Chris Bentley: Losing at Sale? As my dad says, it's a shame about the Titanic
MY mother and father have been together for over 40 years now and the banter that flows between them is pretty special.
Just over eight years ago I introduced them to my girlfriend of the time and within 10 minutes they fell into a name-calling battle that Hayley (now my wife) loves to remind me of even today. Unfortunately the expression employed by my mother to describe my father isn't publishable in this family paper but needless to say was rather uncouth!
Before I go on I have to defend mum and dad – they are both fully-qualified teachers and such behaviour is reserved exclusively for familial ears (I know mum will be blushing as she reads this).
The point that I'm trying to make is that with familiarity, social norms and graces are abandoned. Had I have assumed the same tone with the future Mrs Bentley at the early stage of our courtship it's fair to say we wouldn't have got to the later stages.
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Those of us that are lucky enough to still have their parents will enjoy this chat that bounces to and fro. No harm is ever intended or indeed really received by either part as it is part of the glue that keeps them sticking together.
Dad often has a turn of phrase that he loves to throw in at mum after he's forgotten to let the dog out, made a wrong turn on a road trip or drunk a special bottle of wine on a weekday night. It invariably further infuriates mum and the too-ing and fro-ing commences once again. The incendiary term is "it's a shame about the Titanic". The point being that, whatever his transgression, there is very little that can be done to change it.
As I look back on the game from Friday night, I really do feel old man Bentley's words ring in my ears. Had we held onto a scoring pass, kept hold of the ball and bulldozed over when close to the line and – most infuriatingly for the faithful – had we not piggybacked Sale up the pitch to allow them the drive from which they got the first try, the first half would have taken a very different complexion.
I know that the team will have debriefed the 'if onlys' earlier this week but, to quote the old man, "it's a shame about the Titanic".
With a monster game at Saracens coming up, there is no time to get too het up over things. Indeed, in a perverse way, the result may well galvanise the very impressive Sale squad that has so far this season been under-performing and they may yet do us a few favours as we keep pushing to get up the table.
It wasn't all doom and gloom at the Salford City Stadium on Friday night. Two milestones were reached by a half-back partnership that has underpinned a lot of the success we've had over the last few seasons.
With the motto semper fidelis, the Exeter Chiefs make a big point of celebrating those who have shown loyalty over a period of time and reached a certain number of appearances for the team.
In the modern game, to have played 100 league games is an achievement not to be sniffed at and I would like to tip the hat to Gareth Steenson for reaching such a prestigious landmark. 'The Music Man' remains one of the most popular boys in the squad and I for one hope he can go on to get another 100.
Somewhat overshadowing the fantastic feat of Gareth however is his diminutive partner Haydn Thomas. 'The Rat', as he is affectionately known by the boys, turned out for the Chiefs in his 150th game for the club. Unquestionably the most competitive member of the Chiefs squad I've known, what he lacks in physical stature is more than compensated for with the size of his heart. He is a man that will never lose – you may score more points than him but he won't be beaten – and is the driver that has pushed the Chiefs pack to be the dominant force it is today.
Looking to the Six Nations and all appears rather rosy for England. With a gusty win over in the Emerald Isle under their belts, Stuart Lancaster's charges will be very positive about carrying on the winning form against the lacklustre French. Three weeks ago I suggested that the game against Les Bleus at Twickenham would be the title decider and I'm not deviating from that opinion.
The French have reverted to their classic form of being the most unpredictable team in international rugby. Not many folk will have bet on them losing convincingly to Italy and then backing that up with defeat by a Welsh side in disarray – bar a fantastic tighthead prop who should be starting – well done Mitch!
I for one would not put it past them cobbling together an epic performance at HQ in a week's time and I hope England are preparing accordingly.
While we're talking international rugby, it was once again great to see five Chiefs starting for the England under-20s in Ireland. Although the result didn't go according to plan, the fact that the boys were all in the team made for great reading. The cynic in me felt that perhaps as the previous game had been played on 'home' turf in Plymouth there may be a few changes as the squad went on the road. Fortunately, I was wrong.
And finally, for the regular readers of this column who've been inundating the Express & Echo newsdesk asking for details of my matchmaking with local hero Luke McLennan and Sarah from the Sandy Park team, things didn't work out and, alas, poor Sarah is still looking for a Valentine's date. Much like the weekend gone, I think I have to admit that you can't win 'em all!
Until the next time, stay safe and enjoy your rugby.