The last seven days have reminded us – as thoughts turn towards the big cricket, tennis and golf summer events – that it is often worth backing the underdog.
1 – Wenger’s Gunners sink Blues’ Double hopes
Okay, so Arsenal may be one of the richest and best-supported clubs in Europe, but they were certainly not fancied to beat Premier League champions Chelsea at Wembley. However, their FA Cup final glory was entirely merited as they produced one of their best displays of the campaign to bring the Blues’ Double hopes to an end.
Some Gunners fans may be unhappy that Arsene Wenger has been handed two more years in which to win the Premier League title – Arsenal are 12/1 to land the 2017-18 crown – but the Frenchman has shown he can adapt his tactics this season and his past record means he should he handed the opportunity to leave when he wants to.
2 – Terrific Terriers hit the big time
Every dog has his day and that was certainly the case on Monday when Huddersfield beat Reading in an admittedly drab Championship play-off final to clinch a place in the Premier League.
The Terriers had been tipped by many people to be relegated this season and they managed to go up despite having a negative goal difference.
They will be expected to struggle next season although they should take heart from the likes of Swansea City, Bournemouth and Burnley – 7/5 to be relegated in 2017-18 – who have all thrived against the odds in the top flight. Come on you Terriers!
3 – Chiefs take the sting out of Wasps
A decade ago Exeter were a Championship side that had enjoyed limited success since being formed in 1871.
But since the Chiefs were promoted to the Premiership in 2010, they have made steady progress, refusing to break the bank, buying sensibly and cultivating a brilliant team spirit.
Their extra-time triumph in the Grand Final against Wasps was a nail-biting affair, but Rob Baxter’s team deserved their success and can now say they are more successful than their West Country rivals Bath, Bristol and Gloucester.
4 – Tide may be turning for Seasiders
It would have been the perfect weekend for sport in Exeter if the Grecians – 16/1 to win League Two in 2017-18 – had managed to triumph in the fourth-tier play-off final against Blackpool, but it was not to be.
Paul Tisdale may have managed the club for a decade, but there was to be no Devon fairytale for a team that had been rooted to the foot of the table earlier in the campaign after making a dreadful start, particularly at home.
In many ways a Blackpool victory was unexpected as the fans’ anger towards their club’s board following three relegations and numerous unsavoury incidents meant only 6,000 fans travelled to Wembley. The animosity between board and supporters means the future could still be extremely rocky for the Seasiders.
5 – Vettel enjoys Monaco glory
For all the glamour that surrounds the Monaco Grand Prix, the tight street circuit usually means the race itself is one of the dullest of the year.
However, step forward Lewis Hamilton who is trying to make Formula One interesting again by producing an inept qualifying display.
After finishing fourth in Russia in April, Hamilton appeared to have found his mojo again by winning the Spanish Grand Prix, but never recovered in Monaco after qualifying in 13th spot.
He did pick off several drivers to eventually finish seventh although the Englishman is already trailing race winner Sebastian Vettel by 26 points in the title race.
Hamilton is 6/5 with ComeOn! to get back on track by winning the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on June 11.
6 – Superb Scarlets hit the heights
Scarlets upset the odds and showed how important it is to peak at the right time by beating Munster in a thrilling Pro12 Grand Final.
Everything was stacked against the Welsh side as they had not won the title since 2004, they were up against the might of Munster and, if that was not all, they were playing in the Irish side’s backyard.
But they stunned Munster by scoring four early tries and from then on never really looked like relinquishing their advantage.
It was a monumental display by Scarlets, particularly as it had come just a week after an equally magnificent victory at Leinster in the semi-finals.
7 – Old habits die hard for flaky England
England’s cricketers may have beaten South Africa in the recent one-day series, but their capitulation at Lord’s in the final match certainly raised a few eyebrows.
The series may have already been won, but to slump to 20-6 raised plenty of questions about a team that is being tipped to win the ICC Champions Trophy. They can currently be backed at 13/5 with ComeOn! to win the ongoing tournament.
Jonny Bairstow did restore some semblance of order with a battling innings, but the Proteas had little trouble knocking off the runs in rapid time and England will have to be much more consistent if they are to have any chance of enjoying a successful summer. They did at least start the Champions Trophy by beating Bangladesh.
8 – No stopping classy Cas
A cursory look at the Super League table shows that this season is not following the usual pattern as Castleford – 7/5 to win the Grand Final – and Salford are currently leading the way.
Leeds may be third, but Wigan, St Helens and Warrington are all struggling to reach the play-offs while Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, so often in the last decade tipped to finish at the foot of the table, are fourth.
These are interesting times in rugby league and although it may not create the headlines that Leicester City made by winning the Premier League in 2015-16, a Grand Final triumph for one of the sport’s lesser lights would be a tonic for the sport.
9 – Kerber goes from the sublime to the ridiculous
The ups and downs of the tennis world have been amplified by Angelique Kerber in the last 18 months.
The German, who enjoyed a superb 2016 when triumphing at the Australian and US Opens as well as reaching the Wimbledon final, has been dreadful since the turn of the year and was outclassed by world number 40 Ekaterina Makarova in the first round of the French Open.
Novak Djokovic seemed unbeatable this time last year, but is only just starting to look like his old self again after enduring a disastrous run of form after being beaten by Sam Querrey at Wimbledon.
Djokovic is 15/4 with ComeOn! to win the French Open and clinch his first Grand Slam since his triumph in Paris 12 months ago.
10 – Dumoulin springs a surprise
Tom Dumoulin may not be one of cycling’s big names, but he still produced a blistering individual time trial to win the 100th Giro d’Italia.
The 24-year-old beat the likes of Nairo Quintana, 9/2 to win the Tour de France, defending champion Vincenzo Nibali and Thibaut Pinot to become the first cyclist from the Netherlands to win a Grand Tour event since Joop Zoetemelk’s victory in the 1980 Tour de France.
Order should be restored next month when Chris Froome, Quintana and Richie Porte are expected to dominate the Tour de France, but for now underdog Dumoulin can enjoy his time in the sun.
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