David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: All eyes in Manchester for the big one

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Manchester City's Joleon Lescott, left. Photo / AP
Manchester City's Joleon Lescott, left. Photo / AP

Far from being all about the here and now, a keen sense of anticipation hung over the past weekend.

Sure there was a varied feast to watch from around the globe, and every so often it's worth casting the mind back to pre-Sky Sports days. During the weekend there was a pick of rugby, league, netball, basketball, hot rods, cricket, various fighting shows, just for starters.

Sadly, what was missing was one of those hilarious strongman contests, where enormous blokes from sporting heavyweights such as Latvia and Finland - and operating on nothing but pure adrenalin - perform useful everyday stunts like pulling trucks with their teeth, flipping giant tractor tyres end over end and waddling along, thick neck veins fit to pop, with a stack of beer kegs around their necks.

Still, you can't have everything. But this was one weekend where it was easy to cast the mind forward and lick the lips at the prospect of the biggest game in English soccer for years.

But first reflect on how good the Chiefs continue to be in the Super 15.

There was a vibrancy about their performance against the Hurricanes in Hamilton, and a relentlessness, both born out of confidence. They are playing exceedingly well, clearly on the same sheet as their coaching staff, and you must imagine, thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The Hurricanes are travelling pretty well themselves this season too, but they could not last the journey on Saturday night.

Then there's the Highlanders, 21 points adrift of the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein with 22 minutes left, but getting the win at the death with a terrific late penalty by Chris Noakes. They're hanging in.

And don't worry about the Crusaders. You know they will be there or thereabouts at the sharp end of activities this season. So that's the New Zealand contenders done with.

Many years ago, someone offered the caring piece of advice - and it was not in a sporting context either - that if you've nothing good to say about someone, don't bother saying anything.

But let's ignore that wisdom a moment. When the Blues players arrive to start another working week today what will they be thinking? It must be depressing knowing you might as well pack away the boots for a few months.

Where the other New Zealand teams are clearly highly motivated and switched on to their task, playing slick, purposeful rugby, the Blues aren't. They're bumbling along going nowhere. They go to Wellington this week, and visit Christchurch in three weeks. Lord help them.

The Blues have played nine, lost eight. (Question, and no peeking: whom did they beat, and where?) When you are stone cold, motherless last, and from by far the largest population base in the country, something is fundamentally wrong.

Now to Manchester tomorrow morning. Here's the situation: Manchester City, resurgent again after losing the plot for a few games, host defending champions Manchester United, and trail by three points, but are six to the good on goal difference.

Here's a suggestion: work out a good breakfast spot with a large screen, phone the boss and advise you'll make it for morning tea and take in the most eagerly awaited English Premier League game in years.

Aguero, Toure, Silva, Tevez and maybe the bizarre Balotelli against Rooney, Scholes, Ferdinand and co, effectively playing for all the marbles. A seriously tantalising prospect, not to mention the likelihood of the action getting seriously tasty too.

Both have two games left after tomorrow, so it's not quite the final denouement.

It has long been a two-horse race of the fiercest kind. Intra-city rivalry is as spicy as it gets. A few months back, City flogged United 6-1 at Old Trafford. That hurt.

Having slipped eight points behind their bitter rivals, City are back on song, while United have stumbled in the last couple of weeks.

City must win; a draw could do it for United. Bring it on.

MAGIC MOMENT

The tries by Andre Taylor and Sona Taumalolo in the Chiefs-Hurricanes clash, which left flying fullback and squat prop joint leading tryscorers in the Super 15, with seven each. Still a game for all shapes and sizes.

- NZ Herald

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