Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Saturday February 1, 9:30 AM Eastern – Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

This is the most uneven of the weekend’s fixtures on paper – Wales is favored by around 20 points – and the match could be even more lopsided than that. The Welsh Rugby Union announced this morning that the roof at the Millennium will be closed, a condition which will hopefully encourage the Welsh to play a more attacking, open style – the exact opposite of what the Italians want.

Italy will field a starting XV composed of a pack with a massive 587 combined caps, and a backline with just 115 caps between them – perhaps the largest disparity ever in an international rugby team. Injuries have forced coach Jacques Brunel to pick a very inexperienced backline – Angelo Esposito makes his debut on one wing, while on the other wing, Leonardo Sarto will make just his third appearance for the Azzurri. At outside center, Michele Campagnaro will also be making his third appearance, while flyhalf Tommaso Allen is the relative veteran of this young group, playing in his fourth Test. The experience of scrumhalf Edoardo Gori, inside center Alberto Sgarbi, and fullback Luke McLean will be vital as Italy seek to contain the huge threat of the Welsh backline, currently the most potent attacking force in the Northern Hemisphere.

For Wales, British and Irish Lion Jonathan Davies misses out on selection, as he is just coming back from a pectoral injury he suffered against South Africa during the Autumn Tests. But Davies has a very talented deputy in Scott Williams, and otherwise the Welsh are at full strength in the backs. In the pack, captain Sam Warburton has been judged only fit enough to make the bench, so Justin Tipuric, a more traditional 7, slots into the back row alongside Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau. Lock Alun-Wyn Jones takes over the captaincy. Lydiate will be under some scrutiny, as he has been in poor form for his club, Racing Metro, where he has been required to do more ball-carrying than he is used to. Loosehead prop Gethin Jenkins is just returning to fitness after a recurrence of his persistent calf problem, so Paul James starts in his place.

For Italy to keep this one close, they will need to keep the game as tight as possible through the forwards, and go hard at the breakdown to slow down Welsh ball. Everyone in the rugby world knows how good Italian number 8 Sergio Parisse is, but his back row colleague Alessandro Zanni is also a fine player, and they are joined by another wily veteran in Mauro Bergamasco. These three will have to dig deep into the bag of tricks they’ve assembled over a combined 276 Test matches for Italy. The trouble is that the Welsh back row is also very good, and very balanced. Essentially, Lydiate is the tackling machine, Tipuric is the turnover specialist, and Faletau is the primary ball carrier – when they are all in form, they compliment each other so well, and it is a beautiful thing to watch.

Unfortunately for the Italians, with the roof closed, there are likely to be fewer handling errors, and thus fewer scrums. Welsh tighthead Adam Jones, the rock of the Welsh scrum for so many years, has admittedly struggled with the new scrum laws, and the Italians will be confident at scrum time. But how many opportunities will they get? Neutrals will be hoping Italy put in a big performance to make this match competitive, but I just can’t see it happening. Wales by 25

Below, highlights from last year’s match in Rome:

Sunday February 2, 10 AM Eastern – Lansdowne Road (Aviva Stadium), Dublin

The entire rugby world remembers what happened the last time Ireland played a Test in Dublin – that match, an epic 22-24 defeat to New Zealand in which the Irish played some scintillating rugby.  The question is whether coach Joe Schmidt and captain Paul O’Connell can get this Irish team to reproduce the intensity of that famous performance. Ireland finished their last Six Nations campaign with a fairly meek defeat to Italy, and will be looking to erase those painful memories. There was talk at the time that the match might be Brian O’Driscoll’s last for Ireland, but he has decided that, at 35, he has one final Six Nations left in him. Sending the legendary BOD out on top will certainly provide motivation for the Irish – the great man deserves nothing less.

Scotland interim coach Scott Johnson has already named his team – he will be grateful to welcome back British and Irish Lion Stuart Hogg, who missed the Autumn Tests through injury, at fullback. Hogg, still just 21 years old, is the only player in the Scottish team with true game-changing ability. Fellow Lion Sean Maitland moves to the wing to accommodate Hogg, while Sean Lamont occupies the other wing. The center pairing is a very inexperienced one – Duncan Taylor and Alex Dunbar have only 9 caps between them. Midfield has often been an area of weakness for Scotland, so it will be interesting to see what these young guys can do. Competition for places in the pack is strong enough that another Lion, lock Richie Gray, only makes the bench, with Tim Swinson starting.

The Scottish players are in a slightly strange position – they know that Vern Cotter, (who is currently in charge of French club Clermont), is set to take over as Scotland coach in the summer. Their pride in the shirt and their belief in captain Kelly Brown is not in question, but just how motivated will they be to perform for Johnson, with the knowledge that they will have to prove themselves all over again when Cotter begins his reign? Johnson is a charismatic and refreshingly honest figure, but the fact that his role is only temporary can only be a negative in the short term.

Irish coach Joe Schmidt will not name his team until Friday. He has a strong group of players from which to select, although the loss of flanker Sean O’Brien for the entire tournament is hugely significant. The man known as the “Tullow Tank” is irreplaceable in terms of ball-carrying ability and aggression, although Ireland is blessed with a strong leadership group and serious depth in the back row.

It appears Conor Murray will start at scrumhalf as Eoin Reddan has been ruled out with a calf injury. Murray shone for the Lions last summer, but competition for the Irish 9 shirt is fierce – Reddan’s Leinster teammate Isaac Boss has been called up to the squad, and Connacht’s Kieran Marmion is waiting in the wings.

I expect Scotland to come out and fight hard – they may even go into halftime narrowly ahead. But I think Ireland’s class will show when the game opens up a bit after 50-55 minutes. Ireland by 10

Below, highlights from when these two teams met last year, in Edinburgh:

The Six Nations – the jewel of the Northern Hemisphere rugby crown – begins on Saturday. It is a competition with a tremendously rich history, originally contested by the four “Home Nations” – England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland – beginning in 1883. France joined the tournament in 1910, and the Five Nations was passionately contested for the rest of the 20th century. 2000 saw the addition of Italy to make up the current field of six teams.

The format could not be simpler – each team plays every other team once. (The venues rotate each year – so the three teams that have three home games this year will have only two next year, and vice-versa.) There are no bonus points for scoring four tries in a match or losing a match by fewer than seven points. Wales are the two-time defending champions, and are seeking to make history by becoming the first team ever to win three consecutive tournaments outright. England will be a strong contender, as will France – despite, amazingly, finishing bottom in last year’s edition. Ireland are being labeled dark horses by some, but the reality is they are just a damn good side who will be a handful for any other team in the tournament. As usual, Scotland and Italy are not considered serious contenders, but they are both improving and are capable of knocking off any of the favorites, especially at home. So it promises to be another thrilling six weeks of rugby.

France v England is the match everyone is looking forward to this weekend, so it seems appropriate to begin by profiling these two bitter rivals.

Saturday February 1, 12 PM Eastern – Stade de France, Paris

It has become a truism, but people are going to keep writing it until is no longer true – no one ever knows which French team is going to turn up. They are capable of brilliance and incompetence, often in the same half of rugby! The French will be without their talismanic captain Thierry Dusautoir for the entirety of the tournament, which is a huge blow. He is a world-class flanker and a strong leader, and his absence adds to the uncertainty surrounding the French team. The stand-in captain will be lock Pascal Pape, who leads a strong French pack renowned for its technical scrimmaging ability. In the back row, clubmates Yannick Nyanga and Louis Picamoles have been in good form for Toulouse, so I would expect French coach Philippe Saint-Andre to pick either Bernard Le Roux or Damien Chouly in Dusautoir’s place, depending on what type of back row balance he is looking for.

In the backs, selection is a bit trickier. It looks like Jean-Marc Doussain will play scrumhalf, although he has recently played at flyhalf for Toulouse. Maxime Machenaud is the other option at 9. At flyhalf, Remi Tales is injured, so it is a question of whether Saint-Andre takes a gamble on the uncapped Jules Plisson, or goes with the experience of Francois Trinh-Duc, who has played 48 Test matches for France.  The other big question mark is at outside center – will Saint-Andre pick the skill of Gael Fickou or the size of Mathieu Bastareaud in the 13 jersey?

England are at a crossroads. Everything is in the context of the ultimate prize – winning next year’s World Cup on home soil. The English pack have shown they have the quality to do just that, but the backs have simply not posed the necessary threat. The key decision facing coach Stuart Lancaster is whether to persevere with the players he has come to trust, or whether to try some new faces in hopes of providing the spark that has been sorely lacking. Owen Farrell seems to have the 10 jersey locked up due to his defensive and kicking abilities, despite his worrying inability (thus far) to threaten the gainline or release his outside backs. Mike Brown has not put a foot wrong at fullback – the 15 jersey is his. And Billy Twelvetrees will likely start at inside center in lieu of a better option. But the other four backline spots – scrumhalf, outside center, and the two wings – are up for grabs. England legend and current BBC pundit Jeremy Guscott recently suggested in the Rugby Paper that Danny Care, Luther Burrell, Anthony Watson, and Jonny May were “likely” to fill these positions. I hope Guscott is right, because that is an incredibly positive backline that achieves what good coaches should strive to do: reward players based on form, and be willing to select the most talented players even if they lack international experience.

To the French, the English are “Les Rosbifs” – to the English, the French are “the Frogs.”  And on both sides of the English Channel, this match is “Le Crunch.” Bring it on!

If Dusautoir were playing, I would see the match dead even – that’s how important he is to France. Without him, England by 3

Below, highlights from the last time these two teams played in Paris, in 2012:

 

 

United States international Samu Manoa had another strong game on Saturday, scoring a try as Northampton continued their winning ways, defeating Bath 43-25. You can see Manoa’s try below – the number 8 pops up on the wing and finishes strongly from close range.

Another week, another last-minute win for Munster.

It was back to league competition this weekend, as the Heineken Cup is on hiatus until the second weekend of January. In the Pro 12, Scarlets traveled to Cork to face Munster, and came very close to a rare win at Thomond Park, a notoriously difficult stadium for away teams. Both sides were understrength, as Munster coach Rob Penney and his Scarlets counterpart Simon Easterby opted for squad rotation after consecutive weeks of intense European competition.

Bad conditions prevented the two sides from playing much running rugby, and they went into halftime tied 3-3. Scarlets took the lead a few minutes into the second half thanks to a converted John Barclay try, and Munster responded with two penalties to cut the Scarlets’ lead to 10-9. Scarlets went down to 14 men in the 73rd minute, and then had to play the last four minutes of the match with just 13 men after Michael Poole joined his teammate Rob Evans in the sin bin. As with last week, Munster found themselves in possession after the siren, knowing any mistake would mean defeat.  And once again, it was JJ Hanrahan, (this week playing flyhalf), in the center of the action.  Some good work from the Munster pack got them within a few meters of the Scarlets’ tryline, and then Hanrahan spotted Ronan O’Mahony – in acres of space thanks to Munster’s numerical advantage – and duly found him with a crossfield kick. It appeared that Munster and Ireland prop Dave Kilcoyne had knocked on in the build-up, but after consultation with the Television Match Official (TMO), referee Nigel Owens decided to award the try.

Meanwhile, in the English Premiership, Saracens made a huge statement with a dominant 49-10 victory over perennial contenders Leicester. Much-maligned England wing Chris Ashton scored two tries, while rising star Billy Vunipola also touched down for Saracens.

Finally, in the French Top 14, Toulon were rampant, defeating Montpellier 43-10. The result raised a few eyebrows. Toulon were just two points ahead of Montpellier in the league standings going into the match, but you wouldn’t have guessed it – such was the gulf in class between the two sides. Several of Toulon’s bevy of international stars got themselves on the scoresheet, with South African Juan Smith, Australian Drew Mitchell, and Englishman Steffon Armitage all scoring tries.

Below, O’Mahony’s winning try for Munster.

The Heineken Cup brought rugby fans two fantastic games on Saturday, underlining once again what a shame it would be if we were to lose the premier European club competition. The political situation is complex, and there are many financial interests at stake, but the bottom line is that the Heineken Cup is a wonderful showcase for the game we love, and benefits all of the clubs involved. As fans we can only hope that the bigwigs sort out their differences and keep the competition alive in one form or another.

Perpignan v Munster provided sheer heart-pounding drama – it was a brutally physical, tight contest that Munster were leading 13-12 when Italy center Tommaso Benvenuti scored a try for Perpignan in the 77th minute. That put the French side ahead 17-13 with just a few minutes to play. Munster managed to regain possession, but they were going nowhere, with their backs throwing some uncharacteristically sloppy passes. The siren sounded, indicating 80 minutes were up, and Munster knew they could not afford any errors, or the game would be lost. They showed incredible resilience to get back on the front foot, and then 21-year old JJ Hanrahan, who had only just been substituted on, produced a moment of magic – a sidestep that will live long in the memory of Munster fans. Hanrahan went over in the corner, and amazingly Munster had won the game 18-17.

Meanwhile, Leinster v Northampton Saints was the more fascinating in psychological terms. Leinster had humiliated Saints a week ago in Northampton, and everyone was wondering whether the English side would be able to recover in time for their trip to Dublin. Their response was a credit to everyone involved with the club. Northampton dominated the collisions and consistently got over the gainline, as the back row of Calum Clark, Tom Wood, and Samu Manoa (who was named Man of the Match) were outstanding. Leinster clearly missed the influence of Sean O’Brien at the breakdown and in the loose. Yet the Leinster defense held strong, and the Irish side only trailed 7-3 at halftime. The seesaw battle continued in the second half as the two teams traded penalties, and then a drop goal from replacement scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i put Northampton 13-9 ahead with time nearly up. Leinster fought their way back down the field as the siren sounded, going through more than 20 phases, camped out on the Northampton line for many of them. The Saints defense was resolute though, and finally Leinster and Ireland number 8 Jamie Heaslip knocked on. To add insult to injury, Saints wing Jamie Elliott pounced on the loose ball and ran it back for a try, robbing Leinster of the losing bonus point.

Samu Manoa is a name Americans should know. He is the best American rugby player, and is among the best players of any nationality in one of the world’s top domestic leagues, the English Premiership. He plays mainly at lock (or second row), and is also capable of playing blindside flanker or number 8. He is a mountain of a man at 6’6″ and 271 pounds, and is well known for his ferocious tackling, but is also extremely agile and skillful. American media coverage of players like Manoa is going to be crucial for the growth of the game in the United States. We need increased grassroots investment and TV coverage, but also the development of a true rugby culture. Soccer is the blueprint: a kid growing up today in the Bay Area needs to be able to dream of being the next Samu Manoa, the same way a kid growing up in Nacogdoches, Texas can now dream of being the next Clint Dempsey.

Of Tongan heritage, (his grandfather and namesake captained Tonga in the 1960s), Manoa was born in Concord, CA in 1985. He played amateur club rugby for San Francisco Golden Gate and the quality of his play there earned him an opportunity at one of the top English clubs, Northampton. It has been a meteoric rise for Manoa considering he played his first game of professional rugby in September 2011. Northampton gave him a three-year contract extension just six months later, and he was named in ESPN’s Dream Team for the 2011/12 season. Manoa’s second season for the club was even more successful, earning the respect of teammates and fans alike as he was named Players’ Player of the Year as well as Supporters’ Player of the Year. He has continued his excellent form this season, recently being named Player of the Month for October.

Manoa will be a vitally important player for both Northampton and the USA Eagles for years to come. In the first video below, you will see many of his trademark hits – textbook technique, great timing, and thudding power. But also look out for his skill in the air – both at restarts and lineouts – as well as some deft passes in open play. The second video is a brutal hit he made while playing for the Eagles that has proved to be very popular on the great Rugbydump.com

The highlight of the weekend was, as anticipated, Wales v Australia. What an incredible advertisement for the great sport of rugby union. Both sides were totally committed, as Australia attacked with panache and Wales defended heroically. The breakdown battle was intense, with Scott Fardy and Michael Hooper getting through a mountain of work to give the edge to Australia in that facet of the game. Amazingly, there were no scrums until the 46th minute, which contributed to a free-flowing game played at searing pace. But in the end, it was déjà vu for Wales as they once again lost to Australia by a small margin, 30-26.

The main headline was Australian flyhalf Quade Cooper’s sublime performance – he marked the occasion of his 50th cap for the Wallabies with a breathtaking display of his attacking skills. When he gets quick ball and accelerates onto it, he looks like he can do absolutely anything.  He has the best long passing game in the world which compliments an array of bedeviling short balls and offloads, and also continues to develop a very intelligent tactical kicking game.  After Saturday’s match, Welsh center Scott Williams compared defending against Cooper to “chasing shadows.”

It is amazing to think that Cooper was in the international wilderness not long ago, having fallen out with Australia’s then-coach Robbie Deans. Cooper didn’t feature in the Lions series this past summer, and it looked like, after a promising start to his Wallabies career, he might never reach 50 caps. Huge credit is due to the man for having worked hard both on his game and his maturity. He had developed a reputation as a party boy, but is now Australian vice-captain at just 25. And credit is also due to coach Ewen McKenzie for showing faith in a player who had performed so well for him at Super Rugby level for the Queensland Reds. Man-management is so important in rugby, as with all team sports, and clearly Cooper and McKenzie have a lot of trust in and respect for each other.

The Aussies will be hugely encouraged by this performance – Bob Dwyer (who coached the Wallabies to the 1991 World Cup) wrote on the always excellent Green and Gold Rugby that for the first 60 minutes of the game, it was “the best I’ve seen Australia play for 10 years.” Meanwhile, Welsh players said all the right things after the match – that their focus would immediately turn to the Six Nations – but privately they will be very disappointed. It remains to be seen how strongly they will bounce back from this defeat, but just based on the quality of the Welsh team, I would make them favorites to win a third straight Six Nations. It’s going to be a very exciting tournament though – England, Ireland, and France (in that order) have shown that they are legitimate contenders for the trophy as well.

Domestic Rugby News

It was business as usual in the English Premiership this weekend, as the top five clubs (Saracens, Northampton, Bath, Harlequins, and Leicester) all won their matches. In the French Top 14, the notable results were seventh-placed Grenoble beating second-placed Toulouse 25-18, and Stade Francais making a major statement, dominating powerhouse Toulon 23-0. In the Pro 12, which features teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Italy, the top four (Munster, Leinster, Glasgow, and Ulster) all won, although Munster and Ulster were less than convincing in defeating Dragons and Zebre, respectively.

Saturday November 30, 12 PM Eastern – Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

The 2013 Autumn Internationals conclude with a match that should be an absolute cracker. Australia has had the edge over Wales in recent years. Since 2007, the teams have played 12 times, with Australia winning 11 – the sole Welsh win came in November 2008 in Cardiff. The margins have been razor-thin though – in the last three matches between these two, Australia has won by two points twice, and by one point once. Wales will be desperate to reverse this trend. The match has added significance as these two teams have been drawn in the same group for the 2015 World Cup. So each team is anxious to gain the psychological upper hand as rugby’s showpiece event draws nearer.

A compelling secondary storyline is what effect, if any, the manner of the British and Irish Lions’ victory over Australia this past summer will have on this game. It was a remarkable 41-16 victory for the Lions in the third and deciding match, and the defeat was a massive psychological blow for the Australians. The 2013 Lions team was dominated by Welshmen, and seven who started the third Test for the Lions will start for Wales on Saturday: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Mike Phillips, Richard Hibbard, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, and Toby Faletau. For Australia, the number is eight: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali’ifano, Joe Tomane, Will Genia, Stephen Moore, James Horwill, and Ben Mowen. These players certainly know each other very well, and I expect three individual matchups to be crucial in determining the outcome of Saturday’s match.

Hooker: Hibbard v Moore will be a captivating battle – they are two of the best hookers in the world. They will be looking to target each other at scrum time and in the loose. Hibbard has been in the press this week talking confidently about reproducing the physicality the Lions exhibited during the third Test, and no doubt Moore will want to take his opposite number down a peg.

Lock: The Jones v Horwill matchup is another that will set the tone for the two packs. These two were involved in controversy during the first Lions Test when Horwill stamped on Jones’ face as Jones was trapped at the bottom of a ruck. Horwill was eventually cleared of the offense after a farcical judicial process, and the two captained against each other in the third Test. Horwill’s form since then has been so poor that he was stripped of the Australian captaincy by coach Ewen McKenzie, and nearly dropped from the team altogether.  When Horwill and Jones are at their best, they are seriously tough customers, and hopefully they will have a great battle on Saturday.

Scrumhalf: Phillips v Genia at number 9 will be fascinating. Genia has been in mostly bad form this season, and Phillips has been inconsistent on the field, in addition to off-field issues – last month he was embarrassingly fired by his club, Bayonne, for apparently showing up to a video session drunk. As with many scrumhalves, these two struggle with clearing the ball quickly from the base of the ruck. Too frequently both Genia and Phillips pick the ball up, have a look around, take a few steps sideways, and then finally pass. This is a major problem because it takes away time and space, allowing the opposition defensive line to rush up and apply pressure. When a team is functioning well, the scrumhalf should know where the next pass is going as he is getting to the ruck, and by the time he gets there, he should be passing immediately, off the ground. These two will be under major scrutiny on Saturday.

I expect another close game, but I give Wales the edge. They showed against South Africa three weeks ago that they are a very good side. Australia has shown glimpses of quality over the past month, but they are at the very end of a long, brutal season. Despite McKenzie billing this match as a “Grand Final,” I think it will be one hurdle too far for the tired Australians. Below: highlights from the last time Wales beat Australia. Wales by 5

Well, the Irish defeat against New Zealand is all the rugby world is talking about today. “Heartbreaking” is the word being used in both the Irish and the New Zealand press. Ireland played like the best team in the world in the first half, racing out to a 19-0 lead after just 17 minutes. The All Blacks responded, but Ireland led at halftime 22-7. In the first 20 minutes of the second half, Ireland held firm, and the All Blacks managed just a single penalty to reduce the deficit to 22-10. But in the 64th minute, Ben Franks went over for a try, Aaron Cruden converted, and the stage was set for an unbearably tense final 15 minutes with Ireland ahead just 22-17. The Dublin crowd roared their men on, but the Irish looked out on their feet – such was the incredibly intensity of their effort over the first hour.

With five minutes to play, Johnny Sexton missed a kickable penalty that would have made it a two-score game. All Blacks captain Richie McCaw identified the kick as a key turning point in the match, saying: “The reality is, if that had gone over, it was probably game over. But when that missed, you could see a sense of lift in the boys – there was still a chance – and perhaps from the Irish boys, you could see that they were trying to eat up as much time, and sometimes when that happens, an opportunity will come.”  The Irish had possession and bravely tried to see the game out, but an opportunity did come for New Zealand when Ireland were penalized for going off their feet at a ruck just before 80 minutes were up. Although the All Blacks were 60 meters from the tryline when Aaron Smith took the quick tap, they demonstrated the self-belief epitomized by McCaw and Ryan Crotty went over for the score. That made it 22-all, with the conversion to come. There was then insult added to injury, as Cruden missed at his first attempt, only to be allowed to retake it when the Irish were judged to have begun their charge prematurely. Cruden made no mistake with the second attempt, and Ireland have still never beaten New Zealand.

It really was incredibly hard to watch, even as a neutral – the only comparison I can recall is watching France beat Wales 9-8 in the 2011 World Cup Semifinal, when Wales played with only 14 men for an hour after their captain Sam Warburton had been sent off. It will be interesting to see how Ireland responds to this. They should believe that they are real contenders for the Six Nations – such was the quality of their performance – but that is easier said than done. This defeat will haunt them.

The whole Irish squad deserves the highest praise, but special mention must go to Sean O’Brien, who was an absolute force of nature. He carried strongly, made a real nuisance of himself at the breakdown, and made 16 tackles, missing none. Condolences to hooker Rory Best, who broke his arm and looks like he will miss the beginning of the Six Nations. Congratulations to the All Blacks on their incredible achievement of going undefeated for an entire year. I am already looking forward to the England tour of New Zealand next summer.

Other results

Wales 17-7 Tonga – a pretty dreadful game. James Hook was good at flyhalf though – will Warren Gatland consider playing him there in the Six Nations?

Italy 14-19 Argentina – it was raining heavily in Rome. There were a lot of scrums. That’s about it.

Scotland 15-21 Australia – same old story for the Scots, they battled hard but just weren’t good enough. Australian fullback Israel Folau continues to amaze. Incredible to think that this is still his first year playing the 15-man code, after stints in rugby league and Aussie rules.

France 10-19 South Africa – not as good a match as I had hoped, as the French didn’t really turn up. They conceded a converted try almost immediately, and although the rest of the match was hard-fought, they never overcame that deficit.