Talking Sport … with Jim Tait

Like so many in the isles it came as a terrible shock when I heard that Lawrence Tulloch had died. Just a few days earlier I had called him and he provided valuable information for a short piece about Yell badminton stalwart Alex Thomson.

Lawrence was perhaps best known for his background in storytelling and tour guiding, and as his obituary rightly pointed out he left a lasting impression on people in many parts of the world.

For many years he was of great service to this newspaper, compiling the Isles Views column and contributing numerous musical reviews, especially from the Shetland Folk Festival which he was a big fan of.

I had known Lawrence for some time before I discovered we had a mutual interest in a sport not generally followed in Shetland. It was when phoning him about a particular review we wanted him to do that he informed me he had been “very interested in yun piece du wrote last week aboot cricket”.

That of course led to many discussions over the past decade or so, comparing our thoughts about the game and its various players. We spoke about all kinds of issues, including Shane Warne and Glen McGrath’s amazing consistency with the ball, their Australian team mate Ricky Ponting’s bravery as a batsman, the greatness of Sachin Tenduklar and even Kevin Pietersen’s fall from grace.

We definitely agreed that had South African Graeme Pollock not been denied the best years of his career by the apartheid ban he could well have been remembered as the finest player of all.

An abiding memory was meeting up with Lawrence and his nephew Phil Goodlad, the BBC reporter, when he achieved one of his life’s dreams and took in a test match at Lords.

Lawrence and Phil were there for each day of the test against Pakistan in 2010, memorable for centuries by England’s Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad and subsequently for the banning of three Pakistani players found guilty of match fixing.

The highlight for Lawrence of course was being invited on to Test Match Special when he was the special guest during the lunch interval. During the interview he explained to Jonathan Agnew how it was while working as a lighthouse keeper that he first became seriously interested in cricket.

I will never forget the look on Lawrence’s face as, sitting in the Grand Stand and enjoying a beer, he recounted his moment of glory. He was, as they say, made up.

Lawrence’s wife Margaret said last week that he always had a sense of humour and she didn’t think there was a ever a day that went by when they didn’t laugh about something. I’m sure that is how many others will remember him too.

To Margaret, their daughter Liz, and Alexa Fitzgibbon who Lawrence told me had basically become one of the family, I would offer my sincere condolences. He was a lovely man.

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Rugby’s Six Nations championship continues to provide a thrilling spectacle, with all three games at the weekend worthy of note in their own right.

The English juggernaut keeps on rolling, eventually overcoming what has been termed dubious tactics by Italy in Sunday’s match at Twickenham.

The Italians refused to commit players to the breakdown, not forming a ruck and effectively taking the offside rule out of the equation, so they were legally able to go beyond the ball and disrupt play.

This initially caused confusion in the English ranks, before they eventually wised up to what was happening and won easily in the end, scoring at will in the final few minutes as the Italians completely wilted.

But, as former English hooker Brian Moore has stated, professional players should surely have known the rules better. It was laughable to hear several of them asking referee Roman Poite what he could do about it, his reply coming along the lines of “I am a referee, not a coach”.

The Italians have been heavily criticised for their actions, not least by English manager Eddie Jones who this week strangely claimed that his side had not been involved in a “game of rugby” yet, despite them being unbeaten and top of the table.

Italy had been branded a disgrace a fortnight earlier for shipping 60 points at home against Ireland, and this week received similar brickbats for adopting a tactic designed to limit the damage. Whatever their struggling team does is wrong, it seems.

Saturday’s matches were much more conventional affairs by comparison. The Scots started the ball rolling with a superb victory against Wales, scoring 20 unanswered points in a second half which will be long remembered. Full back Stuart Hogg was once again very influential while winger Tim Visser and openside flanker Hamish Watson, only playing because of injuries, both had their best games in a dark blue shirt.

Ireland’s win over France was highly impressive. I would rate the Irish the best team in the competition, which puts Scotland’s victory over them in the opening round of matches in perspective.

The final game between England and Ireland may well determine the outcome of the trophy, but that is providing the English see off the Scots a week tomorrow. With this Scottish team, now playing as well as ever under coach Vern Cotter, that is by no means a given.

Cotter will have a capable replacement in Gregor Townsend when he steps down later this month, but there is no doubt he will be missed.

And so to the latest British Lions ratings. A few players have forced themselves into my team after week three but Jonny Sexton, the likely fly-half in New Zealand this summer, may have to wait a bit longer such was the performance of his Scottish counterpart Finn Russell at the weekend.

Rory Best now edges it at hooker over Englishman Jamie George, and with lock Alun Wyn Jones suffering a dip in form the Irish number two may well have taken over pole position as a potential Lions captain.

After three rounds the team is: 15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland); 14 Keith Earls (Ireland), 13 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 12 Alex Dunbar (Scotland), 11 Elliot Daly (England); 10 Finn Russell (Scotland), 9 Connor Murray (Ireland); 8 Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), 7 Sam Warburton (Wales), 6 CJ Stander (Ireland); 5 Joe Launchbury (England), 4 Jonny Gray (Scotland); 3 Tadgh Furlong (Ireland), 2 Rory Best (Ireland), 1 Jack McGrath (Ireland).

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Irish golfer Rory McIlroy has been castigated in many quarters, especially on social media where he was labelled a fascist and a bigot, for playing a round of golf with US President Donald Trump.

He was not the first to do this of course, as Tiger Woods and Ernie Els have already joined Trump on the greens, and neither has McIlroy’s actions in any way endorsed Trump’s policies. All he said was that the President carded a round of about 80 which was “pretty good for a man of 70”.

We should not forget either that two of Scotland’s former First Ministers, Jack McConnell and Alex Salmond, attemped to cosy up to Trump, before it all went sour in his relationship with the latter of course.

While many of us disagree with almost everything Trump has said or done, he was democratically elected under the current US voting system, and over 62 million of the country’s citizens apparently preferred him over Hillary Clinton.

There is still far too much moaning and wailing over the American election. It happened and we need to move on and make the best of it. And as far as insulting McIlroy, who has voiced no political opinions one way or the other, people should know better.

I’d take McIlroy any day over that pampered parade of luvvies, few of whom live in the real world, who used Sunday’s Oscar ceremony to poke fun at Trump. They were so wrapped up in that they forgot the simple task of reading out the correct winner. At least the Shetland Sports Awards doesn’t have that problem.

And anyway, plenty of golfers have been known to play a round with people they are not exactly enamoured by. I’m reliably informed it even happens at Dale!


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