PUN-ting ahead 11 (15-18/MAR/13) – “START -v- FINISH” Edition

“It’s NOT how you start that counts….BUT How you finish!!” Really?!!?  I mean can a conclusive argument truly be made to support that notion that finishes trump starts?  Without a shadow of doubt (and it’s a swift shadow), Usain Bolt could easily be the poster boy for the pro-finish camp.  BUT even he would be the first to admit that if he had a better start he would not only be converted a swift idol for the pro-start camp BUT also an even faster fastest man in the world!  It is a chicken -v- egg conundrum that undoubtedly has many valid examples to support either camp.  This weekend’s selected PUNt-worthy sporting events will hopefully shed sufficient light to sway or cement your views, so let’s PUNt this shall we?



Wales Wales -v- EnglandEngland

The Welsh Dragons will gladly throw in their lot with the pro-finish camp.  After finding themselves with a 27 point deficit after 44 minutes of their opening Championship match against Ireland, Wales mounted an admirable comeback which saw them score 19 unanswered points.  The momentum had swung in favour of the Welsh and even though their valiant efforts fell short on the day, eventually losing 30-22, they rode the wave of that momentum to register 3 consecutive wins against Scotland (18-28); Italy (9-26) and France (8-18) in their next 3 matches.   As defending champions, they have shown some steely determination to dig themselves out of a deep hole and now find themselves a (condition riddled) victory away from retaining their title.

While all of that was happening was having a much rosier start to their Championship campaign.  With their impressive, even if shocking, victory over New Zealand still fresh in the memory bank, the expectation levels were heightened.  And justifiably so.  The resultant hype that victory created meant that their opening Championship match against Scotland was not only the first hurdle, BUT now also, arguably, the most important one!  It was no longer enough for England to “merely” win the 6 Nations Championship, they had to do so via the Gand Slam route (which means they had to win each one of their 5 matches!).  While it is obvious that a strong and positive finish against Wales, in Cardiff, is monumentally important for England, I have them as proud members of the pro-start camp because NO Grand Slam is possible without a proper start!

PUN-dit Pointers

  • As table toppers (with a 2 point advantage) England’s task is seemingly simpler as all they need as a victory of any kind to make it Game, Grand Slam & CHAMPIONSHIP!!
  • The Welsh cause is a bit more complicated.  The Dragons could huff and puff their way to a victory and still NOT retain their title.  To keep the Championship in Wales will need to either:-
  •     Win by at least an 8 point margin or,
  •     Win by 7 points, BUT ensure that in doing so England does NOT score 2 tries more than them in the match.
  • England won the 1st 5 encounters against Wales since the Championship was changed to the 6 Nations in 2000.
  • England also triumphed 26-19 at the Millenium Stadium two years ago.
  • Wales triumphed 19-12 in England’s back yard of Twickenham in last year’s Championship tie.

The conquerors of the World Champion All Blacks unshackled themselves from the pressures of that all important opening match to swagger their way to an emphatic 38-18 victory.  Their subsequent wins over Ireland (6-12); France (23-13); and Italy (18-11) have not been as emphatic, BUT, barring the second half of their Italy match, have been impressive nonetheless.  That slight dip in intensity and momentum by England may add to the home advantage that Wales will enjoy, which will hopefully result in both teams roughing it up to fulfill my PUNt for a WIN FOR WALES!…….BUT WITH ENGLAND ALSO DOING ENOUGH TO STAY CLOSE ENOUGH TO ULTIMATELY WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP……BUT NOT THE GRAND SLAM!  That should make for a really awkward atmosphere in Cardiff as the Dragons have to endure a “hollow” victory and be gracious enough to witness England parade the trophy in the immediate haze of a hard-fought defeat.

NB* stats as per www.rbs6nations.com


  1. Everton -v- Manchester City (EPL):-  The Toffees‘ now customary sticky starts to seasons have given them a well-earned reputation as members of the pro-finish camp.  They have cemented that reputation with storming finishes that usually see them lurking with intent around the Europa League qualification positions.  This season has been uncharacteristic for them owing to an impressive start that saw them momentarily flirting with Champions’ League qualification.  A 3 and a half-minute defensive meltdown in last week’s shock FA Cup defeat to Wigan has eliminated a seemingly easier route back into Europe, BUT they will now be hoping that they can still channel their pro-finish persona to help them improve on the current EPL position of 7th, and thus qualify for Europe via the league.   They host a fellow pro-finisher in Citeh, whose grandstand finish last season continues to give them hope that even with a 12 point deficit to make up, they are still in the title race.  It is a hope that is heavily reliant on Manchester United slipping up and Citeh remaining perfect! …..BUT that hope could come unstuck at Everton who are unbeaten in 17 of their last 18 home EPL games.  And not only that, it seems The Toffees have become The Citizens bogey team in recent times having beaten them in each of their last 3 encounters at Goodison Park!  So just like last season I expect Everton to have a say in the title race, even if it will just be as king-makers.  A LOW SCORE DRAW is my PUNt for this match.  And if that materializes along with a WIN FOR UNITED AGAINST READING, then Citeh’s title ambitions could well and truly be finished!
  2. Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich (Bundesliga):- Bayern Munich are already on a record-setting pace which should see all sorts of crazy milestones being reached or surpassed in the next few weeks.  Their 20 point lead at the top of the league means they need only a point this weekend to confirm their participation in next seasons Champions’ League (still with 9 rounds to play).  It could be the grandest of finishes in the Bavarian club’s illustrious history, especially seeing as it could still end with them asTreble Winners!!   BUT Bayer Leverkusen have enough guile and ability to derail those Bavarian ambitions, even if just momentarily, after all they have won their last two games against Bayern, recording a 2-0 triumph at the BayArena last season and a 2-1 win in Bavaria this term.  This encounter pits the league’s top team against the one placed 3rd, both have a pro-finish perspective which will hopefully result in a gripping encounter that just may fulfill my PUNt for a MULTI-SCORE DRAW!!
  3. Australian GP (F1):-  The fact that 6 of the last 10 winners of this season opening Grand Prix have gone on to win the overall Driver’s Championship has made it an even more important race than most, especially for the superstitious.  Only Jenson Button has failed to convert that opening victory to a Driver’s Championship…..twice (2012 & 2010)!   It looks to be a rain-interrupted race which I PUNt will have Alonso, Vettel and Webber ON A FERRARI TOPPED PODIUM!  With ALL drivers hoping to finish as they have started!!
  4. Miami Heat – v Toronto Raptors &  Boston Celtics (NBA):-  The defending Champion HEAT are on a 21 match win streak!  I expect that streak to extend to 23 STRAIGHT VICTORIES WHICH WILL INCLUDE WINS OVER TORONTO AND BOSTON!!

  NB** stats as per www.goal.com and www.whoscored.com and www.bbc.com/sport

Loads to watch and lots of ups and downs as well….BUT in the debate between start -v- finish I guess it’s fair to say that the most memorable of events, seasons and dynasties are those that grip you from START to FINISH!!.  Hopefully the selected match-ups will be some of them, BUT just in case they are not, please …….pardonthePUN-dit! 

Be blessed …. and ….Be Great!

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