Sunday, April 20, 2008

You're fit, but don't you just know it...

Time for some rugby league blogging, right? I saw London knock Castleford out of the cup on Saturday, and I can report that I'm beginning to think London (sorry, sorry, Harlequins RL) are getting to be dangerous. Cas dominated the first half and went in 12-0 up, but ended up with a 42-14 thrashing. They were, as it happens, missing their star loose forward Jon Westerman, who I was looking forward to seeing, but I doubt he'd have changed anything. When a team just gets run over like that, individuals don't matter much.

What does matter is that London are ferociously fit this year; Brian McDermott has really prepared a side almost as tough as he is (hey, he's been a Royal Marine Commando, a prizefighter, a British Lion, and a Yorkshire Dales hill farmer; enough macho to kill a normal man). And they are making a strategy of it; every time I've seen them recently, they've soaked up the pressure in the first half and then unexpectedly cranked up the speed after the break, which is a killer if you haven't either got the stamina to match it or a 20 point lead. It's an old Wigan trick from the 90s; it's probably as old as the game.

However, I would like to say that whoever introduced those inflatable sticks you whack together to generate noise deserves everything they get. It's not just the volume, it's the odd piercing quality of the sound; I can happily put up with RL terrace fixtures like the old dear driven by a truly disturbing blood lust, but this is new. Perhaps that's what pushed the youth-team guy who picked a vicious brawl in the club bar after the match, incidentally hurling his target at my girlfriend, over the edge. (He also saw his way to trampling on a Cas shirt and assaulting someone who looked to be his father, so who knows.)

6 comments:

ejh said...

I'm beginning to think London ...are getting to be dangerous

Vastly unlikely: see the Leeds and St Helens scorelines for evidence of what happens when they play a good team. And McLinden's out for months, isn't he?

The only time in the several years I followed them that I thought they were a genuine challenge, they didn't make the play-offs: I think it was the last year when only five teams qualified and they ended up in sixth. But I saw them slaughter St Helens and beat a couple of the other big names - Moran had his best season and as ever, it looked promising for the future. But it never quite is.

Alex said...

They've been in the playoffs before, and if you reach back, they beat Canberra in 1997 in Shaun Edwards' last serious season (which was one of his best ever games).

ejh said...

Yeah, I know they've been the play-offs: but I don't believe the teams that got there were as good as that particular team, even though it didn't.

goatard said...

London are a different proposition these days with regards to the future because they are now surrounded by a strong amateur game. The lower levels are probably stronger in London, at least in terms of size but often in terms of quality too, than in many parts of the heartlands. With relegation now gone, probably for good imo, and rules in place to encourage development of local talent I really expect the London team to shine in the near future. The days of relying on journeymen are over.

Alex said...

You've got a point there; what could be more London than Joe Mbu, the world's only Congolese rugby league player?

Anonymous said...

Now that relegation has disappeared the RL must really be banking on the game going big in London and Languedoc. Otherwise I can see it going flat in some of its heartlands. They're going to get a bit bored in Salford, Widnes, Whitehaven etc if they've got no chance of getting promoted. And a game like that between Wakefield and Castleford in 2006 that decided relegation would be watched by 3 people and a dog as opposed to the 12,000 that were at Belle Vue. Indeed, in future we'll be robbed of the excitement of relegation battles which can be more competitive than what's going on at the top.

Igor Belanov

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