Sports Letters: Misplaced pride

Sir: As the final whistle blew in the match between the North Division and the New Zealanders it became clear why British rugby persists in being inferior to that in the Antipodes. Almost the first words of Bill Beaumont and Nigel Starmer- Smith, commentating for BBC TV, were that the North could be 'proud' of the performance they had just put up. In fact the North had just lost a match they could and should have won.

It seems that because most people expected the New Zealanders to beat the North easily, the fact that the gap in the final score was less than one converted try led at least two distinguished ex-rugby players to be delighted by a narrow loss. I know what they meant: the North, for the most part, did play well and did play courageously. But isn't that what we should expect? And why should we not expect them to win too? They had enough chances to do so and frankly blew them. Had the scoreline been the other way round I cannot imagine anyone in New Zealand daring to suggest that the All Blacks should feel proud of anything]

So long as we allow ourselves any degree of satisfaction over narrow failures we shall continue to come off second best.

Yours faithfully,