Good Week/Bad Week: We take a look at the winners and losers from the last seven days
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92
Last Updated: 12/05/14 12:21pm
So much can change in a week of sporting action and, sure enough, there have been plenty of highs and lows over the past seven days.
It was a week in which Manchester City were crowned Premier League champions, Norwich City's relegation back to the Championship was confirmed and Harlequins clinched the final Aviva Premiership play-off in a winner-takes-all showdown against Bath.
Bradford Bulls endured another difficult week in Super League, Johnny Manziel was made to wait a lot longer than he expected in the NFL draft, while Ashley Cole's international football career came to an abrupt halt after his omission from England's World Cup squad.
While critics debate whether Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers or Tony Pulis, the conductor of Crystal Palace’s great escape, should be named manager-of-the-season, Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini has slipped under the radar to claim a double in his first season of English football. City wrapped up the Premier League title, to add to their Capital One Cup triumph, on Sunday with a 2-0 win over West Ham.
Pellegrini took over from Roberto Mancini and took just one season to become the first non-European manager to lift the Premier League crown. He has urged his City side to now switch focus to ushering in a period of sustained dominance.
In a Premier League season which has seen the lead switch hands some 20 times, City entered the final weekend knowing they were in charge of their own fate and offered an air of experienced calmness to claim a second top-flight crown in three years. City will parade their latest silverware through Manchester on Monday evening, albeit their celebrations could be overshadowed should UEFA hand down sanctions for a breach of the Financial Fair Play regulations.
Lewis Hamilton set a personal milestone on Sunday by claiming a fourth win in a row for the first time in his Formula One career. The Mercedes driver narrowly held off team-mate Nico Rosberg as he swept to victory in the Spanish Grand Prix and into the lead in the drivers' championship.
It was a lights-to-flag victory but too close for comfort as Rosberg bore down on Hamilton’s in the closing minutes. Hamilton crossed the line to win in Spain for the first time, just 0.6 seconds ahead of Rosberg.
Hamilton has not led the championship since June 2012 but, with just five races of the season completed, is well placed to add a second title to the one he won in 2008. The Briton leads his team-mate by three points and has twice as many points as third-placed Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso as Mercedes continue to dominate their rivals.
Martin Kaymer saw off a late scare to clinch the 2014 Players Championship title that had looked secure until thunder and lightning turned things very frightening in Florida. Ultimately, the German held out to claim a one-stroke victory over veteran Jim Furyk.
The $1.8 million jackpot looked to have been sealed at the 15th with Kaymer holding a three-shot lead and brimming with confidence. Then play was suspended by an incoming storm which proved to be portentous as Kaymer returned following the delay looking rather nervy.
However, in a gripping finale which could have swung either way, Kaymer hung on and made the three-and-a-half footer for a title that has given his hopes of playing in September’s Ryder Cup a huge boost.
In April, Conor O’Shea and his Harlequins squad looked to be outsiders to make the Premiership play-offs. However, a 19-16 triumph at The Stoop on Saturday saw them usurp their visitors Bath to snatch the last remaining semi-final berth on the closing day of the regular season.
The maths behind Harlequins’ grand comeback speaks for itself. To reach the Premiership semi-finals, they required five consecutive victories, but they did not exactly race to the play-offs: the total points differential of their past three wins being just eight.
The nature of these wins offers a unique insight into the fight and personality of the unit built by O’Shea. In those three games, they were behind for most of the match against reigning champions Leicester, they came back from the dead against Exeter Chiefs to claim a one-point victory and they had to defend a three-point lead for most of the last quarter against Bath.
Ashley Cole, the 107-cap England left-back, endured a disappointing end to the season with a phone call from Roy Hodgson informing him that he would not be making the World Cup squad, prompting Cole to announce his retirement from international football.
The 33-year-old appears to have become the first high-profile victim of Hodgson’s drive towards youth with Southampton’s 18-year-old full-back Luke Shaw set to deputise for Leighton Baines in Brazil. Despite the disappointment, Cole was gracious as he turned to Twitter to offer his support to England and show gratitude for his international career.
Last weekend, Cole also shed tears as Chelsea’s Premier League home season came to a close with a 0-0 draw against Norwich, with the defender entering the final weeks of his contract. Cole is yet to be offered a new deal at Stamford Bridge and faces an uncertain future in the English top flight.
Heading into the 2014 NFL draft many had tipped the man dubbed ‘Johnny Football’ to be the No 1 pick, but the highly-rated 21-year-old had an agonising wait to discover his fate. Eventually, the quarterback was snapped up by Cleveland Browns with the 22nd pick.
Blake Bortles became the first quarterback to be selected when Jacksonville Jaguars came in for him with the third selection and the slide down the pecking order for former Heisman Trophy winner Manziel represents a significant financial shortfall. American business magazine Forbes reported the difference between third pick and 22nd as being worth more than $12 million.
Houston Texans had the luxury of first pick and, with their need for a quarterback well-documented, local boy Manziel appeared obvious favourite. As it was, Jadeveon Clowney, a defensive end, became the headline choice, yet it was an overlooked Manziel who went on to dominate the headlines.
“Run with the Bulls, we’re all right” is an anthem often heard at Odsal, but the reality of Bradford Bulls’ season is far from the tune. As the rain poured in Bradford, the Bulls went down 50-0 against St Helens.
The Bulls are now eight points adrift of safety in Super League, along with London Broncos, after successive wins by Wakefield Wildcats above them, Bradford’s plight worsened in a risible showing. Saints ran in nine tries, while the home side offered little in response.
There were echoes of a record 84-6 defeat away to Wigan Warriors on Easter Monday and Bradford coach Francis Cummins admits the Bulls were in “free-fall”. An inspiring victory over 2013 Grand Finalists Warrington Wolves the previous week gave the Bulls hope, yet a lacklustre performance saw them pay the price and, heavily so, as their fight against relegation rumbles on.
Phil Taylor, the six-time Premier League darts champion, was denied a semi-finals berth as he was held to a 6-6 draw by Peter Wright. The Premier League debutant battled hard to force a stalemate, which kept his hopes of qualifying alive in Newcastle.
Taylor headed into the encounter knowing that a win would confirm his place in the last four and had a dart in the deciding leg to clinch victory. But he was unable to convert as Wright snatched a draw, meaning the fight for the final two play-off places, involving both men and Gary Anderson, will go down to the wire in Brighton next week.
Taylor clinically checked out 65 to level proceedings at 4-4 before taking the lead with an 11-darter, only for Wright to hold his nerve and level once more. Taylor ensured a point with the penultimate leg, but in a dramatic denouement, Wright seized an opportunity from a clearly unimpressed Taylor, who had three darts at 62 for the match.