23rd October 2018
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Talking sport … with Jim Tait

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Almost every kind of emotion was displayed both by those taking part in and witnessing the Scottish team’s controversial exit from the Rugby World Cup on Sunday.

Horror, disbelief and anger were matched at times by joy and euphoria as the Scots came within a minute of shocking Australia, many people’s favourites for the title especially after their dismantling of England and Wales.

But in the end it was just another defeat … another glorious defeat of the kind that Scottish international teams are renowned for.

South African referee Craig Joubert has been pilloried this week by honest fans of the game, not just in our own part of the world but across the border as well.

Most of the English media, having got over their own disappointment, were fulsome in their praise of the Scots, the last-surviving team from the Six Nations in the competition.

Matches can often be decided by moments of indiscretion, and there is no doubt that Joubert got at least two horribly wrong.

The sin-binning of Sean Maitland for a supposed deliberate knock-on was a ridiculous decision, and probably cost Scotland seven points.

Likewise the last-minute penalty for offside, when in reality it was nothing more than a knock-on and a debatable one at that.

Joubert’s sprint from the field after the final whistle, without shaking hands with any of the contestants, has been labelled disgraceful by former Scottish great Gavin Hastings.

There are theories that the referee may have been worried about being hit by a plastic bottle, or just desperate for the toilet. If it were the latter you would hardly be surprised given his performance.

But even without the interventions of the official, the Scots were their own worst enemy at times. That final throw to the rear of the lineout was terrible. Being two points ahead and the clock ticking down, the ball should have gone into the safe hands of Ritchie Gray in the middle.

Another wrong move, in my opinion, is the possible weakening of a side by using every substitute available. When you’re comfortably ahead, or indeed if the game is lost, why not throw everyone on?

But when the result is in the balance, for goodness sake keep your best 15 on the field for as long as possible. Fitness should not be an issue.

I’m not saying Ross Ford would have definitely thrown to the middle whereas replacement hooker Fraser Brown did not. After all Ford’s aim has not always been true in the past. But I do think he should have played the full 80 minutes.

Rugby, to my mind, was much better when substitutes were only allowed in the event of injury. Staying power was important then, whereas now a team can replace a full front row and usually up to five of its eight forwards.

In the end it could be argued that Australia were worth the victory. They scored five tries to Scotland’s three, missed several conversions and helped gift the Scots two scores. But the manner of how the result was ultimately arrived at was galling.

Having got three of the semi-finalists right – Ireland being hammered by Argentina was the big surprise – what now for this world cup?

New Zealand, who were magificent in their annihilation of France, are surely favourites to see off South Africa. The other match is now harder to call but Australia, boosted by the return of David Pocock, might just sneak past the Argentinians.

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New Shetland football coaches Allan Graham and John Scott Christie have been in the game long enough to know what they’re talking about.

So when they reveal some of their hopes and aspirations for the future, and the style their team will try and adopt, you sit up and take notice.

As this column has already stated, the pair inherit a side in an excellent state of health, for which credit is due to outgoing manager Niall Bristow and his long-serving assistant Ian Irvine.

Graham and Christie intend to do some tinkering to their formation, admitting they like to play with two strikers, whereas the previous regime tended to go with a lone front man.

Getting players to gel in an attractive, attacking style is to be commended, as with any football team the length and breadth of the country.

For instance, although I’m not an Arsenal fan I would pay good money to watch Arsene Wenger’s flowing and easy-on-the-eye style of play.

News that the experienced Leighton Flaws is to continue as Shetland captain is also good news, as any side needs a certain amount of experience and he will certainly provide that.

The installation of an under-21 team is also an excellent suggestion, as long as some regular and capable opposition can be found for it.

A similar move was made in 1992, with the aim of contesting an annual match on the eve of the senior inter-county, but seemed to fizzle out after a couple of years as Orkney were not particularly keen.

The Shetland team’s next outing will be in the North Caledonian League’s Jock MacKay Memorial Cup, which they won earlier this year, with a first-round match against Caithness side Halkirk. Good luck to the new men in charge and the players for that.

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We hear this week that the island games in Gibraltar in 2019 will have no football, golf, archery, cycling or volleyball competitions.

However, there will be squash, judo and, wait for it, 10-pin bowling.

I have nothing at all against either Gibraltar or its inhabitants. They could very probably be some of the nicest people you could find.

But how on earth has a place, which is not even an island for goodness sake (the last time I looked it was joined on to Spain), won the right to stage the “island” games for, unbelievably, the second time?

Of course there cannot be football, golf or cycling. Gibraltar only has one pitch, no course and a limited number of roads. To put things into context, it has a total area of 2.6 square miles, which is roughly half the size of Foula.

At least the Shetland squash players can begin limbering up for action in three years time. But whether our bowlers could turn their hand to the 10-pin variety is doubtful!

About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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