Niall McVeigh

Author's details

Name: Niall McVeigh
Date registered: October 7, 2014

Latest posts

  1. Joseph Parker beats Hughie Fury to retain WBO world heavyweight title – as it happened — September 23, 2017
  2. Football League: Ward keeps Cardiff unbeaten, Shrewsbury top League One — September 9, 2017
  3. Southampton maintain Van Dijk stance as Wesley Hoedt checks in at the club — August 22, 2017
  4. Liverpool face Hoffenheim and Celtic draw Astana in Champions League play-offs — August 4, 2017
  5. Transfer window: which European clubs have made the best signings so far? — July 2, 2017

Author's posts listings

Sep 23

Joseph Parker beats Hughie Fury to retain WBO world heavyweight title – as it happened

New Zealand’s Joseph Parker won a majority decision after a scrappy contest to retain his WBO world heavyweight belt at the Manchester Arena

12.11am BST

Related: Hughie Fury denied WBO heavyweight title but Joseph Parker flattered by score

11.58pm BST

Hughie Fury was going to be interviewed in the ring, but technical difficulties called a halt. Now, he’s changed his mind. It’s an underwhelming end to a fight that wasn’t a classic. Credit to Hughie Fury for taking a champion the distance, and fair play to Joseph Parker for getting the job done. We’ll have a report up shortly. Thanks for joining me. Bye!

11.54pm BST

Parker stopped short of calling out Anthony Joshua in that interview – hard to see who else he would target as a champion in the UK. On tonight’s evidence, Parker has very little in his locker that would bother AJ.

11.51pm BST

Joseph Parker speaks: “Fury moved well, he was awkward. I caught him with the harder punches, and feel I won the fight fairly. It’s a great result, but I want to go back to New Zealand and have a bit of a break now. I feel that this opens up big fights here, we can come back and set up another big fight.”

11.44pm BST

Joseph Parker wins on points! Two judges score it 118-110, the other 114-114. Curious scorecards – two giving 10 rounds to Parker, one calling it a draw – but that’s the right outcome.

11.41pm BST

Fury’s entourage, including a suited Tyson, storm the ring in celebration. That may be premature – my rudimentary scorecard has Parker 115-113 up, winning seven rounds to five. After a scrappy, slow-burning fight, who can say for sure?

11.39pm BST

Round 12: After Fury gets in first with a jab, Parker lands the cleanest shot of the fight with a fierce right hook. Another big right-hand from Parker, then an uppercut from Fury as his opponent looks to land a few more clean blows. Fury clings on until the final bell, and now we await the judges’ verdicts…

11.36pm BST

Round 11: The judges will have their work cut out to score some of these scrappy exchanges, particularly here, as a tired-looking Fury slows down, lingering on the ropes too long. Parker lands a couple of blows to the body late in the round. The champion is in the ascendancy…

11.32pm BST

Round 10: Three rounds left, and it’s been a close contest – but Parker seems to be the man with the momentum. Impressive, given that he looked puffed after about 30 seconds. Fury repels more hefty punches from Parker, and gets the crowd involved with a couple of nice combinations. Fury’s footwork has helped him to steady the ship. Can he do enough in the last two rounds to tip the balance his way?

11.26pm BST

Round nine: Fury’s corner are urging him to do a little more, and land a few more shots in these closing rounds. Parker unleashes a nifty combination and has Fury on the ropes, but the challenger regroups quickly. Two rights in quick succession from Parker, and the second lands. Fury absorbs it but he’s lost this round, and may be slipping behind overall.

11.22pm BST

Round eight: Fury lands another with his right, then keeps Parker chasing him around the ring. Parker is rocked as he tries to move forward, but regroups, lands a jab to the chest and launches another flurry. It’s ugly stuff, but it’s helping the champion keep his nose in front in these closer rounds.

11.19pm BST

Round seven: Fury reaches halfway level, at worst, on the scorecard, and with the cut clearing up – but he may need to offer a bit more than defence to get the job done. It’s a scrappy round that follows the pattern so far, Fury keeping his distance, Parker lunging in without much success.

11.15pm BST

Round six: “Don’t worry about the cut, it’s nothing,” says Peter Fury, convincing nobody. His son looks less nimble on his feet, but has his jab working again early in the round. Fury lands that uppercut again, and Parker responds with his right. The champion launches a right hook as he goes on the attack. Fury looks a little ragged, his pteruge riding up to his ribs, and Parker probably shaded that round too.

11.11pm BST

Round five: McDonnell informs the judges that the cut was caused by an accidental clash of heads, as both fighters grappled on the ropes. Fury is still bleeding as Parker goes on the offensive – and McDonnell warns both fighters as things get a little ugly in the middle of the round. Parker leans in and delivers a scruffy right-hander that lands. The champion takes that round, arguably his first of the contest.

11.06pm BST

Round four: Parker can’t get his feet moving, and Fury catches him again with an uppercut. He looks easily the more comfortable man in these opening rounds, but Parker does land a left hook late in the round – and Fury has a cut over his right eye…

11.03pm BST

Round three: Parker is getting closer, but Fury disrupts his rhythm with a sneaky right-hander, and the champion is back to swinging and missing. Fury’s jab is keeping his opponent at bay, and he’s right in this fight early on.

10.59pm BST

Round two: Parker’s corner urge their man to lead with the jab and think ahead, but he still looks sluggish and Fury lands a jab of his own to the body. The challenger is staying on the defensive, and not taking any risks.

10.55pm BST

Round 1/12: Fury has a height advantage and is moving well, meaning plenty of Parker’s flurries don’t land. He’s also innovating with his shorts – a black-and-gold tribute to a gladiatorial skirt is the best way I can describe it. Oh, and gold gloves.

10.53pm BST

Parker, in black shorts with red trim, is on the offensive early against Fury.

10.48pm BST

Marcus McDonnell from Twickenham might sound like a promising young welterweight, but he’s actually tonight’s referee. Parker’s ring walk also exposed a swathe of empty seats, previously kept out of shot.

10.46pm BST

A lot more fun from Parker, who sports a headband, flanked by what I can only describe as two well-built, middle-aged shirtless men. His entrance music starts with a haka, then slides into hip-hop. 8/10.

10.45pm BST

Fury is out first, in a black and gold outfit with a gladiatorial air to it. His backing music is a mournful classical number. Now it’s time for the champ…

Here’s Hughie. #ParkerFury

10.40pm BST

When Wilson switches it up from the Samoan anthem to ‘God Defend New Zealand’, a fair few in the crowd join in. So safe to say we have some Kiwis in attendance tonight.

All in all, the anthems last about 15 minutes, and they manage to miss out the Irish one that was announced at the start. Let’s press on…

10.36pm BST

A welcome spot of farce here as singer Benson Wilson arrives in the ring to perform the Samoan and New Zealand national anthems – but the tape’s not ready, so it’s ‘God Save the Queen’ first while he stands and waits. All a bit awkward. Here’s a song about boxing:

10.31pm BST

@niallmcveigh what’s the crowd looking like? Next to no promotion in nw that I saw.

There had been reports of slow ticket sales, but it looks pretty full on the night.

10.28pm BST

It’s Murray who gets the points decision, 96-93 – despite Fagan knocking him down in the second – and that means that next up, it’s the main event!

10.26pm BST

Hughie Fury has been speaking ahead of the fight:

“I’m very relaxed, I’m confident, everything’s gone to plan. It’s done me the world of good to be off, there’ll be no ring rust from me. I’m not really bothered about what Parker brings, I know I’ve got an answer.”

10.20pm BST

The final undercard fight is nearing a conclusion, with Joe Murray taking on Matty Fagan in a 10-round super-lightweight fight. Murray is the more experienced man but was on the back foot early on – he may have just done enough.

10.17pm BST

Hughie Fury is the more famous name on these shores, but what of the defending champion? Joseph Parker has honed his craft on the other side of the world, fighting outside New Zealand for the first time since 2014 – save for a quick jaunt to Samoa. Parker has made one successful defence of his belt, but has come to the UK in an effort to boost his profile:

“I feel like the UK is where the heavyweight scene is at, at the moment. We want to be a part of it. We feel it’s important to come here and make a statement.”

9.55pm BST

“You could add a (c) to the fact it’s being shown on YouTube, which is the Fury family having form for postponing and cancelling bouts,” says Peter Davis. “Definitely put off some of the mainstream broadcasters from showing it. It’s a real shame.”

It certainly has happened – in Hughie’s case, he has had some mitigating health concerns, including a blood disorder that’s kept him out of the ring for 18 months.

9.37pm BST

So far tonight, we’ve seen Ireland’s Peter McDonagh defeat Shayne Singleton on points. McDonagh has enjoyed a late renaissance in his career – now 39, he’s unbeaten in 11 fights after what had looked to be a journeyman career. Jimmy Kelly floored Stiliyan Kostov in the fourth to win the WBO inter-continental super-welterweight title and, while I’ve been typing this, Yorkshire’s Josh Wale has beaten Don Broadhurst to defend his British bantamweight title. Broadhurst was knocked down in the 10th and failed to beat the count.

6.36pm BST

The WBO world heavyweight belt is on the line but in truth, tonight is about earning a shot at Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, the division’s supreme fighters. It’s also being shown exclusively on YouTube, a sign of (a) the changing face of sport broadcasting and (b) this bout’s lack of pay-per-view punch.

Joseph Parker is the defending champion, edging out Andy Ruiz Jr to claim one of the belts that Tyson Fury vacated. Tyson’s cousin, Hughie, is the hometown challenger hoping to bring the title back into the family. Parker is ranked 5th among the world’s heavyweights by Ring magazine while Fury the younger does not feature in the top 10.

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Sep 09

Football League: Ward keeps Cardiff unbeaten, Shrewsbury top League One

Danny Ward leveller earns draw at Fulham, Harry Redknapp’s honeymoon is over at Birmingham and Shrewsbury are the surprise leaders in the third tier

Related: Sheffield United soar after Clayton Donaldson downs wretched Sunderland

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Aug 22

Southampton maintain Van Dijk stance as Wesley Hoedt checks in at the club

• Saints claim £15m defender will ‘develop alongside’ Van Dijk
• Swansea City agree fee for Hull midfielder Sam Clucas

Southampton appear to be holding firm in their stance on the defender Virgil van Dijk, with an official statement announcing the arrival of Lazio centre-back Wesley Hoedt stating that their new signing will “develop alongside” his Dutch compatriot.

Hoedt, who joins on a five-year deal for a reported £15m, is the second centre-back signed by Mauricio Pellegrino this summer, following the arrival of Jan Bednarek for £5.7m in July.

Related: Transfer window 2017 – every deal in Europe’s top five leagues

Related: Crystal Palace set to bid for RB Leipzig winger Oliver Burke

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Aug 04

Liverpool face Hoffenheim and Celtic draw Astana in Champions League play-offs

Liverpool face a tricky fixture against Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, Celtic will travel 8,000 miles to play Astana in Kazakhstan, and Everton take on Hajduk Split in the Europa League

11.31am BST

Liverpool will face Hoffenheim, the fourth-placed side in last season’s Bundesliga, in their play-off match, while Celtic face a long trip to Kazakhstan to take on Astana in the final qualifiers before the group stage begins.

Jürgen Klopp’s side will start as favourites against Hoffenheim, but will be tested by a side who survived relegation under Julian Nagelsmann before pulling off a surprise top-four finish.

11.18am BST

Istanbul Basaksehir v Sevilla
Young Boys v CSKA Moscow
Napoli v Nice
Hoffenheim v Liverpool
Sporting Lisbon v Steaua Bucharest

11.16am BST

It’s a return to Germany for Jürgen Klopp, and former Hoffenheim striker Roberto Firmino. Hoffenheim will play at home in the first leg, as England and Germany’s fourth-placed teams are drawn against each other.

11.15am BST

Next, it’s Napoli v Nice! So Hoffenheim or Steaua for Liverpool…

11.14am BST

The second tie out is Young Boys v CSKA Moscow

11.13am BST

They’re not hanging about here – first up, it’s Istanbul Basaksehir v Sevilla!

11.12am BST

Brendan Rodgers’ boys are next out, and will face Kazakh champions Astana, who they faced in last season’s third round. The away leg will be second; that’s not a great draw, all things considered. Here’s the full Champions Route draw:

Qarabag v FC Copenhagen
APOEL v Slavia Prague
Olympiacos v Rijeka
Celtic v Astana
Hapoel Beer Sheva v Maribor

11.10am BST

Olympiacos v Rijeka, which leaves Astana or Hapoel Beer Sheva for Celtic…

11.09am BST

Next, it’s APOEL v Slavia Prague

11.09am BST

That was quick. First up, it’s Qarabag v FC Copenhagen…

11.07am BST

Next up, it’s none other than Uefa’s head of club competitions, Michael Heselschwerdt, with some technical information. The Champions route will be drawn first, and seeded teams aren’t certain to play at home second, as far as I’m aware – it depends which team is drawn first.

11.06am BST

I thought for one blissful moment that they were going to get straight on with the draw. But no, we’re getting a montage of last season’s final between Juventus and Real Madrid first. Another chance to enjoy that Mario Mandzukic goal, at least. Woof!

11.02am BST

Here we go! Giorgio Marchetti struts out to muted applause. “Welcome to the home of football” he chirps, then tells us that the Uefa president, Aleksander Ceferin, can’t be here today.

10.58am BST

The draw should be coming up aaaaany minute now. I’m sure they won’t drag it out. These guys are professionals!

10.50am BST

Liverpool fan Neal Lynch knows what he wants. “Anyone but Hoffenheim please. Nice would not be especially nice either… let’s have some eastern European action.”

Hoffenheim, whose manager Julian Nagelsmann turned 30 last month, do look the most dangerous side of the five. If it’s Eastern Europe you’re after, Steaua Bucharest, who lost 6-0 on aggregate to Manchester City last season, look a safer bet than Basaksehir, who nearly ‘did a Leicester’ in Turkey last season and now come with added Emmanuel Adebayor.

10.46am BST

There are some familiar names lying in wait for Celtic – they played both Astana and Hapoel Beer Sheva on their way to the group stages last year, with a 5-4 aggregate win over the Israeli champions proving particularly taxing. Celtic also took on Qarabag, champions of Azerbaijan, two years ago – they rarely qualify the easy way.

3.59pm BST

Seeded teams: Olympiacos (Greece), Celtic (Scotland), FC Copenhagen (Denmark), APOEL (Cyprus), Maribor (Slovenia).
Unseeded teams: Qarabag (Azerbaijan), Astana (Kazakhstan), Rijeka (Croatia), Hapoel Beer Sheva (Israel), Slavia Prague (Czechia).

3.53pm BST

Scottish champions Celtic have already played four qualifying ties to reach this final hurdle, while Liverpool are the only one of five English qualifiers not to go straight into the group stages.

The Champions League is not a bastion of equality, but both sides are on similar footing at this stage. There are two routes forward, named Champions and League (see what they did there) – Celtic are seeded in the former, and Liverpool in the latter.

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Jul 02

Transfer window: which European clubs have made the best signings so far?

The window officially opened on 1 July but most clubs have been busy for weeks, so catch up with the deals you may have missed from Europe’s top five leagues

The summer transfer window is now officially open and from Chelsea to Chievo and Real Madrid to RB Leipzig, every team is looking to strengthen. In reality, deals have been going through since the end of last season, with more than £1bn spent across Europe’s five biggest leagues in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France. Our transfer interactive covers all the latest deals but here are the biggest moves of the summer so far:

Related: Transfer window 2017 – every deal in Europe’s top five leagues

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Jun 28

The Joy of Six: Wimbledon wildcards | Niall McVeigh

From the glorious apex of Goran Ivanisevic’s career to a remarkable run from Zheng Jie, via a famous headband and a Houston high school student

Wimbledon has been handing out wildcards since 1977, sprinkling the draw with young guns, home hopefuls and fading stars in a bid to spice up the opening week. Only one player has taken their golden ticket and run all the way to a singles title, like a fun runner breaking the tape on the Mall. Sometimes, you have to start with the obvious one.

Related: The Joy of Six: Wimbledon upsets

Related: Classic Wimbledon report: Henman loses nerve and his best chance goes begging

Related: The Joy of Six: tennis tantrums

Related: The Joy of Six: great Wimbledon finals

Related: Jonny Marray: ‘I take great confidence from the fact I have won a slam’

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Jun 26

WTF, FML and a brief history of sporting acronyms in the modern age

The World Taekwondo Federation has finally rebranded but it is far from the only sporting entity to cause controversy with an acronym or abbreviation

The World Taekwondo Federation did the inevitable last weekend, changing its name to escape the “negative connotations” of its acronym.

World Taekwondo, as it is now officially known, first considered changing its name in 2015, but decided to give it another 18 months before accepting that the ubiquitous online abbreviation was going nowhere. The new slogan? It’s “Taekwondo For All”. Thanks for asking.

Related: Forget dancing horses, surfing and BMX – the Olympic Games need eSports

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Jun 18

Johanna Konta loses Nottingham Open final after fightback by Donna Vekic

• Unseeded Vekic defeats British No1 6-2, 6-7, 5-7
• ‘I was just not able to stay with her,’ says Konta after dramatic match

Johanna Konta missed the chance to end a 36-year wait for a home winner at a British WTA event with a three-set defeat to Donna Vekic in the Nottingham Open final

Konta was not at her best on a sweltering day in Nottingham but had looked on course for victory after comfortably taking the first set. Vekic, the world No70, rallied spectacularly, outplaying Konta for long periods before taking the second set in a tie-break.

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Jun 17

England beat Argentina 35-25 to win second Test and series – as it happened

Mike Brown set up tries for Piers Francis and Danny Care with dazzling breaks as England edged another high-scoring contest with Argentina to win the series 2-0

10.15pm BST

Related: Will Collier try seals confident win and series victory for England in Argentina

10.06pm BST

So, tries from Charlie Ewels and Will Collier, plus scores for Piers Francis and Danny Care – both set up by dazzling runs from Mike Brown – have earned a second straight win, and a series whitewash, in Argentina. George Ford, near-faultless through the two games, added the cherry on the icing with his late drop goal.

There were 132 points scored across a two-part feast of attacking, unpredictable rugby. England scored 73 of them, and won both Tests – finding a way to get it done, once again. They have won nine out of 10 away Tests under Eddie Jones, that defeat in Dublin still the only blot on his England record.

9.58pm BST

After some unnecessary faffing, a limping Hughes hoofs the ball into touch. England win the match, and the series!

9.57pm BST

79 mins: Hernandez kicks for touch, earning a lineout close to the try line. They collect the ball, but England turn it over! England scrum, but this one is done…

9.55pm BST

78 mins: Argentina steal the ball from an England line-out, and Lavanini hurls himself forward for the hundredth time. Lozowski, who has made a busy cameo here, gets a boot in to break up the attack.

9.53pm BST

76 mins: Argentina scrum, five metres out. The crowd have found their voices again. Bertranou feeds the scrum, and both packs are locked together, irresistible force vs immovable object. It’s England who prevail, and Care hooks the ball into touch.

9.52pm BST

75 mins: …an attack down the left is repelled, but play is switched to the right via Moroni, fresh on the pitch. Fellow replacement Bertranou lunges for the line, but Wilson and Lozowski combine to make a desperate block!

9.52pm BST

74 mins: Bertranou and Moroni on in place of Landajo and Boffelli for Argentina, who aren’t finished yet…

9.50pm BST

After good work from Lozowski, Care heaves the ball back to Ford, who adjusts in a heartbeat and lifts the ball through the posts! That has silenced the crowd. George Ford must be man of the series – he has been superb.

9.48pm BST

“When did the Pumas start with their change of style, to add a running and handling game to their traditional set piece focus?” asks David Wall.

“Was it motivated by their joining the (as then) Tri-Nations, and finding that they would get thumped if their backs could do no more than take contact to give it on to their forwards?”

9.46pm BST

70 mins: Juan Martin Hernandez sends a mediocre kick downfield, and England have a lineout close to halfway. They lose it, Tetaz Chaparro claiming it and barrelling forward, but Lezana is penalised for side entry. Ford eases the pressure with a clearance to touch.

9.44pm BST

67 mins: Eesh, this looks nasty for Nathan Hughes, impressive at No8 today. He’s cleaned out by Lavanini, who is penalised, and his knee gives way underneath him. He’s staying on, for now.

9.42pm BST

65 mins: Changes for England, with Alex Lozowski and Denny Solomona replacing Francis and Yarde.

9.42pm BST

There have been some lovely England tries across these two games, but this is ugly and Eddie Jones will like it. England collect the lineout and beat their hosts for power up front, replacement Will Collier the man to cross over. Ford makes it five kicks from six with the conversion.

9.39pm BST

63 mins: England respond with a burst of aggression, Nathan Hughes beginning the move before May powers down the left. The end result is a lineout, five metres from the line…

9.38pm BST

62 mins: Julian Montoya replaces Creevy at hooker, while Hernandez, whose drop goal last week ultimately played into England’s hands, replacing Sanchez.

9.37pm BST

61 mins: Changes for England, with Will Collier and Mark Wilson on for Williams and Underhill. I would put the Bath man behind Tom Curry in the flanker hierarchy after that, but what do I know?

9.35pm BST

Emiliano Boffelli scored the first try of this series and 13 scores later, he has the latest. England’s backs are caught napping, De La Fuente picking up Landajo’s pass and skipping past Yarde, before offloading to Boffelli, who has plenty of room down the left flank. Sanchez gets a welcome conversion and we’re level again!

9.32pm BST

England have done it again! Argentina are on the front foot, but a simple offload between De La Fuente and Orlando goes awry and the visitors pounce, Mike Brown collecting the turnover ball and sprinting down the left. Danny Care is the man in support this time, and he pulls away into the corner. England could use this conversion… and Ford nails it!

9.30pm BST

55 mins: First change for England, with Matt Mullan replacing Genge. For Argentina, Lezana replaces try scorer Matera.

9.29pm BST

54 mins: Argentina had looked close to being consumed by their own frustration, but not for the first time in this series, the momentum has swung.

“I’m loving these old skool scrums” says Robin Hazlehurst. “Never mind the ball, get on with the game! Two top packs giving it everything and nothing moving is a beautiful sight for the connoisseur.”

9.28pm BST

Piers Francis tries a speculative kick forward, but Pablo Matera charges it down, prods the ball down the touchline with his toe, and bursts in at the corner! Sanchez, somewhat predictably, misses an awkward conversion.

9.25pm BST

50 mins: Ford, kicking downwind but with the breeze dropping, sends his kick bobbling beyond the try-line. Sanchez restarts and England attack again, but Francis’ kick is charged down…

9.24pm BST

49 mins: Three replacements in Daniel Hourcade’s pack – Tetaz Chaparro, Herrera and Petti replace Noguera, Pieretto and Alemmano. No shortage of beef here in Argentina.

9.22pm BST

48 mins: Pieretto is also given a warning, after putting his knee down in the scrum. Argentina try to burst forward, but De La Fuente spills an ambitious pass.

9.21pm BST

46 mins: Another high tackle leads to more anger from the stands, and Hartley is told any more of that will mean a yellow card.

9.19pm BST

45 mins: Sanchez has the chance to cut the deficit – but he slices his kick wide! Cue whistles from the crowd. He’s not having a great afternoon.

9.17pm BST

44 mins: Just as Argentina appear to be out of ideas, they find some attacking rhythm, De La Fuente breaking the line before Orlando carries forward 20 yards, and offloads beautifully to Leguizamon. Yarde does well to smother Sanchez’s diagonal kick, but Brown is penalised for a high tackle.

9.15pm BST

42 mins: May, Henry Slade and Ford show good hands to switch the play, before Genge and Robshaw do their bit to repel the Argentinian forwards. A knock-on from Slade stalls the move.

9.14pm BST

41 mins: Sanchez takes a mark from Ford’s kick and shuffles forward. An errant pass stalls what little momentum they have, and England turn it over…

9.12pm BST

John Lacey has an issue with his earpiece, but after a brief pause, Sanchez gets the second half started.

9.11pm BST

So, England lead 18-13 at the half; they were 17-13 down last week. As in San Juan, they have been second-best in territory and possession, and had to put in twice the tackles, but have pounced on opportunities to shade the only stat that matters.

9.09pm BST

“I’m loving how Eddie Butler pronounces some of the Argentinian players like Landajo, Tuculet and Boffelli with a real lilt” says Robin Hazelhurst. “It’s like a quiz question: Pumas player or North Wales seaside resort?”

I’m a big fan of their No8, Leggy Salmon.

8.59pm BST

George Ford kicks the ball into – you’ll like this – the moat which surrounds the pitch. There’s still time for a line-out, but not much else. England lead, Piers Francis’ try after exceptional work from Mike Brown the difference.

8.57pm BST

39 mins: Argentina scrum, then a free kick. De La Fuente wriggles clear of Care in midfield, setting up a late burst for the line. Moyano looks to have found the gap, but Alemmano is correctly penalised for crossing. He’s 6’6”, Lacey was unlikely to miss him.

8.55pm BST

38 mins: They kick downfield, and Brown surges forward with another leggy run down the middle. Jonny May continues the advance, before Underhill turns the ball over under pressure from the Argentina pack.

8.54pm BST

37 mins: Argentina scrum, from which Orlando and Landajo swing the ball right. England hold firm, even the artful Creevy unable to gain ground…

8.53pm BST

36 mins: Noguera is getting treatment, so the front rowers engage in a bit of chatter with the referee. The camera hones in on a pigeon that’s landed on the pitch – this isn’t Wimbledon, you know.

8.52pm BST

35 mins: England keep the pressure on Sanchez, whose kick to touch presents them with a lineout. Harry Williams lumbers into space, offloading to Charlie Ewels – but Matera’s low tackle forces the ball out of his hands.

8.50pm BST

33 mins: Argentina look a little forlorn up against England’s forwards, with a grubber kick through always running away from De La Fuente.

8.48pm BST

Sanchez tries a change of tack with a diagonal kick. Suffice to say, it doesn’t work. Mike Brown steps up, snatches the ball and charges up the right flank. As he looks to be out of options, Piers Francis appears alongside him, collects the pass and breezes into the corner! The conversion from a tricky angle, is put wide by Ford.

8.45pm BST

It’s not straightforward on a breezy afternoon, but Ford adjusts accordingly and his kick sails between the posts.

8.45pm BST

27 mins: Tuculet takes a kick down, but Yarde is straight on him to prevent Argentina gaining yards. The full-back gets caught on the floor, fails to release and concedes a penalty. Ford can level things up…

8.43pm BST

25 mins: Danny Care’s kick is caught by Boffelli, who is tackled by Launchbury. Argentina clear, and Brown bursts towards the halfway line. The charge breaks down, and England are penalised, Creevy theatrically leaving Hartley on the floor. Sanchez’s penalty is not the best, dragged wide left of the posts.

8.40pm BST

23 mins: England have made 23 tackles – collectively, one per minute. This is already a fiercer forward test than last week. Care puts in as Argentina lower the scrum – but the hosts are penalised, Pieretto changing his body angle illegally.

8.38pm BST

21 mins: Argentina surge and turn the scrum, the ball popping loose and just out of Creevy’s reach. Genge dives on the ball, but England are being penned back…

8.37pm BST

20 mins: Sanchez finds touch, and Argentina have a line-out 15m from the try-line. Chris Robshaw, returning from injury, makes a crucial steal at the breakdown, and England get the scrum!

8.35pm BST

19 mins: Creevy makes headway before Tuculet breaks through with a couple of sidesteps. Lacey’s whistle sounds again, this time for a high tackle from Marland Yarde. Lacey has a word with Hartley about “unnecessary penalties”.

8.34pm BST

17 mins: Another technical penalty against England – two in fact, an offside and a side entry. Sanchez opts for the former, in a more central position. The fly-half kicks Argentina into the lead.

8.32pm BST

13 mins: England earned a scrum but after much faffing, referee John Lacey grows weary of warning the visitors. Argentina are presented with a gettable penalty. Sanchez sends it high – and wide! Or does he? We’re going to the TMO, who rules that it just went over.

8.28pm BST

10 mins: Plenty of big, bruising hits out there, with Leguizamon going through Danny Care, before Nathan Hughes stops him in his tracks.

8.27pm BST

8 mins: We go straight back down the other end, England forcing a turnover in opposition territory and winning a penalty, which Ford tucks away. He’s been a model of consistency on this tour.

8.24pm BST

We’ve picked up where we left off last week – Argentina’s backs in particular, who launch themselves headlong at the English defence. After Orlando is repelled, Hartley shoulders Pieretto. Penalty advantage, and Landajo sweeps the ball left, where Tuculet forces his way over. Sanchez slots away a tricky conversion from the left.

8.21pm BST

6 mins: Ewels is penalised after trying to stop the maul. Sanchez goes for the corner and sets up a lineout on England’s 22.

8.20pm BST

England kick for touch and win the lineout with ease. Launchbury barrels through his man and offloads to Charlie Ewels, who goes over! Ford converts, while Ewels looks a little pained after that heavy landing.

8.19pm BST

3 mins: Echoes of last Saturday, with an Argentina scrum reset twice before Leguizamon drives forward. Argentina opt to kick again, but England get the penalty in their own half as Moyano kicks the ball out from the side.

8.16pm BST

1 min: Nicolas Sanchez and George Ford trade long, looping kicks down the middle, before Mike Brown finds touch. Argentina are in their blue-and-white hoops, England in ‘dark sapphire’, or as it’s more commonly known, navy.

8.15pm BST

George Ford’s kick-off is collected, and Tuculet’s clearing kick finds touch through a thick breeze.

8.14pm BST

The teams are out on a sunny, soupy afternoon in Santa Fe. Anthems are being belted out, and we’ll be under way imminently.

8.07pm BST

Here’s Eddie Jones on today’s fixture: “It’s a different referee, different ground and conditions. The set piece is going to be important… I think Argentina might play some more old-school rugby today.”

On England players being overlooked in the latest Lions call-ups: “I’m disappointed for my players that haven’t been called up, but playing for England is a pretty decent second prize.”

8.05pm BST

In other news, this was released 20 years ago this week, and feels as relevant as it ever did. It was kept off No1 by Puff Daddy.

7.55pm BST

Twenty minutes until we have ourselves some 15-man, oval ball action.

On its iPlayer homepage, the Beeb describes its rugby coverage as “action from the world of the 15-player oval ball game”. The what?

7.43pm BST

As discussed, it’s been an excellent day for northern hemisphere sides. Scotland beat Australia 24-19 in Sydney, while jet-setting Ireland followed up a win in New Jersey last week by beating Japan in Shizuoka. The Lions got a morale-boosting win over the Maori All Blacks, but perhaps most impressive of all, England women beat New Zealand in their own backyard to become the world’s No1 team. Last but not least (OK, also least), Wales beat Tonga 24-6.

6.03pm BST

England: M Brown (Harlequins), M Yarde (Harlequins), H Slade (Exeter), P Francis (Northampton), J May (Gloucester), G Ford (Bath), D Care (Harlequins); E Genge (Leicester), D Hartley (c, Northampton), H Williams (Exeter), C Ewels (Bath), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Robshaw (Harlequins), S Underhill (Bath), N Hughes (Wasps).

Replacements: J Singleton (Worcester), M Mullan (Wasps), W Collier (Harlequins), N Isiekwe (Saracens), M Wilson (Newcastle), J Maunder (Exeter), A Lozowski, D Solomona (Sale).

11.07am BST

As the old saying goes: the more you practice, the luckier you get. England’s helter-skelter success in San Juan could have fallen either way, the lead changing hands six times as eight tries were scored. As has so often been the case under Eddie Jones, it fell England’s way.

Jones’ forward planning has reached forensic levels with this tour, with two new faces today taking his pool of capped players beyond 60. Sam Underhill and Piers Francis have both been monitored while playing in Wales and New Zealand, and get starts ahead of moves to the Premiership.

Continue reading…

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Jun 10

Argentina 34-38 England: first Test – as it happened

Denny Solomona’s late score sealed a thrilling victory in a pulsating game that saw eight tries scored as George Ford, Henry Slade and debutant Tom Curry all impressed

10.04pm BST

That was an enthralling game – relentless attacking rugby, eight tries and the lead changing hands six times. England conceded twice in quick succession at the 50-minute mark, and it looked like their young side might fold.

They fought back and in a frantic final period, it could have gone either way. It went England’s way, Denny Solomona’s try capping a fine afternoon for so many debutants, and sealing a statement win against a 2019 World Cup opponent.

Related: Denny Solomona’s late try secures thrilling win for England over Argentina

10.00pm BST

Here’s George Ford: “That game swung both ways, we were up, then Argentina… what a finish from Denny at the end. The boys put a real shift in… the first game of the tour, it’s nice to get a win. We know it’ll be tougher next week. The new guys were running around like mad men, it was brilliant to play alongside them.”

9.57pm BST

The hooter sounds, and England just have to find touch to finish the job. They do so, and after a breathless, brilliant game, they have somehow managed to win!

9.55pm BST

What about that! Denny Solomona’s only contribution thus far had been two missed tackles, but after fine work from Launder and Launchbury, he finds space on the right, and then cuts inside, raw power taking him through two tackles. Suddenly, the line is in sight – and he’s over! Ford converts, and England look like they’ve won this…

9.53pm BST

77 mins: Nick Isiekwe comes on in place of Charlie Ewels, who has had a very solid game. Hernandez launches a monster kick to keep England penned back, but they have a lineout inside their own half. Jack Maunder is on at scrum-half, replacing Danny Care.

9.51pm BST

Penalty advantage, but Argentina keep battling for the line. Hernandez drops into space, and tucks away a drop goal! The crowd goes wild, but there’s still time for England to respond…

9.50pm BST

75 mins: This has felt like a game of sevens at times – the pace relentless, the balance of power constantly swinging. It’s Argentina pressing once again, Orlando finding De la Fuente. England hold on, but replacement forwards Montoya and Tetaz Chaparro break tackles with ease…

9.48pm BST

73 mins: England press forward, Armand and Ford at the heart of the move – but Hartley spills the ball! Hernandez passes out wide to Moyano, but Charlie Ewels gets back to deny him a breakaway try!

9.46pm BST

71 mins: Tom Curry, England’s youngest debutant since Jonny Wilkinson, is replaced by Don Armand. Jones surely cannot have expected any more from the teenager. For Argentina, Petti replaces Tomas Lavanini and Santiago Garcia Botta is on for Noguera – their final two changes.

9.44pm BST

70 mins: …but England win the turnover, thanks to two exceptional Tom Curry tackles, and are straight back on the attack. Jonny May kicks upfield and looks to chase it down, but Argentina get back to clear the danger.

9.42pm BST

69 mins: Orlando makes a barrelling diagonal run, but can’t pick out a gap or a pass. Argentina turn to their pack to drive to within five metres…

9.41pm BST

68 mins: Gonzalo Bertranou is on, replacing scrum-half Landajo, who has picked up a knock. He’s been a relentless presence for Argentina. Time for a breather, with 12 minutes to go.

9.39pm BST

George Ford’s afternoon keeps getting better. After Charlie Ewels does well to hold up the England maul, the ball is worked right to Ford, who exchanges passes with Francis and gallops through a gap in the defence! The fly-half grounds the ball in the corner, giving himself a tricky conversion – and he slices it. We’re all square…

9.37pm BST

64 mins: More Argentina changes – Moyano replaces Buffelli, and Montoya replaces Agustin Creevy at hooker. Shadows lengthening, and the party atmosphere has drifted a little after Ford’s penalty.

9.36pm BST

This could be a big moment – England win a penalty on the halfway line, and George Ford goes for goal. Another perfect place-kick drops between the posts, and England are back within five points.

9.34pm BST

A Mexican wave ripples around the ground as Sanchez lines up the penalty – which is missed to the right. Sanchez is going off, replaced by Juan Martin ‘El Mago’ Hernandez. For England, Harry Williams is replaced by fellow debutant Will Collier.

9.32pm BST

59 mins: After punching above their weight in the first half, England’s pack are starting to struggle against the strength and depth of Argentina’s forwards. England buckle under the latest surge, and Nathan Hughes is penalised for holding on.

9.30pm BST

57 mins: Two changes for Argentina, with Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro and Leonardo Senatore replacing Leguizamon and Pieretto. Senatore has 44 caps; England’s entire bench have 15 between them (all belonging to Mullan).

9.29pm BST

56 mins: England’s backs manage to slow Argentina down, Sanchez forced to try a long-range drop goal which he slices wide of the right post.

9.28pm BST

55 mins: Argentina are rampant now, and Eddie Jones makes changes to try and steady the ship. Matt Mullan and Piers Francis are on in place of Genge and Lozowski.

9.27pm BST

A breakneck attacking move from one end of the field to the other, Orlando and Buffelli breaking tackles and moving the ball, before Joaquin Tuculet breaks clear down the left to score! Sanchez converts, and Argentina have scored 14 points in three minutes.

9.23pm BST

The hosts are back in front, and sadly Solomona carries some of the blame, slipping over to allow Landajo to break through. He finds Jeronimo de la Fuente, who cruises over the line – and Sanchez converts from in front of the posts.

9.22pm BST

50 mins: Denny Solomona is coming on, replacing Marland Yarde. It’s been quite a journey for Solomona – born and raised in New Zealand, he played league for Castleford, retired, and now makes his England debut at 23.

9.19pm BST

This is a dazzling bit of play from England, and Henry Slade in particular. Curry and Wilson busy themselves to retain the ball, Care sweeps it to Slade, whose kick to the corner is so precise, Mike Brown and Jonny May have time to discuss who will pounce on it. In the end, it’s May who grounds the ball, and Ford nails another conversion.

9.16pm BST

45 mins: Moroni has to collect a ball under pressure, staring right into the sun – and he spills it. England scrum, 10 metres into Argentina territory…

9.14pm BST

43 mins: Slade is under Sanchez’s kick, and with two players bearing down on him, finds Yarde with a lovely offload. England burst downfield, but the hosts stall their momentum 10 metres out, holding up Hartley and winning a penalty to clear their lines.

9.13pm BST

Ford lines it up, looking for a fourth successful kick from four. Straight between the posts.

9.12pm BST

Argentina penalised early on for an offside, and Ford will go for goal from 30 yards out, close to the left touchline.

9.01pm BST

Plenty of positives for this patchwork England team, with Marland Yarde, George Ford and Alex Lozowski all impressive. Inexperience has told, with turnovers and penalties helping Argentina restore their lead – although Nicolas Sanchez’s chip to Emiliano Boffelli was the highlight of the half. Back shortly.

8.58pm BST

Sanchez puts away the penalty, giving the hosts a little breathing space and taking his international points tally to 501 in the process.

8.56pm BST

39 mins: An attempted kick-and-run from Landajo is quite brilliantly cut out by Yarde, who collects and turns smartly to escape pressure. Brown kicks away to win a lineout as the hooter sounds. There’s time to take it, and time for Argentina to win a cheap penalty. Sanchez will go for goal…

8.54pm BST

38 mins: Another turnover in a half jam-packed with them, but Henry Slade’s hopeful long pass goes out of play. Argentina lineout on their own 22…

8.52pm BST

A real test for the English pack here, and it’s one that they valiantly fail – four or five navy shirts unable to deny Tomas Lavanini, who hauls his mighty frame over the line. Sanchez converts, and Argentina retake the lead!

8.50pm BST

35 mins: A mis-step from Genge and the ball is turned over. Boffelli leads Argentina to within five metres as England try to regroup…

8.50pm BST

34 mins: After a slow start, a helter-skelter spell has gone very much in England’s favour. They are gaining points from chaotic periods of play, which is what Jones was looking for.

8.48pm BST

Lozowski continues his impressive start, swinging the ball wide to Ford, who finds Yarde in space on the right flank. He skips beyond the tackle and dives into the corner. Blistering stuff from England. The conversion is from an impossibly narrow angle – but Ford slots it away!

8.46pm BST

31 mins: Danny Care looks to counter that counter, and despite a heroic tackle, England come again…

8.45pm BST

30 mins: Henry Slade is stripped of the ball in midfield, and Argentina look to counter. Landajo is tackled by Ford, and Genge turns the ball over once again…

8.44pm BST

28 mins: Argentina win their lineout and keep tight to the left touchline. Their forwards try to force an opening, but England’s pack hold up again, and get the penalty. They have been the stronger pack so far.

8.41pm BST

George Ford isn’t going to miss from there, and England are back to within a point.

8.41pm BST

25 mins: England edge into the 22, Lozowski at the heart of the move forward before Hartley tries to batter his way through and earns a penalty under the posts…

8.39pm BST

24 mins: England scrum, in the strip of shadow down their left flank. Launchbury offloads to Lozowski, whose looping pass is taken by Mike Brown…

8.38pm BST

22 mins: Ford and Sanchez exchange kicks before Argentina barrel forward – but Tuculet’s offload is spilled by Boffelli!

8.37pm BST

21 mins: A knock-on allows Ford to find touch, and earn England a little time in the opposing half. Curry is held up but switches play right to Ford, but the move breaks down.

8.35pm BST

20 mins: This is England’s first full international since that dispiriting defeat to Ireland back in March. It’s a very different side, of course, but this has been a determined start.

8.33pm BST

18 mins: The lineout ball is spilled, but England are slow to react, allowing Creevy to pinch it back. England’s front row stand strong, allowing Hartley to break up possession.

8.32pm BST

17 mins: Sanchez restarts, his deep kick into the corner worked to Ford, who clears to touch. Just 20% possession for England so far.

8.31pm BST

To a chorus of jeers and whistles, George Ford lines up the kick close to the halfway line – and nails it!

8.30pm BST

14 mins: …England slow them down, and a knock-on gives them a turnover advantage. Genge’s looping kick is collected by Sanchez, but Noguera is penalised for standing in front of the kicker.

8.29pm BST

13 mins: England grab a welcome turnover, Tom Curry pouncing on the loose ball – but they give it away, Moroni collecting a poor pass…

8.27pm BST

11 mins: Penalty advantage for Argentina, and they try to take it quickly – but Martin Landajo slips in the shadow of Nathan Hughes.

8.25pm BST

9 mins: We’re playing in a football stadium, and Sanchez’s through-ball was worthy of any Argentina No10. Still, a troubling start for England.

8.24pm BST

Argentina win the lineout, the forwards gain ground before Sanchez unlocks England with a delicate chip. Debutant Emiliano Boffelli collects the ball to go over, and the hosts lead! Sanchez tucks away the conversion.

8.22pm BST

7 mins: It’s been a slow, scrappy start, but Sanchez sets up a lineout inside the 22 from a penalty kick…

8.21pm BST

6 mins: After a false start, England earn a penalty as the front row lower the scrum. Good work from the England front row, not least Leicester’s Ellis Genge, earning just his second cap.

8.20pm BST

5 mins: A poor George Ford kick hands Argentina a prime spot for a scrum, underneath the posts and 22 metres out.

8.19pm BST

3 mins: Nicolas Sanchez lines up the kick, wide left from a manageable distance – but it drifts wide of the upright.

8.17pm BST

2 mins: England scrum, but referee Nigel Owens penalises No8 Nathan Hughes for coming through the scrum. An early indication of Argentina’s pack power, there.

8.16pm BST

1 min: England’s first phase falls apart as Marland Yarde spills the ball, allowing the hosts to turn the ball over.

8.15pm BST

George Ford kicks off on a cloudless day in San Juan.

8.12pm BST

The England team are out nice and early, in their navy away kits. They’re swiftly followed by the hosts in sky blue and white hoops – one of sport’s very finest strips, in my humble opinion. Time for the anthems, then we’ll be under way.

7.57pm BST

Some local colour from our man on the ground:

England preparing to take on Argentina in San Juan. Temperature hot. Atmosphere likewise

Meanwhile, the view out the back of the stadium…

7.50pm BST

Newcastle flanker Mark Wilson is making his debut today, alongside Sale’s 18-year-old Tom Curry. Wilson is in Argentina while his wife Amy is expecting their second child.

“It’s something I’ve been waiting for and working towards for a long time. She understands that and she was the first one to say ‘go ahead and enjoy it’. I know that she’s right behind that decision” says Wilson. He has waited a decade to get a cap, I suppose…

6.29pm BST

England: M Brown (Harlequins), M Yarde (Harlequins), H Slade (Exeter), A Lozowski (Saracens), J May (Gloucester), G Ford (Bath), D Care (Harlequins); E Genge (Leicester), D Hartley (c, Northampton), H Williams (Exeter), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Ewels (Bath), M Wilson (Newcastle), T Curry (Sale), N Hughes (Wasps).

Replacements: J Singleton (Worcester), M Mullan (Wasps), W Collier (Harlequins), N Isiekwe (Saracens), D Armand (Exeter), J Maunder (Exeter), P Francis (Blues), D Solomona (Sale).

2.16pm BST

7,000 miles from Twickenham and 6,000 from the Lions’ current co-ordinates in New Zealand, Eddie Jones could scarcely have picked a spot further from the current rugby radar than San Juan to keep his England project ticking over.

Remote it may be, but this first Test of two in Argentina will be a fierce examination of Jones’ young, experimental squad, with 11 uncapped players among the 23 about to be tossed into a concrete cauldron at the foot of the Andes.

Continue reading…

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Mar 18

France 20-18 Wales: Six Nations – as it happened

France prevailed after one of the most dramatic, chaotic conclusions to a game in Six Nations history, with nearly 20 minutes of extra time played before the hosts scored a converted try to snatch victory

Match report: France 20-18 Wales

That brings this MBM to a close. After all the late drama, I will leave the final word to a reader I know Dan greatly enjoyed talking rugby with. Here’s Matt Dony:

“Many have said it more eloquently than me already, but Dan’s passing is a ridiculous loss. Gary Naylor’s tweet absolute nails-on-the-head the whole MBM world. I’ve never met any of the writers, or the regular contributors, but the names have all become familiar parts of my sporting enjoyment.

What it means is that France move into second place, ending Scotland’s chances of finishing as runners-up. That will have been an unbearable final passage of play for them, too. England already have the title, but they’re going for the grand slam in Dublin right now. Join Michael Butler for that:

Related: Ireland v England: Six Nations – live!

An awful lot to take in from almost 20 minutes of extra time. Rabah Slimani was allowed to come back on, Samson Lee’s absence was effectively curtailed by other delays, and I’ve no idea why Barnes didn’t just award a penalty try after repeatedly blowing up for Welsh trangressions. It was a glorious shambles; Dan would have loved it.

Related: France go the extra mile to defeat Wales in marathon finish

Lopez kicks the conversion, and after a dull, scrappy game, one of the most bizarre conclusions to a game in rugby history ends in an unbelievably dramatic French victory!

This is absolutely extraordinary. After another France advantage Antoine Dupont, the only player with any energy left, keeps driving for the line. Dan Biggar kicks the ball on the floor – meaning he’ll be sin-binned when play stops – but France keep pushing, and they finally haul the ball over the line! It looks like replacement hooker Camille Chat got the score.

98 mins: Happily, we can play on, and the scrum goes again. The Welsh pack are turned, and Barnes gives the visitors a warning. If it happens again, there will be another yellow card – and potentially even a penalty try.

96 mins: Nicky Smith is on for Rob Evans. It’s another penalty advantage for France, and another scrum. This half kicked off over an hour ago. And now there’s reportedly an issue with the fourth official…

95 mins: We’re seeing replays of Dulin on the floor, close to North’s right leg. The TMO tells Barnes there is no conclusive evidence. Back to the French scrum.

93 mins: There will be another stoppage here, as Barnes checks with TMO. The reason? George North is claiming he was bitten, and there’s a mark to prove it. This would be an extraordinary end to the game.

91 mins: France get an advantage, but push for the line – first through Dupont, then Fickou down the left. They run out of forward momentum, and we’re going back to that scrum. And Samson Lee is coming back on!

90 mins: Two more minutes, and Samson Lee will be able to come back on…

89 mins: Another French penalty, and this time Picamoles kicks from hand and lunges for the line. Wales close the door, France switch to the left, but the ball is spilled. France had an advantage, and we’re back where we started. France scrum, three metres out.

87 mins: France and Wales have now spent the best part of 10 minutes trying to put together an acceptable scrum…

83 mins: There is a long, slightly farcical stoppage as Wales sort out their substitutes. Tomas Francis eventually comes on for Leigh Halfpenny, after convincing Barnes he is fit to return. The scrum leads to a French penalty and another French scrum, as the clock ticks on…

81 mins: From the scrum, Picamoles barges to within inches of the line, but Wales hold on. Chouly repeats the trick, offloading to Dupont. France have a penalty advantage, and will get another chance. Samson Lee is shown a yellow card in that melee, and will have to hang on with 14 men! This is extraordinary drama.

80 mins: The suspense is drawn out as Barnes resets the scrum a couple more times, before Uini Antonio goes off, replaced by Rabah Slimani. The French doctor confirms Antonio has a head injury. After a long wait, play restarts…

79 mins: France have a scrum, five metres out. It’s now or never. Barnes warns Wales to hold their weight, and the scrum is reset twice. The referee’s fastidiousness is irritating the French pack, but this is a crucial moment…

78 mins: France knocking at the door here, replacement scrum-half Dupont wriggling beyond two tackles. The hosts inch to within five metres, and get a penalty advantage, but Wales stand firm.

77 mins: Yoann Huget and Julien Le Devedec are on for France, with the former stripped of the ball by Warburton. The captain tries a grubber kick that splits the French defence, but runs just out of play beyond the try-line.

75 mins: Tipuric and Warburton lead the way in tackles; Wales have smothered France in this second half. France need a converted try, or their campaign will end in bitter disappointment.

73 mins: Can Wales get over the line? They bring on Samson Lee, and bring back Ross Moriarty, trying to hold their makeshift pack together for another seven minutes.

Barnes gives Wales another penalty, this time for a high tackle on Ken Owens, as the crowd vent their fury. Halfpenny scores from close range, and Wales restore their five point advantage.

“Thanks for publishing all the memories of Dan. It feels odd watching the Six Nations and knowing that Dan’s gloriously splenetic (but scrupulously fair) commentary isn’t accompanying it today” says Oliver Bevan.

“Having left the UK a few years ago, I relied on Dan’s excellent commentary. I’ll miss him but am proud of what he established and proud to help continue building it. Also, this is an indescribably lovely, painfully honest, absolutely fitting tribute to Dan by his girlfriend, Liz.”

Francois Trinh-Duc comes on for Lamerat rather than Lopez, and France power forward, winning a penalty under the posts. Lopez scores France’s first points in over 50 minutes of play.

Slowly but surely, Wales are inching their way to victory here – but there’s still a long 15 minutes to go, particularly with their pack less sturdy with replacements coming in; Scott Baldwin has just come in for Jake Ball.

A fifth successful penalty for Leigh Halfpenny, sending a low kick between the posts.

63 mins: Barnes is not the most popular with this Paris crowd, but he’s correct to penalise a nudge at the lineout, preventing Tipuric claiming the ball. Halfpenny lines up another one…

62 mins: Faletau strips the ball from French hands, before Tipuric sweeps it out wide to Liam Williams, who is short of support.

60 mins: Wales continue to soak up France’s breaks forward, but Serin finds a precise diagonal kick to move them upfield. Replacement Chouly is forced out of touch, and France have 20 minutes to find a breakthrough.

58 mins: Liam Williams, prone on the right touchline, does well to stop Fickou, and George North continues the impressive defence from the Welsh backs, proving a match for Guirado. The French crowd take a break from booing Wayne Barnes to belt out La Marseillaise.

“I loved Dan’s take on cricket and rugby; his passion and enthusiasm always seemed to pervade his work” says Robert Shaw.

“Even with lacklustre games he made it worthwhile following his commentary. He seemed to lack the cynicism of many and would have been great company to chew the fat at close of play.”

55 mins: Changes for France too. Rabah Slimani, Cyril Baille and Fabien Sanconnie go off, replaced by Uini Antonio, Eddy Ben Arous and Damien Chouly.

54 mins: Changes for Wales, with Jamie Roberts and Luke Charteris on for Scott Williams and Ross Moriarty.

Wales take the lead! Halfpenny’s kick is inch-perfect, his fourth penalty completing his team’s comeback from a ten-point deficit.

52 mins: Alun Wyn Jones is going off, replaced by Luke Charteris with Sam Warburton returning to a familiar role as team captain. Wales win a penalty from the scrum. It’s on the halfway line, close to the touchline, but the in-form Leigh Halfpenny will have a go…

51 mins: Scott Williams drops the ball and Fickou gathers. France kick clear, Tipuric doing well to protect the ball, and Wales win the scrum.

49 mins: Given both sides’ prior efforts in this year’s tournament, it’s perhaps no great surprise that this has become a bit of a scrap. Dulin collects a sliced kick from Liam Williams, but is bundled into touch.

47 mins: France get the momentum and the Welsh scrum subsides. Another put-in for France with the visitors looking vulnerable – but the hosts concede a penalty, and the crowd make their feelings known.

46 mins: After a stoppage for Webb and the unfortunate Guirado to get patched up, play restarts with a French scrum…

@niallmcveigh Dan took his sport seriously enough to know and care about it and lightly enough to find its joy and humour. MBMing nailed.

45 mins: Webb’s kick is charged down and France have an unexpected opening – Wales are penalised for crossing, but France run out of room after juggling the ball along the touchline.

44 mins: …Lopez then kicks towards Liam Williams, before finding touch with his next attempt.

43 mins: Guirado, who has been able to continue after suffering with injury in the first half, collects from a French line-out. Serin sends the ball high into the sky, before Biggar returns the favour…

42 mins: Alun Wyn Hones is in need of treatment after both packs collided in the opening minutes. Wales are sticking with the plan that worked against Ireland; getting the forward play and fundamentals right to frustrate their arguably more artistic opponents.

We are back under way, with just one point separating the sides.

Here are a couple more lovely tributes to Dan:

“So sad that Dan Lucas has gone. He was a wonderful writer whose work made every match much more enjoyable. If I couldn’t be with friends to watch England play he made me feel like I was watching with a friend. A witty and knowledgeable one with an enviable turn of phrase. Missing his company as the Six Nations concludes” – Max Swooth

A message from Dan’s father, Gary:

“Just a word from the Lucas family (mum Tracey, sister Kirsty) and girlfriend Liz to thank all MBM and OBOers for their kind words. They really mean a lot. It is so good to know that people could see the Dan we knew and makes us very proud.”

Lopez returns, but his kick-off is grasped by North, and Wales have one more attack. France turn the ball over, and kick for touch to end the first half.

After a moment’s thought, Wales decide to take the three points on offer, Halfpenny slotting the ball over from close range.

37 mins: From a Welsh scrum, the ball is chipped forward and Scott Williams breaks clear of a tackle. Wales get an advantage and work the ball to the right – but Tipuric is forced to scoop the ball from the floor, and Dulin makes the tackle.

36 mins: Guirado is again down, receiving treatment for what looks like a shoulder injury. It’s been a tough half in terms of injuries for the hosts.

34 mins: There’s been a brief lull in intensity, with both sides exchanging kicks, the match finely poised as half-time approaches.

32 mins: Wales have rallied after France’s slow start, with George North winning a penalty to relieve pressure after slick passing from Serin. Vatakawa has returned to the fray, but fly-half Camille Lopez is off, being treated for a head injury.

“Shocked and saddened to hear about the awful news of Dan Lucas passing away” says Dennis O’Neill.

“I’d just like to add my voice to those who offer their sincere condolences to his family, his partner, and you and everyone else at the Guardian on such a terrible and unexpected loss.
“I knew Dan’s work through the cricket OBOs and always looked forward to his work. I’ll miss him.”

Wales decide to go for goal from the halfway line, and another precise Halfpenny kick cuts the deficit to four points.

26 mins: Biggar leaps to collect Serin’s kick and Wales hold onto the ball, Jake Ball crashing through tackles before France are caught offside…

25 mins: Serin is back on for France after receiving treatment. France need a win – no bonus points required – to stake their claim for second place, although if Ireland beat England later, it’s academic.

23 mins: Urgency from Wales as they look to capitalise on their numerical advantage – but Biggar’s awkward kick cedes possession and Nakaitaci smartly carries the ball downfield.

21 mins: Wales have a foothold in the game, and captain Alun Wyn Jones wins the ball from the line-out. A change at scrum-half for France, young Antoine Dupont replacing Baptiste Serin.

Wales elect to kick, Halfpenny using up two minutes of Vakatawa’s enforced absence lining up the kick. It pays off, as he hooks a tricky effort between the uprights.

18 mins: Barnes concludes that Vakatawa intentionally knocked on, to a barrage of jeers from the crowd. There’s no penalty try, but Vakatawa will spend 10 minutes in the sin-bin.

17 mins: Wales almost find a gap down the right, but Biggar is held up by Vakatawa. Biggar complains that the French back knocked the ball on as he tried to offload to George North. I think he has a case, but Wayne Barnes will go to TMO.

“Had the pleasure of meeting Dan once with Gary Naylor” says Ian Copestake. “Was a lovely moment for me and is a fond memory.”

France win another cheap penalty as the Welsh scrum goes down. Lopez tucks the kick between the posts, and this is officially a bad start for Wales now.

13 mins: Jonathan Davies is endeavouring to co-commentate, despite having almost totally lost his voice. I imagine this particular time of year is quite tough on Davies’ vocal chords.

12 mins: From a rock-solid French scrum, Louis Picamoles benefits from a missed tackle and Gael Fickou bursts clear, but Wales hang on and regain possession.

10 mins: A break in play as France captain Guirado gets treatment. Camille Chat is waiting on the touchline, in case the hooker can’t continue.

9 mins: Ross Moriarty collects the ball cleanly and barrels forward before offloading to Justin Tipuric – but the move breaks down, and France will have a scrum deep in their own half.

Simple but highly effective from France, Gourdon riding two missed tackles before Lopez skewers a pass over the Welsh defence. Remi Lamerat is first to it, and scores under the posts. Lopez adds the conversion.

@niallmcveigh loved dan’s mbm & obo’s he will be missed by loads fantastic live blogger

3 mins: Lopez’s kick from 45 metres is hooked toward the right-hand upright, but drops just short.

2 mins: Noa Nakaitaci cuts infield as France start on the front foot. Sam Warburton is offside, and after an advantage, France will kick for goal…

Dan Biggar kicks off, Picamoles wins the ball at the breakdown and Lopez fires his kick into touch.

Time for the anthems, both sung with hair-raising ferocity. It’s a gloomy, overcast day just north of Paris, with a few empty seats but an almighty noise nonetheless. Wayne Barnes will get us under way.

Guy Novés makes one change from the win over Italy, with Sebastién Vahaamahina replacing Julien Le Devedec. Rob Howley sticks with the team that defeated Ireland last time around.

France: Dulin, Nakaitaci, Lamerat, Fickou, Vakatawa, Lopez, Serin; Baille, Guirado (c), Slimani, Vahaamahina, Maestri, Sanconnie, Gourdon, Picamoles.

I’m currently watching the last 20 minutes of Scotland v Italy, where many of you have paid lovely tributes to Dan. He was a great fan of a musical interlude, so here’s one from one of his favourite bands:

Wales go to Paris for a match where the winner stands a good chance of finishing second in this year’s Six Nations. There was a time when this fixture was worth even more; from 2004 to 2013, these two nations took eight of the 10 Championships available. Times may have changed, but today’s game is significant for both sides.

Guy Novès is seeking a first French top-half finish since 2011, and the extra job security that will bring. Wales, meanwhile, have one eye firmly on the world rankings. Victory, and defeat for Ireland later today would see them climb to fourth, increasing their chances of a much kinder World Cup draw than in 2015.

Continue reading…

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Mar 18

Scotland 29-0 Italy: Six Nations – as it happened

Finn Russell led Scotland to a bonus-point victory in Vern Cotter’s final game in charge, while we paid our respects to Dan Lucas, our talented writer who passed away last week

2.30pm GMT

I’m now heading over to France v Wales, which kicks off in 20 minutes. We will continue to remember Dan Lucas, who would have so enjoyed that hard-fought, whole-hearted game. I will leave the final word here with Dan’s girlfriend, Liz. Thank you all for joining me.

@niallmcveigh thank you, and all of Dan’s MBM readers, for your beautiful tributes. It means so much x

2.24pm GMT

Italy make a late push for the line, but like all of their other efforts, it falls short. A knock-on brings the final whistle.

Related: Scotland send Vern Cotter off on a high note with easy win over Italy

2.21pm GMT

78 mins: Finn Russell is deservedly named man of the match. The scoreline would be nothing like as one-sided without his contribution.

2.20pm GMT

77 mins: Vern Cotter allows himself a smile, his time as Scotland head coach ending with a bonus-point win, a likely shutout and a full house at Murrayfield.

2.19pm GMT

75 mins: Change for Scotland, with replacement Matt Scott having to go off with an injury. Duncan Weir takes his place, with Russell switching to 12. Federico Ruzza is on for Italy, replacing George Biagi.

2.17pm GMT

Scotland have their bonus point, and in fine style. After moving through the phases slowly, deliberately even, Pyrgos flings the ball right to Russell, who finds Hogg. The full back’s pass out to Tommy Seymour leaves Italy with no chance, and he steams down the right flank to score. Russell kicks the conversion.

2.13pm GMT

69 mins: Italy manage to wrestle the ball back, but Scotland win the resulting line-out. A fourth try, one more than they managed against Ireland (and, indeed, England) feels like an inevitability.

2.11pm GMT

67 mins: Scotland’s refreshed pack are finding it easier to make headway now, as they search for a fourth try…

2.08pm GMT

65 mins: There’s a Mexican wave going around Murrayfield as Scotland make two front-row changes. Ross Ford and Zander Fagerson are off, replaced by Fraser Brown and Simon Berghan.

2.06pm GMT

63 mins: Scotland now have just over 15 minutes to grab a bonus point. Italy look totally deflated after conceding that third try; they must wonder how they are still scoreless.

2.03pm GMT

From the restart, Scotland work the ball left, and Hogg splits the defence with a cute kick forward. Visser and Russell chase it down, the former getting a crucial hand to it and after a TMO referral, the try is awarded. Russell kicks the conversion.

1.59pm GMT

60 mins: Russell orchestrates another move upfield, before play stops for George Biagi to receive treatment. John Barclay is back on the field after his yellow card.

1.57pm GMT

58 mins: Scotland need two more tries to get a bonus-point win, and a chance at finishing second. They’ve offered nothing going forward in this half, their first foray forward ending as Italy turn the ball over.

1.56pm GMT

57 mins: Scotland advance downfield thanks to two delicate kicks from Finn Russell, who has stood out so far in a scrappy game. Two more Scottish replacements, Tim Swinson and Allan Dell on for Gilchrist and Gordon Reid.

1.55pm GMT

@niallmcveigh Gonna miss Dan’s great commentary. He even reminded us to grab a cuppa between breathtaking games on days like today. RIP Dan

1.53pm GMT

55 mins: Italy win the line-out, but they lose possession as Dunbar strips the ball from Parisse. It goes left to Visser, who kicks clear before tangling awkwardly with the touch judge.

1.52pm GMT

54 mins: Scotland’s scrum is rock-solid close to their own try-line, and Hogg is able to relieve the pressure with a kick to touch. Changes for both teams: Minto and Violi are on for Mbanda and Gori, while for Scotland, Henry Pyrgos replaces scrum-half Ali Price.

1.49pm GMT

52 mins: Italy just cannot score – but you have to give credit to the Scottish forwards, who somehow stop another maul inches from the line. Italy’s backs have to take responsibility as another move to the right goes awry, Esposito tackled by Hogg and the rebound landing in Scottish hands.

1.46pm GMT

50 mins: Ryan Wilson, who suffered an early injury, is replaced at number eight by Cornell du Preez. Gilchrist concedes another penalty, and Italy remain camped close to the Scottish line.

1.45pm GMT

@niallmcveigh Dan’s coverage was my favourite way to follow the rugby – always made me laugh. My condolences to his family and friends.

1.45pm GMT

49 mins: From an Italian scrum, Barclay is warned that the next Scottish transgression will lead to a yellow card. Remarkably, it’s the captain himself who commits it. Barclay is sent to the sin bin, and their tough start to the second half gets worse.

1.43pm GMT

48 mins: Italy are held up on the Scottish line for an awfully long time, before Gori switches the play with a terrific pass to the right. Italy must score, but Padovani’s pass is behind Esposito, and the winger is held up by Hogg. Italy just cannot get on the board.

1.40pm GMT

46 mins: Gilchrist tackles his man in the air, and needs treatment after an awkward landing. Another kick into the corner as Italy keep the pressure on.

1.39pm GMT

45 mins: From the Italian lineout, Parisse drives his team forward and they win a penalty – but it’s kicked to the corner, with Canna’s confidence in shreds.

1.37pm GMT

43 mins: Hogg spills Padovani’s kick, but Russell darts back to collect. Scotland are pinned close to their own try-line, and Hogg slices it into touch.

1.36pm GMT

41 mins: Italy have made two front-row changes: Dario Chistolini and Leonardo Ghiraldini are on in place of Gega and Lorenzo Cittadini.

1.34pm GMT

The sun has come out at Murrayfield.

1.33pm GMT

“Dan was one of those who made sport enjoyable and engaging without the need for visual backup. He brought it all to life with words, and made all of us welcome. I take my hat off to him” – Andrew Benton

“The Guardian’s pages became one of my go-to places to ‘watch’ sport, increasingly even when I had access to other media. There is a sense of community here and Dan Lucas will be greatly missed. Terribly sad” – Chris Howell

1.32pm GMT

“Dan will be hugely missed by this reader for sure. His MBM and OBO outputs were always fantastic; to do this sort of written broadcasting well is actually very hard indeed. I like that he was as funny, engaging and pleasant in person as he was on the screen, but he was also very very good at his job. Sad news indeed” – Felix Wood

“For me, Dan was a godsend for both rugby and cricket. These were both sports in which I am a bit of a ‘casual’, as I only regularly watch international games. he intricacies of the respective sports were and will continue to be beyond me. But with Dan, I always felt like I was an expert. While he is certainly irreplaceable, his memory will live on” – Patrick Green

1.28pm GMT

Here are more of your wonderful tributes to Dan, starting with Guy Hornsby:

“Today’s a day of mixed emotions for many of us: a grandstand finale of this glorious tournament, but coloured with sadness from losing one of our own. It feels desperately unfair that Dan isn’t here on these pages, his irreverent and quick-witted prose inviting us amateurs to the party, for surely this was a Saturday made for him.
“As many have said, the MBM and OBO is a community, and I feel lucky to have met a few of you in the flesh over the years. Dan was top of my list to snare for a pint, so it seems surreal, and hugely saddening that it won’t happen. So for me, today is Dan’s day, and I hope to toast an England victory later in his honour. I’m sure many of us feel the same way. My heart goes out to his nearest and dearest. We’ll miss him dearly.”

1.19pm GMT

After a slow start, tries from Finn Russell and Matt Scott have put Scotland in control at Murrayfield, with Italy’s Carlo Canna missing three penalties as his team remain scoreless.

1.19pm GMT

42 mins: The Scottish defence hold on for two minutes of additional time, Italy keeping the ball moving but not making any progress – until Canna and Gega work an opening on the left, and force a penalty.

This is a much tougher kick than the two Canna has missed – 40 metres away, close to the left touchline. He misses this one too, again sending it wide of the left post.

1.16pm GMT

39 mins: Hogg’s clearing kick is scuffed, allowing Parisse to trap it under his boot and start a final Italian attack in this first half. Biagi is stopped in his tracks, but Italy inch into the Scottish 22…

1.14pm GMT

Italy are penalised, but Scotland make use of the advantage, Russell sending a speculative kick into the corner. Hogg spills it backwards, but Matt Scott is on hand to touch down. Russell misses a tricky conversion.

1.13pm GMT

36 mins: Italy lineout, but the pressure tells and Price wins possession. Hamish Watson and substitute Scott drive the ball forward…

1.12pm GMT

34 mins: Venditti is again uncertain under a high ball, and Scotland have a lineout. Nobody can gather in the ball, and an exchange of kicks follows – but Hogg wrestles momentum back Scotland’s way with an expert diagonal kick.

1.08pm GMT

32 mins: It’s another dreadful miss from Canna, this time sending the ball across the posts and wide, on a day with hardly any breeze. Conor O’Shea looks rueful. This feels like the first half at Twickenham, when Italy didn’t get the points their play deserved.

1.06pm GMT

31 mins: The referee stops play and consults the TMO, Gray penalised for obstructing Parisse. Penalty for Italy, 30 yards out but central…

1.06pm GMT

30 mins: After a stuttering start, and bearing in mind the heavy defeat at Twickenham, Scotland finally have a spring in their step, and Venditti is forced into a hurried clearance under pressure.

1.04pm GMT

“I loved reading Dan’s coverage of the rugby, I really enjoyed his live blogs,” says Brownyn Molony. “He will be sorely missed by all his readers.”

1.02pm GMT

Scotland win the lineout before Barclay barrels to within inches of the line. Italy’s defence hold firm by their left corner, and again under the posts, but Dunbar shows great hands to move the ball wide to Russell, who slides over in the opposite corner, then kicks his own conversion.

1.00pm GMT

26 mins: Scotland were awarded a penalty in the melee before Russell’s kick, and the fly-half kicks to the corner. Jones was injured racing for the line, and has to come off. He’s replaced by Gloucester’s Matt Scott.

12.59pm GMT

25 mins: …Gray and Ford add bulk to this Scottish attack, now rumbling beyond 20 phrases. Jones finds a gap, but slips on the turf in sight of the try-line. Scotland run out of patience, and Russell chips across to Visser, the wing spilling the ball as he tries to collect.

12.56pm GMT

24 mins: Scotland’s backs finally get involved, Huw Jones sidestepping a challenge. Scotland work through the phases, being careful with the ultra-slippery ball…

12.55pm GMT

22 mins: Pascal Gauzere has a word with both captains and reminds them to keep their discipline. Braam Steyn is the latest to be penalised, for a push.

12.52pm GMT

20 mins: It’s a really poor kick from Canna, out to the left but from a distance that should have made it routine. He skews it wide to the left, and Italy haven’t made the most of their momentum.

12.51pm GMT

19 mins: Gori’s chipped kick causes havoc in the Scottish defence, and after an Italian knock-on is missed by the referee, Italy force a penalty, just inside the 22.

12.50pm GMT

@niallmcveigh Still shocked that I’m not chatting with Dan today. Rest in peace man. We’ll not forget you.

12.49pm GMT

17 mins: …Italy win it and Lovotti leads the charge deep into Scottish territory – but Scotland and Fagerson stay strong, and win a pressure-relieving penalty.

12.48pm GMT

16 mins: Another ragged lineout from Italy, but they are making headway in mauls, and Canna’s precise kick sets up an opportunity…

12.47pm GMT

14 mins: After a couple of false starts, Zander Fagerson is penalised as the Scottish scrum gives way. Both sides are struggling with their set pieces early on.

12.45pm GMT

13 mins: Nigel Owens, the touch judge, steps in to award a Scottish scrum, close to the Italian 22, for Venditti’s knock-on.

12.44pm GMT

12 mins: Hogg sees a clearing kick charged down, presenting Italy with an attacking opportunity – but Scotland win the lineout and Russell clears. Conditions out there are slippery, and Venditti drops the high ball.

12.42pm GMT

10 mins: From the lineout, replacement Gilchrist is penalised for collapsing the maul. Italy penalty, which sets up a lineout, which is messy once again. Scotland penalty, which Russell kicks to touch, keeping the pressure on Italy.

12.40pm GMT

8 mins: Another Italian lineout, but it’s ragged, and Scotland are awarded a scrum in midfield. The ball is worked to Russell, who kicks low to touch, forcing Italy into another lineout.

12.38pm GMT

@niallmcveigh lovely words from familiar names I’ve gotten 2 know through Dan. I’ll miss you brother. Cheers 4 everything Dan. RIPDan

12.38pm GMT

6 mins: There’s a stoppage in play as Ryan Wilson gets treatment for a shoulder problem. Play restarts with an Italian line-out, and a maul makes good ground for the visitors. Gori sends a looping kick forward, but Ali Price collects, and calls a mark.

12.35pm GMT

The penalty is beyond the range of Finn Russell – but Stuart Hogg steps up and delivers a perfect kick, considering the conditions.

12.33pm GMT

3 mins: The Italian scrum has a slight weight advantage on the Scottish pack, helped by second-rower George Biagi – an Italy international born in Irvine, Ayrshire. Scotland totally dominate the first scrum, and force an early penalty.

12.32pm GMT

1 min: An early exchange of kicks at a damp Murrayfield, Canna and Padovani failing to find touch before a knock-on leads to a Scotland scrum.

12.30pm GMT

The anthems are ringing around Murrayfield, which is sold out for an Italian visit for the first time. Kick-off is approaching, but please do keep your tributes to Dan coming in.

12.22pm GMT

We’re 10 minutes or so away from kick-off. Italy are guaranteed to finish with the wooden spoon, but Scotland could finish anywhere from second to fifth – and a surprise defeat could be bad news for their world ranking, with the World Cup draw coming up. It is of course also Vern Cotter’s last match in charge of Scotland, with Glasgow’s Gregor Townsend taking over after this Six Nations campaign.

12.11pm GMT

This is lovely, from Robin Hazlehurst:

“For many of us the MBM is like a pub, where you drop in to watch the match and chat with your mates. It’s unbelievable to think that Dan’s stool at the bar will be empty for today’s matches. It won’t be the same without him. He always interacted with readers like a true gent and a genuine mate, even emailing back about things on occasion, and debating keenly in the commentary.

12.04pm GMT

“Like many others who only ever knew Dan through his writing and in particular his work for the Guardian, I’ll miss him” says Simon McMahon. “He felt like a friend. Cheers, Dan.”

11.58am GMT

Here are today’s teams. Richie Gray was ruled out yesterday with a hamstring problem; he’s replaced by Edinburgh’s Grant Gilchrist.

Scotland: Hogg, Seymour, Jones, Dunbar, Visser, Russell, Price; Reid, Ford, Fagerson, Gilchrist, J Gray, Barclay (c), Watson, Wilson.

10.28am GMT

As many of you will already be aware, our colleague Dan Lucas suddenly and shockingly passed away last weekend.

In recent years, Dan helmed the Guardian rugby union MBMs, including the Six Nations and World Cup, and did so with his trademark dry humour, encyclopaedic knowledge of the game and an innate ability to make readers feel part of the story. He covered virtually every game in this year’s tournament. He should be typing this preamble.

Continue reading…

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Nov 09

Brazilian Grand Prix: F1 – as it happened

Nico Rosberg led from the front and held off team-mate Lewis Hamilton to close the points gap to 17, while Brazil’s Felipe Massa finished third

5.47pm GMT

Rosberg accepts the plaudits, and a nice shiny bauble, for coming in first. Hamilton looks delighted to have come second, barely even bothering with the champagne spraying. Massa needs no second invitation to ham it up for an adoring home crowd.

It all means that Rosberg heads to Abu Dhabi 17 points behind Hamilton. The double points awarded for the final race mean that if Rosberg wins in the Middle East, Hamilton will need to come second to win the title. If he finishes third or lower, it’ll be Rosberg’s year. No pressure. Thanks for joining me. Bye!

5.43pm GMT

It may not have been Senna in ‘91, but that was still a heroic effort from Rosberg to hold off Hamilton over the last twenty laps. The British driver will rue that rick on Lap 29, where his tyres failed him as he furiously chased down his team-mate.

Tyres were an issue for pretty much everyone as the track sizzled, with Felipe Massa and Jenson Button showing their experience in testing conditions to come home third and fourth.

5.38pm GMT

5.34pm GMT

A terrific performance from the Mercedes driver, who started on pole and held off Lewis Hamilton over 71 tense, tortuous laps. This title fight is going to the wire…

5.32pm GMT

Lap 70: A quick mention for Felipe Massa, who is set fair for a podium place in his home race. Ahead of them, Rosberg and Hamilton hare into the final lap…

5.31pm GMT

Lap 69: The gap is wavering between 0.6 and 0.8 seconds. It looks like Rosberg has done enough to keep Hamilton at bay, and that in itself, on such a big day, is mighty impressive.

5.30pm GMT

Lap 68: Three laps remaining, and Rosberg remains in the lead. Is there time for Hamilton to try and pinch a sixth straight win? Mercedes are staying admirably diplomatic…

5.28pm GMT

Lap 67: Raikkonen contines to fight off Alonso, which suggests that the team won’t stop him, which in turn suggests that Alonso’s days at Ferrari may be numbered. Alonso is visibly frustrated – and you can’t even see his face.

5.26pm GMT

Lap 65: Strange situation further down the pack – Alonso is moving faster than team-mate Raikkonen, but Ferrari aren’t ordering the Finnish driver out of the way. They’re duking it out for 6th place. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean has pulled over – not sure what the issue is there.

5.25pm GMT

Lap 64: The gap between Rosberg and Hamilton has widened a touch – perhaps there’s not enough in the latter’s tyres to force the issue. If it finishes this way, it won’t be great for Hamilton’s pride, but surely he can’t take any risks now.

5.23pm GMT

Lap 62: In a rare slice of action away from the Mercedes pair, Button forces his way past Raikkonen to go fourth; he’ll fight Sebastian Vettel to finish in that position.

5.21pm GMT

Lap 61: Just over 0.6 seconds is the gap with ten laps to go. A reminder that Hamilton leads the overall standings by 24 points; if he wins, the gap will extend to 31. If Rosberg wins, it’ll be 17 points. Perhaps not decisive, but it’s glaringly apparent that both men really, really want to win this.

5.19pm GMT

Lap 60: Lovely stuff from Hamilton, ducking and weaving, filling Rosberg’s wing mirrors at every corner. Rosberg is currently on the defensive, fearing an impending move from his team-mate. The front two are now approaching back markers Maldonado and Bottas.

5.18pm GMT

Lap 58: It’s quite the showdown between the two Mercedes, with 13 laps to go. Massa, in third, is 29 [TWENTY-NINE] seconds behind Hamilton. Here’s how it stands:

1. Rosberg 2. Hamilton 3. Massa 4.Hülkenberg 5. Raikkonen

5.15pm GMT

Lap 56: Rosberg has led every practice and qualifying session here – but can he win the one that counts? There’s half a second between them, and Hamilton’s rear tyres are cooking, such is his pace. Provided they both finish, the difference between first and second is a mere seven points – the battle we’re seeing suggests there’s, I don’t know, a bit of needle between the two of them?

5.11pm GMT

Lap 53: Remember that faultless double pit stop from McLaren a while back? Well, this time their plans are wrecked by Felipe Massa pulling into Jenson Button’s spot. Not the best omen for poor Jenson, rumoured to be out of the team at the end of the year. He may become to F1 what Milton was to Initech:

5.10pm GMT

Lap 52: Hamilton pits now, and he’s out alongside Rosberg… the German driver holds him off, but the gap is much less than two seconds now. It’s on until the chequered flag, and possibly beyond, for these two.

5.08pm GMT

Lap 50: Rosberg is in for a lightning pit stop – that should be his last of the race. All indications are that the two leaders want to duke it out, and Mercedes are

powerless to stop them
happy to oblige.

Meanwhile, this handy chart shows the fresh chaos wrought on the standings by the tyre-popping track heat. Only one retiree so far – Red Bull’s Ricciardo.

5.05pm GMT

Lap 48: Hamilton is now under two seconds behind Rosberg. Still plenty of racing to go… and there’s a few dark clouds on the horizon, too. I’d like to wonder how Hamilton will play this, but it seems a certainty he’ll go after Rosberg. Is that wise? We’ll see.

5.03pm GMT

Lap 46: Rosberg now leads Hamilton by 2.7 seconds – the gap is closing, inch by inch. Here’s the current standings, as Alonso slips beyond Magnussen to move into sixth:

1. Rosberg 2. Hamilton 3. Massa 4. Button 5. Vettel

4.59pm GMT

Lap 43: Hulkenberg steams past Bottas on the straight, forcing the Williams driver wide – and he’s followed by Raikkonen! Bottas drops two spots, and then pits. He returns to the race in 15th, having started in fourth. Not the best.

4.57pm GMT

Lap 41: It looks like a suspension problem that’s forced Ricciardo out – his team had a tinker with the car, as there were no tell-tale signs of brake failure (black dust, not being able to stop etc.). His race is run, though.

At the front of the race, Rosberg still leads, but Hamilton has cut his lead to 3 seconds. Could be a close one, this.

4.54pm GMT

Lap 39: Danny Ricciardo’s race looks to be over – he’s complained that his front left brake is failing. That’s the end of a 15-race streak where the Australian has scored points.

4.53pm GMT

Lap 38: Felipe Massa is up to third in his home race, with Button and Vettel in hot pursuit. The two Mercedes drivers have a healthy lead over everyone else, with Hamilton now 4.5 seconds behind his team-mate, who he definitely doesn’t hate.

4.50pm GMT

Lap 36: More pit lane problems, this time for Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen – the wheel jack slips, adding several seconds to the Finn’s pit time. Clumsy!

4.49pm GMT

Lap 34: Hamilton seems unhappy with team instructions, suggesting that his tyres can only handle one lap of what the commentary team insist on calling ‘Hammer Time’.

Meanwhile, McLaren, who have had a decent day so far, get both drivers pitting on the same lap, without any trouble:

4.45pm GMT

Lap 32: Rosberg leads Hamilton by 5.8 seconds at the end of the lap. Hamilton’s tyres still have plenty of debris flying off them as he pursues his team-mate.

Here’s how it stands:

4.42pm GMT

Lap 30: Hamilton sounds despondent over the team radio, and well he might. The British driver’s tactic was to keep up pressure on Rosberg before the second stop, but he just overdid it. Plenty of time, though.

4.41pm GMT

Lap 29: Hamilton spins off the track as his brakes lock up – he’s able to continue, but he loses seven seconds on Rosberg. He’ll pit now, suitably embarrassed. Advantage Rosberg!

4.38pm GMT

Lap 27: Indeed, here comes race leader Nico Rosberg, his tyres smouldering – but the stop is quick and effective. You can’t say the same for Valtteri Bottas, who has to have his seatbelt frantically adjusted. It brought to mind a larger gentleman being shoehorned into a ride at Alton Towers. A bad couple of stops for Williams, there.

4.36pm GMT

Lap 26: Jenson Button is up to fourth; it’s been a good day so far for a man who hasn’t had many this season. Massa pits again and takes his penalty; we should see a clutch of drivers pitting shortly, if they’re aiming for three stops.

4.35pm GMT

Lap 24: Grosjean has well and truly shot his bolt, and both Red Bulls are able to put the hurt on him before he can pit; he may be able to make it round in two stops, however, which could prove handy. The track temperature is dropping – good news for the race, bad news for tyre sales in the São Paolo area.

4.33pm GMT

Lap 23: One man who doesn’t give a fig for track temperature is Romain Grosjean, who is holding a top six place on his original tyres. As I type this, his cavalier spirit comes back to bite him, the tyres giving out and allowing Kevin Magnussen to scoot past.

4.31pm GMT

Lap 21: Here’s how it stands, with almost a third of the race gone, and a year’s supply of tyres worn out already:

1. Rosberg 2. Hamilton 3. Massa 4. Bottas 5. Button 6. Grosjean

4.27pm GMT

Lap 18: Alonso and Vettel move on Adrian Sutil, overtaking the Force India driver to move into the top ten. Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, also has a blister on his tyre, and Vettel is reporting similar problems. With the track temperature still rising, it may need four stops for some drivers to get home today.

4.25pm GMT

Lap 16: Hülkenberg is reporting blisters on his medium tyres. Not so clever now! He remains sandwiched between the Mercedes drivers. Behind them, an interesting battle is developing between Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas and Jenson Button. There’s a podium place up for grabs today – probably the small one in the far corner, but still.

4.22pm GMT

Lap 14: Nico Hülkenberg will have enjoyed his jaunt at the front of the race, but it’s swiftly ended by Rosberg, who cruises past him and back into the lead. It’s safe to assume Hamilton will follow suit soon enough.

4.21pm GMT

Lap 12: The track temperature is over 50 degrees now – the hottest it’s been in over a decade of racing. That means three stops will be necessary for some drivers. Here’s how it stands, as Nico Rosberg sweeps past Daniil Kvyat and into second.

1 Hülkenberg 2 Rosberg 3 Kvyat 4 Hamilton 5 Massa 6 Grosjean

4.18pm GMT

Lap 11: After that flurry of activity, the only news to bring you is that Felipe Massa has picked up a stop-go penalty for speeding in the pit lane. The home crowd, it’s fair to say, don’t like it.

4.16pm GMT

Lap 9: Now Hamilton pits, and is this close to overtaking Rosberg as he exits the pit lane – but his team-mate just about holds him off. The Mercedes drivers are 3rd and 4th, behind Hulkenberg and Kvyat – both of whom started on medium tyres, and didn’t need to pit. Clever boys.

4.14pm GMT

Lap 7: It’s pits ahoy in the early stages, with Button, Bottas and Vettel all making tyre changes. At the head of the race, Rosberg and Hamilton have a ten-second cushion back to Kevin Magnussen, currently in third – although the German is about to pit.

How will the Mercedes battle pan out today? John McEnerney has a theory:

4.10pm GMT

Lap 5: Pastor Maldonado has had it with his tyres already, and is pitting early – expect others to follow suit. In fact, here comes Felipe Massa to switch from soft compound to mediums. Kimi Raikkonen has passed Nico Hulkenberg and moves up to 11th.

4.08pm GMT

Lap 3: Vettel’s poor start continues, with team-mate Danny Ricciardo now challenging him for 8th place. Ahead of those two, Fernando Alonso is also struggling for pace. “I wouldn’t want to spend Halloween with him” hoots Martin Brundle, in reference to the dashing Ricciardo. No idea.

4.06pm GMT

Lap 1: A tough start for Sebastian Vettel, who drops from 6th to 8th. No such problems for the leaders, particularly Rosberg, who is off at a ripping pace. Apparently oil on the track at Turn 2 is causing problems, although nobody quite knows where it came from, given the clean start.

4.04pm GMT

The pack reassembles on the uphill start… and they’re away! No great drama through the first three turns, which is good news for the Mercedes cars, who maintain position at the front of the field.

4.01pm GMT

Some good news for Lewis Hamilton: the second-placed driver at the start has won seven out of the last 14 Brazilian Grands Prix. More good news: two second-place finishes in the last two races will deliver the British driver the title. All things considered, Hamilton could be forgiven for easing into the first few corners. All cars, bar Sutil, stuck on the naughty step, are out on the formation lap.

3.58pm GMT

So, we’ll be underway shortly in São Paolo. Here’s the starting grid:

Rosberg, Hamilton; Massa, Bottas; Button, Vettel; Magnussen, Alonso; Ricciardo, Raikkonen; Gutierrez, Hulkenberg; Sutil (starts in pit lane), Grosjean; Vergne, Maldonado; Kvyat, Perez.

3.48pm GMT

There were fears that rain could disrupt today’s race, but McLaren’s Eric Boullier has a one-word response to that idea:

3.40pm GMT

A pretty big story breaking in the world of F1, over the future of the sport’s structure. It seems Bernie Ecclestone will allow ‘customer cars’ to join the paddock from 2016, potentially marking the end for smaller teams. Paul Weaver has more:

Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One have decided to turn their backs on the smaller teams in the sport as they move towards customer cars in 2016, when the big names will provide all the cars for the grid.

The process will start next season when Red Bull and Ferrari will each run three cars. Then, the following year, newcomers Haas will be Ferrari’s first customers under the new setup as the sport increasingly comes under control of the Big Five: Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Williams.

3.00pm GMT

Speaking of Senna, here he is notching his first home Grand Prix win at Interlagos back in 1991, despite the minor irritation of being stuck in sixth gear for the final ten laps.

3.00pm GMT


Hello and welcome to the latest stop in a Formula One season that won’t go down as one of the sport’s finest. Preparations for the race have been comprehensively undermined – first by an ongoing cash crisis, and now by the double points fiasco which means Lewis Hamilton can’t seal a second world title today.

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