Monday, 19 March 2018

Italy 27 v Scotland 29

A romantic break in Rome to get away from the turmoil around Charlton Athletic as the Ducjatelet-destruction appears to have stepped up a gear. 

It proved to be a very long weekend, one way and another. Having arrived nice and early at Gatwick for our midday flight we quickly spotted that the update on our gate was not until half an hour after expected departure. Not a good sign and, sure enough, we ended up two hours late leaving. The cause was the plane had been delayed from returning to the UK the night before and instead had to make a return flight from the Canary Islands first thing. Why British Airways couldn't have messaged us in advance, I don't know. It would have meant we could have seen the kids off to school properly and not arranged a sleepover for one and arrangement for the other. Still, we were flying Easyjet home so had the satisfaction of knowing BA weren't getting any more of my money. The delay meant we didn't reach our hotel until half-seven, more tired than we expected.

Saturday was a much better day. Not warm in Rome but certainly far from cold and it remained dry. There were 5,000 Scotland rugby supporters in the City - far more than normal for an away game, and we all made our way to the Stadio Olympico where the Italians had once again geared-up with their Peroni Village and plenty of Euro-trash style live music. The band in full Highland Rugby Passione Italia band warmed up outside the stadium and Carabinieri were proudly showing off their Lotus and Lamborghini police cars which delighted little boys (and some bigger ones) clamboured into with huge smiles on their faces. We then had the stirring sight of a 50-piece pipe band in full Highland Dress marching into the stadium in full cry. The bug drum at the back revealed that this was, indeed, the City of Rome Pipe Band, which made it that bit more impressive.

To the game then and I hoped for a less nerve-wracking encounter than my last visit when Greg Laidlaw dropped a winning kick in the last second of the match to edge victory. It was a great end-to-end game and the Italians scored four good tries. Scotland kept in touch right to the death with four of their own. A few penalties meant that it was 27-27 when Stuart Hogg went over in the final minute. That left Greg Laidlaw with an awkward angled kick from the 'wrong' side for him but he is Mr Reliable and he stepped-up to nail it and send the visitors home with relieved smiles on their faces.

Yesterday's journey home was, ahem, interesting. We knew there had been a bit of snow but Gatwick went in melt-down. Our initial hour delay was extended several times with one thing after another and we eventually dropped out from the cloud above Gatwick four hours late. We had befriended an American couple by this time on their first ever visit to London. They come from up-state New York and live with deep snow in the winter. They were pretty laid back about the delays and were, unusually for Americans, too polite to scoff at what they were seeing and hearing but both had wry smiles at the centimetre of snow that greeted us and the apocryphal warnings of the Captain and Stewards about safety and our onward journeys. 

Meanwhile, another failure to score at the Valley against poor opposition meant a disappointing result and an even more disappointing performance. We have been very poor for weeks now and the game is up. Robinson tactical naivety is startling and matched only by his stubborn refusal to shift from a one-up front shape which inevitably means we fail to exert sustained pressure and limits our scoring opportunities. Remind me someone, what's the game all about?

The apparent failure by Duchatelet to conclude a sale with either of the two parties who had met the asking price is worrying in the extreme. Without any further confirmation, the ongoing delay in concluding the paperwork is beginning to suggest there is no deal and after Robinson's outburst last week it does look like we are back at square one. That implies it may be another year or so before he can find another courtier willing to even get close to his unrealistic asking price. The operating loss will continue to increase and it looks like he will let the club exist on starvation rations without key roles being filled and will, presumably, skimp further on the squad and management. All of which does not bode well for next season. 

CARD have finally responded, after a very patient wait in my book, to announce further protests, although it's clearly going to be much harder for them to make an impact when actually attendance at matches is at a lifetime low. Pitiful pictures of the empty stands yesterday bear testament to how far the club has fallen under the Belgian Idiot. 

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