Sunday 24 September 2017

Rugby fans suffers another defeat as Ben Cohen kicked off Strictly

Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff leaving the competition
Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff leaving the competition
Bottom two couples this week Iveta Lukosiute, Mark Benton, Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff
Natalie Gumede and Artem Chigvinstev
Brendan Cole and Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Abbey Clancy and Aljaz Skorjanec
Brendan Cole and Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Kevin Clifton and Susanna Reid
Anya Garnis and Patrick Robinson
Anya Garnis and Patrick Robinson
Mark Benton and Iveta Lukosiute
Abbey Clancy and Aljaz Skorjanec
Kevin Clifton and Susanna Reid
Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff
Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff taking their final dance

Michael Hogan

It’s been a heartbreaking weekend for rugby fans.Ireland were denied a historic victory over the All Blacks in injury time and Now Strictly Come Dancing rubbed salt into oval ball followers’ wounds, as Ben Cohen became the eighth celebrity to be eliminated.

Saturday night’s slightly flat show seemed to be suffering a post-Blackpool hangover. The judging panel decided to stop the over-scoring madness and crack down on technical details. The bottom two on their scoreboard were rugby beefcake Cohen and, only one point ahead, actor Mark Benton. Voting viewers agreed and it was these two who faced the “dreaded dance-off”.

Benton and his pro partner Iveta Lukosiute reprised their sweet if snail-paced foxtrot to Michael Buble hit It's A Beautiful Day. Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff had a second go at their strongman-themed charleston. It was whole-hearted but stiff, lacking lightness or quirkiness, plus he forgot his steps and lost timing on two occasions.

Craig Revel Horwood chose to save Cohen – and judging by social media, many viewers agreed – but the rest of the panel opted for Benton. As head judge Len Goodman explained, the decision was based on two big mistakes during Cohen’s routine.

The man nicknamed “Big Ben Ding Dong” has won friends with his hard work ethic, cheerful down-to-earth demeanour, bulging muscles and willingness to take his shirt off. However, the 34-yer-old was no natural and didn’t take to hoofing as well as his old England team-mates, Matt Dawson and Austin Healey, in previous series.

 

Reflecting on his Strictly stint, the gallant Cohen said: “It’s been an amazing experience. When else would I get to dress like this every day, wear all the Lycra and maybe no top? Kristina has been great. I’ve thrown her around, thrown her into walls, dropped her a few times… Thanks for putting up with me.”

Rihanoff tearfully returned the compliment: “If there was a trophy for the most improved person, it would go to you. You made me so proud every week and I’ve had the best, most rewarding time.”

Benton’s ability to bounce back and raise his game when it counts has to be admired. He’s now survived his third successive dance-off, despite his dodgy knees. Surely this streak will end soon.

The professionals opened proceedings with a baking-themed group number, complete with chef’s hats, whisks and wooden spoons – climaxing in a surprise appearance from the doyenne of dough, Great British Bake Off’s Mary Berry, who popped out of a cake. A classic bit of BBC cross-promotion. There was also a big-lunged but dull performance by “popera” four-piece Il Divo.

Rugby fans might be blue tonight but at least fringe-phobic viewers rejoiced. Yes, co-host Claudia Winkleman had finally had a trim. For once, she could look down the camera without hair obstructing her view. Still, there’s four weeks to grow it back before the final.

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