So much can change in a week of sporting action and, sure enough, there have exhilarating highs and deflating lows aplenty over the past seven days.
It was a week which saw the Home Nations dominate the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Rory McIlroy return to world No 1 with victory in Ohio, while the New South Wales Waratahs claimed their maiden Super Rugby crown in Sydney.
Tiger Woods endured another torturous week – pulling out of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – while Manchester City suffered penalty shoot-out heartache in their pre-season tournament and cyclist David Millar fell short of the fairytale end on home soil.
Following the debacle in Delhi four years ago, it’s fair to say the Commonwealth Games restored a significant amount of pride in Glasgow. Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper claims Glasgow was “the stand-out Games in the history of the movement” and there was even more cause for celebration as the host nation finished fourth in the medals table with a record haul of 53, including 19 golds.
Despite the midweek furore surrounding Usain Bolt’s alleged degrading remarks in a newspaper interview, the Games proved a resounding success with much of the plaudits rightly going to the ‘Clydesiders’ – the band of willing volunteers who gave their time to make it all happen. Bolt shrugged off all negativity and lit up the stage on Saturday night, leading Jamaica to gold in the 4x100m relay before a celebratory dance to ‘500 Miles’ by The Proclaimers.
Speaking of which, where were Charlie and Craig Reid on Sunday night? After hearing their anthem echo around the various venues throughout the Games, spectators were left disappointed to discover they did not make the closing ceremony bill.
Nevertheless, heroes and stars have been born across 11 days of sporting action which saw Team England register their best Commonwealth return of 174 medals – 58 gold – to top the charts, some 37 medals above second-place Australia. It is Australia who now take the baton and we wait in anticipation for 2018 edition of the Games in Gold Coast.
Rory McIlroy’s dream season continues to go from strength to strength as he returned to the top of the world rankings with victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. A fortnight after holding of Sergio Garcia to claim The Open crown at Royal Liverpool, the Northern Irishman repeated the trick to claim back-to-back titles in Ohio.
McIlroy turned a three-shot deficit into a two-shot lead within the space of five holes at Firestone Country Club, before Garcia battled back to leave the pair tied heading into the back nine.
Garcia had played the same back nine in just 27 shots in his second round of 61, but it was McIlroy who came out on top two days later in a tense duel, the 25-year-old carding a closing 66 to finish 15 under par and claim his first World Golf Championship victory.
With Adam Scott finishing outside the top five, that meant McIlroy reclaimed the world No 1 spot he last held in March 2013, just in time for the final major of the year, next week's US PGA Championship at Valhalla.
England Cricket Team
Finally, a reprieve for Alastair Cook and the England cricket team after they ended their 10-Test drought to level their series with India at the Ageas Bowl on Thursday. It may have taken a long time coming – with plenty of damning criticisms during their barren spell – but when victory eventually arrived, it did so in rather convincing fashion.
Moeen Ali and James Anderson combined to bowl England to a 266-run in the third Test at Southampton. India resumed on 112-4 chasing a target of 445 at the start of the final day and were bowled out for 178 before lunch, spinner Moeen adding four more wickets to his two from the previous evening for career-best figures of 6-67.
Seamer Anderson (2-24) also chipped in for England before finding even more relief on Friday as the International Cricket Council cleared him of any wrongdoing following an alleged spat with India’s Ravindra Jadeja. All in all, it has been a largely satisfying week in the England camp and could it be they have finally turned a corner in this new era under the tutelage of Peter Moores?
Sir Ian Botham certainly believes so; he claimed England were back at their best in Southampton and was impressed by the performance of their senior players. “England were awful at Lord’s. It was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen from an England team, considering they won the toss, had a great pitch to bowl on and got it all wrong,” he said. “But they’ve come here and I don’t think they’ve lost a session. They’ve been absolutely magnificent throughout.
It may all be a case of too little, too late but Bradford Bulls are determined to upset the race for Super League’s League Leaders’ Shield. After claiming a shock victory over reigning champions Wigan Warriors the previous week, James Lowes’ Bulls travelled to Headingley for a fierce West Yorkshire derby against Leeds Rhinos and again emerged victorious.
Lee Gaskell scored a match-winning late try as the Bulls stunned Leeds Rhinos 20-14 in the final West Yorkshire derby between the teams before Bradford are relegated to the Kingstone Press Championship. Moments of quality were few and far between in a match punctuated by errors, but it was the relegated Bulls rather than title-chasers Leeds who came out on top in the wet conditions.
On-loan winger Danny Williams, a Leeds academy graduate, gave Bradford a fifth-minute lead, only for it to be wiped out by Mitch Achurch's effort. The scrappy nature of the match continued after the break, with tries from Luke Gale and Brett Delaney both coming on the back of ball spills.
Gale's penalty gave the Bulls a 12-10 advantage heading into the final 15 minutes but Luke Briscoe appeared to have given the Rhinos bragging rights. However, Gaskell took Gale's offload and jinked his way to the line to send the Bulls fans wild, before the latter's last-minute two-pointer made sure of Bradford's second major scalp in as many weeks.
When Tiger Woods sat down to plan his comeback from injury, you can bet few of the events from the past fortnight would have featured. After making his major return at The Open in Hoylake after undergoing back surgery, Woods was forced to withdraw from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with yet another back injury.
After scraping through to make the cut at Royal Liverpool, Woods endured another tortuous week which ended by his being driven back to the clubhouse on a cart. After posting a two-under par 68 in the first round Woods went on to card 71 and 72 in the second and third round respectively and subsequently slipped out of contention.
Reports suggested the former world No 1 and 14-time major champion had a dispute with a cameraman on day three before another disappointing week came to a head with an early exit in the final round. Woods hit a number of poor shots in the fourth round at Firestone Country Club in Akron and, after missing the fairway with his tee shot on the ninth hole he grimaced and reached towards his back before being driven off the course.
He was taken to the car park where he again looked in real discomfort as he prepared to leave a venue where he has won eight times, including by seven shots last year. The 38-year-old had back surgery on March 31 which ruled him out of action for three months and must now wait to see what the latest diagnosis will be.
They say with age comes wisdom. Not always it would seem; Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw being the case in point after he conceded an 80th minute penalty which allowed the Waratahs to snatch a 33-32 victory in Saturday’s Super Rugby final at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
After winning seven TriNations crowns, three IRB Player of the Year awards and starring in three Grand Slam tours for the All Blacks, you would expect McCaw to boast a wealth of experience and level-headedness under pressure. But, with the Crusaders seconds away from claiming a record-breaking eighth Super Rugby crown, 127-cap All Black McCaw entered a ruck from the side and referee Craig Joubert immediately blew his whistle.
Waratahs fly-half Bernard Foley held his nerve to land the match-winning penalty from 35 metres out, although Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder claimed Joubert’s call was “50-50” in the aftermath of defeat. All the same, it does not change the result. Every player in a Crusaders shirt knew they simply had to see out two minutes of action and the title was theirs for the taking.
For so long people have claimed McCaw has made a career by flirting with the offside laws and often bordering on illegality in the eyes of many. True it may be, but what have proven such a successful tactics for a sustained period of time proved to be the Crusaders’ and McCaw’s downfall this time around.
After being omitted from Garmin-Sharp’s Tour de France line-up Scottish cyclist David Millar viewed the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow as an ideal opportunity for a fairy-tale swansong. The men’s road race – traipsing through streets so familiar to Millar – was the Scot’s final chance to prove his worth among some of the world’s elite, but it was simply not to be as a summer of anguish was prolonged.
Millar admitted he was “shocked and devastated” to be left out of what would have been a final Tour de France with his retirement set for the end of the 2014 season. Then, in the driving road of Glasgow city centre only 12 riders completed the Commonwealth course, with Millar finishing 11th.
Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas took gold representing Wales, with New Zealand’s Jack Bauer and England’s Scott Thwaites joining him on the medal rostrum, while Millar rode home some 11 seconds adrift. It was a race dominating by the rising stars of road racing and 37-year-old Millar was left languishing in the shadows as his career continues to fizzle to an end.
Millar entered the Games on home soil dreaming of a storybook finale but neither the individual time trial nor road race yielded success and his hopes of one final flourish are now dwindling. A 17-year career in the sport will reach its culmination at the Vuelta a Espana in August and September but it remains to be seen whether Millar can compete with the best for one last time.
The English and penalty shoot-outs do not mix, we all know this. Little surprise then when Micah Richards fired his spot kick over the bar to see Manchester City crash out of the International Champions Cup pre-season tournament.
City lost 5-4 on penalties to Olympiakos after a 2-2 draw, leaving Premier League rivals Liverpool to face Manchester United in the ICC final. Richards blasted his penalty over the crossbar in sudden death as City failed to overhaul Brendan Rodgers' Reds at the top of Group B.
Stevan Jovetic cut in off the left flank to open the scoring in the 35th minute at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis but City's lead lasted just two minutes as Greece Under-21 striker Dimitrios Diamantakos levelled up the scoreline after a slick move.
After David Silva was brought down in the box, an Aleksandar Kolarov penalty in the 53rd minute restored City's lead. But Diamantakos scored again in the 66th minute, rounding Joe Hart who had raced off his line, and the match went to penalties, where Richards became the scapegoat.
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