The Clubrooms: Dylan Cleaver – Luna Rossa’s Jimmy Spithill a winner while Prada Cup racing fails to impress

WEEKEND WINNERS & LOSERS

Winners

Jimmy Spithill

Somewhere along the line, the Australian sporting male evolved from Allan Border to Michael Clarke; from John Eales to James O’Connor; from Wally Lewis to Mitchell Pearce.

In this respect, James Spithill is a throwback to when Australia was the most respected sporting nation on the planet.

He’s got a certain something about him that instantly places him on a big island to our left. He’s cocky enough to never miss out on an opportunity to land a verbal jab on his opposition, but smart enough to always do it with a glint in his eye.

He expects to win but has been around the block enough to realise it doesn’t always happen.

He’s a strong leader who’s smart enough to share the load and yet have nobody in doubt about who’s really in charge.

The America’s Cup has been underwhelming to this point (see below) but it would be a much poorer event for his absence.

India

After dropping the first test to England in a must-win four-test series, was there any doubt India would find a way to come back?

Was there any doubt about how they’d achieve that?

As a New Zealander you’d be on unstable ground criticising a team for preparing conditions to suit hometown strengths, but that ground wouldn’t be as unstable as the turf on Chennai’s Chidambaram Stadium.

From day one the ball was exploding out of a surface that was held together not by grass but by PVA glue.

Expect a couple more strips like it when the tour shifts to Ahmedabad and the locals chase a series win that would pit them against New Zealand in the World Test Championship final in June.

Wales

Watching them in the weekend has done little to persuade me that they’re anything but a distinctly average team, but they’ve ridden two red cards to victory against Ireland and Scotland to share the lead in the Six Nations, in the process easing the pressure on coach Wayne Pivac.

Losers

Yacht racing

Every time you mention something remotely critical about the America’s Cup and its challenger series there’s always a disgruntled reader who’ll tell you how little you know about sailing. So let’s save you the trouble and sum up my sailing expertise: bugger all.

Nevertheless, I’ve watched a lot of sporting contests over the decades, on wet and dry surfaces, indoors and outdoors, hi-tech and traditional, and feel confident in saying that the Prada Cup has been somewhere south of boring.

There has been one moment of high-drama but that capsize effectively took one of just three contestants out of play.

There has been just one good race. Singular. That was between Luna Rossa and Ineos Team UK during the round robins and featured multiple lead changes. Even that came with a caveat: American Magic’s incapacitation meant the result of that one good race was largely irrelevant as Luna Rossa and Team UK were always going to meet again in the final.

Since then there hasn’t been a contest to savour. It’s been a follow-the-leader procession and once you stop “oohing” and “aahing” about the wonders of foiling monohulls, what do you have left?

You have a waterborne version of Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes starting a race against one other slightly slower car and driver. You can imagine how riveting that would be.

There have been wild shifts in momentum after breaks in racing. Team UK were a joke in the pre-Prada Cup regatta, then were the dominant force in the round robins. Luna Rossa looked as sloppy in the round robins as they look slick now.

So let’s hope Team UK use this break to make enough improvements to get parity with Luna Rossa and us non-aficionados who know nothing about sailing but who love a good contest can stop moaning.

Peter de Savary

Even if the racing has been dull, you’d have to be extremely cynical not to recognise that it’s the Biggest Show In Town – an event that has pushed sales of polo shirts and Timberlands in Auckland to unprecedented levels.

If you’re asked to pick the ultimate winner, you’ve got a 33 per cent chance of getting it right.

“If I were a betting man, I would not put my money on New Zealand; I would put a lot of money on Ben Ainslie,” high-profile British businessman and former America’s Cup challenger Peter de Savary said last week.

“Apart from being an exceptionally nice and pleasant man and a really good, decent person, he is the most phenomenal sailor — he’s got a good boat, he’s got the best technology he can have and he’s got a very well-funded campaign. He’s got himself in an absolute pole position.”

Then again…

Scotland

Can it get any more Scottish rugby than beating England at Twickenham for the first time since the Acts of Union, then turning around and losing to an ordinary Welsh team at home?

That’s a rhetorical question. Of course it can’t.

What’s even more galling is that with 39 minutes gone and leading 17-3, Scotland only needed to avoid doing several really silly things to not score at least three more points and go into halftime with an impregnable 20-3 lead.

What followed was several really silly things and a slightly vulnerable 17-8 halftime lead that was insufficient once tighthead prop Zander Fagerson was red-carded for a dangerous and utterly pointless cleanout at a ruck.

So very Scotland.

What is the point of having a domestic competition like the Super Smash if the selectors are going to ignore it and choose out of form players instead of Finn Allen? – Paul, St Heliers

Had a couple of SMSes along similar lines yesterday and the answer is fairly simple. When the team is playing well – and the Black Caps are playing well – selectors are loathe to change much.

As spectacular as Finn Allen’s T20 form has been for Wellington – 512 runs at close to two runs a ball – it is one campaign. Martin Guptill is the man in the crosshairs at the moment after a disjointed season but it is important to remember only two players in history have scored more than his 2621 T20I runs.

Allen’s time will come, sooner rather than later if Guptill’s injury woes continue. Don’t panic, he’s not turned 22 yet.

A fascinating piece from the Guardian‘s Spanish football correspondent on one of the most polarising players in history.

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