Warrior (2011)

Warrior (2011)

Welcome to my new series Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic stopping most sport, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they use in their weekly show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, they will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

I wanted to start the series with a bang, so I have started with a movie I was watching for the first time after hearing Ben and Drew continually praise it: Warrior

sport screen Warrior (2011)

Key facts

Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Music by Mark Isham

Released in 2011

Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo

Synopsis: Two estranged brothers come back into each others lives as they find themselves both competing in a winner-takes-all mixed martial arts tournament.

Review

After hearing Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai hype up this movie so often, I was keen to watch it but also a little nervous that it would not live up to the hype… I needn’t have worried. I immediately fell in love with this movie and already feel comfortable putting this in my top 5 movies after just 1 watch!

This is not just a sports movie. It is an emotional drama set around a sports event, with everything going on away from the octagon being as important (if not more so) than what is actually happening. All 5 of the main actors feel perfect for their roles and while it was potentially a risk to cast Hardy and Edgerton in the lead roles when they were still relative unknowns, they carried the movie so well and were so believable in both the drama and the action sequences. Grillo and Morrison were fantastic in their supporting roles, but Nick Nolte was absolutely superb in the role of the alcohlic estranged father and Tommy’s (Hardy) coach. He was fully deserving of his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and Christopher Plummer’s performance in Beginners must have been amazing to deny him the award!

What the movie does really well is build on what you know about the brothers and their backstory as the movie goes on. At the start, you know very little about them, but as the story continues you slowly get to see why each of the brothers is motivated to win the tournament, why they became estranged and how they both came to be in their respective situations. The way that Tommy’s backstory comes out slowly as the film progresses is amazing and I must admit that I didn’t see the final reveal coming but it did a great job of making everything click into place. What this means is that our feelings for the characters are built on how they act and talk rather than what we initially know about them. I also really like how neither of them is really a villain (Hardy could probably be considered an antihero), which creates a different dynamic to what you would see in most sports stories, as the most villainous characters are the brothers’ semifinal opponents. This allows for a final where you feel conflicted as to who you should want to win (even though it should be Brendan, there is enough to make you cheer for Tommy) and the brothers’ relationship can become the focus as much as the actual fight itself and building to a beautiful ending.

If you’ve never watched this movie, stop reading this and put it on now!

Sports perspective

So I want to start this section by saying that MMA is far from my strong suit, I will watch on occasion but not regularly, so the sporting aspect is not one that I can judge as closely as I can in some other sports. It certainly feels though that the fights are realistic, as we see different fighters using different styles (Hardy’s Tommy is more of a brute fighter, Edgerton’s Brendan is more technical).

The joy of combat sports like MMA and boxing are that they are easy for someone watching the movie to pick up the basics without having to know the full ins and outs. All you need to know is that the fights are split into rounds and that one guy is trying to knock out their opponent or make them submit.

Fist-pump moment

For me, this was Brendan’s semifinal against Koba, going from Frank’s (Frank Grillo) talk in the corner right up to the end of the fight when Koba taps out. The speech in the corner was fantastic and the build through the round as Brendan went from being bullied around the octagon to slowly taking control and pulling off the victory felt like an amazing climax… and that was with the final still to come!

“Look at me! Look at me! Why are we here, Brendan? Why are we here? Are we here to win this fight? You tell me, ’cause if we’re not, I’ll throw in the towel right now. We’ll get Tess and we will go home. You don’t knock him out, you lose the fight. Understand me? You don’t knock him out, you don’t have a home!”

Favourite line

If we’re talking inspirational lines, it’s the one above, but as with so many sports movies, we got an absolute zinger in the commentary that gets my pick here:

“He ripped the door off a tank!”

 

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

Premier League: March 2020

Premier League: March 2020

Well… this was an odd month!

It feels like forever since we had any football, but we did in fact manage to get a week’s worth of matches (and those from the latter half of the week before) before all football was shut down due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought not just sport, but everyday life to a standstill. This is a very strange time for us all and the season is currently in a strange form of limbo, but in an attempt to keep things as normal as possible, I am still here with a look at the action and stories to come out this month.


Premier League Round-up


Offside?

Manchester United’s improvement was continuing in March with a 1-1 draw at Everton and a 2-0 victory over Manchester City at Old Trafford. A big moment in the Everton match came when VAR overruled an own goal from Harry Maguire (which would have won Everton the match) due to an offside decision against Gylfi Sigurðsson.

The Icelandic international was on the floor in the 6-yard box after having his shot saved by David de Gea. The ball came to Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who’s shot towards the far post took a heavy deflection off Harry Maguire and into the goal at the near post after Sigurðsson – who was still on the floor with less than 2 United players between him and the goalline – pulled his legs out of the way. Sigurðsson was definitely in an offside position, but was he offside?

Per the FA’s Laws of the Game on their website:

A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched* by a team-mate is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by:

  • interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate or
  • interfering with an opponent by:
    • preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
    • challenging an opponent for the ball or
    • clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or
    • making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball

*The first point of contact of the ‘play’ or ‘touch’ of the ball should be used

or

  • gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has:
    • rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar or an opponent
    • been deliberately saved by any opponent
    • A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is not considered to have gained an advantage.

A ‘save’ is when a player stops, or attempts to stop, a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands/arms (unless the goalkeeper within the penalty area).

The clear argument here is that Sigurðsson was in de Gea’s line of vision, which is in itself enough to disallow the goal. I would also make an argument that the offside could be given for another point as well: “clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent”. In this case, the playing of the ball is the deliberate lifting of the legs just in time for the ball to pass by untouched, in a similar way to a player deliberately stepping over a pass as a dummy to allow a player behind them to get the ball. Were it not for this action, the ball is being blocked by him, and it is only this late evasion that stops this.

If nothing else, I’m sure we can agree that Sigurðsson had more than enough time to get back to his feet and get onside, but chose instead to just stay on the floor, which proved costly.

How do we proceed?

The Premier League is in limbo at the moment as we wait to see how quickly the COVID-19 pandemic clears up. If it happens relatively quickly, then I imagine we will see the league continue as it was and finish slightly further into the summer than usual, which is now possible due to the Euros being pushed back a year. Obviously this would be the ideal situation, but what if the pandemic carries on for another couple of months and completing the season becomes impossible?

Should the season stand with the final standings as they are? Should we go back a couple of weeks to the last point every team had played the same number of matches? Or should the season just be struck off and replayed next season?

There is so much to consider. If the season in stopped early, there is plenty of argument to award Liverpool the title, but as it is not mathematically impossible for them to be caught at this stage, I feel that their title victory would need an asterisk next to it. European places and the bottom 3 also become very contentious decisions as it can be argued that some teams will have had a harder or easier playing schedule, giving advantage to some teams. There is also the issue that right now, not all teams have played the same number of games, but going back to the last time all teams had played the same number of matches could see a team drop down a position that they had fairly climbed above. Any partial season automatically gives an advantage to teams who had a strong first half of the season. Teams like Manchester United and Arsenal started the season poorly but have seen their results improving of late, and could have found themselves rising even higher in the standings.

Though it is harsh on the teams that have been doing well this season like Liverpool and Sheffield United (also teams pushing for promotion from the Championship), I think that the only fair way to deal with this season is to strike it off, with prize money split equally between all the teams, no champion, no promotion/relegation and the same teams competing in European competition next season (with Manchester City’s ban being pushed back a year). It is far from ideal and would really need all UEFA nations to agree to do the same to basically replay the competition next season, but these are unheralded times and I can’t see a fairer way to deal with such an unprecedented situation.

Let’s hope the situation improves quick enough for the seasons to be completed to make all of this a moot point!

Coping with the times

In this very difficult time, clubs have been reacting in very different ways to the COVID-19 pandemic and I just wanted to take a moment to praise a couple of teams who have acted admirably in the circumstances before throwing some shade at others whose actions have been less praiseworthy.

First of all, a massive credit to Brighton, who announced that they will donate 1000 tickets to NHS staff once matches are back on, and Bournemouth, who agreed to match this. NHS Staff are so underappreciated and are putting themselves at risk to look after those who are ill, so I would argue that 1000 tickets from each team should be an absolute minimum! A shout-out too for Burnley, who announced earlier in the month that all the matchday and non-matchday staff (including those in the community) will receive their usual pay while the break goes on.

On the flip-side however, a number of teams including Newcastle and Tottenham are taking advantage of the government’s job retention scheme to pay 80% of staff’s wages to a maximum of £2,500 a month. Meanwhile the players and big-earners remain on full salaries. The average Premier League player has a salary of over £3m per year, so it is disgusting that they are still getting full salaries while the public’s taxes are used to help the rest of the club staff survive. In my opinion, a minimum salary should be set in place, players above which should automatically receive a pay cut with their cut wages going to the rest of the staff being affected. Let’s be honest, those diving primadonnas earn ridiculous money for what they do anyway!

feat football prem league logo yellow

The Teams That Might Have Been…

The Teams That Might Have Been…

Fans watching the Schmoedown Throwdown #1 Contender Match between KOrruption and The Family were left shocked in the post-match as Drew McWeeny announced that he would be stepping away. This leaves Andrew Ghai without a partner after having come so close to a shot at the Teams Title, which seems his best shot of winning a belt. Only time will tell what will happen, but right now the make-up of The Usual Suspects gives the opportunity of creating a team that we almost saw in 2019’s Anarchy Tournament: Andrew Ghai and Jeannine “The Machine”.

mts Jeannine the Machine Andrew Ghai Jenn Sterger

This was a team created in the second drawing of teams after The Shirewolves’ Title victory meant that they were no longer eligible for the draw. How would they have done? I think that they are 2 quality operators and the team could go far, but I do wonder if their strengths and weaknesses would be too similar to compete against the elite teams. Thinking of the alternate timeline where Drew and Jeannine teamed up for Anarchy made me begin to think of some of the other teams that we almost had through the years and how they could have impacted the league.

Which of these teams would you have loved to see?

Andrew Ghai & Rachel Cushing

Drew’s teammate in the original Anarchy draw was none other than Rachel Cushing, and I can’t even begin to imagine how this team would have performed. Rachel is one of the greatest competitors in the league, studying hard to add to her already impressive knowledge. The one potential weakness for her was always getting in front of a crowd, but having someone like Andrew Ghai as her partner would have taken this pressure off her as he would have been able to take the focus and allow her to zone in on the trivia. He may not be Clarke Wolfe, but Ghai would be a strong B-player on this tea and I think that they could’ve gone far. But the thing that would have been most interesting would have been seeing how the pair gelled together. Rachel was the ultimate babyface, whereas Ghai was firmly planting his flag as one of the greatest heels the league had ever seen. Would Rachel have been able to draw Drew to the light side? Would Drew be able to corrupt Rachel? We may never know…

Clarke Wolfe & JTE

One of the famous moments from Season 3 is The Decision. Clarke Wolfe was one of the rising stars of the league and had attracted the attention of JTE, who was fed up of carrying Finstock. JTE asked Clarke to team up with him, but she turned him down in favour of Mark Reilly, creating the Wolves of Steel, leaving JTE to pair with Jeff Sneider and create the Patriots.

Now in hindsight, it can be argued that the right decisions were made, as JTE and Sneider’s 9-0 run (including 6 consecutive title defences) is unlikely to ever be matched as they became the spine that held the Lions Den together, and while the Wolves of Steel maybe never reached the heights people expected, Reilly’s retirement led to Clarke joining Rachel Cushing to create the Shirewolves and finally win a belt.

That said though, Clarke and JTE feels like it could have been one of the original power teams, with JTE’s knowledge of categories like Sly & Arnie overlapping well with Clarke’s knowledge of Horror. I can’t help feel that the early matches for this pair may have gone even better than they went for the Patriots! And more than anything, we may have seen JTE remain “Every Man’s Hero” rather than be corrupted to “Little Evil”.

Clarke Wolfe & Drew McWeeny

Ghai & Cushing wasn’t the only Anarchy team we were denied by the Shirewolves’ winning the belt, as the initial draw had also created the pairing of Clarke Wolfe and Drew McWeeny… and what a team it would have been! McWeeny was one of the most knowledgeable in the game, and Clarke would have just added to the knowledge while also bringing more of a competitive and strategic side. I think that this team would have been able to do what Take The Cannoli and The Family were eventually unable to do: get Drew McWeeny his belt back.

Dan Murrell & Mark Reilly

mts team champs mark reilly dan murrell

Before you say it, I am fully aware that this actually was a team. Season 2 saw the Ultimate Schmoedown Champion Mark Reilly and Movie Fights Champion Dan Murrell join together to for the appropriately named Team Champs, but they had a short run, losing in their second match to Top 10. Then going into season 3, Mark Reilly went his own way and eventually teamed up with Clarke Wolfe. But what a team they could have been if they had stayed together. Murrell and Reilly were the two first 2-time Singles Champions, so to have the pair working together in the Teams Division could have potentially seen an early dominance that eclipsed that of the Patriots. Even in today’s league, I think they would be up there pushing for the title”

With both of them joining the new-look Horsemen after coming out of retirement, I thought that we may see Team Champs return, but Anarchy saw them broken up and forming successful teams with John Rocha and Ben Bateman. Had Matt Knost stayed in the league following the end of the season, we may have seen Team Champs reform, but with him leaving, it made sense for Murrell to stick with John Rocha and Reilly to stick with Bateman and eventually bring him into the Horsemen.

Six Nations 2020: Team of the (Partial) Tournament

Six Nations 2020: Team of the (Partial) Tournament

… Well that was an interesting weekend! The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was keenly felt for rugby fans as Super Saturday went by without a single match being played. At this point in the calendar, the tournament should be over, but there are now 4 matches still to be played and 4 teams with the potential to win the tournament.

Right now, things are up in the air about when the tournament will be completed, so I have taken the decision to proceed with my annual Tournament XV selection, only taking into account the matches that have been played to this point. If and when the tournament is completed, I will look to put out an XV for the whole tournament.

This certainly makes selection more difficult, as due to Ireland v Italy being postponed during Round 4, those teams have played a game less than the other 4. Who would make your XV?

1: Joe Marler:- While his decision to interact with Alun Wyn Jones’ junk was ill-advised, Marler has had an otherwise impressive Six Nations. In the absence of Mako Vunipola, Marler has done a fine job of creating a solid set piece for the team to play off, while making 7 dominant tackles (the most of any prop).

2: Ken Owens:- No hooker has played more minutes in this season’s tournament than Ken Owens and as such, he leads his fellow hookers Julien Marchand and Jamie George in tackles, metres made and carries.

3: Kyle Sinckler:- Kyle Sinckler is slowly establishing himself as one of the best tightheads in World Rugby, and as such has played all but 20 minutes of this tournament so far. As well as helping England put together a super strong scrum, he has made more tackles (49) or passes (17) than any other tighthead.

4: Maro Itoje:- Though he may be one of the most penalised players in this year’s tournament, Maro Itoje makes the list off the back of his defensive prowess. The Saracens lock has made more tackles (74) than anyone else in the tournament and his 20 dominant tackles is 7 more than his closest competitor Bernard le Roux. He also finds himself joint-second in turnovers won with 4, 1 less than CJ Stander. Itoje has also been an important figure at the lineout with 11 lineouts won and 2 lineout steals (joint-second among locks).

5: James Ryan:- Joining Itoje at lock is Jame Ryan, creating what could arguably be the Test pairing for the British and Irish Lions. The Irishman is top among locks for lineouts won (15) and has also been a key factor in both Ireland’s attack and defence, racking up 145 metres off 38 carries, 43 tackles, 10 dominant tackles and a turnover despite having only played 3 matches so far.

6: Jake Polledri:- Jamie Ritchie has been a nightmare for the opposition but narrowly loses out to Jake Polledri. The only player I highlighted as one to watch before the tournament who has consistently started, Jake Polledri is making himself indispensable in the Italian squad. The Gloucester flanker is joint-second for turnovers despite having only played in 3 games, while his 186 metres made puts him third among all forwards.

7: Charles Ollivon:- Hamish Watson and Justin Tipuric deserve some recognition, but Ollivon gets the nod here. The new French captain has done a wonderful job leading his team through the tournament but has also been a big part of their success. He tops the try-scoring charts with 4 touchdowns and has assisted a further 4 tries. Only Bernard le Roux has made more tackles for France than Ollivon’s 55 (tied with Grégory Alldritt), while Ollivon’s 25 lineouts won is the most of any player.

8: Grégory Alldritt:- Alldritt has been one of the stars of the tournament this year and therefore one of the easiest picks to make. As well as having scored a try, the French number 8’s 353 metres made is almost double that of the nearest forward (Hamish Watson) and the second-most of all players. Right now, he would be my pick for Player of the Tournament.

9: Antoine Dupont:- One of the best Northern Hemisphere scum halves, Dupont has been on fire in this tournament. His late transmission from pass to kick for Damian Penaud’s try (one of his 3 assists) was one of the moments of the tournament, while his 158 metres made, 8 offloads and 32 tackles blows his competition out of the water.

10: Romain Ntamack:- While credit needs to be given to Adam Hastings for stepping into the starring role at short notice after Finn Russell’s disagreement with Gregor Townsend, Romain Ntamack gets my pick here due to the way that he has so calmly played the game as required to win France’s first 3 games. He is not yet perfect, but is such a young player, he will only get better over the coming years.

11: Jonny May:- Matteo Minozzi and Gaël Fickou can consider themselves unlucky here, but Jonny May gets the spot as he has become such a key part of the England kicking game, while his 2 tries from nowhere against France showed his pure talent as well as putting an undeserved shine on a poor England performance.

12: Hadleigh Parkes:- You know what you’re going to get with Hadleigh Parkes: a solid, dependable 12 who will carry hard (290 metres from 50 carries) and defend to his last breath. He has had to get used to a new midfield partner and new defensive system, but has continued to be a super reliable cog for Wales.

13: Manu Tuilagi:- Nick Tompkins deserves some recognition for his attacking prowess as he continues to grow into international rugby, but Manu Tuilagi got the pick here. With playmakers at 10 and 12, Tuilagi becomes a key physical component of the England back line, which was seriously missed after his early injury against France. His hard running has caused issues for defences, while on the flip side his strong defence has helped to limit the opposition’s attacks.

14: Mattia Bellini:- Perhaps a surprise pick given Italy’s lack of tries, but Bellini has been in impressive form during this tournament, averaging just over 10 metres per carry (292 metres from 29 carries). Against Scotland especially, Bellini was able to show just how dangerous he could be when given space with some smooth footwork and hips that would make Shakira proud.

15: Anthony Bouthier:- Made his mark on his debut against England with a kick from his own 5m line that finally found touch 10m from the England try line and his just gone from strength to strength. He has looked at home in the 15 shirt, answering any questions asked of him while asking his own with the boot, while he took his chance well to score against Wales.

7 of the Best Schmoedown Matches

7 of the Best Schmoedown Matches

In the build-up to the Atlanta live event, I wrote about how the Singles Championship Match between Ben “The Boss” Bateman and “Dangerous” Dan Murrell had the potential to be the greatest match in the history of the league. Looking back, it certainly didn’t disappoint, as Ben Bateman came from behind to take a 5 point lead, only for the game to go to overtime, where Murrell won. While it doesn’t quite get my vote for the greatest match of all time, it is certainly up there on the list, and that got me thinking: What would I pick as the greatest matches of all time?

This is obviously my own personal list, so I would love to hear your picks. I will also not be including any Free 4 Alls as it would be unfair to compare a 4-hour event to a single match. I’ve also chosen not to rank these movies as I think my list would constantly change as I re-watched some of these matches. So in honour of this being the Schmoedown’s 7ᵗʰ season, I give you my top 7 matches in the history of the league.

Honourable mentions:

Bateman v Murrell

mts atlanta ben bateman v dan murrell finish

The live crowd was on fire for this match with the Action Army there in force to cheer (or boo) for Ben Bateman, while the thrill of seeing the GOAT going for his 4ᵗʰ Singles Title had people hyped. Add to that all the build-up with the controversy over who would manage each of the competitors and this match had all the build-up it needed. From the promos from Tom Dagnino and John Rocha (so much for a gentleman’s agreement of no promos), to Dan’s early snark (“Sir John Woo”) and this was already building nicely. Bateman came into Round 2 with a 3-point deficit but pulled a point back, before Rounds 3 and 4 swung the scoreline heavily in his favour, and the crowd were vibing off his reactions. Then for this to go to overtime and we were in for a treat, ended with the GOAT keeping his 100% record in live events and taking the title back.

Kalinowski v Cushing II

mts Rachel Cushing Throwdown Innergeekdom Belt

My vote for the greatest match of all time would be the inaugural Schmoedown Throwdown that saw Rachel “The Crusher” Cushing challenge Mike “The Killer” Kalinowski for the Innergeekdom Title. They had faced each other much earlier in their careers (Rachel getting the win), while Rachel had also beaten Mike in a Triple Threat in the Singles Division. This was the first time that they had faced off since Mike had turned heel, however, so the battle for the belt between the top 2 in the division also being a battle of good vs evil set this on a great stage. Down 15-23 after 2 rounds, it looked over for Kalinowski, but the betting round and speed round saw an incredible swing to 20-20, one of the most incredible comebacks I have ever seen! After both went perfect in Round 5, it went to Sudden Death and the title was decided by just a vowel as Rachel Cushing won the Innergeekdom Title she had been dreaming of to become double-belted.

Murrell v Rocha

mts john rocha first singles title

Season 4 was the year that the show really started to become what we know today, but its Championship Matches often seem forgotten when we look back. Back in the early days of the league, there were 3 superstars: Mark “Yodi” Reilly, “Dangerous” Dan Murrell and “The Outlaw” John Rocha. Defending Champion Dan Murrell came into this match with a 5-0 record but Rocha, the original heel, was gunning for the belt. The pair could not be separated in Round 1 and while Murrell managed to open a 1-point lead during the wheel round, Rocha had brought things back level going into the final round. It ended with Murrell needing to hit his 5-pointer, which he missed, and as it was announced that Rocha (who had himself not known the answer so didn’t realise that he had won) had won, the Outlaw let out a scream of joy that I still consider one of the most iconic moments in the history of the league.

Kalinowski v Smets

feat mts Movie-Trivia-Schmoedown-Collision-III-Mike-Kalinowski-Kevin-Smets

Kevin “The Smasher” Smets was on a roll, one of the most impressive rookies that we had ever seen, winning his first 3 matches without having to answer a question in the final round. Then at Collision, he met his match in Mike Kalinowski. Their feud had already been growing through the season and this #1 Contender Match was finally the chance to get to see them go head-to-head. Things were all level after 2 rounds. Both hit their 2- and 3-pointers and Sudden Death was looking a distinct possibility… until “Don’t tell Peter”. Saying “Peter” instead of “Harry” was a killer for Smets and Kalinowski correctly answered his 5-pointer to set up a rematch with Rachel Cushing, being overcome with emotion as his faction congratulated him.

Napzok v Witwer

mts Spectacular II Sam Witwer Star Wars Belt

Who would have expected that the match in the Star Wars Division would be remembered as the match from Spectacular II despite Andrew Ghai tackling John Rocha after Team Action v Top 10?! But this match had everything. Ken’s recent betrayal of Rachel Cushing and defection to the Lion’s Den set him up as the ultimate villain to face Sam Witwer- who would’ve thought we’d be cheering for Darth Maul! And then to the match itself, and the Iron Man format made it truly a test of knowledge v knowledge. Both of them continued to wow Mark Ellis (and probably quite a few viewers) with their insane knowledge of Star Wars, but as time war on, quotes proved to be a weakness of “The Pitboss” and allowed Witwer to pull away. The buzzer was already a known weakness for “The Warrior” however, and allowed Napzok to pull things back, with the scores level with just a few seconds left. The clock ran out halfway through the next question, Witwer suddenly had the fast hand and with a correct answer he took the Star Wars Title from Ken Napzok and wrote his name into Schmoedown history books as the winner of the first ever Iron Man and the 2ⁿᵈ Star Wars Champion.

Murrell v Ghai

If ever there was a match that looked a foregone conclusion before it began, this was it. Andrew Ghai’s claims of being “the Ghai who beat the GOAT” drew Dan Murrell out of retirement to challenge him to a match at Collision – Ghai’s first match in the Singles Division. What followed was about 20 minutes of craziness as “Dastardly” Drew Ghai showed the GOAT just how much the game had changed while he was gone, going full heel at the table and exploiting the former champion’s rustiness to come away with not just a win, but a TKO. The silence of the crowd as the match progressed showed just how stunned everyone was and as Ghai jumped up on the table to celebrate his win, you could see in Kristian’s face his dreams of a Murrell v Levine live event going up in smoke!

Shirewolves v Who’s The Boss

mts spectacular III Shirewolves Whos The Boss Clarke Wolfe Ben Bateman Rachel Cushing Mark Reilly

When the Shirewolves first won the vacant Teams Titles by defeating Sick in the Head, there were plenty of trolls who refused to acknowledge their titles due to not facing any so-called elite teams in their title run. That talk largely came to an end after their match at Spectacular III against Who’s the Boss. Mark Reilly and Ben Bateman had become an elite pairing during Anarchy and led after the first 2 rounds. However the Shirewolves hit back to take a 3 point lead into the final round. Bateman and Reilly went perfect on their 2-, 3- and 5-pointers, but Rachel Cushing and “Classy” Clarke Wolfe did the same to defend their titles 34-31 in what was my pick for the best match at Spectacular III. Oh and let’s not forget the Shirewolves’ entrance celebrating women in film and the Schmoedown, and the aftermath of this match, with Andrew Ghai tackling Ben Bateman to kick off the Action Civil War.

Six Nations 2020: Scotland v France

Six Nations 2020: Scotland v France

The final match of Round 4 saw Scotland hosting France. The French were the only team still capable of winning the Grand Slam and after a tight half hour, they took the lead through returning winger Damian Penaud. Just a few minutes later however, a large scuffle between the 2 teams saw Mohamed Haouas given a red card for throwing a punch at Jamie Ritchie. Scotland quickly took advantage of the extra man with a try for Sean Maitland either side of half time. Stuart McInally added a third as the French began to tire, but they fought back to score through captain Charles Ollivon, resulting in a final score of 28-17 to Scotland, which takes the Six Nations to next week and beyond due to Italy’s Round 4 & 5 fixtures being postponed.

 

Scotland

This is a very weird time for Scotland. Many of us have got used to seeing the Scots scoring tries for fun but struggling to keep the opposition’s score down. Right now, they’re not scoring anywhere near as much, but they’re also starting to look better in defence. Obviously this game is a little hard to judge due to the red card leaving the French a man down for over half the game, but the Scottish defence was tenacious throughout and really put the French under pressure, causing a number of handling errors that would bring attacks to an end.

It feels like Scotland are finally starting to get the balance right between physical players and skilful attackers, and though they may not be scoring the tries right now, they’re keeping themselves in games, which is a great spot to build from.

France

So much went wrong for France in this game. Substitute hooker Camille Chat had to pull out injured during the warm-up, François Cros got an early yellow card, star fly half Romain Ntamack went off for a HIA just 7 minutes in and never returned, and finally Mohamed Haouas’ moment of madness left France playing over half the game a man down. Granted some of this was avoidable, but that is a lot to go against a team… and yet they still held on to keep things close. Not only that, but they refused to stop playing and kept on going throughout, with a stunning late attack leading to Ollivon’s try.

So many people started talking about the return of the “old France” after the punch – another of those tired narratives the media go to in order to try sounding smart and actually look stupid – but if this was the old France, then they would have capitulated! It is a testament to the coaches and players just how far this team has come already and I expect them to bounce back next week against Ireland.


My standout players

It feels like he gets a weekly mention, but Hamish Watson again proved himself a nightmare for the opposition, with a couple of key turnovers, while Sean Maitland took his chances like a true poacher and I felt that he was unfortunate to be removed when on a hat-trick.

While this was far from the best match Antione Dupont has played for Les Bleus, he still had some moments of incredible skill and controlled the game well alongside Matthieu Jalibert, who reacted well to his early introduction and showed the coaches that they don’t need to worry if Romain Ntamack is unable to make it through return to play protocols this week.

Six Nations 2020: England v Wales

Six Nations 2020: England v Wales

With coronavirus fears causing Ireland’s game against Italy to be postponed, Round 4 of the Six Nations eventually kicked off at Twickenham with England’s match against Wales. Anthony Watson gave England an early lead, which was added to by Elliot Daly and the boot of Owen Farrell, the boots of Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar keeping Wales just in it for a 20-9 halftime score. Wales hit back immediately after the break with a try from Justin Tipuric, but a try for Manu Tuilagi helped England pull away, before the centre’s late red card and a yellow for Ellis Genge gave Wales a 2-man advantage, which allowed them to have the final say through tries for Dan Biggar and Tipuric again to come away with a losing bonus point, the 33-30 final score earning England the Triple Crown.

 

England

England may go down as the victors, but they came so close to shooting themselves in the foot with their poor discipline. A game between these two nations is always going to be a tetchy affair, but there were moments that England took things too far. Captain Owen Farrell saw him penalised on his own line for an unnecessary shove that sparked a brawl and was potentially lucky to not be penalised again shortly later for shoving over Dan Biggar while chasing a kick, while Joe Marler may find himself in hot water for trying to get to know Alun Wyn Jones a little too well during one scuffle. Then with less than 10 minutes left, Ellis Genge was yellow carded for persistent offending from the team and Manu Tuilagi was given a red card for a high shot on George North, which almost cost England the game as Wales scored 14 points in the final 5 minutes. Had they had another 5 minutes, I can’t help but feel that their numerical advantage would have seen them come away with the win.

10 penalties is too many for a team to give away if they want to win a game, England need to buck up their ideas if they want to improve their chances of success in the big games.

Wales

When I asked my friend Gez (a Wales fan who has contributed on some previous posts) what he thought of Wales’ performance, I got the following reply:

So we can score against 13 and can’t defend wide, narrow or against hard runners, that’s what we’ve learned here

While I fully agree that the defensive set-up needs looking at as it is allowing teams to get around them too easily, I think that Wales’ current situation needs remembering. They have just had a change in coaches so will take a moment to adapt to a new playing style, but came into this match missing a number of players who have played key roles in the team recently: Gareth Anscombe, Jonathan Davies, Tomas Francis, Josh Adams and Rhys Patchell. They also had Josh Navidi, Liam Williams, Taulupe Faletau and Dan Biggar (who I question if he as really even 95% fit) playing having recently returned from injury and had Jake Ball and Dillon Lewis go off injured during the game and Alun Wyn Jones, George North and Aaron Shingler finish the game in varying degrees of fitness. Further to that, there were other players like Owen Lane and Willis Haloholo out injured, who could have positively impacted the team.

Given that injury list, it is hard to look into Wales performance too much right now. Yes, big improvements are needed quickly if Wales want to start winning more, but it is important to not make any snap reactions now. Having a key partnership like hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies return (or even have Halaholo covering for one of these players) with a fully fit Josh Navidi in the back row will immediately make the middle of the park feel ore secure against big runners like a Manu Tuilagi, giving a better platform to build the defence off. If the issues persist with a team much closer to the ideal XV, then change will be needed.


My standout players

Manu Tuilagi‘s game may have ended on a negative, but his hard carrying helped put England on the front foot, while Anthony Watson looked great on his return from injury. Ben Youngs also put in one of his best performances in recent years, controlling the game and exploiting a number of gaps around the breakdown.

It was harder to pick out for Wales in a largely disappointing performance, but Josh Navidi clearly had a positive impact on his return from injury and lasted the full 80 minutes, while his return also appeared to free up Justin Tipuric to have more impact in the loose. Finally, a mention for Dan Biggar, who completed the full 80 minutes despite not appearing to be fully fit after his injury last weekend and did everything he could to keep Wales in the game, though it did feel like somewhat of a kick in the teeth to keep Jarrod Evans on the bench.