Ice Hockey: Chamberlain brace BURNS down the Flames






Manchester Phoenix kept within touching distance of their nearest rivals with a 5-2 win over the second placed Guildford Flames, with Bobby Chamberlain scoring twice in the victory for the English Premier League Champions as they made it four successive home wins. The night before saw Phoenix put on a ‘brave’ effort against the Telford Tigers on Saturday evening which saw them holding the champs-elect to a 1-0 score for 55 minutes, but two late strikes the game saw the Tigers condemned the visitors to a 3-0 defeat.

The Phoenix came into the Sunday match needing to put some points on the board as they looked to keep their hopes up of catching the fifth placed in Swindon Wildcats, prior to faceoff. Guildford started the brighter of the two with the hosts sluggish out the gates and had Steve Fone making a couple of early saves to keep his side with a clean sheet. It saw Fone forced into a big save after Johan Burlin got caught in possession and had the netminder making a good save. Manchester quickly got their act together and came into the game more and more, with some chances of their own as James Hadfield in the Flames net was then kept busy. With both sides creating chances in the early part of the contest, it then saw a bizarre timeout taken by the visitors, which seemed a strange time to call one. 

Frankie Bakrlik nearly broke the deadlock in the game, after a pass up ice saw him one on one with Hadfield but the netminder came out on top and made good stop from the Czech forward, to deny the home side an opener.  Minutes later and this time the forward made no mistake with his effort, as after the Phoenix man collected a pass up ice by Shaun Thompson and saw him cutting through the Guildford defense, before then slotting it in the net at 7.33 with Ben Wood picking up the second assist on the goal. 

Adam Walker came very close to adding a second for the Phoenix, with his effort pinging off the crossbar and away out of play and into the netting behind the goals. Both teams played well with the goalies repelling the attacks and had the Phoenix defense looking more solid than that of their opponents, with the home team doing well to keep a slender one goal lead.  At the other end it saw the Phoenix carving out their own opportunities and needed James Hadfield needing to be alert to avoid as he kept his side from going two goals down in the game with some great stops.

The game started to see some chippy plays and had the match official in Paul Brooks seemingly not wanting to call anything at all. Both sides started to push the boundaries at times during the game with the referee missing a lot and seemed to having the teams not happy with his handling of the game. With 13.25 gone in the contest, it saw the opening penalty finally coming and going against the hosts with Frankie Bakrlik being given a two minute call for Hooking on Marcus Kristofferson, with the Czech Republic forward gesturing a diving action towards the referee and saw the Guildford Flames on a power play. 

Guildford’s power play didn’t conjure up much in the two minutes that they had, but saw a good penalty kill by the home side to stop them causing anything threatening. David Longstaff then drew the visitor’s level at 18.42 after his shot was came off Steve Fone skate and the puck found its way in for 1-1 with Andrew Hemmings and Ben Campbell assisting on their Flames Captain’s goal. Just before the curtain came down on opening period it saw Robin Kovar heading to the penalty box for a high sticks, that would see the hosts starting the 2nd period on a penalty kill with fifty seconds left on it. 

Moving to the second period of play, and it saw the Flames for the first half of the period taking it to the hosts and had a resolute Phoenix defensive effort holding out well. Finally a call came against the visitor’s and had Jez Lundin collecting a charging call just before the halfway mark in the game. Jez Lundin hit from behind started to see the momentum swing towards Manchester and had the Phoenix retaking the lead. The goals all started with long pass by Joe Graham to Adam Walker and with Bobby Chamberlain skating quickly in support on the far side, it led to Walker playing a perfect pass to Chamberlain towards the back post and he made it 2-1 at 33.01.

Heading into the third period and the home side managed to thwart nearly most of the Guildford attempts in the period, with the Surrey based outfit attacks being snuffed out with a good solid defensive display by the home side, and not giving them much of a sniff at goal. With the home fans irate over the non-calls going against the visitors, it then saw former Phoenix man Andrew McKinney picking up a hooking call to see Phoenix given a power play opportunity. Manchester once more with the man advantage, couldn`t work anything and saw the Phoenix once more failing to even generate a shot on goal and had the Flames easily kill it off.

Frankie Bakrlik then picked up a penalty for boarding and from that call, it led to Danny Meyers scoring on the power play to tie the game at 2-2 and peg the hosts back once more. Soon after coming out of the penalty box and not getting a call going his way, the Czech forward spoke out of term to Brooks and sat for ten minutes with an abuse of official call and saw Bakrlik really done for the night.  With the scores tied, it took 50 seconds after the Flames tying goal to then see the Phoenix restoring their lead again, through the sniping skills of Bobby Chamberlain with the Manchester forward scoring his second goal of the game from a near impossible angle to find the back of the net at 52.01 with Robin Kovar and Shaun Thompson assisting.

 Adam Walker then made it 4-2 for the hosts, with a strike by the Scottish forward seeing Manchester move two goals clear of their opponents and then after Matt Towe was penalised for hooking, it saw Robin Kovar making it five with a power play goal at 57.02 with Tony Hand and Adam Walker assisting on the goal and sealing the win.

The win means it keeps the pressure up on the two sides above them, with them chasing the tails of their nearest rivals the Swindon Wildcats and their next opponents to the Altrincham ice dome in the Peterborough Phantoms next Sunday. With the business end of the season well and truly here now, points will be harder to come by and if results was go massive in their favour next weekend, it could see the Phoenix just two points off 4th place. Manchester travel down to Buckinghamshire next Saturday night, as they meet the Milton Keynes Lightning and then onto the Phantoms home on the Sunday.


Ice Hockey: Fone SAVES Phoenix from Lightning in Stormy end

Phoenix forward Frankie Bakrlik puts down MK’s Grant McPherson


Another convincing home win by the Manchester Phoenix saw them overcome a frustrated MK Lightning side 5-1 with Czech forward Robin Kovar netting twice in the win. After a successful past week that saw them beating the Swindon Wildcats twice in six days, it saw their second victory coming in a resounding 10-5 win in the British Cup semi final. However it saw them unable to make it a three game sweep against the Wiltshire club, with their opponents getting the win at home after some unfortunate traffic problems that hampered their preparations on route to their 4-2 lost  down at the Link Centre.

 Manchester wanted to bounce back after their disappointment and saw a fairly even start with both teams having early attempts on goals, with both the Stephen’s in Fone and Wall keeping the puck out of their respective side’s nets. Manchester was beginning to control the game, but when player-coach Tony Hand got caught in possession in his own zone, it saw the Lightning man being denied by Steve Fone who had a stunning game between the pipes for Manchester in the contest and was deservedly man of the match.

Manchester had a couple of early power play chances going begging, to which they spent too much time passing and trying to work it around far too slowly and saw them unable to create any shooting opportunities with the extra man advantage.  At 9.44 the home side took the lead through a Bobby Chamberlain goal, after good work by Adam Walker saw his pass towards the front of the goal diverted on net by Chamberlain and was stopped by Stephen Wall, but Chamberlain tapped home from his own rebound for 1-0 lead with Jacob Corson-Heron getting the extra assist on the goal.

A Crazy passage of play saw chaos at the front of the Lightning’s goal, as James Archer fanned on a shot, when Wall was out of position and when the netminder was scrambling to the puck away from danger, the hosts had at least three chances in short succession but was unable to convert with their efforts.

 The contest also witnessed a strong defensive effort by the Phoenix in the match, as for the best part of the season the defensive aspect of the Manchester side has seen them come under some scrutiny for their record of leaking goals this year.  That part of their game was tested, when Ben Wood picked up a tripping call at 13.48 to see the penalty unit out on the ice and saw them doing their job well to kill off the MK power play, with Steve Fone making some important stops.

At 18.39 we had the first controversial moment in the game, when John Connolly was given a match penalty for a high sticks call, with the Lightning man catching Adam Walker in the face with his stick and drawn blood to which the referee Tom Pering called Walker over and ejected Connolly from the game.  From there the Phoenix had a five-minute power play to use and less than a minute into it  Robin Kovar’s wrist shot from the blue line beat a screened Stephen Wall in the visitor’s nets to see the hosts 2-0 up with Tony Hand and fellow Czech Michal Psurny picking up assists.

 With the hooter sounding, it saw a fair few disgruntled Milton Keynes players still not happy over the call to kicking their team-mate out of the match and after a lengthy discussion; Pering gave a bench minor for abuse of official at 20.00, to see the away side on a five on three penalty kill. Manchester produced a shocking power play effort to start the second period, with no shots coming in at all with a two man advantage, after cries from the home fans urging their side to ‘shoot’.  Shortly after, the home side then had to defend against a five on three of their own, after Frankie Bakrlik and Ben Wood made trips to the box for tripping and hooking offenses.

Milton Keynes tried to get some pressure going on the home side, but the Buckinghamshire club just struggled to make any meaningful head way on their opponents, with Steve Fone standing on his proverbial head to keep the door shut on the Lightning.  Minutes later and Shaun Thompson fired in goal number three for the home side, as after some slick passing between the Czech duo in Frankie Bakrlik and Robin Kovar, it helped set up Thompson to find the twine when in plenty of space and gave the Phoenix a three goal lead at 37.27. Milton Keynes then had a couple of efforts on goal with Ross Bowers being the nearest to the finding the net, as the forward just pushed his effort wide of the post.

 Some frustrations were starting to come out on the MK side, with Chris Wiggins taking the body a lot more than he had done and in Milan Kostourek, he was always buzzing around but was lacking in anything in the way of threatening play for the away side.  It saw Kostourek showing his displeasure moments later, after he had a whack at Fone on the whistle and saw defenseman James Neil pushing him away to protect his goalie and the Czech forward fell backwards on his backside and voiced his frustration over things. The period ended with another solid defensive effort by the home side as they led 3-0 heading into the final period and was looking comfortable so far after 40 minutes of play.

 In the third period and the Phoenix was still holding their opponent’s back at arm’s length, to which saw the Lightning showing their determination more to find a goal from somewhere and their search proved fruitful, as when Leigh Jamieson’s shot went in off Jacob Corson-Heron skate at the front of the Phoenix net, it saw the Lightning ‘strike’ back and pull it back to a two goal game at 45.51 with Curtis Huppe and Grant McPherson assisting on the goal.  Less than two minutes later and Tony Hand restored the three goal lead for the home side, after the veteran managed to bank the puck in off the legs of Stephen Wall at the near post and had the netminder helpless to do anything to stop it going in at 47.43, with James Archer claiming an assist.

 Archer then sat for two minutes after his attempted clearance went straight out of play with the puck clearing the plexi glass and saw him collect a delay of game penalty over it.  Milton Keynes tried to start up a play from behind their goal and when the puck was deflected into the path of Robin Kovar just outside their zone, Kovar skated in on goal and fired five-hole through the legs of Wall to make it 5-1 Phoenix and seal the win for Manchester. Milton Keynes did have chances to bring it back closer with some chances going begging, as Lewis Hook managed to balloon his attempt over the net when he had an open net to aim at.

 The final eight minutes of the contest saw the teams  frustrations brewing over, as after some dubious plays by certain MK players at the front of the Phoenix nets, it saw a couple of players going to ground rather theatrically and saw the referee raising his arm for a call against the hosts. With Bakrlik picking up a call already on the play, he then collected another penalty after he tripped up Milan Kostourek by the boards and from there saw the Lightning side started to go after the Czech forward before a scuffle broke out and resulted in Grant McPherson and the Phoenix man dropping the gloves. It saw a convincing win for the Czech forward as he got the better of the Scottish forward and collected a 2+2+2 for roughing, along with the MK man as well and a further couple of two minute penalties with a cross check and tripping in the play prior to the whistle going off to the hosts on the penalty kill.

 As the game seemed to just being played out by the sides, it then saw Milan Kostourek checking Jacob Corson-Heron in the head and behind the play the two had a good scrap. Corson-Heron who was clearly angered and aggrieved over the hit by the Czech man, saw him land some good punches on his opponent, with Kostourek obviously not bargaining on who he was messing with.  The drama wasn’t quite over yet, as with Corson-Heron sat in the penalty box with Bakrlik; Kostourek then attempted to spear the Manchester man while he passing the penalty box and had Corson-Heron fuming over the attempted spear.  After a long chat with the team captains and assistant’s, it led to the Manchester man getting a 2+2 for roughing and a 10 minute call for incitement.

 Meanwhile in the case of Milan Kostourek, the Czech man collected a hefty 50 penalty minutes over his actions, in which he was given a 2+10 for a check to the head, a 2+2 for roughing as well as another 2+2 for attempted spearing and on top of that, an extra 10 minute misconduct penalty which saw him given a Game penalty for his second 10 misconduct call against him. Kostourek slowly left the ice after getting hurt during the fight, but still had enough energy to shout some comments from the locker room towards the penalty box.  For the remaining thirty-seven seconds of the game it passed off peacefully and saw the sides shake hands afterwards on what was an entertaining game of hockey.


Man of the Match :

PHOENIX:       Steve Fone
LIGHTNING:   Lewis Hook


Phoenix Podcast:




James Archer scores Phoenix 4th




(Manchester win 13-8 on Aggregate)

Thursday night saw the Manchester Phoenix booking their place in their maiden British Cup Final with a complete dissection of the Swindon Wildcats with a score line of 10-5 with James Archer netting five goals.  Manchester and Cup semi finals haven’t been pleasant memories for the Phoenix down the years, with the Altrincham based outfit having previously lost at this stage for five successive seasons since they moved to the EPL from the Elite League back in 2009.

The second leg started all square after the first leg ended 3-3.  After the previous league game ended with Manchester coming out 5-2 winners, it was expected to be a tight contest between the two sides but no-one could have predicted the outcome of this game, not even Nostradamus. From the off it was a tad cagey which saw chippy play coming from the visitors early doors. The hits came in in from both sides were harder with the semi being played more like a playoff game, with both sides in the early few minutes not wanting to give any advantage. Phoenix have in recent weeks come into form and have been looking very much like the side that won the league title last season.

Stevie Lyle, who had a good game on Sunday, looked to be rattled early on as he was fumbling and looking quite nervy at times. However, that didn`t stop the Welsh goalie from pulling off some good saves as he did his best to keep it level with his team mates failing to help him out at the back and this was a trend which continued throughout the game.  The officiating left a lot to be desired too, with two clear cut icing calls being missed in the opening two minutes of the game which almost led to a goal for the visitors when everyone stopped play and saw the puck saved by Fone with a tame shot.

Manchester’s mounting pressure saw them eventually break the deadlock and deservedly take the lead in the game which resulted from a roughing penalty on Tomas Vana, when the former NHLer charged Ben Wood onto the boards which didn’t seem to impress Wood at all and the Wildcats man sat out for two minutes.  From the power play, Tony Hand was up by the boards and made a beautiful back handed pass to the front of the net which an unmarked James Archer slotted home for a 1-0 lead at 10:30.  Swindon, whose trip up North was delayed by 5 hours due to traffic problems, looked far from a top six side on this display.

At 15.05 Phoenix went 2-0 up through defenceman Joe Graham skating up the middle of the ice before cutting like a hot knife through butter into the Wildcats back line to slot coolly past Stevie Lyle with assists going to Robin Kovar and Frankie Bakrlik. Swindon tried to keep it tight till the end of the period so they could re-assess their game plan. It was a period full of misplaced passes and the side were not able to do the basics with the Manchester side doing a great job. With the hooter sounding it seemed certain that Swindon coach Ryan Aldridge would give the Wildcats a complete dressing down and a good kick up the backside during the intermission.   

With the second period underway, the backlash never came and if anything, we saw a complete and utter disintegration of the Swindon side to which they let in five goals.  James Archer got the scoring underway as he made it 3-0 for the home side and 6-3 on aggregate at 22.14, after a nice team move involving Tony Hand and Michal Psurny. Just over two minutes later and it was 4-0 with James Archer notching up his hat trick goal after Lee Richardson’s slap shot was blocked by Joe Graham with the bounce falling kindly to Archer, who then started a two on one break for Manchester with a simple pass across the face of goal by Tony Hand and the Phoenix number 2 finished off the move by tapping it home.  Manchester went goal crazy then with another further two goals in less than four minutes, when Czech forward Michal Psurny scored to make it five for the hosts and 8-3 on aggregate, with Phoenix now booking their place early in the British Cup Final.

The goals still kept coming though, as at 28.03 we saw James Archer make it four goals on the night for himself and give the Phoenix the joy of six with the Swindon side simply having a meltdown, with Stevie Lyle in a state of shock watching his defense being carved wide open. The continued chants of ‘Lyle’ from the home fans did seem to have an effect on the Swindon goaltender, with him looking far from his normal solid self with his team mates hanging him out to dry on too many occasions. 

Joe Graham then completed a ‘Gordie Howe hat trick’, as he had earlier picked up a goal and an assist. He completed the ‘Hat trick’ with a scrap with Floyd Taylor after the Swindon man checked Graham from behind into the boards. Graham took it upon himself to dish out some retribution on young Mr Taylor, giving him a pummeling for his cause.  Taylor picked up a 10 minute penalty for his check from behind on Graham along with a 2+2 call for roughing much like Graham did.

A bizarre goal then got the Wildcats on the scoreboard after Ben Wood appeared to be accidentally tripped near his own nets by an opposing player which had both sides seemingly stopping playing momentarily, before Aaron Nell played the puck to the back post for Tomas Kana to score at 33.17 with no celebrations at all coming from the Wildcats.

Shaun Thompson then scored the easiest goal he will ever score in his career as Lyle went to his right to make a stop and then slid that far away from the net, the puck went across the open net only for Thompson to put it home and the Phoenix netted their fifth goal in a crazy period.

Johan Burlin was then called for an Interference penalty and 28 seconds later the Wildcats scored their second goal of the game, with Adam Harding battling at the front of the net to sweep home the loose puck at 37.44. The final period saw Swindon playing a damage limitation exercise after being destroyed in the second period with nothing but pride to play for in the third.

More goals came in the third with a power play goal for both sides as firstly Manchester made it 8-2 through man of the match James Archer with the Phoenix forward scoring his fifth of the game at 44.38. Then a couple minutes later, Jonas Hoog scored for the visitors to cut the lead to a five goal deficit.

Phoenix completed their scoring for the game, with Adam Walker skating into the Swindon zone before firing a low shot on Stevie Lyle to move them one short of  double figures, before Robin Kovar scored a nice goal to see the hosts reach a perfect 10 with the goals timed at 47.04 and 49.54.

With the hosts having the game sewn up, Swindon were eventually able to play some hockey and give their suffering fans who made the long trip up north  something to cheer about from the wreckage of their team display.  With the final three minutes winding down in the semi final the home fans started chanting ‘Bring on the Tigers’. This obviously had an effect on Swindon as they scored twice in quick succession within a minute.  At 57.36, Tomas Kana netted his second of the game with Jan Kostal and Callum Buglass assisting with Shane Moore scoring the second to make the score far more flattering on the away side than it actually was. Tomas Kana picked up the only assist on the goal timed at 58.24.

Manchester will meet the big-spending Telford Tigers in the British Cup final and will be big underdogs against the Shropshire outfit.  Phoenix in the meantime will be hoping to make it a three game sweep of the Wildcats with a visit down to the Link Centre on Saturday night, where Ryan Aldridge will want a massive performance from his men after this abject display.



EPL HOCKEY: Phoenix Land First Blow













Manchester Phoenix drew first blood against the Swindon Wildcats on Sunday night as both sides will be meeting three times in a the next six days where this coming Thursday will see them facing off in the 2nd leg of EPL Cup semi final, where the tie stands at 3-3, before renew acquaintances again on Saturday down at the Link Centre in Swindon.  The game was yet another great advert for the English Premier League (EPL), with both sides playing some brilliant hockey at times and was an exciting game to watch. It was interesting to see how the teams would match up before meeting again in a few days’ times.

The opening minute of the contest saw the hosts striking the crossbar and having the puck flying out of play as it shown that the Phoenix meant business.  Manchester dominated the possession count in the early stages, while the Wildcats struggled to get hold of the puck at all as it saw Stevie Lyle in the Swindon goals having to make some vital saves for his save to keep his side goalless.

Manchester created a few chances with Robin Kovar and Shaun Thompson going close for the hosts, but despite having the majority of the puck they just couldn`t turn it into a goal as they peppered the Swindon goal.  The visitors managed to get a foot in the door and saw the Wildcats taking the lead very much against the run of play it has to be said, when an attempted clearance from Phoenix goaltender Steve Fone saw the puck caught by Jan Kostal just inside the Phoenix zone and as he skated away from goal, the Swedish forward let loose a quick shot from a tight angle that beat the netminder to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at 15.28.  Phoenix will have gone into the first break disappointed after all their hard graft that they put in and got nothing in return, as Stevie Lyle kept the door shut on the host all first. 

The start of the second had the home side on a power play still from the first period as Kenton Smith was in the box for a cross checking call and they could easily have been two down after a mistake by Player-coach Tony Hand, that saw the veteran leaving the puck behind his goals and had Jonas Hoog quickly swoop on to the puck and have a chance for Swindon, but Fone made the stop and kicked it away. From there the home side broke up ice and when an over hit pass by Robin Kovar beat everyone, it saw the puck divert off Michal Psurny skate straight into the of Frankie Bakrlik and his one-time shot beat Lyle for a 1-1 game at 20.31. Phoenix then nearly doubled their lead minutes later, after a two on one break saw Michal Psurny pass it across for James Archer and his effort was brilliantly kept out by Lyle.

Swindon managed to create a few breakaways for themselves and Manchester was grateful that Fone was on form too them, as he was forced to make a couple of important stops. Manchester was getting caught out more than they would have liked to as they were playing a high line against the Wildcats and it saw new signing for them in recent weeks in Tomas Kana, being denied by the Phoenix netminder to see the score remain the stay.

Swindon then had a purple spell of possession as they looked to be on top with the visitors the far attack more dangerous side of the two.  One attack nearly saw Ben Wood kicking it into his own goals, as a loose puck fell close to the goal line off a Steve Fone save and had the utility man for the hosts kick it away and go just inches away from goal.  The first sign of roughness between the two sides occurred when Steve Fone covered up for the whistle and led to Floyd Taylor crashing into the Manchester netminder a fair few seconds late and had Johan Burlin and Ben Wood stepping in to protect the goalie.

The next play saw Burlin getting some revenge, as he laid a huge hit on Taylor by the boards and sent him crashing to the ice to let him know that he hadn’t forgotten the previous incident.  At the mid-way point of the game it saw the Wildcats retaking the lead again, as it saw another lapse in defensive for the home side.  It saw James Neil getting tied up with Jonas Hoog along the boards and when the same happened to Aaron Nell the Wildcats man managed to get free from his man and played a nice pass across for Tomas Kana to put home for a 2-1 lead at 29.27 in the game. Swindon had more of the clear chances in the second period, but it was Fone being the main reason much like Lyle was in the first, that the scores remained a one goal game with some important saves.

At 35.00 both sides had a man each sitting in the penalty box as they were serving a 2+2 minute penalty each after Frankie Bakrlik and Shane Moore both battled in the corner and when Bakrlik was trying to get towards the front of the cage, it saw Moore grabbing the Phoenix man and face washing him before falling down on top of his man.  Shaun Thompson skated over to have words with Moore and saw both players getting pretty chippy with each other after the incident.  The result was referee Steve Brown calling both Shane Moore and Frankie Bakrlik for holding incredibly and a further penalty on each for delay of game, when the Phoenix man was being held and sat on by his opponent, so it saw the calls being rather puzzling.

 With the period looking to be a 2-1 lead to the visitors after two, it then saw Bobby Chamberlain scoring a scruffy goal for the hosts as he seemed to wind up for a big shot and instead the puck speed seemed to surprise Lyle and it went in at the far post to see the hosts level at 2-2 with 2.02 left to go in the period.  The horn sounded to end the period and it was a flip of the opening frame, where the side with better chances and more dangerous looking losing the period.

In the final period of play it saw Manchester taking the lead for the first time in the game after they came out all guns blazing and saw the Cats unable to clear the puck out of their zone, it then saw Bobby Chamberlain on hand to throw it cross ice to Robin Kovar and the Czech forward banked it in off the skates of Stevie Lyle to see the hosts leading 3-2 at 42.07.  Manchester then had the puck in the Swindon net again, but this time it was ruled out for the net being off its moorings after Stevie Lyle had gone to ground to early and as Hand lifted the puck over him in the net, it saw Lyle kicking the net off the pegs to get the goal to be washed out.

Minutes later it saw the home side score count this time around to make it 4-2 after Michal Psurny chased a loose puck ahead of Toms Rutkis and after the Czech man managed to make a little inside move on him, he then passed it across for Tony Hand and this time it didn`t see the net dislodged and the goal stood to see the player-coach pleased as punch at 46.02. Manchester was clearly channelling their frustration into a positive way and that was evident as they made it 5-2, with just less than two minutes of the game to go.

Shane Moore was serving a two minute call for tripping on Tony Hand and from the power play it saw the home side playing with real confidence and had a very Czech feel about their fifth goal too.  Frankie Bakrlik and Robin Kovar seemed to be passing amongst themselves, that was till Kovar found Michal Psurny at the back post and as the forward had to dig the puck from between his skates he managed to have time to control it and fire over the shoulder of Stevie Lyle to net a power play goal for the league champions and see the Czech man back in the goals tally in successive weeks.

Swindon though in the third seemed to be conserving their energy for this coming Thursday night when they travel back up to Manchester for the second leg of EPL Cup semi final and where it will be all to play for, with the winners to meet either the Guildford Flames or as it seems likely to be, the runaway league leaders in the Telford Tigers in the cup final.




RUGBY: Sharks feast on Scarlets

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          SALE   SHARKS   38                                      SCARLETS   3

Scarlets v Sale at Kick off

After the big fixture this past Friday night between England and Wales it saw another clash between the two major rugby nations at the AJ Bell Stadium, with the Sale Sharks welcoming Scarlets in the final group game of the L.V Cup.  It wasn’t exactly in keeping with the red hot atmosphere or played in a nerve wrecking conclusion like the Six Nations game was played in, but what it didn’t lack was the hard tackling in the match. 

For the visitors it saw the struggling PRO 12 side missing a lot of players in their ranks, mainly due to international call ups and some being rested or injured for the dead rubber match, though it did lead to Scarlets playing a rather youthful side.  For Sale, this was their 46th competitive game to be held at Eccles since their move in 2012, and it was one of their most dominating displays too in that time. However the Sale Sharks coach Steve Diamond branded his sides performance a ‘disjointed and lackadaisical victory’. 

A crowd of 4,312 turned out to see the cup clash and seen they witness the home side taking an early lead after just four minutes of play gone, when the Sharks driving maul had the Welsh side struggling to cope with their power behind the mauls and it led to them powering towards the try line where captain Dan Braid went over for the opening try for the Sharks.  Nick Macleod then added the conversion for Sale as they led 7-0 and the try by Braid also brought up Sale’s 1000th point on the season.

Scarlets tried to hit back right away, when the Welsh side thought they had grabbed a try when Darran Harris managed to escape the clutches of the Sale defence to go over, but unfortunately for the Hooker, despite him losing his shirt in the attack he was to be denied by the touch judge who flagged him for stepping on the whitewash in the build up.

Both sides then adopted the use of the kicking game to try and gain an advantage in the contest, but the hosts gave up a penalty right in front of their posts and handed Frazier Climo a chance to see the visitors get points on the board just before the quarter of an hour mark.  Sale then restored their lead and more as a Jonny Leota run was halted by the Scarlets defence, but with quick passing by the Sharks, it led to a lovely team move by the hosts and resulted in Mike Haley crashing over for the second try for Sale on 17 minutes to see the home side leading 14-3 and Macleod adding the extra points for the hosts once again.

Both sides made some thunderous tackles on their opponents in the game, as the noise of some of huge hits reverberated around the AJ Bell Stadium.  Sale continued to bore through the Scarlets side with ease on occasions in the first half, though the referee blowing his whistle a little too often disrupted play on both sides and was an annoyance for all watching.

Sale’s David Seymour shown off his juggles skills as the ball became the proverbial bar of soap at times for the two teams with the wet conditions, and it saw the Sharks man doing extremely well to take the ball in the end.  Mike Haley was then on the verge of scoring another the try on 34 minutes gone, after Tom Arscott’s high ball came down for Haley but the half-back wasn`t able to take it cleanly after the young sensation this year for Sale was quick to claim as a greyhound claiming the ball first, but the ball left his clutches when the Sharks man was through.  

Stalwart at the club in Mark Cueto saw him putting a chip kick in behind his opponents and seen Haley yet again chasing it down and when it looked like he was just ahead of his opponent, Haley then fumbled it for the smallest of knock on’s.

Scarlets then saw them have their only real attack of the game through Adam Warren, when he ran into a gap in the hosts defence and dashed for the try line with the Scarlets man avoiding a couple of tackles. For all the world he looked odds on to score a try for the visitors, but a fast back tracking Mike Haley managed to make a superb try saving tackle on him and denied the away side any joy with the Sharks maintaining their clean sheet in the try against column so far.

Tom Arscott then scored his first of his two tries in the game, with the right-winger celebrating his new 2-year deal at the Sharks this past week and saw him running half the length of the field fending off all opposing players to go over for the third try in the game and see Sale’s lead extending to 21-3 with the conversion on the stroke of half time.

Second half and it kept very much too the same theme as the first half did with Sale controlling the game against a vastly inexperience looking Scarlets side, who didn’t even seem to have any kind of purpose to their play what so ever.  Scarlets did have brief moments of joy in the contest, as they won a couple of penalties from the home side when Sale were getting a bit too eager in the scrums and gave away some needless calls.

The pressure from the Sharks forwards kept on coming and it saw their play stifled for periods in the half, with the Welsh side making some vital stops to keep the score down as best they could.  However they couldn`t withstand the Sharks attack for much longer and so in the 54th minute of play, Sale scored their fourth try of the game with the forwards ploughing forward and getting nearer the Scarlets try line before some good patience build up play led to the ball being transferred quickly out towards the right flank and Tom Arscott was left in loads of space to easily put the ball down for a try.

 Joe Ford who came on fellow Fly-Half in Nick Macleod, saw his first action being a missed conversion and saw the score now reading 26-3 for the home side.  The game became largely one-sided as it went along, but some good breaks from the Sharks Scrum Half’s in Nathan Fowles and Mark Easter, saw the defence being pulled opened once more and the hosts found gaps of which to run into.  Both sides went through a little period of the game where they started making a few handling errors that saw the play kind of become stop-start and had more of a training exercise feel than a competitive game in truth too.

With Sale massively on top dominating and out classing their opponents, it saw the Sharks sensing blood and it came as no surprise to see them going over for yet another try and it came from the man making his 100th appearance for the club in Tom Brady, the winger dived for the corner and saw the Sharks tearing their opponents apart.

The home side started to become too clever for their own good at times too, with the Sharks in truth not kicking on and really should have been aiming for at least the 50 points barrier.  The Scarlets sent a youthful side up to Eccles and it certainly showed, with the Pro 12 side struggling to cope with the powerful mauling unit of the Sharks forwards and power that they faced.  Barring the missing duo of Danny Cipriani and Chris Cusiter from the Sale side, it was mainly a full strength team for Sharks and they showed the coach that they were up challenging for first team places.

With the game all but sewn up, there was still time for the home side to score their sixth try of the game when back-rower Viliami Fihaki managed to ground the ball under a pile of bodies and see the Sharks devour their opponents at 38-3 and set them up for a hard push in the league now with testing games ahead for the Sale side.






Six Nations captains (L-R Sergio Parrise- Italy, Chris Robshaw- England, Gregi Laidlaw -Scotland, Paul O Connell-Ireland, Sam Warburton- Wales , Thierry Dusautoir- France pic via :INTHELOOSE



This Friday sees the kickoff to the brand new RBS Six Nations Championship taking place, where the best of the northern hemisphere countries going at it once again in the oldest rugby union competition in the world. This will be a good chance to see where the respective sides are as we head towards the Rugby World Cup later in the year. This year’s competition looks to be an interesting championship for sure and sees a very competitive championship on paper for all concerned and all sides seem to have stories leading into the Six Nations this season. Looking at the runners and riders, Ireland look stronger than ever, along with Wales and England challenging once more. Scotland with a new coach has given them a new found spark in international rugby, while the continental sides in France and Italy may see them struggle with the latter looking like the early favorites for the wooden spoon.



The Italians led by forwards Sergio Parisse and Alessandro Zanni, will be hoping they can cause a shock along the way in the upcoming Six Nations with the ‘Azzurri’ going into the tournament looking to build their confidence for the World Cup. Italy led by Frenchman Jacques Brunel has seen his side improve on past performances and even though their set plays and all the important mechanics of the game have got better over the years, it hasn’t brought them results over the seasons.  However as Brunel and everyone in sport knows nowadays, you can have the best team and the best manager and have all the know how on the game, but this is a results driven business and if they can`t pick up wins, then the coach will be joining a long line of former Italian coaches that have come before him and that have improved the side too, but with just no end product.  Italy will have a good test in their opening two rounds of the championship, with the Italian side up against the champions in Ireland in Rome on match day one, they then travel to Twickenham to face England.  The Italians strongest asset is their scrum and that be will cause problems even the best rugby playing countries as they have shown over the years. The weaknesses in their side though is that they can lose their discipline easily and also struggle with the fast tempo that some sides adopt into their style of play. Pundits and fans will without doubt have Italy marked down for the bottom spot and even though i expect them to trouble their opponents at set plays, I don`t personally see them finishing other than bottom again in the championship.




For the men from France, it saw them enjoying a much better year in the Six Nations last time out as opposed to 2013 where ‘Les Bleus’ found themselves with the wooden spoon in the competition and it was a complete shock. It was only four years ago that the French found themselves in a World Cup Final and to then find themselves propping up the rest in the Six Nations a few seasons later is unheard off. It shows some flaws within the way the french go about their rugby in recent years, as their Top 14 league has seemed to have become a place where the top stars play, but with that, it also harms the national side too. There hasn’t been too many french youngsters forcing their way through in their first side, with perhaps only a handful making the grade. France who have always seemed to adopted a kind of run and gun approach to their game,  it sees them play with brilliance and flair when things are going well.  When they don`t go well, they can play like a bunch of individuals and lack any cohesion to their team play at all and leads to them giving up more points. One player to look out for on the French team is winger Teddy Thomas who plays at Racing Metro in France and has impressed for his country in the Autumn internationals too. On his test debut against Fiji, it saw him scoring a hat trick in a 40-15 win over the Fijians in Paris. He followed his hat trick exploits with a try the following week in a 29-26 win against Australia and will be one of the stars for France in this championship. France truly are the Jekyll and Hyde of international rugby, as they are hard to plan for at times as you never know what to expect from them. France can easily win the title or they can finish rock bottom depending on their demeanor.




Last year was arguably the best the Scots had played in my view in a Six Nations championship in recent years. Despite the lack of points on the boards that they had put up, their team play and certain aspects were moving in the right direction. That was shown when they picked up their first away win in a few seasons with a last gasp drop goal from Duncan Weir that saw Scotland record a massive victory in Rome and stunned the Italians to help the ‘tartan army’ from getting the wooden spoon. Scotland also had interim coach Scott Johnson move upstairs to become Head of Rugby for Scotland and become the first ever in that position, after he led the side in 2014 as they awaited the arrival of their new coach. The stumbling block for the Scots saw their new head coach in New Zealander Vern Cotter being announced as the man in charge back in May 2013, but problems with his club side in french side Clermont, had them failing to agree a deal to release Cotter earlier.  Eventually, Cotter took over the reigns and started with a 4-match tour in which they faced the US , Canada, Argentina and then South Africa. The game against the Springboks saw him hampered, having only the use of Glasgow Warriors or Edinburgh players due their availability. It saw brave loss to world number 1 side New Zealand, where they went down 24-16 but that score line didn’t tell the full story. Their second game against Argentina and was Cotter`s first home match in charge, saw Scotland scoring five tries in the 41-31 win over the Pumas. It was the first time a Scottish side had accomplished that feat since 2007 v Ireland. A win over Tonga saw the ever improving Scots going in the right direction and that will give them belief heading into the championship. Scotland also hand Glasgow Warriors Fly-Half in Finn Russell his debut in the competition and it will interest to see how the kicker performs at international level.





Last year saw Stuart Lancaster’s men once again finish runners-up in the Six Nations to the eventual champs for the third successive year in a row.  England have been the makers of their own undoing over the past few years too, with the side never do things the easy and managed to snatch defeat at the jaws of victory on many occasions. Lancaster and co have a wealth of talent sidelined through injury and with the blow of Ben Morgan picking up a bad injury on club duty for Gloucester a month or so ago, it really has been the fittest of the fittest being picked. It also saw a side story of the number 10 shirt being at the fore front, with fans and pundits playing England coach and selecting in order who they thought was the best fly half for the job. It was a choice between Bath’s George Ford, Northampton’s Stephen Myler, Saracens Owen Farrell and Sale Sharks kicker Danny Cipriani all being talked about.  In the autumn it saw Stuart Lancaster setting the target of 3 wins from 4 against the Southern hemisphere sides, and instead a return of two out of four with mostly below performances haven`t exactly filled the home supporters with confidence heading into a World Cup year. Owen Farrell who came in for a lot of criticism during the autumn, with suggestions of his father the former Rugby league great in Andrew Farrell, being a big reason as to why the Saracens man wasn’t dropped after a string of poor performances with his play and his kicking. George Ford was brought in for the Samoa and Australia games to get some international experience and the Bath man did a solid job in the number 10 role. However questions over who should wear the all important 10 shirt for this Six Nations, has caused many arguments over the position. Danny Cipriani has seen his inclusion being made stronger despite his previous stints in the English set up, where his party life style and personality got him in trouble a lot. But that has seemingly been put to bed since his move up North to the Sale Sharks as he has matured not only as player but as a person too. One element he does bring that the rest don’t have in their locker is to produce a bit of quality and genius that can turn matches in a blink of an eye. Although Ford and Myler have the best boot in the Aviva Premiership, they are solid players and very reliable but they don`t have that extra magic to them. This for me will prove to be a much sterner championship for England than in previous years and the big questions will come more on their travels, with visits to the cauldron that is the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for their opener with Wales and also their clash with champions Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. If they can come from there with wins then they`ll have a large confidence boost ahead of a tough year ahead.




For the men from the Valleys, it will be a case of trying to correct a couple of poor performances from last year that saw key games losing Warren Gatlain side their Six Nations crown to Ireland. A couple of poor matches against England and their biggest loss against eventual champions Ireland in the second round of matches, stopped their hope of retaining the title for a third year in a row. The loss to their bitter enemy in England didn’t  just knock another nail in the Welsh coffin, but it hurt them more knowing that their slim chance of making a comeback in the title race was ended by the English. The autumn saw their early preparations for the World Cup start off mixed with a heartbreaking loss to Australia, in a game that was full of positives but the one negative was that on the scoreboard. Australia edged the Welsh out 33-28 with all the good the hosts did and then to see it unraveled towards the end, saw the Aussies just proving too much to cross the line first. Wales then beat Fiji before holding off the All Blacks for 60 minutes, before a late onslaught by the world champions saw them to victory 34-16, though the scoreboard flattered New Zealand in all fairness. The autumn series ended with Wales breaking their southern hemisphere hoodoo after a 12-6 win over South Africa with Leigh Halfpenny kicking all the points in a famous win in Cardiff to see them finish on a high note.  Heading into this championship the Welsh will be boosted from that last result and will look to build on with huge clash awaiting them this Friday evening at a packed out Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, as they welcome their old friends in England to kick off of the new RBS Six Nations championship for 2015.  Sam Warburton and Alun Wynn-Jones will be the old heads leading from the front and with George North and the two Rhys in Priestland and Webb in the back row, it will be another tough Welsh assault on the title front. Plus not forgetting also that they have arguably the best kick in the world at the moment in full-back and kicker Leigh Halfpenny, with the Toulon man being deadly with the boot once again much like he his with his club and will be a mistake to concede many penalties within his range.




Whats not been said about Ireland that hasn’t already been said before. They are the current and reigning Six Nations champions and on current form you wouldn`t bet against the men from the Emerald Isle making it a second straight championship to add to last year’s crown either.  Of course the Irish have some players missing from their ranks as every side do and not able to take part in the championship, like Paddy Jackson from Ulster and the possible miss of Johnny Sexton in their line up as he recovers from an enforced 12 week layoff from suffering four concussions in 12 months.  That means that Irish coach Joe Schmidt will hand the task of kicking to either Leinster’s Ian Madigan or Munster’s Ian Keatley who has played seen Keatley play well for his club side, but remains to be seen if he can do it at International level.  However who ever does wear the jersey knows it is only on borrowed time, with Sexton a cert to reclaim the number 10 when the Racing-Metro star is fit and healthy. This year will also see a change in captaincy for Ireland after six year, as just 12 months ago it brought the curtain down on the end of the legendary Brian O’ Driscoll international career, as he led his side to a triumphant final season which culminated in Six Nations glory. This year sees a new man in charge to lead the Irish and it is the task of Munster’s Paul O’ Connell taking on the responsibility of leading them into battle and on wards to the World Cup where a good championship from Ireland could see them hoping to transform their Six Nations form into World cup form and stand a great chance of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy later this year.


Six Nations Predictions: 




SUPERBOWL XLIX: Seattle ‘Throws’ away Superbowl to New England


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In what was one of the most incredible Superbowl`s of recent memory and possibly the Greatest of All-time too it saw the New England Patriots regain the title of ‘World Champions’ once again at Superbowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona with an amazing climax that will be talked about for many years to come and will go down in Superbowl folklore for the chance that Seattle threw away, literally.

 In a week where controversy has been about ‘deflate-gate’ in which the New England Patriots win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game, come under scrutiny over a ball that was found to have been deflated and said to have favored the Patriots. Their opponents the Seattle Seahawks have that their own bit of controversy to. For a side like the Seattle Seahawks who aren’t afraid to open their mouths and talk trash but that however couldn`t be said of Running-Back Marshawn Lynch, who has a history of refusing to speak to the media and his only quote he made all week was: ‘i don`t want be fined!’a phrase that has fast become a sound bite and buzz phrase in US culture.

A total of 70,288 packed inside the University of Phoenix Stadium, in Glendale Arizona as the big kick off got underway it saw Tom Brady and his New England Patriots receive the ball first and them take up the majority of possession in the opening quarter of the game. The Patriots had managed to make it up to the Seahawks 10 yard line when Brady threw an attempted pass towards the end zone and saw Jeremy Lane of Seattle make an interception on his own goal line before running out-of-bounds to the 10 yard line.  It turned out to be the last act for Lane as his broke his wrist going out-of-bounds and his Superbowl moment turned from joy to despair in less than five seconds.

Seattle didn’t manage to do much with their opening set of possession and as we went into the second quarter it saw the breakthrough in the contest, with the Patriots moving up field with a Danny Amendola catch for 17-yard followed by a 23-yard play by Julian Edelman on a 3rd and 9. New England moved up closer to the Seahawks line and saw on a 2nd and 9 play, quarterback Tom Brady throwing an 11 yard pass to Brandon LaFell for a touchdown to put the Patriots up 7-0 with the extra point added.

The NFC champion Seattle Seahawks needed a response quickly as they hadn’t shown anything in the way of scoring possessions saw them come up with nothing to show. That was till Russell Wilson managed to find some room on a 2nd and 5 and his long throw up field saw Chris Matthews claiming a 44 yard catch down the right hand side and take the Seahawks up to the New England 10 yard line. A couple plays later and the Seahawks turned to ‘Beast Mode’ in the shape of Marshawn Lynch and he twist and turned his way over the whitewash with an outstretched arm for a 3 yard run to score a touchdown and get the Seahawks back in it at 7-7.

New England came back on to the field and for what looked like the final drive of the quarter with half time fast approaching.  Tom Brady started the drive off with throw towards Shane Vereen and he ran for a total of 26 yards to see the Patriots getting into field goal range with 32 seconds to go in the first half. The following play saw Brady spotting the movement of Tight-End Rob Gronkowski down the right sidelines and his pass was converted for a 22-yard touchdown to see New England 14-7 up. You would have been forgiven for thinking that the scoring was done for the opening half of the game, but Seattle had other ideas as Russell Wilson kept the Seahawks drive going after he evaded being sacked again and had him run out-of-bounds at the 40 yard line in the New England half.

Wilson then threw a 23-yard pass to Ricardo Lockette and with a face mask penalty called on Kyle Arrington it saw the Seahawks moving up towards the 11- yard line with just six seconds remaining. The following play saw Wilson throwing towards the end zone and picking out Chris Matthews who made the catch with two second on the clock and brought an unbelievable end to the half and tie the game up at 14 all going into the break.

The half time extravaganza saw Katy Perry as the headline act this year with support coming from American Rock Legend in Lenny Kravitz and hip-hop star Missy Elliott as they added to the traditional entertainment that only the National Football League can bring at this sporting event. The show piece entertainment saw the California-singer coming out on a massive walking Tiger and then featured her dancing with Beach Balls, Palm Trees and two Sharks to which one of them was out of sync with the rest and made for a show packed with fun, very entertaining and purely summed up the over the top Americana that come to expect at Superbowl.

Second half started with the defending Superbowl champions in the Seattle Seahawks getting the jump on their opponents as that score at the end of the half gave them a boost. It saw Chris Matthews making another fantastic catch up field to see the Hawks driving up field and when Steve Hauschka kicked over a 27-yard field goal for Seattle it saw the NFC champions taking their first lead in the game for a 17-14 score.  New England then took up the challenge that the Seahawks threw down to them at the start of the third quarter, it then saw an interception by Bobby Wagner off Tom Brady`s intended pass to Rob Gronkowski being picked off, as the Seahawks had the early momentum to start off with.

Marshawn Lynch then turned ‘Beast Mode’ once again for Seattle as he ran to the 4 yard line and then the following play saw Russell Wilson throwing to a wide open Doug Baldwin in the end zone and he gave them a touchdown, along with a unsportsmanlike penalty for gesturing of pulling his pants down and making an action. It saw the Score moved to a ten point game at 24-14 in favour of the Seahawks and the NFC champions were in charge.

No side in Superbowl history had ever come back to win from a ten points deficit before and so the task was compounded too with the fact the Seahawks had the best defense in the NFL too, so it made the task twice as difficult but if anyone could break that trend it could be Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Patriots thanks to Julian Edelman had New England up to the 5-yard line and a 1st and goal saw Brady fake a pass before throwing towards Edelman in the end zone, but the pass was just too high for the Wide-Receiver after he had made a beautiful spin move to break free from his man and when the pass came in it was just out of reach.

Luckily for New England though, they capitalised on the next play with Brady finding Danny Amendola as he managed to take a catch under pressure from Earl Thomas and gave the Foxboro side a touchdown, which cut the lead to just three points and have the Patriots still in the contest with just 7.55 remaining.  Rob Gronkowski then took a catch and ran short of the Seahawks 30-yard line with the Patriots coming back at the champions now and made for a thrilling finale. New England then retook the lead when on a 2nd and goal on the Seahawks 3 yard line, it saw Brady throw to the far corner where Julian Edelmann was wait to take the catch and helped put the Patriots 28-24 up with 2.02 remaining.

Seattle came back on the field knowing that nothing only but a touchdown would do now for them as they looked to defend their crown that they won last year at Superbowl XLVIII.  Russell Wilson then attempted a long throw up field towards Chris Matthews inside the 10-yard mark of the Patriots, but it was batted away to stop the catch from happening.  With the Seattle Seahawks gaining a 1st and 10 it saw Wilson scanning the field and finding Jermaine Kearse who went up for the ball with Malcolm Butler from the Patriots, only to see what some have dubbed a ‘Circus play’ as the play looked to be going dead, but Kearse managed to somehow engineer a catch using his legs to keep the ball alive and then grabbed the ball while on his back the whole time before he was bundle out at the 5-yard line.

Replays shown New England quarterback Tom Brady having a look of shock mixed in with annoyance, as thoughts much have played through the Patriots heads of previous Superbowl games, as back in 2008 at Superbowl XLII at the same venue as this year`s, it saw the ‘Helmet Catch’ by David Tyree that saw the Giants stop the Patriots having a 19-0 perfect season. Then roll on four years later for a rematch against the New York Giants and it saw another amazing play that saw Mario Manningham this time making a sideline catch and up there with incredible plays in Superbowl finals.

With less than a minute to play in an enthralling game between the two sides, it saw Marshawn Lynch back in to the thick of the action and saw him run to the 1-yard line before being brought down. However what followed will be the most talked about play in Superbowl XLIX and not only that, but the whole of the Superbowl itself. Seattle Seahawks was on a 2nd and goal and what seemed certain to be a no-brainer and turn to Lynch who would power himself to a touchdown, would see the Patriots with not much time to respond and would practically guarantee a touchdown. Every one watching the game had already made the call and knew it was the only play to run at this precise point in the game.

So when the ball got snapped to Wilson he then threw it incredibly to Ricardo Lockette just inside the end zone and was sensationally intercepted by Malcolm , who had missed the tackle on Kearse that led to the Seattle player making the unbelievable catch but saw him making amends for it. The difference of emotions on the touchline was there for all to see, with Brady jumping up and down for joy at the play for the New England team and across the field it saw Richard Sherman for the Seahawks, for once at a loss for words and looked confused and distraught at the what just took place. With New England on their 1-yard line, it saw them hoping the Seahawks defense would move offside for move yardage and that was just what they did as Michael Bennett jumped the gun and all but sealed victory for the Patriots.

However that wasn`t end of the drama, as with 20 seconds left to go it saw the Patriots taking a knee to run the clock out and instead saw the Seattle side losing their composure and letting their frustrations taking over as it saw an ugly ending to the game and especially with Bruce Irvin from the Seahawks.  After it had all calmed down it saw Irvin being ejected from the game for his punch on Gronkowski and led to Seattle handing over their crown in a not so classy way to the new champions and puts the Patriots just two championships behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and one short of Dallas Cowboys to claim their 4th title in 14 years.  

Tom Brady was named the MVP of Superbowl XLIX and is now tied with some of the greats like former quarterbacks Pittsburgh Steelers Terry Bradshaw and San Francisco 49ers Joe Montana in winning four Superbowl titles in their careers.

MALCOLM BUTLER intercepting the ‘FINAL PLAY’  of Superbowl XLIX


New England Coach Bill Belichick said after asked if he thought he would get another Superbowl in his hands he responded.

“Sure did, with these guys. They`re a great team and got a lot of great players”.

 When then asked about how concerned he was with being 10 points behind he said.

“Not as much as i was, about being 14 against Baltimore!”

Tom Brady was asked himself about being 10 behind at the start of the 4th quarter, Brady jokingly said.

“It wasn`t the way we drew it up”. “Especially throwing a couple of picks didn’t help, but a lot of mental toughness and our team has had it all year.

“And we never doubted each other, so that`s what it took, that was a great football team we beat, I`m just so happy for our team.”.


SUPERBOWL XLIX highlights :

ICE HOCKEY: Forgotten Man helps Phoenix in THRILLER!

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Manchester Phoenix  4  –  3  Basingstoke Bison
After Penalty shots

Another tight Match on Sunday night at the Altrincham Ice Dome witnessed a second successive weekend of penalty shots to determine the winners of the game and this time round it was the hosts that took victory with the forgotten man in the Phoenix line up in recent weeks in Czech forward Michal Psurny, with the forward netting the only penalty of the shootout, to give the Manchester Phoenix a 4-3 win over a Stubborn Basingstoke Bison.

The game started off with no side really controlling play in the early part of the match as both sides had equal chances, with the goaltenders at both ends making stops to keep the game scoreless. Manchester killed off an early penalty kill against them for too many men and the hosts at the half way point of the first period started to take the game to the Bison and looked to be the more aggressive side of the two in the game.

So it wasn`t much of a surprise when the host led at 12.25 through a Frankie Bakrlik blast that nestled in the far left hand corner of the Bison`s net as the Czech man took a cross ice pass and then picked his spot in the far corner to give the Phoenix a 1-0 lead with Robin Kovar and returning defenseman to the line-up this weekend in Joe Graham both grabbing assists.  Skinns in the visitors net made a few saves in the opening period of play as Basingstoke were getting frustrated through the Phoenix stifling their play, when in previous games it had been the other way around.

Steve Fone came under a bit of pressure from the opposing forwards and had to make a few good saves to stop the puck from going in and his defense led to their oppostion not having much luck in the scoring aspect. Bison got called for a High Sticks penalty with Miroslav Vantroba catching Robin Kovar in the face and that saw the Phoenix power play on the ice, but they were unable to score with the man advantage.

With the Phoenix on top in the game, it saw the hosts getting caught out at the end of the period, with the Bison in the Phoenix zone and leaving Steve Fone in the firing line on three on nothing and saw Joe Rand`s quick release at the near post level the game at 1-1 with just 11 seconds of the period left to play. That was a real blow to the hosts who had played brilliantly throughout and undone all their their good work.

In the Second period and the Phoenix tried to regain their advantage, but Skinns was in no mood to allow that to happen and saw him close the door on early efforts by the Phoenix. Vantroba for the visitors made his second trip to the penalty box, this time he was called for Hooking at 20.29 and yet again the movement of the puck by Phoenix was not quick enough to set up any type of play and resulted in a kill by the Bison.

Joe Graham then picked up a Holding call at 22.53 after him and Ciaran Long tangled in front of the goals and by the boards and when Graham held the jersey in a defensive play, it led to Dan Boardman signalling for the penalty against the Manchester man. Manchester killed it off and almost saw what would have been a sensational goal by Robin Kovar as he cut through the Bison power play unit, unfortunately his effort was just too high over Dean Skinns for a shorthanded score.

Manchester carried on their search of a second goal and it came at 27.28 with forgotten man recently in Michal Psurny, as the Czech man netted his first goal in four games to put the hosts back in front at 2-1 after a Shaun Thompson pass bounced at the feet of the forward and he managed to put it in the back of the net to. Basingstoke though, aren`t a side to go away easily and three minutes later the Herd drew level once more, when Joe Rand attempted a wraparound of the Phoenix net and drew everyone to the near post, except for Aaron Connolly who skated in from the far side to just simply push it on goal for a 2-2 game at 30.25.

The rest of the second period was evenly contested with neither side really gaining an upper hand in the remaining ten minutes of play, though Shaun Thompson did put the puck in the back of the Bison net but the whistle had gone for a Man in the crease call by the official which was the correct call as there was at least four men in the crease battling for the puck. Kurt Reynolds picked up a little knock as he went down after a fall when players all skated looking for a rebound, but he eventually got up and skated back to the bench.

The game at times got chippy in the second without it really coming to anything and was just the fact that both sides weren’t giving an inch to their opponents and made the game a tight and interesting contest to watch.  With less than two minutes remaining in the second to go, it saw Tomas Karpov produce a ‘Bobby Orr’ like dive with no one around him and saw him clearly frustrated as he wasn`t having much luck in the way of chances, due mainly to the Phoenix defense notably Ben Wood and Joe Graham, as they stopped him and him held down throughout the game.

The Third period and it became a kind of tactical battle, with both sides playing cagey and trying to grab the next goal of the game. With under ten minutes of play left to go, it seemed like a ‘next goal wins’ style about the game and at 53.42 Joe Graham gave Bobby Chamberlain the puck and the Hull-native put it top shelf on Dean Skinns to give Manchester a 3-2 lead and put them back in front and that looked to be the game winning goal. However six seconds later and the Bison equalised when a Vantroba shot wasn`t collected by Fone and the rebound fell to Joe Greener and he made it 3-3 to make all-square yet again.

Both sides had chances to win the game within the 60 minutes of regulation but no one was able to score the winning goal and so the game headed to an extra period of overtime. Basingstoke had the lion`s share of the possession in the extra period as the home side just couldn`t take the puck off them and the tiredness was starting to show now from some members of the Phoenix, with five games in eight 8 days catching up with a short bench. 

With no further scoring in the game, we went to the lottery of the penalty shootout and the second in successive weeks at home for the home side. Basingstoke went first in the shoot out and saw Steve Fone deny Tomas Karpov.  Adam Walker failed to hit the target for the Phoenix with their first before Ciaran Long then attempted a ‘Forsberg’ shot for his penalty, but Fone was wise to the former Phoenix man and shut the door. Then saw ‘That Man from the Czech Republic’ in Michal Psurny taking the second penalty shot for the home side and he made a little move before roofing his effort by Skinns for the 1-0 score and needed Joe Greener to score for the Bison to keep the game going. Greener failed to score with his effort after Fone had committed himself early to the shot and when it looked like an easy goal for the forward it saw Fone just do enough to put Greener off and get the slightest of toes on the puck and give Manchester victory and the extra point in the shootout win.

Steve Fone Stops Ciaran Long in Shoot out
Psurny scores winner in shoot out
Psurny scores winner in shoot out

Manchester Phoenix Coach Tony Hand said after the thrilling game:

“Basingstoke are a good side and very well organised at the back. This was a good win for us, especially after our schedule over the last 8 days. It is good to have the injured players back and I am sure we will consolidate our league position as we get well into the critical stage of the season.”

Michael Wales of the Basingstoke Bison spoke to Phoenix TV after the game and said:

“If you ever wanted an advert for the EPL (English Premier League), then come watch a Bison/Manchester game. At home, away it`s just been fantastic this year.” He added later: “If we meet in the playoffs it will be a cracking game”. Phoenix podcast – Phoenix TV