After the Whistle – Guy and Sam (Podcast) 24/11/15

After The Whistle’s Guy Cowan and Sam Hewat take you through the weeks sporting results with comments and analysis to keep you up-to-date! This week, the lads take some time to honour and remember the great Jonah Lomu, as well as discussing the movements of Eddie Jones and the retirement of Richie McCaw. The boys also take a look at the upcoming pink ball test between the Blackcaps and Australia as well as Lydia Ko and more!

After the Whistle – Guy and Sam (Podcast) 17/11/15

After The Whistle’s Guy Cowan and Sam Hewat take you through the weeks sporting results with comments and analysis to keep you up-to-date! This week, the lads take a look at whats going on in the world of cricket, a wrap-up of the Kiwis Rugby League endeavours in England, recent highlights from the NHL and NFL as well as some good ol’ fashion Ronda Rousey chat!

RWC2015 Semi-Final Preview: Australia vs. Argentina

The second of the all Southern Hemisphere semi-finals is set to kick off early tomorrow morning and promises to be a tough match.

Australia will be looking to prove they deserve their spot, and Argentina will play like they have nothing to lose. We are in for one hell of a fight.

The pool of death turned out to be a misnomer – Australia beat one of the worst English World Cup squads ever assembled, and a Welsh team that lacked key players. Their performance last week against Scotland highlighted their inconsistency and lack of composure under pressure.

Craig Joubert notwithstanding, for a team that many picked to win the tournament, the Aussies are lucky to have made it this far in the competition.

In contrast, the Pumas are killing it. Despite being issued their quarter final ticket as soon as the country names for Pool C were pulled out of the hat, their performances against New Zealand and Ireland show that Argentina are a solid, attacking team that live by the adage that the best defence is a good offense.

Australia will go into the game as favourites, having only lost to Argentina once in the past 18 years. But they have every reason to be worried. Argentina’s innovative attacking play has seen them wrack up 222 points and 26 tries so far in this tournament – second only to New Zealand. They outclassed Ireland and arguably should have beaten the All Blacks. If the Aussies think that they can squeak by with the form that they showed against Scotland, then they have another thing coming.

Both sides will be fielding their best teams. Australia will be thankful that Israel Folau and David Pocock are fit enough to start. The pair were absent from the near miss against Scotland due to injuries obtained in their last pool match with Wales.

Pocock’s return will be a welcome boost to the team. The number 8 has dominated the breakdown in pool matches and is currently leading the tournament in turnovers. Argentina will need to work hard to restrict his influence on the game. Similarly, the inclusion of Folau will make Australia incredibly dangerous under the high ball. Midfield bombs have been used as a tactic frequently this World Cup and will no doubt play a part in the game tomorrow.

Unsurprisingly, Daniel Hourcade’s side will remain almost unchanged from the line-up that smashed Ireland. The only addition will be Marcelo Bosch at outside centre, who missed the quarter final after being cited for a dangerous tackle in the game against Namibia.

Two key players to watch for Argentina are fly half Nicolas Sanchez and inside centre Juan Martin Hernandez. Their passing in the midfield in the game against Ireland were responsible for setting up two of the tries, and Ireland struggled throughout the match to keep them contained.

The scrum matchup will be a very interesting prospect. A lot has already been discussed in the media about Mario Ledesma – former Argentine hooker and current Australian forwards coach – and his transformation of the Australian scrum. However the Aussie set piece showed weakness against Scotland, something that they won’t be able to get away with when engaged with one of the world’s best looseheads, Marcos Ayerza, and the rest of the Argentinian pack.

Australia will have to remain composed if they want to win. Their squad has the experience required, they have their best men on the field – realistically they should be able to get the job done. Hopefully they have been able to distance themselves from the close call against Scotland and the circus that has surrounded the controversial nature of the win.

Off the back of smashing Ireland – the Pumas have got to rate themselves. And the beauty of being the relatively new lads at the southern hemisphere rugby big boys table means they are not burdened by the pressure of expectation. They have gotten as far as they ever have, and it just takes one more win to reach the final.

Both teams will have to keep their cool, as all eyes will be on the ref to enforce as strictly as possible to make sure the right team makes it into the final. This might be especially difficult for Argentina, who have always been known for being a little bit scrappy. It would be sad if the outcome is decided by yellow cards rather than tries.

I predict that Australia will win by ten points but it will be a hard fought game punctuated by penalties. Just like the Cricket & Netball World Cups, it will be an Aussie vs. Kiwi final (with hopefully a different outcome than the other two tournaments).

As a bit of a side note, Argentina’s performance at this World Cup should serve as evidence to show that the way to turn good minnow teams into Championship contenders is to end their isolation and get them playing in regular tournaments against the best teams in the world.

In the decade from 2000 to 2010, the Pumas matched up against New Zealand only four times, now with their inclusion in The Rugby Championship, they get the chance to play against all of the titans of southern hemisphere rugby at least twice a year. There is little doubt that that the extra time playing top tier rugby has made a huge difference.

Given that they are a very young side, the future looks bright for Argentinian rugby and they will be a force to be reckoned with in another four years.

By Elisa Harris

Five Things We Learned This Pre-Season

Kyle Lowry Is Looking Lean and Mean

If you’ve been keeping tabs on the players looking trim this pre-season, and I really hope you haven’t, you would have seen Kyle Lowry killing it.

The Raptors Point Guard looks noticeably slimmer and has featured in more than a few filler headlines this off-season.

But not only does skinny Lowry look good, he plays good.

Young Majestic has been on a tear in the pre-season and is leading the way for not only Toronto, but the league.

Dude dropped 40 on the T-Wolves in just 13 shots.

 

Otto Porter Jr is Still Alive

When one door closes, another opens.

Yeah, Paul Pierce might be living easy in LA, sipping on pineapple spritzers, but that doesn’t spell doom for Washington.

The veteran’s departure has left a lanky string bean shaped hole in the middle of the line-up, and going into his third year, it’s now or never for young Otto Porter Jr.

It’s time for the 22 year old to step up, adjust the specs and get nasty.

And so far in the Pre-season, he’s been fairly respectable – translation: if he can keep this up, he’s a starting 3 in the L.

Please keep it up Otto.

Paul George is Back

Seeing PG rack again is a thing of beauty.

There’s a soft spot in my heart for dunkers who rock the two-foot gather, bending their bodies to the side for slow-mo slams.

But what I love even more is to see someone comeback, unaffected by the most horrific of injuries, looking confident and collected.

George had the luxury of stretching his legs in the garbage time of last season and has been unafraid this pre-season.

The new look Pacers face some uncertainty early on, including whether George should start at the 4, but one thing they can count on is Young Trece, back putting in work.

Emmanuel Mudiay is NBA Ready

Look it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the newest Nugget, but potential is supposed to be raw, and baby there’s truckloads of it.

There’s no doubt Mudiay is leading the rookies going into the 2015-16 season with averages of 15 points and 5.4 assists in 29.2 minutes of game time.

The turnovers are a bad smell, but transition to the pros isn’t without its hiccups.

The physique on the 19 year old already looks NBA ready, no doubt a product of his time overseas, but his patience with the ball is what’s most promising.

Provocative Prediction/Way Too Earlier To Call/Big Call: Mudiay for Rookie of the Year.

Westbrook and KD Haven’t Missed a Beat

Surely they’d be rust, right?

Flashback to last season: The brother Durant goes down with a screw loose, Westbrook steps up. Becomes the undisputed heavyweight champion of his team and basically the league for a brief stretch.

OKC miss the playoffs, Westbrook shows MVP potential.

Now we’re starting a fresh season and the old Alpha is back on the court, so whose team is it? Well if the pre-season is anything to go by, we’re asking the wrong question.

KD and Westbrook have looked slick both individually and as a duo. The Thunder’s one-two punch looks straight deadly with a determined Durant making up for lost time and an angry Westbrook looking for any reason to obliterate someone on the break.

Let’s be real though, this instant chemistry shouldn’t come as a surprise, the boys have been kicking it for seven years now.

By Oliver Dunn

RWC Semi-Final: All Blacks Player Ratings

In one of the most physical and brutal matches in RWC2015 so far, the All Blacks narrowly escaped a revenge-seeking South African side to make the World Cup Final for the second consecutive time.

No one was expecting anything less as the two long-time rivals threw every piece of flesh and bone at each other, the All Blacks claiming a 20-18 win.

The game echoed scenes at Ellis Park just months earlier when the All Blacks managed to steal a win in the Rugby Championship with a last minute try; this time, however, things were a lot more conventional.

While the performance wasn’t perfect, it was all that was needed and a win against any South African side should be viewed as a tremendous achievement.

Only missing two tackles the entire game, the All Blacks defended strongly for the full 80 minutes and South Africa never looked like scoring a try.

It’s hard to judge individual performances in what was a solid team effort, but below are the All Blacks’ player ratings for the game.

Joe Moody – 7/10

Moody had a tough task ahead of him – stepping in to replace the injured Wyatt Crockett. Moody, who was flown over from New Zealand last week for the game against France, had already found his feet with 60 minutes of game time in the quarter-final, though a start against South Africa would be the real test. He was quick to the breakdown, cleared the ball well and held up his end of the scrum. One penalty against him when the All Blacks were reduced to seven but aside from that a very complete performance.

Dane Coles – 8/10

Not a bad outing for Coles. Certainly not as involved as he usually is, but still produced clinical lineout throwing and always in the right place at the right time. Unfortunate not to get to a few more grubbers but his tenacity around the park was always at 100%.

Owen Franks – 7/10

Solid at the breakdown, supporting players well and a few decent hit-ups. Also held up the scrum extremely well, especially when Kaino was put in the sin bin for 10 minutes.

Brodie Retallick – 8/10

As always, Retallick was throwing himself at everything. Some great runs, a few monstrous hits, and a couple of lineout turnovers. Combined with Whitelock, the pair made things very difficult for the Springboks and survived the onslaught that came late in the game.

Sam Whitelock – 8/10

Like Retallick, Whitelock was clinical. A few lineouts won off South Africa and extremely effective on defense.

Jerome Kaino – 7/10

Despite Kaino’s dubious yellow card, he still performed to a very high standard. Great work rate, some big tackles, storming runs, and of course scoring one of the All Blacks two tries.

Richie McCaw – 7/10

We could just say ‘work rate’ and leave it there. McCaw was quick to the breakdown as always, disrupting the flow for South Africa and proving heavy in the tackles. Another solid performance from the captain.

Kieran Read – 6/10

Once again, Read struggled to perform for the All Blacks. A few handling errors and some unnecessary penalties around the maul cost him and his teammates some valuable territory and possession. Still supporting his players well and getting to the breakdown quickly but needs to work on his execution and decision making.

Aaron Smith – 8/10

Hard to fault Smith in this game. His passing was superb, his decision making better and his leading helped organise both the forwards and the backline. His kicking was on point, with the exception of one side-footer that came from a turnover.

Dan Carter – 9/10

Another solid game for the kiwi legend. For the first time in 8 years, Dan will start in a World Cup Final (knock on wood!). Carter was solid kicking all but one of his penalties/conversions. A cooly slotted drop-goal could be construed as the difference in the end and once again his passing was sublime.

Julian Savea – 7/10

Hard for ‘the bus’ to really get going in this one, but he attacked the line with speed and added some physicality when the All Blacks needed it most.

Ma’a Nonu – 7/10

Nonu managed to keep relatively busy despite not getting a lot of running ball. He attacked the line and made a few key tackles when the Springboks had half a chance on breakaways. He showed his world class decision making setting up Barrett for the All Blacks second in the corner. A solid performance before coming off after 52 minutes for Sonny-Bill Williams.

Conrad Smith – 7/10

Like Nonu, Smith found it hard to get good running ball, however his tackling can never be faulted and he chased all of the kicks to apply pressure on the South African backs.

Nehe Milner-Skudder – 6/10

Nehe wasn’t able to use his usual razzle-dazzle skills to get around the Springbok defense. He wasn’t great under the high-ball either losing two key kicks to the much more experienced Brian Habana. He almost had a half break in the second half and still managed to make a few metres despite the brick wall in front of him. Disappointing to see him go off injured (again!) but hopefully he will be back for next weeks final.

Ben Smith – 9/10

Ben Smith was flawless. Sensational under the high ball, clinical when it came to making tackles and running the ball, at the line, with speed. A well deserved Man of the Match performance.

Substitutes

Kevin Mealamu – 7/10

Hard for the hooker to get going after coming on with 13 minutes to play; 13 minutes where the All Blacks didn’t get a lot of ball. Still, he made some good tackles while on the pitch and was quick to clear the breakdown.

Ben Franks – 7/10

Like Mealamu, Franks only made it on to the pitch in the final ten. Along with the rest of the subs, he managed to add a fresh dose of intensity which saw the All Blacks defense hold until the 80th.

Charlie Faumuina – 7/10

As potent as always, coming in the 52 minute, Faumuina kept the scrum solid and made sure the defense stuck strong.

Sam Cane – 6/10

Unfortunately, Cane blew his opportunity to make a mark on the game. Knocking the ball on twice almost allowed South Africa to get back in it, if only the All Blacks didn’t step it up during scrum time.

Beauden Barrett – 8/10

Coming on early after Milner-Skudder limped off with an injury in the 49th minute, Barrett made sure he got the job done. He had some good touches with the ball, made some sound tackles and scored the try that would seal it for the All Blacks.

Sonny-Bill Williams – 8/10

Sonny-Bill Williams continues to prove his value at the World Cup and made some great runs to bruise the Springboks a little more this morning. A few half breaks, unable to get his hands free for the offload, but he worked hard and made sure he was in the right place at the right time.

By Sam Hewat

The Great Rugby Divide

I’ve kept quiet this World Cup. As my fellow columnists have shared their thoughts about the rugby, I have bitten my tongue, my lip, my knuckles and any other bodily protrusion that would prevent me from speaking out.

But now, that time is over. Now, the gloves are off. Now… I’ve run out of metaphors.

Firstly, a disclaimer: I am an Englishman who is married to a Scottish woman, living in America, working in an international organization, with an office directly across from a Kiwi Rugby savant.

I’m part of a multi-national community populated with a decent number of Aussies, Kiwi’s and Springboks. It is quite possible I am so confused that I have no idea what I am talking about.

The event that has been catalytic in my silence ending is the elimination of all four of the Home Nations, specifically at the hands of southern hemisphere opposition. There is a trend, a pattern here, and I decided to turn my unbiased and purely objective focus towards working out why the South has triumphed so comprehensively over the North.

I made some observations that only now, the world is ready to hear.

Team Strengths

It seems that northern team’s general gameplan involves moving bodies into collisions and trying to smash through, whilst southern teams move the ball into space and run round.

Whilst northern teams may appear to be brutish, unsophisticated and unintelligent in their tactics, this is simply a facade. The rationale is quite simple: historically, as northern nations, we’ve a long track record of fighting the French on the field of war. Alas, the European Union has put paid to what was many nations favorite pastime, so this pleasurable privilege has petered out in recent history.

The European Union has taken all the fun out of beating the French, and now the only way we can even come close is on the rugby field. Yes, we may forget that not every game is actually against the French, but that is simply because we’re gearing up for the real event, which is second only to Christmas as an annual highlight.

It seems, this World Cup, we got a bit carried away and maybe lost our focus a teensy-weensy bit.

Player Development

Northern nations are very developed culturally, and so have a vast number of sports that young people can choose from to participate in. This, of course, diminishes the pool of potential rugby stars that would come through our systems and excel in the game. This is the only explanation possible for the importing by northern nations of second-rate South Africans, Australians, Kiwi’s, Samoans, Tongans and Antarticans not good enough for their own countries.

It is, I promise you, nothing to do with a northern lack of skill, talent, flair, technique or coaching ability. However, this recent World Cup demonstrated that these players were, in fact, sleeper agents deployed by their nations of birth to disrupt the northern teams games. This is a well established fact and can be proved by the many reliable sources of information found on a Friday night in local drinking establishments scattered across Europe.

In-Game Strategy

One ‘friend’ commented that northern teams kick a lot and asked why. He cheekily commented on the lack of ability with the ball in hand and suggested that rejected soccer players had forgotten they had chosen to play another game entirely. I corrected him graciously, but firmly, and in between punches, informed him that it was obvious to learned gentlemen why this kicking strategy is the case.

When you live in a nation that sees the sun once a year, for four hours, and you live under perpetual cloud with what feels like eternal rain, then kicking is the only way you can move the ball downfield. Add in the marsh-like conditions of most pitches, and feral local children who steal anything spherical, and you can see why kicking long and high is desirable.

It is fine to compare these settings with the idyllic paradises of sunny, warm, pleasant southern hemisphere pitches, but just remember this – when you live in sub-arctic nations and have to wear multiple layers during the summer to keep alive, a positive by-product is that you never have to experience warm beer. Plus, we aren’t ever going to get killed by an octopus. Mainly because our wildlife isn’t really that wild.

So there you have it. Three reasons why the northern teams were cheated – I mean, defeated, by southern teams. Now, with my shrewd tactical analysis complete, I shall sit by the phone and wait for the inevitable England job offer…

By Anthony Hilder

RWC Semi-Final Preview: New Zealand vs South Africa

I’ve been tasked with previewing this round of the Rugby World Cup or as many have taken to calling it ‘The Rugby Championship 2.0.’

But instead of Southern Supremacy, these teams are battling for the title of Best In The World.

New Zealand are the defending champions, South Africa are the loud challengers. Whoever wins this game will have truly earned their spot in the Grand Final.

Here we will look at what each team needs to do to advance to the last game and key player match ups that will determine this epic Semi Final clash.

South Africa

What a team! Look at the names. Du Plessis. Burger. Habana. Staples of South African rugby, legends of the modern game.

This team is full of experience and old warriors ready for their final battle and they’ll be making damn sure that their last game doesn’t come this week.

South Africa haven’t played their best at times during this tournament. They were famously upset by Japan in their first game and were extremely lucky to slip past the Welsh in the quarter-finals.

While on paper their games against USA, Scotland and Samoa seemed one sided, they were physical match ups. They had to fight for every inch on many occasions and now they take on the current World Champions in New Zealand.

Much of South Africa’s game plan will likely focus on putting pressure on the younger All Blacks players. Halfback Foruie du Preez will be looking to dictate the pace with ball in hand-wear down the All Blacks forward pack and then will most likely target Milner-Skudder with box kicks with Habana/JP Pieterson in chase, testing the younger wings nerve under pressure.

Joe Moody has already stepped up in more ways than anyone has expected but will have to step it up another couple of notches when it comes to taking on Malherbe. Look for the large forward pack to harass the man with only 9 caps to his name, scanning for any little weakness in his scrimmaging.

South Africa need to play to their strengths. Their forward pack will have to put in their biggest game of the tournament, looking to capitalize on counter attacking after quick turnovers.

The All Blacks have a tendency to use some of their forwards in the backline often so South Africa will have to try and pick their moment and strike with turnovers.

The backline for the Boks will have to give this everything they have. South Africa and New Zealand are the only 2 teams in world rugby that constantly play it like an 80 minute game.

The second half and bench interchangers will be vital for South Africa because, as seen last week, the 2nd half is when the All Blacks go from a top rugby team to best on the planet.

This will be a tough, physical game for the Boks and no doubt that win or lose, it will take a toll on their bodies. The winner of this match still has to take on either Australia or Argentina in the Final next week which will be no small task.

If the All Blacks are Superman, then the Springboks are Batman. On paper, it looks like there will be one clear winner but if there is anyone who can stop New Zealand prematurely, its South Africa.

New Zealand

After the French Demolition last week, the World Champs set their sights on their long-time rivals, South Africa. The Boks are no walk over and a focused South Africa outfit can topple the best of teams.

New Zealand has had an interesting climb to this stage. After an under-whelming performance against fellow Semi-Finalists Argentina in Pool play, the current Champs then had a walk through against teams in a very one sided affair.

Their first real test came last week against France where we first caught a glimpse of an All Black side playing to win a World Cup.

New Zealand will have to be New Zealand. They need to strike early and hold the ball in hand. Steve Hansen is a master of using his reserves at the right time. The impact of people such as Sam Cane and Sonny Bill Williams can easily turn the tides of this match as seen last week against France.

As mentioned earlier, Joe Moody will have to really step it up against the fearsome forwards of South Africa.

He’s had a Stephen Donald like rise this World Cup – suddenly having pressure thrust upon him in a matter of weeks. He was extremely impressive last week against France and Steve Hansen wouldn’t have named him to start if he wasn’t confident that Moody can preform at this highest level.

Dan Carter has found some great form, putting many of his doubters to bed. His attacking has had some of his flair from ’05. His combination with the backline cannot be undersold.

The midfield combination of Nonu and Smith will have a tough task ahead. Jesse Kriel has risen to prominence on the world stage and is arguably one of the world’s best centres at this time.

Many people will be watching Nehe Milner-Skudder and how he preforms in a big match situation. He has jumped over ever hurdle that has been put in his way to date but now he is marking up arguably one of the best wingers in World Rugby with JP Pietersen.

Whitelock and Retallick are the best locking combo in the world and anyone who says otherwise is seriously misguided. These two men will have to be on point against a ferocious South Africa lineout and will have to be every bit as physical as their counterparts all with the knowledge that waiting for them on the South Africa bench is the legendary Victor Matfield.

Richie McCaw will go into battle once again with Schalk Burger. The two best openside flankers of the last 15 years will battle one last time, ending a rivalry that has spanned many Tri-Nations, Championships, Super Rugby and World Cup campaigns.

Both men will want to prove to each other who the real number one is because if there is any other number 7 in World Rugby that can come close to McCaw, its Burger.

Key Matchups

Richie McCaw vs Schalk Burger.

This will be a key matchup for the forwards. At this World Cup, Burger has the advantage over McCaw on paper. 2 tries, 20 more tackles, nearly 3 times the ball carries and over 100 more metre gained than McCaw. Richie, however, does lead Burger in turnovers won with 4-1. Both of these men will be looking to lead their forwards by example and will add an epic final chapter to this long rivalry.

Du Preez & Pollard vs Smith & Carter.

The battle of the halves combos will be vital. Both halfbacks will be looking to dictate the pace of how their side plays, both first-fives will be scanning the defensive line and looking to put their outside numbers into space. Very few halves have the chemistry that these 4 men have. They have subtleties to their game that are often over-looked. The game could be ‘make or break’ from these positions.

Savea vs Habana.

It’s the case of the veteran against the young buck. As far as physical match ups, this is probably as one sided as it gets. Saveas attacking stats put him above Habana but only just. However, it’s the defensive stats that make this match up interesting. Habana has made 3 times more tackles than Savea AND has a 100% tackle rate so far in this tournament. Can the smaller frame Habana take the wheels off the bus known as Julian Savea?

Prediction

I have every confidence that The All Blacks will win this battle before continuing on and beating Argentina in the Grand Final. It will be close. It will be physical. But I believe the All Blacks will come out on top by a margin of 8 points and under. Final score 28-21.

By Cameron Corban

High Speed, High Drama, High Stakes

This seasons Moto GP World Championship has been many things – intense, dynamic, thrilling – to name a few.

But nothing could have prepared me for what happened this past Sunday at Phillip Island. I don’t think I have seen anything like it at a race track before.

Firstly, a brief synopsis of the season so far.

Reigning Moto GP champ, Spain’s Marc Marquez, has been the man for the past 2 seasons. Upon his Repsol Honda he was completely dominant. He had won virtually every race in those seasons – his first in the top tier championship.

He was the youngest world champ, the first since 1978 to win the premier championship in his first year, and won 13 of 18 races in the 2014 season.

But not this season. Only four wins, and a series of inconsistent results, saw him sitting in third place in the standings, and all but relinquishing his title.

Movistar Yamaha’s riders, double world champ Jorge Lorenzo and 6-time world champ Valentino Rossi, have been fighting it out all season long to claim the title. Neither have given an inch, and racing has been tight all season long. Sunday was no exception.

Valentino went in to the weekend with an 18 point lead over Lorenzo, but with Marquez and Lorenzo started on the front row, alongside Ducati rider Andrea Iannone, he would have his work cut out starting from the third row on the grid in 7th. Phillip Island is a fast track with speeds on the near 1km long Gardiner Straight reaching a massive 330 km/hour, something the Yamaha riders were struggling with. But what they lacked in straight-line speed, they more than made up for in determination, handling and, to be blunt – balls.

Initially, Lorenzo led the bulk of the race with the other three fighting out the minor places. And with only a handful of laps left to go, it looked like he would cut that lead down to single figures. Rossi looked set to take a hit in the points table, with Marquez and Iannone fighting over the scraps. Watching live on TV, you could be forgiven for thinking there were only four men racing out there, but between Marquez, Lorenzo, Rossi and Iannone, there was more than enough action with more than 50 passes between them, and even a dead seagull.

Lorenzo had it under control. At least, that’s what it looked like. Clearly, no one told Marc Marquez this. Entering the final lap, Marquez found another gear. He started that lap nearly a second behind Lorenzo. But in a brilliant display of high speed riding, set the races fastest lap – a lap nearly a second faster than any other rider – and made a lunge at Lorenzo entering the hairpin turn, three turns from the finish. He managed to hold his fellow Spaniard at bay to cross the line a mere 0.249 seconds in front.

A second covered the top four, with Iannone finishing ahead of a hard charging Rossi.

Words can not describe how intense the battle was. Racing like this is rarely seen in Moto GP, and rarely seen at speeds like we saw. In the end, Rossi walks away with an 11 point lead over Lorenzo, Marquez sits a further 63 a drift, but not for a lack of late season trying.

Two rounds remain – Malaysia and Valencia – before we crown the champ. Picking it will be harder to pick than a broken nose, but if racing is as exciting as it was in Australia, I am more than okay with that.

By Daniel Olander