Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: It’s a grand weekend all over, apart from Ireland

Wherever you looked across the globe this week people were having a grand time.

In Dublin it was the Grand Prix darts, over in Japan we had the thrilling climax to yet another dull as dishwater motor-racing Grand Prix season and over in Manchester it was the Super League Grand Final.

To the uninitiated the latter is rugby league’s season-ending jamboree, usually played in the lashing rain and between two teams of northern chaps knocking seven shades of tripe out of each other.

Things though have come a long way since Eddie Waring’s day when our knowledge of rugby league depended purely on what Grandstand would show on the odd Saturday afternoon.

This was long before Warrington Wolves, Castleford Tigers or the Ilkley Moor Iguanas were even dreamt of by Sky, and certainly before the likes of Clare Balding would entertain such hallion-like behaviour.

It’s a changed world now though — I counted no less than three hyphens on show in the team sheets.

Back in the good old days there were barely three people who could read at the games and a hyphen was something you dothed your cloth cap to.

Not any more. Not even the best teams have to contest the Grand Final as third-placed St Helens took on Leeds who finished the league in fifth.

So it was the Saints versus the Rhinos, and there was only ever going to be one winner really in that contest, so it was a bit foolhardy of the Saints to provoke their savage foes.

Their shirts featured adverts for a safari park and Land Rover, two thinks that get right up a Rhino’s conk. They couldn’t have made matters worse had they turned up with Shadrach’s Powdered Aphrodisiacal Supplies or Zak’s Ivory Emporium emblazoned on their jerseys.

Leeds had pictures of Ian Ogilvy, Nicole and Natalie Appleton, and an Irish bloke called Patrick lobbing snakes into the sea but it didn’t seem to rile their opponents in the same way.

And with all this wildlife on show it was no wonder then that the man, or animal, of the match turned out to be Rob Burrow, who scampered across the Old Trafford turf like a scalded impala to bring the final to life.

He repeated the act later on to set up another try for Leeds with Brian Noble (see, even the pundits are of blue blood nowadays), commenting there goes ‘the beep-beep man’ and you half expected to look over to the sidelines to see the coach looking through the Acme manual for a cunning plan.

They couldn’t find one and the Rhinos’ charged on to victory, but across the Irish Sea there were more large, cumbersome beasts going head to head as the darts reached their very noisy climax.

Belcoo’s finest, Brendan Dolan, got through to the final for a shot at Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. Given we were in Dublin it was fitting that a missed dart resulted in a chorus of jeers and cheers, and more drink, and sure we’ll be grand, we’ll get home later.

And unlike most Irish sports stars this week he did us proud, although perhaps if he’d taken inspiration from the Rhinos and blown the darts through a bamboo blowgun he would have floored Phil once and for all.

No such problems for Sebastian Vettel as he won with ease and those final four races of the season are going to be gripping viewing.

As was the case in New Zealand where Wales clinched the Triple Crown by trampling all over Ireland like a rhino driving a Red Bull with Cliff Lazarenko on board.

Keep going, sure it’s grand, said the sign at the side of the pitch at the Wellington Regional Stadium (they must have been up all night thinking that one up) and they did, all the way back to Dublin.

But at least like Manu Tuilagi, England missed the boat too, and it was grand for him. Or rather three of them as that was what he was fined for leaping off a ferry, a glorious end to a glorious campaign for Martin Johnson’s boys.

Belfast Telegraph


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