advancing to Arizona next weekend for the next round of Division II playoffs.

Pasadena coach Aaron Tanner probably something up the best, when he told his charges that he would rather lose with class than win with the trash talking theatrics and poor sportsmanship exhibited by Oceanside . It's too bad because they obviously have some very good players, Who showed a lot of heart in spite of being outplayed for long stretches of the game. For Pasadena, a national quarterfinalist last year, it's wait until next year-but what a game.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

USA to Host Japan in Southern California in June….

After getting back from Atlanta a couple of weeks ago to see the USA Eagles beat Uruguay, I got a second bit of good news in the last week after I found out that I will be able to see the USA Eagles play again-without having to spend a ton of money on airfare and hotel-just a car trip down to Carson, just south of Los Angeles to see the Eagles host Japan in a Pacific Nations Cup match.

It's great news for USA rugby fans here in Southern California. Given the number of Japanese citizens who live and work in California, there should be a good number of Cherry Blossom fans at the Stub hub Center
The Stub Hub Center in Carson, California will host Rugby instead of soccer….
as well. I have Saturday, June 14th marked off on my calendar to catch some more international rugby.

The Eagles will play Canada the following week up the I-5 in Sacramento, the California State Capital-a game I will have to miss, as I plan on being in Minnesota to see my kids, my grandson and some other dear friends.
Sometimes rugby has to take a back seat to more important things.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

USA Eagles Punch Their Ticket to Rugby World Cup 2015 Against Uruguay.

Uruguay lined up for the National Anthem.
My buddy Tom Daniels and I made it out to Georgia for the second leg between Uruguay and the USA Eagles in Kennesaw Georgia. In match played in front of a little over 6,000 fans in conditions that went from wet and windy to dry with some sporadic sun, most of the crowd was hoping the Eagles would get a good start out of the gate. We were disappointed.
The Teros showed a lot of heart-particularly in their scrum.

The USA had to endure yellow cards to Olive Kilfi and Andrew Suniula. Playing a couple of men short, Joaquin Prada scored a try for the Teros. American Captain Todd Clever also had to leave the field to get medical treatment.
An audible sense of relief when Clever came back from inury.
Uruguay continued to give the USA scrum all kinds of troubles in the first half. Berchesi kicked two LONG penalties for Uruguay. Saracens fullback Chris Wyles hit a lone penalty for the USA. At half time the USA trailed 13-3. The big crowd that had started boisterous was very quiet. In a winner take all match, the Eagles were laying a big goose egg. The prospect of losing at home to Uruguay and having to play repechage matches to qualify for next years Rugby World Cup was unsettling, to say the least.

The second half would prove to be a massive reversal for the Eagles.
All of the sudden, Eagle physicality kept the Teros deep in their own territory. The Americans finally got a great push out of a scrum and Fry, one of the props, scored. a few minutes later, off a Uruguay penalty at their own two, American fly half Petri took the quick tap, and out raced the Teros to plant the ball down for a try. With the very pro-American crowd sensing blood, the eagles continued to dominate at the breakdown
, In a 10 minute period, they would score two more tries, care of the Suniula brothers. (Shalom scored his first Eagle try in his second cap) Wyles scored one more penalty for the Yanks, and the USA punched their ticket to next years Rugby World Cup.
The Eagles celebrate.

The Eagles took a well deserved lap of honor, glad handing American rugby fans and basking in the glow of a 32-13 win, that was really a tougher game than the score would indicate.
American Captain Todd Clever all smiles after the Eagle win.

What this means, is that now I can start planning my trip to England next year
Honey, we are going to England...
Petri shares the moment with his baby.