Saturday, 13 March 2010

Vettel leads the way into the first Grand Prix, Chelsea on top of the Hammers and England uninspired at Murrayfield

WASN'T going to blog today. I'm in the beautiful Latimer Place Hotel. It's only about five miles from my home, but you forget how beautiful your surroundings are sometimes. It's an historic manor house, used to be owned by Lord Chesham.
In the middle of Latimer village there's a Boer War memorial to the locals killed at places like Paardeburg and Diamond Hill - one Lord Chesham died near Pretoria aged 21. The local church has tributes to him plastered all over the graveyard and the walls. Not much mention of the ordinary folk. Just his Lordship and a few of his nurses.
The place was run by the army during the war. They pretended it was a supply depot, but the beautiful old house was actually an interrogation centre... apparently they used to torture German and Italian officers here, 20 miles from London. This is where they found out about the V2 missile which threatened to turn things Hitler's way in 1944. No sign of any ghosts last night, but it's strange to think what used to happen within these ancient walls.
Now it's a beautiful hotel with rolling grasslands down to the River Chess, filled to the brim with trout. Beautiful. We're pictured above in front of "Neptune Falls", a weir with steps built-in to help the trout climb against the flow.
So why am I blogging? Because Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel sneaked in ahead of the two Ferraris to take the first pole position of the Grand Prix season in Bahrain, leaving the all-British McLaren's of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in his wake? Michael Schumacher starts from seventh, by the way.
Because Didier Drogba scored two more to help Chelsea see off West Ham 4-1?
Nope. Sorry. It's because of England's peformance against Scotland at Murrayfield. Earlier we saw Ireland surge past Wales at Croke Park to keep the Six Nations championship alive with a superb display of running rugby.
But to deny France, who play lowly Italy tomorrow, Martin Johnson's England had to keep winning. And upset the French in their final encounter.
It ain't going to happen. England are dreadful. Their 15-15 draw against an uninspired Scotland was typical of life in the Johnson era. No imagination, no flair, no energy. Just a big bloody boot. Though the disgraceful Scots booed Johnny Wilkinson in mid-penalty and cheered when he went off injured in the second half after scoring all of England's 12 points, nothing can disguise the inept nature of Johnson's leadership.
A World Cup-winning captain he may have been, but he never coached at club level and was fast-tracked into the England job when Brian Ashton was deemed insufficient despite getting England to a World Cup final in 2007.
Poor old Toby Flood ended up having to kick once Wilko had been nobbled. He missed a 58th minute penalty which would have put England 15-12 up. In the end he had to wait for another awfully scrappy surge which fell apart once the backs had messed it up. A far closer penalty saw Flood make give England the three point advantage.
With 12 minutes to go Dan Parks, born in Hornsby (that's in Australia, not Scotland), hit a post with a penalty then got a second chance, closer in, to level the scores and take his tally to 15 out of 15.
Then, with four minutes to play, Flood again. From 48 metres. He fell a yard short. Agony. A late drop goal attempt... and again Flood failed. But a game like this, full of aimless kicking and poor handling, didn't deserve a winner.
There's no question England were the better side. They certainly tried to play a bit when Wilko went off. But as the whistle went for an appalling 15-15 draw without a try in sight, the pens were being sharpened. MARTIN JOHNSON MUST GO will be written in bloody bold tomorrow.

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