Silver Ferns win Netball World Cup

Defying form over the last couple of years, and also seedings and predictions, New Zealand’s Silver ferns have won the 2019 Netball World Cup, beating Australia in the final in Liverpool by just one goal.

 

I even felt a bit emotional watching the final minutes, seeing the reactions to the result, and then the presentations and the national anthem.

Coach Noelene Taurua and everyone else involved in the campaign deserve a lot of credit too.

I’m not a great netball fan, but this is a great effort and a great result.

Netball New Zealand: Silver Ferns win Vitality Netball World Cup

 

Leicester City – Champions

Leicester City Football Club

Leicester City’s winning of the English football league has been huge news in Leicester, but it has also been big news internationally.

They have never won the premiership in over a hundred years before this win. Wikipedia already has the details Leicester City F.C.:

Leicester’s 2015–16 Premier League win was their first top-level football championship. By some measures it was the greatest sporting upset ever: multiple bookmakers had never paid out at such long odds for any sport.

Prior to this, their highest ever finish was second place in the top flight, in Division One in 1928–29. The club holds a joint-highest seven second-tier titles (six Second Division and one Championship), as well as one League One title. They have also won the League Cup three times and have been FA Cup runners-up four times, a tournament record for the most defeats in the final without having won the competition.

Even US political pollster site Five Thirty Eight weighs in on the win – Leicester City’s Stunning Rise, In Two Charts:

It’s been a good nine months for Leicester City Football Club. So good that on Monday the team overcame 5,000-to-1 preseason odds to clinch the Premier League title — its first. Forbes reports that the title is worth more than $100 million to the club, and it’s been nothing short of magic for the club’s fans in that otherwise “unglamorous city” in the Midlands of England.

For a long time, it’s been received wisdom that no team outside of a “Big Four” — Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in its current iteration — has any real hope of a league title. The very few exceptions only helped bolster the rule.

Last year, Leicester finished 14th out of 20. They averaged just 1.08 points per game (a win is three, a draw one, a loss zero) and were in last place as late as April.

Coming into this season, there was no indication of a turnaround, and most predicted that Leicester would be relegated — demoted to the second tier of the English system.

But this amazing change in fortune really began years earlier, in the 2008-09 season, when Leicester were dwelling in the lower, far less glamorous third tier of the English football pyramid, known as League One.

Since World War II, only one team — Ipswich Town, the 1962 top-flight champs — has had such a long climb over seven years to win the league title. And no team aside from Ipswich then and Leicester now has climbed two tiers so quickly before winning the title.

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Also from the US (Washington Post) – How the Leicester City fairytale began in Thailand

But closer to the winner’s home, here is Leicester City’s own report:

CHAMPIONS: Leicester City Secure Premier League Title!

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For the first time in our 132-year history, Leicester City Football Club are the champions of England after securing the 2015/16 Barclays Premier League title on Monday night.

Well done. It’s good to see underdogs come through, especially in the usually money dominated professional sports arena.

 

Highlanders win right up there

Being an Otago and Highlanders supporter I’ve experienced quite a bit of hanging in there and more than a few major disappointnents.

So that makes good wins even better.

And the Highlanders winning the Super 15 final on Saturday is one of the best wins I’ve experienced, if not the best. This takes into account many All Black wins.

The All Black win in the World Cup final in 2011 was more relief than elation. The win in the nineties clinching the first series win in South Africa was pretty good. And there have been some other great wins at National level too.

But the closer to home team is special. Especially when they have no often been a dominant team. Big wins are to be savoured. And Saturday’s win was a very big win.

The Otago team through the nineties was exciting and had some very good wins, especially those I watched live at Carisbrook.

Winning the Ranfurly Shield in 2013 was special, but I don’t remember if i even watched that game. But it was a one off win and the loss soon afterwards made the Shield experience short lived.

However this Highlanders’ win means more. It is an international competition with the best players and teams of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa involved. The Super 15 competition is regarded by some as the toughest in the world.

The win on Saturday night was fantastic in itself, but more so because it followed two excellent games against the previous two champions, the Chiefs and the Waratahs, and it was the peak of a successful season.

The start of the season didn’t give any indication of what might play out. The Highlanders began in February with a bye, and then they lost at home to the Crusaders.

They then beat the Queensland Reds, followed by the first sign of real promise, a win against the 2013 champions the highly rated Chiefs.

Even then hopes weren’t highly raised. Aspects of the Highlanders’ play looked same old ominous, especially a struggling scrum.

But as the season ground on hopes were cautiously raised. They were at least competitive, most of the time. They were often playing well, and at times looked exciting.

Into the last third of the season there was reasonable hope the Highlanders might at least make the play offs, which would have made the season a success.

But towards the end of the rounds the smart heads and the big hearts of the players and coaches became more apparent. This team wasn’t just sort of competitive, it could foot it with the best.

Getting the second most points on the table was a significant achievement.

Otago and Highlander supporters had had many major disappointments so expectations are usually lower than hopes in big games. Some degree of trepidation is never absent.

Then the play off game against the Chiefs. A very satisfying win on merit.

The following week was better when the Highlanders comprehensively out thought and out fought last year’s champion the Waratahs, on their home turf in Sydney.

The pinnacle now looked possible with the final starting at 0-0, although the Hurricanes were clear and deserved favourites.

A plus was the Highlanders had little to lose apart from a game, as coming second would have been a great achievement. A close loss after a brave attempt would have been fairly happily accepted in the south.

But this Highlanders team was not playing for second. They were determined to prove to them selves, to their supporters and to the rugby world that they the tricks and the ticker to top the Super fifteen competition.

And so they did. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t over until the final whistle – with the way the Hurricanes play the hard fought and desperately retained lead always looked at risk.

The Highlanders looked wobbly mid way through the second half. It looked like season fatigue could be catching up on them.

But they had the heart and the reserves of energy to put in one last massive effort, and the finished the stronger of the two teams.

So they were very well deserved winners.

And for me this is right up there, it’s one of the most satisfying wins I have experienced.

Thanks to all of those involved in the Highlanders. Thanks very much. This is a season and a finals win to remember.

Highlanders!

The Hurricanes had a great Super 15 season, but they weren’t quite great enough when it really mattered, in the final, and that matters.

The Highlanders had a very good season and played a great final finishing off the best, beating the two most recent champions through the play offs and beating the best overall team in the final.  so they are worthy champions.

HighlandersChampions

Congratulations to a job well done. A warm glow of pride spread over the south last night, and it will remain in place today when the team returns to Dunedin.

The Hurricanes tried repeating their usual and it didn’t quite work for them in a few ways. They missed their first three kicks at goal, they didn’t succeed with the devastating breaks they are renowned and feared for, and they couldn’t quite finish off a frenetic game.

The Highlanders weren’t perfect either, especially during a wobbly period mid second half when the Hurricanes closed the gap to four points.

But they dug in and held on, finishing strongly enough to deny the Hurricanes.

There was an air of ‘we deserve this’ about the Hurricanes – they deserved to win because they had been clearly the top team so far, they deserved to win because of Jerry Collins, they deserved to win because it was the final match for stalwarts like Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu.

But thinking you might deserve something is not always enough.

The Highlanders, a team of mostly unknowns, played like a team, a team determined to do whatever they could to win.

They had built up some very good skills and a wide range of tactics through the season.

And when it mattered they had the guts, the fitness, the nous and the determination to get over the final line first.

So they are deserving winners.

HighlandersCelebrate

And here in the south we will celebrate probably the best and most satisfying southern team win I’ve experienced for quite some time. We’ve got a year to feel like champions.

Planet Rugby has the details: Highlanders stun ‘Canes in thriller

A report with some video: Highlanders upset Hurricanes to claim first Super Rugby title in Wellington
(I’m sure some Hurricanes players and supporters are upset but the result was hardly a shock if you had seen what the Highlanders had proven capable of).

The Highlanders had knocked off the Chiefs in Dunedin, then bamboozled the Waratahs in Sydney before jetting into Wellington, but few thought they could beat the regular season champions on their home patch. However, within the Highlanders’ camp there was no doubt according to co-captain Ben Smith.

“We knew from the start we had something special and along the way other people started to believe too. We talk about brotherhood and being good mates and you’ve seen that over the past few weeks,” he said.

And they showed that in the final last night.