On The Case... Jeremy Casey takes a look back at the sporting weekend

It may be harsh after they have just played in a World Cup Final, having beaten Australia and New Zealand along the way, but I'm afraid England's campaign in Japan has to go down as a failure.

Monday, 4th November 2019, 3:46 pm
Saints forward Courtney Lawes (far right) and his England team-mates show their disappointment after they lost the World Cup Final to South Africa on Saturday

That's because the sole target for Eddie Jones and his players was to come home as winners, to be the champions of the world.

The past four years of development under the Australian have all been about peaking for this tournament, and for England to claim a second World Cup title to go with the one they won under Clive Woodward in 2003.

Well, the harsh reality is they came up short.

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Aston Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton shows his dejection after Sadio Mane's late, late winner for Liverpool on Saturday

It is all relative of course, and yes there will be plenty of countries who would be delighted to just reach a World Cup Final, let alone win the cup itself.

But when you set your standards and expectations so high, and as high as England did, then if you don't match those expectations, you have say you have failed.

In Saturday's final, England froze on the big stage.

They didn't look right from the first minute, with passes going astray and catches being dropped.

David Cornell starts the inquest after Oldham's late equaliser on Saturday

They struggled to do the basics and they were deservedly beaten by a powerful South Africa team who were well worthy of their third world title.

It was a huge blow to England, who were as poor as they had been excellent in the previous week's win over the All Blacks, and in hindsight, perhaps that performance and victory was a peak the players simply weren't capable of reaching again.

England are clearly still an exceptional side, but all the players, and coach Jones. will know this was a huge opportunity missed.

They didn't do themselves justice when it matter, and one thing's for sure, it is going to feel like a very long four years before they get another chance to claim the crown they crave in France 2023.

Harlequins coach Paul Gustard

Now call me old fashioned, and plenty of people do, but what has happened to having defenders on the posts for corners?

Several goals that have been scored in recent weeks would have been stopped with a defender on the post, with the latest team to fall foul of this current defensive trend being Aston Villa.

Sadio Mane's last-gasp winner for Liverpool at Villa Park on Saturday wouldn't have gone in if there was somebody on the far post, but because there wasn't, the Reds striker's hopeful near post flick flew into the bottom corner, and Villa lost.

Now I am sure there is a sound tactical reason for why more and more managers are opting to do away with cover on the posts when defending a corner, but to me it's something that is just gifting goals to the opposition.

Martin Atkinson (left) endured a testing afternoon at Goodison Park on Sunday

The Cobblers stretched their unbeaten run to four games with their 2-2 draw at Oldham Athletic on Saturday, and when you look at the bigger picture regarding Keith Curle's team it looks an encouraging one.

Yes, there was frustration - and anger in some quarters - that the team threw away a 2-0 lead for the third time this season, with the Latics netting twice in the closing minutes to deny Town a maximum haul at Boundary Park.

But the facts are the Cobblers have claimed 10 points out of the past 12 available to them, scoring eight goals and conceding just two in the process.

It will be very handy indeed if they can keep up that sort of form in the next few months!

As it stands, Town are two points off the play-offs, five points off the top three and six off leaders Forest Green Rovers.

With a little more than a third of the season played, the Cobblers are right in the promotion mix, and in my opinion have yet to hit anything like top gear.

I'm sure there is plenty more to come from Curle and his players.

I understand some people aren't fans of Curle and the way he sets up his team, feeling he is too negative, but compared to the past few years, the football has been an improvement, and the club is heading in the right direction.

For me, there is cause for genuine optimism.

It was another great weekend for Saints, who simply blew Harlequins away with a superb first-half performance at Franklin's Gardens on Friday night.

They eventually claimed a comprehensive 40-22 win, although if you believed the Quins coach Paul Gustard after the game, that was all down to bad luck as far as his team is concerned.

His side were at one point 27-3 down and conceded four tries in the first half alone, but apparently that was down to Saints 'having a bit of luck', 'a few missed tackles' from his Quins boys and the fact Saints had the cheek to go and score a try from a maul...

The blustering Gustard rounded things off by saying: "There were some positives in the second half in terms of how we came back and dusted ourselves off because we're not 18 points worse than Northampton Saints. Of that I'm certain."....

Err, I would take a quick look at the result Paul. I'll think you'll find that it proves you are.

It was another weekend where VAR caused more controversy and talking points in the Premier League, and things are getting worse not better.

There were four or five incidents where the referee and video referee made a hash of things in various matches, but the performances of Martin Atkinson and the VAR officials in the Everton versus Tottenham match on Sunday were ridiculous.

Dele Alli somehow got away with punching the ball in the area, Richarlison was also clearly tripped in the area but nothing was given, and then Davinson S√°nchez tripped Richarlison when the Brazilian would have been clean through on goal in the dying seconds.

Atkinson waited for the VAR call which said 'no red card' and that may have been a fair decision - but the referee didn't even award the free-kick for the clearest foul you will see.

I get the impression that everybody involved with VAR has simply had their heads frazzled.

It's a mess, and sadly I can't see things getting better any time soon.

VAR was supposed to make things better, make things clearer, ensure the right decision is made, but it is failing miserably.

As time goes on the whole system is becoming more and more muddled.

But instead of those responsible holding their hands up and pledging to do their jobs better, they are starting to trot out pathetic statements to try and justify terrible decisions and cover their own backsides.

It's not good enough and, on review, it's a red card for VAR from me!