Monday, 28 March 2011

The Great Tipster Experiment Week 5 Results

I'm thoroughly sick of saying how unlucky I've been so far in my tipster experiment. Once again I called the game right but luck was not on my side. I knew the Crusaders were going to win comfortably so I covered a series of Crusaders winning margins. I had them to win by 11-15 points and 21-25 points. They won by 16. Come one mother luck, throw me a bloody bone here.

Usually my bad luck costs me a couple of quid, but  this week I could only win on one bet so I lost all £10. Who said fortune favours the bold? Anyway, chin up and on to next week. Bets based on sound logic will eventually produce results. I have to win at some point.

Week 5 Results: Wager £10
                          Returned £0
                          Loss £10

 Total loss after 5 weeks £18.40

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Hodgson Secures Vital Win for Sale

Here's my match report of Sale Vs Leeds at Edgeley Park last night. Sale won 15-12 with Charlie Hodgson kicking 5 from 5. Sale have probably secured their premiership status for another year, Leeds now need to beat Newcastle in a couple of weeks to have any realistic chance of surviving.

Check out the whole article here.

The Great Tipster Experiment Week 5

After a series of narrow losses I've decided adopt a new set of tactics. Previously I've taken on several even odds bets meaning that I needed to get all my predictions right to make a profit. This week I've decided to try to predict winning margins. This is certainly much harder but the rewards are greater.

Now I didn't set out on this project to make money, I did it to prove that I knew what I was talking about. This is why I don't wan't to make lottery bets.  Yet so far I've had over 70% of my predictions right but have failed to make a profit.  

My compromise is to predict a series of score margins in the Crusaders Vs Sharks game at Twickenham tomorrow. I'm sure the Crusaders will win this one. They are on top form and have an incredible star-studded line-up. I will make a profit if any one of my predictions are correct. I will need a little bit of luck though.

Crusaders winning margin 6-10 stake £2.50 (return £15.00)
Crusaders winning margin 11-15 stake £2.50 (return £13.75)
Crusaders winning margin 21-25 stake £2.50 (return 21.25)
Crusaders winning margin 31-35 stake £2.50 (return 47.50)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Where Did it all go Wrong for Scotland? couldn't get enough of 'Analysis Corner' and asked me do a piece for them. Using all my usual animations and videos I've shown how Scotland managed to consistently shoot themselves in the foot.

Here it is

What do you think?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Lions XV for New Zealand 2017?

In the aftermath of the Six Nations all heads have turned to the World Cup, and quite rightly so. I've decided however to indulge myself in a bit of premature Lions talk. What I've put together is a Lions XV of Six Nations players who are 25 years or younger. Obviously it's impossible to predict who willl be playing in six years time, what I'm really doing is pointing out how many young players are already key figures for their countries.

It's certainly an exciting team.

Front Row
1) Cian Healy - Truly modern prop, scrummaging has improved massively.

2) Dylan Hartley - Solid Six Nations, strong carrier.

3) Dan Cole - Outstanding scrummager, strong around the park.

In the squad- Craig Mitchell

Second Row
4) Courtney Lawes - Immense ball carrier, huge hitter, big workrate, great target at the front of the lineout.

5) Richie Gray - ditto.

In the squad- Bradley Davies

Back Row
6) Tom Croft - Great rugby brain, awesome athlete, lineout supremo.

7) Stephen Ferris - Wonderful athlete, smart player.

8) Sean O'Brien  - Don't tell me he's not an 8, my lord can this man carry.

In the squad- Tom Wood, John Barclay, Sam Warburton

Half Backs
9) Ben Youngs - Tough game in Dublin, but generally a strong decision maker, and lightning off the base.

10) Johnny Sexton - Flood probably had a stronger Six Nations, but Sexton has the magic touch.

In the squad- Danny Care, Toby Flood

12) James Hook- I still think 12 is his position, gives him a little bit more freedom to be a creative.

13) Jamie Roberts - Hasn''t quite recaptured the form of the last Lions tour, but still a hugely powerful runner

In the squad- Jonathan Davies, Keith Earls

Back Three

11) Chris Ashton - Stop telling me he's overrated, he's not. Unique predator in European Rugby.

14) Luke Fitzgerald - It was tight between him and Leigh Halfpenny, I just think he's a classy footballer.

15) Ben Foden - Almost picked Rob Kearney, but I fancy Foden is just going to keep getting better.

In the Squad - Leigh Halfpenny, Rob Kearney

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Great Tipster Experiment Week 4: The Results

Ireland actionOnce again I came mightily close to a major victory only to have it snatched from me. If only Chris Patterson wasn't such a wonderful cover tackler. 

In the end the Irish came through stongly for me with a quite inspirational performance and the French got their win without really leaving second gear. At half time the Italians were beating Scotland and looked for all the world like they were going to stay within 8 points. Credit to Robinson's boys though, they played really well in the 2nd half and got the rewards they deserved. I've said it before (and been absolutely panned for it) but I have to believe that predictions based on sound logic will eventually produce results.

Once again I got all but one of my predictions correct, meaning that I made a minor loss. I'm starting to wonder if I should tweak my tactics. Right now my bets are all around even odds meaning that I need to win my accumulator to make a profit. Perhaps I should make some 2/1 or 3/1 bets so I don't need to get all my predictions right to win. The flip side is that I am losing just over £2 a week at the moment. That means that I only need to land one accumulator every 8 to 10 weeks to make a profit.  I think I'll have a look at some longer odds bets before I make next weeks selections. Anyone out there had more luck than me this weekend? Let me know.

Week 4 results: Total Wager £10
                          Money returned £8.10
                          Loss £1.90

Total loss after 4 weeks  £8.40

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Next 3 Games Will Decide the Relegation Battle

I've had a look at the Aviva Premiership table and tried to wok out what Leeds need to do to have any chance of staying in the English Top flight. A closer look at their fixture list shows that the next 3 games Vs Sale, Exeter and Newcastle will make or break their season.

Check out the whole article here. It's published in TalkingRugbyUnion, a great rugby news site who have given me a weekly column.

The Great Tipster Experiment Week 4

Ireland wing Andrew TrimbleAnother Six Nations weekend, another set of impossible predictions, another weekend that will doubtless end in despair and the crushing feeling that I was not blessed with luck. To think back to a mere four weeks ago and the naive optimism with which I entered this experiment, dreaming of riches and glory, expecting praise and adulation. Now look at me, cynical and broken.

People have said to me, 'hey you've only lost £6 in 3 weeks, it's nothing to worry about', but screw that. I mean can I not even lose big? am I destined for mediocrity? Can I not even be good at failing?

OK, self deprecation over, here are my predictions for the final weekend of the Six Nations.

Scotland Vs Italy Italy to stay within 8 points of Scotland 10/11 £2.50 (return £4.77)

I just think that offering an 8 point handicap in a game with two basically evenly matched sides is fantastic value for money. I actually feel really positve about this one. The Azzuri will be fired up for this one after last week.

Ireland Vs England Ireland to stay within four points of England 10/11 Stake £2.50 (return £4.77)

Even if the English do win this one I can't see it being by many. The pressure of the occasion and the recent history of the tie are on my side.

France Vs Wales France to win 1/3 Stake £2.50 (return £3.33)

Surely it's typically French for them to play well this weekend, and frankly I've been so unimpressed the Welsh in these championships that I can't see this one going any other way.

Total return if all are correct (including a £2.50 accumulator) £25.02

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Analysis Corner: Quins Refusal to Commit Costs Them Place in Cup Final

Sadly I missed last Friday’s LV Cup semi-final between Harlequins and Newcastle. Newcastle won 20-21 with a last play try (Check out the full match details here)  I have just watched the highlights and the game looked like a real classic. Full credit goes to Newcastle for the way they defended and the sheer commitment they gave to the game.  Newcastle made 157 tackles to Harlequins’ 70 and won only 49 rucks to Quins’ 116. It’s extremely rare that a team wins a game with statistics like that.
The biggest shock for me though was the ability of a team who have hardly won a game all season to show the nerve to score a last gasp winning try. I don’t wish to take any of the credit for this away from Newcastle, they were patient and composed, but a closer inspection of that final play shows that Quins were the architects of their own downfall.
Newcastle were allowed to build a patient, low-risk attack

The build-up to Newcastle’s winning try lasted for 1minute 45seconds, 13 phases of play. That's 12 rucks (an unbelievable 25% of the rucks they won all game). In 11 of those 12 phases Quins failed to commit a single man to the breakdown. I can only assume that this was a deliberate tactic, but frankly it was suicidal.

Quins had had little problem dealing with Newcastle in the previous 79 minutes of the match. They were also more than 3 points clear and so didn't need to fear conceding a penalty. In the end Newcastle had to do very lttle to score their try. They just creeped forward 1 yard at a time knowing that when the ball carrier was tackled they would get it straight back.

Here's the footage of the final couple of minutes of the game, notice how Harlequins don't commit any players to the tackle area.

I don't know who made the call to not compete at the rucks, but whoever it was made a massive error of judgement and in the end cost Harlequins a place in the LV Cup Final.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Analysis Corner: The Leinster Loop

O'Gara: Out                     Sexton: In
Irish head coach Declan Kidney has selected Leinster Fly Half Johnny Sexton to start ahead of Ronan O’Gara in the final game of this year’s 6 Nation’s championship. Sexton’s inclusion means that Ireland will be playing an all-Leinster 10, 12, 13 axis, with Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll outside him.  
While D’Arcy’s form at the moment is questionable his partnership with Brian O’Driscoll remains one of the most respected and feared centre pairings in world rugby.  Defences are therefore determined to give away as little space as possible to the either man. Leinster have become masters at using this against their opposition by employing loop moves.  
A loop, or a wrap-around, is when a receiver passes the ball to the man outside him, then loops round him and receives the ball back on the other side. 

This animation shows a typical wrap-around. Notice how the defensive 12 and 13 have no time to adjust because they have committed themselves to closing down their opposite numbers. This is why it is so effective for Leinster and Ireland. Defences rush up to limit O’Driscoll and D’Arcy’s space leaving them exposed to this move.

Here are a couple of examples of Leinster executing this move to perfection.  Notice how the defence overcommits (rushes up too fast) in this first example.

In the Second Example notice how the player who returns the ball to Sexton occupies two defenders opening up space for him to make the break.

The key to defending it is to not overcommit in defence. In this example, from the second weekend of the championship, the French outside defenders don’t rush up and are able to make late adjustments to the defensive line. It isn’t well executed by the Irish but the French do defend it well.

The English midfield defence has been particularly strong in this year’s championship but if the Irish can get some clean set-piece ball they have the ability to test the English midfield in a way that no team has so far. I guarantee you that the English will be preparing for this move.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Analysis Corner: Chris Ashton, England's Player of the Tournament

Ashton: Predator
Naming Chris Ashton the player of the tournament will not seem a controversial statement to the part-time rugby fan. He has scored six tries in four matches after all. The rugby purist though will tell you that wingers usually take the credit for the hard graft of players in the less glamorous positions.
Ashton however is so much more than a speedster at the end of the backline. It has been well documented that he is a master of ‘tracking lines’, these are when a player roams the park not looking to be part of the backline but looking to be on the inside shoulder of any man who makes a line-break.
Tracking lines are crucial in Rugby League as teams only have six tackles in which to score a try and so need to score immediately after making a break. Ashton’s Rugby League background has helped him become a master at predicting where breaks will appear. In this sense he makes his own luck and must be given full credit for his try scoring record.
This predatory ability has changed the way England play. His support lines turn half breaks into clean breaks and clean breaks into tries. For that reason he is the single most important factor behind the improvement in England’s backline.
Take the example of the Calcutta Cup tie last Sunday. England made two clean breaks in the game. These breaks ultimately separated the teams, giving crucial momentum to the English and piling the pressure on the Scots. Both of these came from Ashton support lines.
Here are the animations of Ashton's breaks;

Rory Lawson does a great job of sweeping up the original inside ball, but Ashton's presence on the inside shoulder turns a half break into a full-break, this move ended with Tom Wood being bundled into touch 1 yard from the Scottish line. This play, in the 42nd minute, really set the tone for England in the second half.

This time Richie Gray provides a strong cover tackle on Haskell, but Ashton's presence on the inside shoulder keeps the move alive and Foden so nearly scores in the corner. (check out Patterson's phenomenal cover tackle here)

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Great Tipster Experiment Week 3 Results

I think it's fair to say that the Six Nations rugby this weekend was defined by its drama, not its quality. All three games could have gone either way and in the end it was the finest of margins that cost me my predictions.

My first bet of the weekend was for France and Italy to accumulate more than 47 points between them. In the end only 43 were scored. I could complain about how close Aurelien Rougerie came to scoring in the first half or just how much the French let me down. I could complain about this, but like the rest of you watching that game (and I'm assuming I don't have any French readers) I was on the edge of my seat willing the Italians to hold on in the end. Screw the money, results like that are what sport are about.

I then sat down for Wales Vs Ireland with a bet on the Irish to win. This time I feel robbed. Robbed by Peter Alan, robbed by Jonathan Sexton, but most of all robbed by Paddy Wallace. I am genuinely less angered by the 'illegitimate' try that was awarded than by the way the Irish bottled it. Paddy Wallace, what were you thinking? You waste of f***ing space! Who turns downs a try in the corner ever. Never mind when it's the last play of an error strewn game.

In the last few years the Irish have shaken off the tag of the perennially unlucky losers. A string of Irish Heineken Cup wins and a Grand Slam put and end to the feeling that they were the nearly men of European rugby. In recent years they have been composed and calm in pressure situations. And yet on Saturday they blew it, and while I don't doubt that the Phillips try is the main talking point of the match, the Irish still only have themselves to blame.

At least Scotland did exactly what I expected of them. I bet for them to stay within 16 points of the English, in the end they only lost by 6. I hope Scottish rugby fans don't get too downbeat because we really have improved. Yesterday we went toe-to-toe with the English at Twickenham and genuinely came close to winning it. I agree with Andy Robinson that the set piece cost us in the end. That can be fixed. The key is that we have a truly competitive squad now.

No one in their right mind could tell me that I made unwise bets, 9 times out of 10 I would have won my France bet. 4 times out of 5 I would have won my Irish bet. The unpredictablity of sport if what makes it so interesting, but in the end the cream always rises to the top. That's why I am keeping track of my results thorughout the season, eventually predictions based on sound logic have to bring results. At least that's what I'm going to keep telling myself.

Week 3 Results: Total Wager £10
                          Money Returned £4.77
                          Loss £5.23

Total Loss after 3 weeks: £6.50

Friday, 11 March 2011

The Great Tipster Experiment Week 3

Mike TindallThe Great Tipster Experiment is back and I am feeling really good about my predictions. Having just missed out on winning my accumulator bet in the last two weeks I feel like this week may just be my time.

OK, straight to the point here are my predictions for this weekend's Six Nations encounters.

Week 3

Italy Vs France Over 47 total game points 11/10  Stake £2.50 (returns £5.25)

The French score on average around 40 points Vs the Italians. Add the fact that the French defence has been breached a fair few times and you have to feel that more than 47 points are gonna be scored in this tie.

Wales Vs Ireland - Ireland to win 11/10 Stake £2.50 (returns £5.25)

Both sides have struggled a little and this one is really tough to call. In the end the Irish are scoring more tries and if it's tight I fancy O'Gara to slot the pressure kicks more than Hook.

Andy Robinson has picked a big, physical side with the clear aim of making life as unpleasant as possible for Martin Johnson's team.The pressure here is all on the English. I expect England to win with relative ease, but it won't be a rout.

Total Return if all are correct (including a £2.50 accumulator on all three bets) £36.32

What do you think? Got any better bets? Let me know.

Sale Sharks' Transfer News 2011 So Far

Since rejoining Sale from the Russian national team Steve Diamond has set about rebuilding the Sharks. It seems as though every day another player either leaves or joins the club. Even as a Sale fan I've found it hard to keep track at times, so I've created a timeline of all the transfer news at the club since January.

Check it out here, it's published in TalkingRugbyUnion a really promising new site.

What the Hell is Phil Vickery Doing?

Like the new layout? Thought I'd change it to make you think that I can employ a full time web designer.

Anyway, just a quickie post today but I just had to bring to your attention the ridiculous video  Phil Vickery has done to promote the new HP Guinness sauce (which in fairness sounds phenomenal). I don't need to say much about this, frankly it speaks for itself.

What the hell is he doing? Don't get me wrong here, everyone's got the right to make a buck, but there is a line, and he has crossed it.

And what is the obsession with inspiration rugby speeches? I know the sport has an image as real man's game and its players are certainly more eloquent than a lot of other sportsmen, but frankly its all so cliched and naff. Take Lewis Moody's inspirational team talk for example.

Frankly if you want it done properly leave it to the Pro's. Here is Stephen berkoff doing a rugby version of Al Pacino's 'inches' speech from Any Given Sunday in a Sky Sports Advert. It's still thoroughly cliched, but at least it's well delivered.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Great Tipster Experiment Week 2: The Result

Neil Back
Now I get how Munster fans feel about him

I have a distinct sense of de ja vu this morning. I know gambling is a mug's game but twice now I have come so close to a big win and both times ended up basically breaking even.

This week I had 3 bets out of 4 safely in the bag, all I needed was for Irish to beat Leeds by 7 points. 60 minutes in they were 9 points clear. Surely Leeds had nothing left in the tank, surely my glorious victory was secure. No chance, Leeds had to find a comeback the likes of which they haven't looked even close to producing all season. Teaches me for doubting a team led by Neil Back. (Final Score Leeds 27 London Irish 19)

And all this came after Gloucester had outplayed Bath in the game of the Season so far (Final Score Gloucester 34 Bath 22), Sarries had scrapped a Win at leicester (Final Score Leicester 14 Saracens 15) and Wasps eased past Sale (Final Score Wasps 33 Sale 26).

Well at least I can say this experiment isn't costing me much, and if I keep coming this close then surely a win is around the corner.

Week 2 results: Total wager £10
                        Money Returned £9.38
                        Losses £0.62
 Total losses after 2 weeks £1.27  

Friday, 4 March 2011

The Great Tipster Experiment Week 2

Tom Voyce
I need a big Gloucester performance
Ok, week 2 of the Great Tipster Experiment. I have to admit I'm dreading this week's predictions.The Aviva Premiership is hard enough to predict at the best of times, and is damn near impossible during the Six Nations. The top clubs are missing some of their best players and the already minimal gaps between the sides are made even smaller.

 If there were ever a time to prove myself as a's now.  (Now read that line again in a dramatic Hollywood voice, it really adds to the sense of occasion I'm trying to build)

This weeks predictions:
Gloucester Vs Bath: Gloucester to win outright 8/13 stake £2.00 (return £3.23)

This one is a disaster to predict. Both teams in form, both kickers in form. Just backing home passion here.

Leicester Vs Saracens: Saracens to stay within 6 points of Leicester 10/11 stake £2.00 (return £3.82)

Saracens have proven their grit in games like this time and again, Leicester missing loads of internationals. I've got to fancy them for at least a bonus point

Leeds Vs London Irish: Irish to win by more than 7 10/11 stake £2.00 (return £3.82)

Leeds were just so feckless in a survival scrap against Newcastle last week and I think Irish have just about turned a corner after there disaster run. I am slightly worried by the fact that Thompson and Fourie will be back in the Leeds pack, but the forecast is for a dry day and I see Irish running in a few tries.

Wasps Vs Sale: Wasps to win outright 1/6 stake £2.00 (return £2.33)

Nothing to say about this one, it's just a banker to add a little value to my accumulator.

Total return if all are correct (including a £2.00 accumulator on all my bets) £26.94

Disagree with me? Lets hear your alternative bets on the BBC 606 site.
Enjoy your rugby weekend.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Kyle Eastmond: Will He Be a Hit at Bath?

Kyle EastmondI've not seen many good threads debating whether or not Kyle Eastmond is going to make it in Rugby Union so I'm gonna have a crack at sparking one myself.

I think the reason people are so unwilling to stick their neck out on the subject is that there seems to be no ryhme or reason behind the successes and failures of Rugby League converts. For every Jason Robinson there is a Lee Smith and for every Chris Ashton there is a Tevita Vaikona (although Vaikona's Wikipedia page describes his Union career as 'Hugely Sucessful', odd if you ask me).

There does seem to be almost no way of knowing whether a player posseses the adaptability to change codes. There are however certain factors that undeniably help:

1) Be young
Granted Jason Robinson was 26 when he converted but on the whole the younger the better. I think this is simply because younger players are more likely to be patient if things don't go immediately to plan. I can't help but feel that players like Andy Farrell and Henry Paul  had more than enough talent to be real union superstars had they moved earlier in their careers.

Eastmond, at 21, certainly has age on his side.

2) Be in the Right Environment
Put simply winning teams are easier to slot into. They don't rush players into their starting XV and they don't expect immediate results. Its pretty clear for all to see that Iestyn Harris did not benefit from being shoved into a struggling Welsh side after 200 minutes of Rugby Union. Chris Ashton benefited massively from his first season in Union being in Northampton's undefeated campaign in National League One.

I expect Bath to be patient with Eastmond, after all they were extremely careful in their handling of Shontayne Hape. Also, the fact that England are looking strong should mean that, unlike others, there will be no rush to get him into the England setup.

3) Be a 12 or higher
I know, I know, Brad Thorn etc etc. But there is no point comparing the Southern Hemisphere players. The gap from League to Union is smaller in the SH and the skill level is higher so I don't think there is much to take from their experience. In Europe forwards and half backs don't do well. Stephen Myler is alright I suppose, but still about 6th in line for the England Fly Half berth. The bottom line is that wingers, centres and full backs have less to adapt to.

This is where I worry for Eastmond, Bath have already stated that they see him as an outside back, but he is a natural half back by trade. If you check out his highlights reel (see below) he seems suited to working in the tight. He is great at ducking under tackles and skipping round forwards, I'm not entirely sure this will translate to the wing or centres.

4) Be Quality
Clearly stating the obvious here, but it helps a bit to be a quality player. The reason I say this is because I think Eastmond is a bit special. Jason Robinson's talent was so great that none of the above points really mattered. I'm not comparing Eastmond to the literally incomparable Robinson, but I do seriously rate his talent. His eye for a break, his support lines and his explosive step will certainly all stand him in good stead.

I think on balance I'll be backing Eastmond to be a hit. Here's a video of him at his best, make up your own mind and tell me what you think.

Also I've just found a video of a League Vs Union debate on Sky Sports News the other week, they repeat alot of what I've just said, but interesting nonetheless (check it out here)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Great Tipster Experiment Week 1: The Result

Scotland have lost all three of their Six Nations matches
Scotland: So close

If you didn’t catch my last post basically I am conducting an experiment to prove myself as a rugby tipster and as an expert of the sport. I will be betting £10 every week across a variety of top class rugby matches and keeping track of my profit and loss over the course of the season.
Oh so close, so so close.
My first prediction game through with comfortable ease, Italy making it as hard as possible for a struggling Welsh outfit, Final Score Italy 16 Wales 24.
Then my second bet came through even more comfortably, a physical low scoring affair just as I had said, Final Score England 17 France 9.
Then I sit down on Sunday afternoon, pint in hand, ready to see my beloved Scots bounce back from embarrassment against the Welsh and win me £40 in the process, and you know what, we did bounce back, we played with pride and we were in it until the end. Final Score Scotland 18 Ireland 21.
OK, I suppose you either win or you lose but I think even the most cynical man would accept that my assessment of the weekends Six Nations fixtures were spot on. I even told you to take my Scotland bet with a pinch of salt.
Sadly had Dan Parks started the game or if we understood that you can score points by placing the ball down over the try-line maybe things would’ve been different, but I can honestly say that I have finished week 1 of The Great Tipster Experiment with my pride fully intact. Besides I only lost 65p.
Week 1 Results: Total wager £10
                                Money returned £9.35
                                Total Losses £0.65
Part of the idea of the Experiment is that on a Friday people will post (either on this site or on the BBC 606 site) their alternatives to my bets and on a Monday they will post the results. Please get involved. Cheers.