Fantasy Time – Gallagher Premiership

Fantasy Time – Gallagher Premiership

About a year ago, I wrote about how important technology is to sport these days, not just for the game itself but also for fan enjoyment and interaction. One area of technology that I brought up was fantasy leagues.

Now as a big sports fan, I love to get involved in fantasy leagues! They’re a great chance to test – and improve – your knowledge of a league, and also a great opportunity to have banter and discussions with your friends and other people within your league. I know I’ve spent entire lunch breaks discussing the right fantasy line-up on a regular basis!

For those who have never done a fantasy league before, there are a number of different sites out there with slightly different rules, but the general idea is this: Friends join a league with each other and pick their individual teams using the players in the league. Each site will give a fantasy manager a starting budget and each real-life player has a cost, which will change over the season with fluctuations in form and the percentage of managers selecting them. Each gameweek, the selected players will earn points dependant on their real-life performance (points scored for goals, points lost for cards etc). Some leagues will put you 1v1 against someone else in your league with points for a victory similar to the actual league, whereas others will create a league table using each manager’s cumulative gameweek points.

After taking part in ESPN’s Fantasy 6 Nations for years, I’d always wanted to give one a go for the Premiership and by chance I found one last year on The Rugby Magazine! To say I loved it is an understatement as it is probably one of the deepest fantasy games I’ve done. To mimic the league, fantasy managers (you can call yourself pretty much any role in your club, from Director of Rugby to Head Chef!) are given a budget of £7 million, with which then can sign as many players as they want, provided they have at least 28 players and someone in each position. Each week, you must then pick a starting line-up and an 8-man bench (4 forwards, 4 backs), assigning players to the positions the game recognises them as playing (it’s generally quite forgiving in terms of a player’s versatility). Managers must then pick a captain for double points and a kicker, who will be the only person to gain points for kicks off the tee.

This year, like on the Premier League fantasy football, I have created a league and I’m putting out an open invitation for anyone who wants to join. Again, I’ve left this to the last minute (sorry) as I’m horribly unorganised. The first deadline is 19:30 on 31st August. This league is purely for fun and everyone is welcome, so feel free to invite your friends too!

Interested? The site can be found here and my league’s unique token is 429eb544c2c9

Title Week – August 2018

Title Week – August 2018

After Samm Levine stepped away from the Singles and Teams titles after Collider Collision, we knew that we were guaranteed a new singles champion. William “The Beast” Bibbiani, MVP of the Free 4 All won his Number 1 Contender match against Jeff Sneider and was due to face “The Inglorious One” until this announcement, so his challenger instead became Marc “The Android” Andreyko, who defeated Ethan Erwin in a second Contender match. Meanwhile in the Teams Division, The Shirewolves won their Contender match against The World’s Finest and were promptly challenged by Brianne, who announced that her and her mystery partner would be cashing in her title challenge earned by winning Free 4 All 2. Entering this week, we knew that we were going to see a new Singles Champion and also The Schmoedown’s first female Champion. That’s a lot of hype and expectation ahead of these matches, but I’d say they delivered!

Warning: this will contain spoilers for both the Singles and Teams title matches, also Tuesday’s Anarchy Preview Special

mts bibdreykoWilliam “The Beast” Bibbiani 19-18 Marc “The Android” Andreyko

When Bibbiani and Andreyko debuted in the league, they faced each other in what was arguably one of the best Schmoedown matches up to that point, with Bibbiani setting a new points record on the way to victory. It quickly became clear the accuracy stats wouldn’t be as good for the competitors this time around as both competitors missed within the first 4 questions of Round 1 on their way to an end-of-round score of 5-5.

Going into Round 2, Andreyko was the pre-match favourite and chose to defer his spin, The Beast initially spinning 90s, but spinning away to end up with Musicals. Not a category that he likely wanted, but he was able to come away with 2/4 correct answers for 4 points, but Andreyko was able to steal both incorrect answers for 3 points, including one where Bibbs misheard the start of the question and gave the name of the actor from the original film Annie as opposed to the 2014 remake. The Android was up and he chose to stick with his first spin, Monster Movies, and answered his first 3 questions for 5 points. He looked set to get 4/4 as he clearly knew the answer to his last question, but answered “Bud” when it should have been “Bub”, an answer that Bibbiani knew, stealing 2 points and reduce his losses. Obviously it’s disappointing to have a 4-point swing for the matter of 1 letter, but it clearly alters the answer and I completely agree with the judges’ ruling.

Leading by 2 going into Round 3, Andreyko was able to select the category for the betting round, spinning Classics. Despite Bibbs using one of his repeats, neither competitor was able to guess the correct answer, but Andreyko’s lead grew as he had only bet 1 point compared to The Beast’s 2.

The speed round was a first for both competitors and it looked as if Andreyko had benefitted from the practicing the Fyffe Club did ahead of Clarke’s title shot as he beat Bibbiani to the buzzer on all 5 questions. However, wrong answers on the first and third questions meant that he only increased his lead by 1 point.

mtsbibwinAnd so it came to the final round. Marc had a 4 point lead over Bibbiani, who has a horrible record in Round 3. However this new-look standing Beast of 2018 had no problems, getting the full 10 points from Comic Book Movies, Comedies and Will Smith. Andreyko got his 2- and 3-point questions correct and was left needing to answer his 5-pointer to take victory or Bibbiani would be the new Champion. When the category was announced as Sports, I was pretty certain the title was going to the Beast, but Andreyko came so close, correctly guessing one of the required actors but not the other. I must admit that I was surprised Andreyko didn’t use either of his 2 remaining repeats on the last question, as he answered quite quickly and did not even wait to the 5 second countdown, which makes me think that he knew he would be unable to guess the second actor and did not want to prolong the action. And that was it: Bibbiani, touted as a future champion after his debut victory over Andreyko, took the victory once again to become the 6th different competitor to be crowned Singles Champion.

mtsbibbelt
Bibbs finally has the belt that he has been destined for since his debut

Bibbiani will have a tough test ahead of him as he will be facing the winner of Rocha/Batemen and Reilly/Ghai. 2 champions and 2 up-and-comers who have shown their quality in past performances. I would expect Bibbs to have better Round 1 performances in the future as this one was poor by his standards and judging by his interview on the Schmoedown Rundown, he knows that he needs to work on taking his time to think through some of his answers. What he does need to work on though is his reaction time in the Round 4. He got lucky this time, but had Andreyko got all 5 answers correct, the extra 4 points would have meant he wouldn’t have needed to answer his 5-pointer. I’m sure that this experience will improve him and I think regardless of who he faces, he has a good chance of defending his title.

As for Andreyko, this was another strong performance from him and I think that he will be kicking himself about his “Bud” answer as that ultimately proved costly. He also probably underperformed in Round 1 and with title match experience under his belt, I can see him performing better next time he finds himself competing for a belt. Next up for him will likely be the Anarchy tournament, where he has been paired as Jeff Sneider. As I said when I initially looked at the teams, that is a dangerous team and if they get the right opposition, they could certainly be dark horses for the title.

The Shirewolves (“Classy” Clarke Wolfe & Rachel “The Crusher” Cushing) 29-18 Sick In The Head (“Miss Movies” Brianne Chandler & ???)

Coming into this one, we knew that we were guaranteed a female champion for the first time ever, but besides who would be the new champion, the biggest question was arguably who Brianne’s mystery partner would be. For a moment I got excited to see Wendy Lee Szany coming out until I realised that this was all part of another classic entrance from Miss Movies, this time based on Miss Congeniality (yes I recognised it, no I’m not ashamed). Once out, the question was finally answered a she was joined on stage by debutante “Bald” Bryan Bishop, forming Sick in the Head.

mtsshirsickOnce The Shirewolves joined them onstage – in Marvel-lous fashion (I’ll see myself out) – we were all set to go. Nobody managed a perfect Round 1, but the Shirewolves took an early 4-point lead, Rachel being the top scorer with 7/8, while Clarke got 6 points and Brianne and Bryan got 4 and 5 points respectively.

The Shirewolves deferred their spin in Round 2 and Brianne came to the Wheel for the first time this season and spun Dance Movies, a clear strength of hers. I thought this could be the moment that Sick in the Head’s fortunes improved, but Miss Movies shocked me by spinning again, landing on Directors. While it’s rare to see someone spin away from a strength, I can understand the thinking that she would rather a category that both her and Bryan were comfortable with and they worked their way through Directors to go 5/6 for 8 points, though the Shirewolves did successfully steal a point on their miss. It was Clarke’s turn to spin and the Wheel – so often her nemesis in previous seasons – was on her side, giving her and Rachel Horror. They got off to a good start with 2 points on their 1st question, but initially missed their 2nd (Sick in the Head missing their steal opportunity) but Clarke had by good chance watched the film recently and was confident enough to challenge the answer to show that hers was also correct, earning the 2 points. They finished the round 6/6 for 10 points to extend their lead to 24-17.

mtsclassywheelClarke’s newfound love affair with the Wheel continued in Round 3 as she again spun Horror. Perhaps the only surprise about Clarke and Rachel getting the question right was that they only gambled 2 points, but Sick in the Head were unable to pull the correct answer and lost a point, leaving The Shirewolves with a 10 point lead.

After Clarke’s heroics on the buzzer in her match with Samm Levine, I thought that the Shirewolves may be about to run away with things in Round 4 when she got in first to get the correct answer on the 1st question. But each competitor managed to buzz in first with a correct answer over the first 4 questions. And so it came to the final question of the Round. With the scores at 28-18, Sick in the Head needed to either win the point or hope the Shirewolves got it wrong in order to progress to the final round. But Clarke had other plans and she buzzed in first and correctly answered to win the title by KO, much to The Crusher’s visible shock.

mtsshirewin
Rachel’s reaction to winning a title is up there with Rocha’s win over Murrell as one of my favourites

This was a wonderful victory for the Shirewolves and showed just how strong they are both as individuals and a pair, as they only answered 2 questions incorrectly between them the whole game (Rachel’s wrong answer in Round 1 was also one of Clarke’s wrong answers) and I imagine they knew the answers to the 2 questions where they weren’t quick enough in Round 4 too. Rachel may not be the fastest in that round but there was a clear improvement from her match against Samm Levine, while Clarke is surely building a reputation now as a danger on the buzzer. I’ll be shocked if neither of them finds themselves challenging for the Singles Title again by the end of next season, but as a team, their performances go to another level. Will they be able to go on a Patriots-esque run of defences? I don’t think anyone will be able to do that again, but as they continue to grow as a team it is a definite possibility.

As for Sick in the Head, this was a good showing for a team that has never competed together before, especially considering Bryan was making his Schmoedown debut! I have said before that I think players who have experience of the 5 round match format are at an advantage in title matches, but they have shown enough to make me believe they can be an above average team if they stick together.

Anarchy Impact

When the Anarchy teams were initially announced for the Ultimate Schmoedown, we already knew that there would be changes based on the result of the Team Title match courtesy of Brianne, Rachel and Clarke all being involved in the original teams. The Shirewolves win, combined with scheduling issues for Ethan Erwin have led to a couple of changes:

  • As Drew McWeeny is now unable to partner with Clarke, he now has Brianne as his partner. She must be thrilled at the upgrade from Devon Stewart! Stewart is now being partnered with debutante Rachel Silvestri
  • Ethan Erwin’s schedule meant that he was unable to play with Jeannine, so he will now partner Sabina Graves
  • As he is no longer able to partner Rachel Cushing, Andrew Ghai was to become Jeannine’s new partner, but refused to work with Jay Washington so will no longer take part in the tournament. Jeannine will now pair up with Brian Walton
  • Jay Washington will be managing both Ethan and Jeannine’s teamsmtsanarchybracket

Side thoughts

  • Jay Washington managing 2 teams makes me think he will be making a play to get Ethan Erwin into the Viper Squad, but with her impressive performances so far this season, Sabina Graves could also be a potential target for the Urban Gladiator
  • Andrew Ghai is currently going through a campaign against the Horsemen, while the Viper Squad’s feud with the Fyffe Club appears to be coming to an end. Could Ghai’s refusal to compete under Jay Washington be setting up a new feud for the rest of the season?
  • Brianne was open about her struggles when she too a step back from competing in 2017, so it was lovely to see her and Bryan call their team Sick in the Head and admit that it has been due to their health issues. Tie this with Rachel Cushing’s talking about her nerves and Mark Donica’s Facebook post about his panic attack during the Kalinowski match. It’s great to see so many competitors being open and honest about their mental health issues and hopefully people watching this will be more willing to be open about any of their own mental health issues.

 

What did you think of these matches? Who do you think will hold their title longer? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading! Until next time…

Eyes On: 2018 Rugby Championship – Round 2

Eyes On: 2018 Rugby Championship – Round 2

We may only be a third of the way through the tournament, but it would take a brave/foolish person to bet against New Zealand winning another title again. On the occasion of Owen Franks’ 100th Tests cap, the All Blacks romped away to a 40-12 victory over Australia to Ensure they keep hold of the Bledisloe Cup for another year, while Argentina got their first win under Mario Ledesma at home to South Africa.


New Zealand 40-12 Australia

Despite having considerably less registered players than England, South Africa and France (according to World Rugby’s latest data), the depth of the all Blacks has been incredible! Though they have been far from perfect, they have ran out comfortable victors both weeks against Australia. Even crazier is that they are doing this with Scott Barrett – probably their star player in the Summer Tests – back on the bench now that Brodie Retallick has returned. The loss of Ryan Crotty last week has not seemed to have an impact on the team as Jack Goodhue has been impressive at 13, while Ngani Laumape (who was not even in the original squad) had an increasing impact on the game as the match went on. Reiko Ioane was barely missed either, as Ben Smith moved to the win and Jordie Barrett deputised at fullback. Even crazier is that Richie Mo’unga, who has just led the Crusaders to back-to-back Super Rugby titles, has not even made the matchday 23 for either of the last 2 matches! Even with Julian Savea now out of the picture, stars like Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ben Lam are unable to make the 23 either! Even Dane Coles could struggle to get his place back in the starting XV once he is available, such has been the form of Codie Taylor – though a bit more reliability is needed currently in the lineout. I wrote last week about Australia possibly coming undone with a couple of injuries to key players; I can’t see this happening any time soon with New Zealand.

Looking at the Australia 23 on paper, that is a strong squad. Despite Israel Folau’s absence, there is plenty of skill and experience in a back line containing Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beala Dane Haylett-Petty and Marika Koroibete. In the forwards, Australia have 2 of the best jackals currently in rugby in the form of experienced duo Michael Hooper and David Pocock and a good blend of youth and experience. And yet for all this, they never looked to have a shot of winning once we got into the second half. They conceded 6 tries on the day but it could have been so much worse as Beauden Barrett had a try disallowed for a knock-on in the build-up, a forward pass from Laumape denied Waisake Naholo a late try and a wonderful last-ditch tackle from Foley put Jordie Barrett into touch just short of the line.

It just felt like there was something wrong with the system Australia were playing. 13 is such a difficult position to play defensively and Reece Hodge was caught out on a number of occasions in only his 2nd Test match in that position. Kurtley Beale also began struggling against Laumape in the second half. Yet despite this, Matt Toomua was kept on the bench until the 65th minute, by which point the game was over. Australia also butchered one of the biggest ovrlaps I’ve seen after winning the ball back on the New Zealand line in the left corner, hitting it up through the forwards for multiple phases when there had been 7 men free outside New Zealand’s widest defender Brodie Retallick. Something really needs changing ahead of the next round and I would suggest starting Toomua. The Leicester centre is a more physical player than Beale, and has a range of kicking and passing to be an effective playmaker in midfield. If Folau is still unavailable for the next game, Cheika could do much worse than moving Hodge to the wing in place of Jack Maddocks (who was largely anonymous in his first start) and bringing Toomua into the centre.


Argentina 32-19 South Africa

Argentina are back! They have looked so much better under Ledesma in the last 2 weeks than they did under Hourcade in the summer. Nicolas Sanchez looked a shadow of the player we know him to be against Wales and Scotland, but he ran things for the Pumas in this match and had a full house of try, conversion, penalty and drop goal by half time on the way to a personal tally of 17 points in this match. With Sanchez impressing, the back line are firing on all cylinders again, with them working overlaps for Ramiro Moyano’s try and both of Bautista Delguy’s. They are by no means perfect yet and were let off by South Africa on a number of occasions, but the signs of improvement are clear and by the World Cup they could be a real threat again.

After a number of improvements under Rassie Erasmus, this match was a real step back for the Springboks. They completed only 64% of their tackles as they were frequently caught out when Argentina spread the ball wide. In attack, they missed some great chances, with Lukhanyo Am’s forward pass denying Aphiwe Dyantyi a try, while I found myself yelling at the screen when Faf de Klerk looked for a runner to an empty blind side to the left of a ruck, only to have to go back to the open side as nobody else reacted to the opportunity. There were some wonderful moments in attack, often from de Klerk and Willie le Roux again, but they just weren’t accurate enough. Add to that Eben Etzebeth’s yellow card for cynically slowing down a breakdown on the South African line and they were always up against it against an Argentina side that seemed to grow in confidence following 2 quick tries. Handre Pollard appears to be the best option at 10, but his goal kicking has been unreliable so far this tournament and I would recommend giving de Klerk kicking duties and allowing Pollard to focus on the rest of the game. I would love to see Damian Willemse given some starts at 10 with Pollard outside him at 12, but considering Argentina would usually be considered the 2 easiest matches, I think this tournament will be more about establishing the best XV and then using the Autumn Internationals to give less experienced players a chance.


KOrruption Innergeekdown Tournament: The Final

KOrruption Innergeekdown Tournament: The Final

Hi guys, apologies yet again for the delay in writing this, the last few weeks have been so busy I’m in serious catch-up mode. Thanks everyone for your patience!

After Jason Inman defeated Mark Donica in their Innergeekdom Title Match back in April, the defending champion spoke about how he wanted his next title defence to be a worthy competitor who had got there by defeating some of the best competitors in the division. It looked like he may get his wish as it was announced that there would be 5 1v1 matches leading to a Fatal Fiveway Number 1 Contender Match for the chance to face him.

“The Killer”, fresh from his split with The League, approached Commissioner Thadd Williams and through questionable methods arranged a new format for the next run for a title shot: a tournament containing 16 competitors.

If you want to read my reviews of the previous rounds, they can be found here:

Mike “Killer” Kalinowski 23-25 “Amazing” Mara Knopic

And so it came to this: the showpiece event that I doubt many people were expecting when the Round 1 matches were initially announced. Mike Kalinowski, the puppet master and creator of the tournament against Mara Knopic, who was not even in the original 10 Innergeekom competitors slated to compete for Jason Inman’s title.

schfinalMara was clearly still suffering in the aftermath of her accident, but the Chewbacca onesie seemed to give her strength and she matched her highest Round 1 score of 8/10, running out of time trying to answer the Green Lantern quote and just getting the incorrect age on the Patreon Question. It was the Patreon Question that denied Kalinowski another perfect round and if I’m honest, I would have probably accepted Mike’s answer of a minimum age limit, though the answer required was the specific age.

Going into Round 2, The Killer deferred his spin and Mara got Harry Potter on her first spin, choosing to keep it. She started strong with 4 points from the first 2 questions, before checking down to multiple choice to get a point on the next one, but missed 2-point attempts on both of her remaining questions, Kalinowski unable to steal. Kalinowski was up next and it looked like it would be his day as he landed on Spinner’s Choice on his first spin and chose to go with the DCEU. Though he missed his second question, Mara was unable to steal and he answered his other 4 questions correctly for 7 points, extending his lead to 16-13.

Both players chose to play it safe in Round 3 when Kalinowski spun Star Trek but Mike was perhaps a little too safe, only going for 1 point whereas Mara went for 2. Both gave the same correct answer and Mike’s lead was cut to 2.

His lead soon grew though as he dominated the speed round, buzzing in first on all 5 questions, however a wrong answer on the 2nd question meant that he only came away with 3 points from the round. In my preview of the final, I noted that the buzzer round was new for both competitors, but it appeared that Kalinowski had studied the round better, having his hand already on the buzzer whereas Mara had her hand off to the side, giving her a distinct disadvantage.

schmarawinsAnd so we came to the final round. With the scores at 25-20 in favour of Kalinowski, it would require an Innergeekdom-record comeback in order to win (Navarro’s 4 point comeback against Jeremy Jahns the highest up to this point). She got off to a great start by nailing her 2-point and 3-point questions to throw things over to her rival. Kalinowski missed on his 2-pointer in Scores and Soundtracks but correctly answered his 3-pointer to force Mara to answer her 5-pointer to stay in the game. The category: Indiana Jones. Mara has been coming out to the Indiana Jones theme all tournament and proved she knew her stuff in the category by answering the question with barely any hesitation. And so we were back to Kalinowski, 5 points in the category of MCU. He is generally strong in the comic book movie categories, but I would feel confident in calling this question the hardest ever asked in Innergeekdom! Despite still having all 3 of his JTE rules, Kalinowski could not pull the answer and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein remained as she wrote it, with him falling trying to defeat his own creation. Mara Knopic, the rookie who nobody had heard of mere months ago, had won the Innergeekdom tournament and booked her place at the September Live Event to face Jason Inman for the title!

Kalinowski can certainly hold his head high after that performance as both Mara and Rachel Cushing admitted post-match that they didn’t know the final answer either, while he has consistently scored high in all 4 matches within the tournament and does not appear to have any glaring weaknesses. I just wonder how much he regrets playing it safe in Round 3 and not using one of his JTE rules on his 2-point question in Round 5 as he appeared to know the answer but not be able to pull the name.

schbuzzer
Mara needs to spend some time practicing the speed round if she wants to beat Inman

The Final

What chance does Mara Knopic have against Jason Inman? I think she has every chance of winning! She may not have a perfect Round 1 to her name (things have been far from perfect in some matches) but she has shown a wide range of knowledge and has continually found a way to win regardless of who she has playing, going so far as to beat 2 of what I would consider to be the top 3 Innergeekdom competitors in consecutive matches. She will also benefit from the final being in a title format as she can now see what she needs to work on ahead of the final. If she can learn from this match to keep her hand already on the buzzer, she has every chance of getting some points in the speed round (where Inman excelled against Donica) and if she can keep things close, she will have every chance of winning the title.

The fun bit will be seeing how Dan Murrell reacts. The 2-time former Singles Champion will be at the event as he is competing along with Rocha in the Anarchy match against Stacy Howard and Winston Marshall and would have also been expected to cheer on his fellow Horseman in his title match. However now that Mara is there Murrell’s loyalties may be split and Rocha even suggested on Wednesday’s Collider Live that he may be cheering her on for the match. What impact could that have on the Horsemen in Inman were to lose? This could be a tough test of Rocha’s management over the next few weeks!

Brown Dwarf Star to Superstar

Looking beyond Ineergeekdom for a moment and Mara has to come into contention for Rookie of the Year. She is 4-0 this year with some impressive scalps to her name and is set for a title match. Ethan Erwin would currently get my vote due to the combination of Singles (where he lost his Number 1 Contender match to Andreyko to go 3-1) and the Free 4 All, while he also has a chance to improve his standing with a good performance in the Anarchy tournament. Jeannine would be the other name coming into contention, but with a 2-1 record and being on the same team as Erwin, I would give him the advantage. However, if Mara can become the first rookie to win a title, then surely the odds of winning the award will swing her way.

KOrruption

“This is what this tournament was about” – Mike Kalinowski

Since Mike parted ways with The League and started KOrruption, it’s safe to say he has had an impact on the league. The Innergeekdom Division has gone to a new level with the number and quality of the 1v1 matches and the tournament, while competitors like him and Rachel now have records more befitting their quality, while other unknowns (like Mara) have had a chance to come into the league and make a name for themselves.

As well as this tournament, KOrruption has seen The Patriots and the Lion’s Den come to an end, the formation of the Knights of Ken – who appear willing to throw their support behind Kalinowski – and has also led to the (at least temporary) breaking up of most teams for the Anarchy edition of the Ultimate Schmoedown Team Tournament, which is at this stage impossible to call. As he said post-match, KOrruption is not just Innergeekdom and this is just the start… I can’t wait to see what’s next!

 

What did you think of the final? Who do you think will win at the El Portal Theatre? Would Mara get your vote for Rookie of the Year? Let me know down below. Thanks for reading and until next time… Baaaaa!

schKOrruptionmain

Eyes On: 2018 Rugby Championship – Round 1

Eyes On: 2018 Rugby Championship – Round 1

The 7th edition of the annual Rugby Championship got underway this weekend and I doubt it will shock anyone to see New Zealand take an early lead in the tournament. The All Blacks may not be at their strongest but this is still a team that looks likely to finish the tournament undefeated. They played against an Australian team who handed debuts off the bench to Jermaine Astley and Jack Maddocks, while also welcoming back Premiership starts Tatafu Polota-Nau and Matt Toomua. Following a recent change in selection criteria, Saracens’ Juan Figallo was also back in action, playing for an Argentinian team entering a new era with Mario Ledesma at the helm, while Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux also continued their run in the South Africa team that started against England, joined once again by Bath’s Francois Louw.

 


Australia 13-38 New Zealand

Are Australia relying too much on the same players? I was thinking during the match that Bernard Foley has become an ever-present in this team recently and, with Quade Cooper out of the picture, I was struggling to pick who would be second choice behind him. Israel Folau is another player who is an ever-present when fit and I can’t help but wonder if the lack of variation in the playing squad could come back to haunt them come the World Cup, especially when you see New Zealand spreading appearances around a selection of players. It appears that my thoughts were timely as Folau limped off injured and it has since been announced that he will be missing he reverse at Eden Park.

So what are the options at 10 and 15? Well I think the most obvious options at 10 were the guys playing just outside Foley at the weekend: Kurtley Beale and Reece Hodge. Beale has the all-round skill-set to play at 10 but I think he thrives a bit further out at international level. Reece Hodge’s long-range kicking will always keep him in or around this starting line-up due to Foley’s limited range. With his versatility, he has become the Adam Ashley-Cooper of the team, playing wherever he is needed, but I think he and the Wallabies could benefit from him moving to the fly half position, where he has been playing regularly for Melbourne Rebels. He is strong enough to defend the 10 channel so would not have to be hidden on the wing in defence like Foley was on Saturday, while there would not be much of a drop in kicking percentages as he is solid off the tee with a larger range. Moving him to 10 would also allow Beale/Toomua to be partnered in midfield by Samu Kerevi/Tevita Kuridrani to give the balance of playmaking and strong running, while also allowing Cheika to continue picking specialist players in the back 3. At 15, the obvious choice would be Dane Haylett-Petty, who has deputised there during Folau’s previous absences, but Jack Maddocks looked good on his debut and Beale could again be a danger picking his lines from further back. There are plenty of options available and while I appreciate nobody wants to lose a Bledisloe Cup match, there are only a handful of matches remaining before the World Cup. Previous World Cups have seen teams suffer multiple injuries all at the same position – think back to Stephen Donald’s appearance on the bench in the 2011 final. I’m sure Michael Cheika would rather be able to turn to seasoned veterans than a bunch of rookies.

As much as I expect New Zealand to remain unbeaten, they looked anything but unbeatable at the weekend. Their lineout was turned over far too often and the number of handling errors was unbelievable. And yet they still won comfortably, scoring 6 tries in the process. The reason: they were clinical when the chances appeared. Their opener came from a simple missed tackle on Ben Smith, the next a turnover by Waisake Naholo that was spread to the far wing where there was space, the third a knock on by Dane Haylett-Petty that Beauden Barrett fly hacked on and controlled over the line. Even the next try, New Zealand took advantage of the space caused by Folau leaving the pitch injured while play was still going. Though they may not be as consistently great in attack as they were a few years back, they are solid in defence even when Ryan Crotty is unavailable and have the ability to cut apart a team when given the opportunity. This team look like they could be beaten, but whoever beats them will need to be switched on for every second of the 80 minutes and minimise the errors.


South Africa 34-21 Argentina

South Africa are back on the up! After a torrid couple of years under Allister Coetzee, Rassie Erasmus appears to be getting the team back on track just in time for the World Cup. England and Argentina, plus and understrength Wales, may not have been the sternest of tests, but the signs are good so far. It does not surprise me either that part of this turnaround includes starring roles from Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux, both of whom have been revitalised playing in England. De Klerk has impressed me so much in recent internationals with his quick ball, eye for a gap (see his snipe to the line for South Africa’s last try) and his attacking box kicks that led to Aphiwe Dyantyi’s second try. Le Roux takes so much pressure off the fly half by becoming a second playmaker, he is dangerous collecting the high ball (though he failed to collect the bomb that led to Nicolas Sanchez’s try), targets the 13 channel and has a great range of passing and kicking – just look at his inch-perfect crosskick for Dyantyi’s opener. Similar to Australia though, they need to find some depth at key positions like fly half. Elton Jantjies has never convinced me when given the chance and I don’t feel he can be a long-term option. As such, it was good to see Damian Willemse come on for his debut at 10 with Pollard moved to 12 in order to support him. Japan 2019 may be a bit too soon for him to take the reins, but if he continues to get gametime in the competition then he could have a big impact on the biggest stage.

Though they may have conceded 6 tries, this performance from the Pumas was a far cry from the embarrassment of the Summer Tests. Despite being mainly the same players, this squad looked much more switched on and energised under Ledesma than in the final days of Daniel Hourcade’s reign. Nicolas Sanchez looked miles better than in the summer and the team looked dangerous after South Africa took an early lead. There is still a long way to go, as they were often caught out wide by the Springboks, but early signs are good for a team that appear close to welcoming back Europe-based stars like Facundo Isa and Juan Imhoff.


KOrruption Innergeekdom Tournament: Semi-finals

KOrruption Innergeekdom Tournament: Semi-finals

Hey guys! First of all,sorry for the delay in writing this, I’ve been away in Ireland for a wedding so even though I was able to see both semi-finals before I went away I wasn’t able to actually write about them until now. I’m hoping that my write-up of the final will be up within a few days of the match.

After Jason Inman defeated Mark Donica in their Innergeekdom Title Match back in April, the defending champion spoke about how he wanted his next title defence to be a worthy competitor who had got there by defeating some of the best competitors in the division. It looked like he may get his wish as it was announced that there would be 5 1v1 matches leading to a Fatal Fiveway Number 1 Contender Match for the chance to face him.

“The Killer”, fresh from his split with The League, approached Commissioner Thadd Williams and through questionable methods arranged a new format for the next run for a title shot: a tournament containing 16 competitors. We were treated to some fantastic matches in Rounds 1 and 2 and while both matches had an overwhelming favourite, we’d seen enough to know that an upset was certainly possible.

 

“Amazing” Mara Knopic 24-23 Rachel “The Crusher” Cushing

Arguably the best match in the Innergeekdom Division, surely one of the matches of the year and perhaps even one of the best Schmoedown matches ever, the match started slow but will live long in the memory. Rachel Cushing was most people’s favourite for the tournament following her demolition of Markeia McCarty and second consecutive perfect Round 1 against Eric Zipper at Collider Collision II, however she was under the weather on the day of the match, which became increasingly clear as the match wore on. The Brown Dwarf Star was also struggling as she was in pain following a recent car accident, so before we even start going into detail on this match, I want to give massive respect to both of them for agreeing to go ahead with the match. If you have read my articles on the previous rounds, you will know that I usually take a look at where the competitors have struggled, but given the circumstances I will not be getting into this so much for this match as I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to focus and concentrate when clearly struggling.

mtsrachmarThe Crusher’s run of perfect Round 1s came to an end as she missed question 6, finishing a run of 27 consecutive correct answers in Round 1 during this tournament, eventually finishing with 8 of a possible 10 points. Mara did not have such a good start and found herself 8-5 down going into Round 2, at which point I imagine the Schmoeville bookies were getting ready to pay out on a Cushing victory.

Going into Round 2 and Cushing was up first, initially spinning Mixed Bag but spinning away to Heroes & Villains. She started strongly with 3 consecutive 2-pointers but missed on her last 2 despite checking down to multiple choice, Mara stealing a point on the final question. It was then Knopic’s turn to spin and she also chose to spin away from Mixed Bag, eventually landing on Marvel. She missed on her first question – Rachel missing with the steal opportunity – but improved to 4/5 for 6 points, leaving her just 2 behind going into Round 3.

mtsmarafinalBoth competitors hit their 2-point questions, Mara missed on her 3-pointer but hit her final question, while Rachel landed her 3-pointer. And so it came down to Rachel’s 5 pointer. A correct answer would see her into the final; a wrong answer would give us the first ever Overtime in an Innergeekdom 1v1 match – Coy’s Fatal Fiveway victory (remembered as the “Pudding” match) being the only other match in the division to enter Overtime. The category Who Said It? is always going to be tricky and while many fans have commented that it was obvious, Rachel was unable to pull the answer and the match continued.

Both competitors hit their first 2 answers in Sudden Death before missing the next 3, though it was so nearly over on question 5 as Cushing was off by a letter, going with San Frantokyo rather than San Fransokyo, and at that point I think people realised that we could really be in for a long haul. Both competitors were clearly struggling to keep going at this point, as they both answered question 6 correctly before missing 3 in a row – going so far as to both guess the same wrong answer (Tex) on question 9 before both hitting question 10. And finally, as I was beginning to think Sudden Death may take on a more literal meaning in the match, another Who Said It? question came up. Mara was able to correctly answer but Rachel Cushing then shocked the world by missing, completing a match that by the end had so many of us on the edge of our seats.

MTSmararachelreac
Kristian’s reaction was likely mirrored by many watching come the end of the match

As I mentioned above, I will not go into where competitors struggled in this match as I think both competitors would have done better had they been at full health. And that in itself shows just how strong they both are, as 19 points over 3 rounds is a very respectable score. Rachel Cushing has mentioned that this is the division where she feels most comfortable and though she may not have made the final, a title shot is clearly a matter of when not if! One thing’s for certain: Cushing v Knopic II will be one of the most anticipated matches ever when it happens down the line and if both are at their best it really could be one of the best ever matches.

mtskalfinalMike “Killer” Kalinowski 23-21 Adam “The Haymaker” Hlavac

“Win or lose, I’ve changed the game”

With the first spot in the final decided, it was between Kalinowski and Hlavac for the chance to face Mara Knopic. After the last round, I was expecting a Kalinowski victory and it looked like we’d be getting that pretty quickly as Adam struggled to just 3 points in Round 1, while Kalinowski – who just missed a perfect Round 1 against Donica – got the perfect round he’d been craving and the bonus to take a 11-3 lead.

Adam was up first in Round 2 and initially spun Star Trek but took the risk and spun again, landing on DCEU where he went 5/5 for 8 points. Kalinowski spun Harry Potter – a previous weakness that he listed for this match as a strength following a 5/5 Round 2 performance for 8/10 points in his last round – but chose to spin again and landed on MCU, going 4/5 for 7 points while Hlavac was unable to take advantage of his steal opportunity.

mtsadammikeGoing into Round 3 with a 7 point deficit was always going to be difficult for Adam to overcome, but he gave it his best shot by correctly answering all 3 of his questions, forcing The Killer to have to answer in Round 3 for the first time in the tournament. Missing the opportunity of a third consecutive KO/TKO did not phase him though as he correctly answered his 2 and 3-pointers to win the match and book his place in the final.

Though poor categories in Rounds 2 and 3 are often seen as the deciders, this match shows the importance of Round 1. Even if we assume Kalinowski would have correctly answered his 5-pointer, that would have still left him with a point less than Hlavac if we only looked at the final 2 rounds. Though we know from previous matches that Adam has weaknesses (Middle Earth being the most obvious) he generally has a good breadth of knowledge in the Innergeekdom Division, so it was a surprise to see him struggle in this match. He even admitted in his post-match interview that he did know some of the answers but just could not pull it in the moment. From the highs of dominating Keetin Marchi in Round 1 to now being dominated himself, this is a stark reminder of just how easy it is to have a bad day at the table. His later Rounds however are a reminder of just how dangerous he can be and though I probably wouldn’t currently put him in the very top tier of Innergeekdom competitors, I don’t think he is far off and feel that on his day he could beat anyone.

 

The final

And so the final is set: Kalinowski v Knopic. Mara was not even part of the original plan of 5 1v1s and a Fatal Fiveway, but now she is 1 win away from a title match. Kalinowski described this match as Frankenstein v Frankenstein’s monster, which I found interesting considering the monster destroys everything its creator held dear and survived where Dr Frankenstein did not, but Kalinowski clarified this when speaking to Take 3 Productions by saying that KOrruption is changing everything we know.

“I don’t have weaknesses, I have varying degrees of strength”

Who will get the win? Some things to consider:

  • Per Frank Janisch, Mara has 60% accuracy and has averaged 18.3 points per game through the tournament
  • Again per Frank Janisch, Mike has 91% accuracy and has averaged 21 points per game throughout the tournament, despite this being the only time he has had to answer in Round 3
  • The final will be a 5 Round match, neither competitor has played in one of these, so the buzzer and betting rounds will be new to them
  • Depending how soon after the semis the final was taped, Mara may still be struggling following her accident

MTSfinalprevThough I think Mara can certainly win, the work Kalinowski has done to improve himself within the division and the way he studies his competitors makes me give him the edge. He has turned weaknesses into strengths so it is very difficult to know how to react if Mike spins Opponent’s Choice. Mara has not shown herself to be especially weak in any category either, but there has not been the same degree of strength across the board. It would not surprise me if this comes down to the speed round and it will be interesting to see how each competitor does here, as Mike especially frequently takes his time to think though his answer.

So, putting my neck on the line, like a good sheep I predict a Kalinowski v Inman match at the September live event. But it’s safe to say that whoever wins the final will have completely earned their title shot!

 

What did you think of the matches? Who do you think will be facing the champion at the El Portal? Let me know below.

Fantasy Time: Premier League

Fantasy Time: Premier League

Almost a year ago, I wrote about how important technology is to sport these days, not just for the game itself but also for fan enjoyment and interaction. One area of technology that I brought up was fantasy leagues.

Now as a big sports fan, I love to get involved in fantasy leagues! They’re a great chance to test – and improve – your knowledge of a league, and also a great opportunity to have banter and discussions with your friends and other people within your league. I know I’ve spent entire lunch breaks discussing the right fantasy lineup on a regular basis!

For those who have never done a fantasy league before, there are a number of different sites out there with slightly different rules, but the general idea is this: Friends join a league with each other and pick their individual teams using the players in the league. Each site will give a fantasy manager a starting budget and each real-life player has a cost, which will change over the season with fluctuations in form and the percentage of managers selecting them. Each gameweek, the selected players will earn points dependant on their real-life performance (points scored for goals, points lost for cards etc). Some leagues will put you 1v1 against someone else in your league with points for a victory similar to the actual league, whereas others will create a league table using each manager’s cumulative gameweek points.

For years now, I have been using the Premier League’s official fantasy football site and this year have decided to create a league for all of us to enjoy. This is purely for fun (and I’m not just saying this because I expect to be towards the bottom of the table) and everyone is welcome!So feel free to join and invite your friends too!

Interested? The site can be found here and the league PIN is 1313231-748510

Obviously, I am horribly unorganised and have left this to the vary last minute, so sorry about that! The league opener is tomorrow evening so to be involved from the start you will need to hurry, but you can join at any point, I doubt it will take you long to pass me! I’ll even give you a look at my squad (at time of writing) to give you some starting ideas.

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