Viticulture is the centuries-old science of knowing everything there is to know about grapes.

Protecting them from pests, monitoring their growth and working out when best to harvest them for making fun stuff like wine, these are all key duties for your average viticulturist.

They would also know exactly when grapes go sour.

I wonder then what they would make of two very different responses to British defeats in martial arts events at the Olympics on Tuesday.

The first British gladiator to go down was Joe Murray.

The 21-year-old bantamweight came to Beijing with realistic medal hopes after his breakthrough performance nine months ago at the 2007 world championships in Chicago.

On his way to a bronze medal there the chirpy Mancunian beat China's Gu Yu, a classy southpaw with quick hands. Gu had won their only other contest at a tournament in China.

Last week's draw for the Olympic tournament gave them a chance for a best-of-three decider in the first round of the 54kg category. Everybody who saw the draw knew instantly that Murray would be up against it.

And so it proved. Gu leapt to a 4-0 lead, put the Brit down in the third and kept out of reach down the stretch to record a straightforward 17-7 win.

Straightforward to the five judges, that is. Those of us at the half-full but still impressively raucous Worker's Gymnasium not from China were a little less sure about it all.

Before I go any further, let me clarify a few details: Gu did deserve his win (he landed the more telling blows) and Murray, a tremendous 2012 prospect with real character, was not at his best.

Neither of those two points, however, detracts from what was another dismal example of judging in Olympic boxing.

Quite simply, Gu was rewarded for every blow he struck, while Murray seemed to get a point for every other punch he landed - the kind of two-for-one deal you don't need.

Does this matter? A 17-14 defeat is still a defeat, after all.

It was a question the British media put to Murray and Team GB's coach Terry Edwards and the two struggled to pull their punches.

Murray, still panting from his late attempts to catch the rapidly retreating Gu, was clearly disappointed with himself.

But he was also hacked off about the number of shots he landed that were not recognised by the required three of five judges. They only have a one-second window to press their buttons, so blows do go unrecorded, but there is no doubt Murray suffered more of these misses than his opponent.

"They were giving him points for everything," said Murray. "I was hitting him clean and they still weren't giving me points. They let him have it his own way."

He added that the same thing happened the last time they met in China and while I can't comment on that contest I can assure you Murray caught Gu with a peach in the first round everybody but three of the five who mattered most must have seen.

There followed an even stranger decision from the American referee. Both boxers were holding but Gu seemed to be the hugger-in-chief. The ref appeared to agree and awarded Murray his first two points of the contest only to make the penalty irrelevant by giving Gu two as well.

"Two people can't hold or there's no fight," said a mystified Murray. "(The referee) had to pick one or the other. He picked the Chinese lad but, because it was in his backyard, he took two points off me as well."


Edwards found it even harder to keep his disappointment in check.

"You all saw it, you're witnesses," he railed. "I thought they were very generous to the Chinese lad.

"You expect a little bit of bias sometimes but you come to the Olympics and you expect a level playing field."

He went on to acknowledge that his charge didn't produce his best form and accepted the result, if not the margin. But even then he suggested it could all have been very different.

"The scores make the difference. We had our gameplan and it was working. But the scoring was stupid and that changed it."

Edwards carried on by saying he didn't want to be accused of "grouching" but there was always another "but" not far behind.

He finished by pointing out that the Ukrainian team lodged a complaint after their lightweight Oleksandr Klyucho was adjudged to have lost 10-8 to another Chinese fighter on Monday.

Will there be a British protest? No, but it is arguable there should be. How else will the situation improve?

But Edwards knows a complaint now would probably place his six fighters still in the competition at a serious disadvantage. It is never a good idea to annoy the judges in sports as subjective as amateur boxing.

And to give Murray his due, his response was to throw down the gauntlet for an Olympic rematch - "let's see what kind of man he is on my patch".

It should also be mentioned that Gu, perhaps unintentionally, added some spice to the conspiracy pot by praising his vanquished opponent after the fight.

"He is strong and I think he is better than me," he said.

So is it really "sour grapes" to complain after a defeat when you might be right? Are those grapes not sour but perhaps a little unripe?

The second British combat loss came at the judo venue - a wonderfully compact gymnasium that creates a terrific atmosphere (I only wish I knew more about what was happening).

Euan Burton also came to these Games with dreams of Olympic success. With two European and one world championship bronze medals to his name, the 29-year-old was looking for a trinket of a different colour here.

But Burton, by his own admission, didn't deliver. His second and final defeat came in the repechage to Brazil's Tiago Camilo, the reigning world champion.

"I gave it my best but it's massively disappointing," he admitted. "I'm not particularly happy with my form throughout the competition. I thought when I got here I'd be one of the contenders."

But by the time he came up against Camilo, the 29-year-old Scot looked exhausted. He had clearly expended too much gas in his earlier contests by not finishing them earlier.

"I didn't score the big scores, and to win medals you've got to get big scores quickly," he explained.

There is a subjective element to judo's judging too but there were no complaints from Burton or the British judo camp on this front.

I spoke to young British judo players Sally Conway and Sarah Adlington (here as part of Team GB's "Olympic Ambitions" attempt to give 2012 prospects a flavour of the Games) and they summed up it pretty accurately: he got thrown.

So no grumbles there, just honest assessment.

Murray could have opted for the same approach, but he's young and his adrenalin was still charging. Edwards too might wish now he had shown a tad more grace. But it isn't easy when you know you've got a case.

All I know is that all this talk of grapes has made me hungry. So I'm off for some cheese with their whines, justified or not.

Matt Slater is a BBC Sport journalist focusing on sports news. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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