They came, they saw, they fell flat on their faces….
by Rick Boyd
20 Nov 2000
Here we go again.
Another end-of-season tour to Europe. Another close loss at the hands of the much-maligned “second division” nations. Another round of “new dawn” claims by the northern hemisphere rugby touts, another raft of excuses from the south.
And what does it all mean? Bugger all. Sorry, but there you go.
We can fully expect the predictable proclamations of greatness from the NH. European rugby finally come of age. The SH giants exposed as vulnerable. New dawn.
We can equally expect the tired old litany of excuses from the south. End-of-season tour. Not really taken seriously. Jaded players at the end of a long hard season. Many injuries. Best players left at home. Hearts not really in it. Focusing on next year.
Well, they can both get stuffed. A win is a win is a win is a win. The SH can take their lumps and sod off back home as beaten sides, never mind the whining. And those NH punters who expect to be on even footing next year — not forgetting an eye on a “real chance this time” for the next world cup — check out the last few seasons when NH sides won over SH teams in November. Remember what happened in the following SH winter when you came down to our little neck of the woods? So don’t get cocky.
The luck finally ran out for the Lucky Country in Australia’s last-minute, controversial loss to England at Twickers. England played a total rugby game in this match, hogging possession and territory, and but for a continuing lack of finish would have been all over the “world champions”, particularly in the first half. Australia made do with what ball they could get and relied on the talents of class performers like Roff and Burke to stay in touch, and then go ahead.
With Australia leading 19-15 six minutes into injury time and with the English still not getting a handle on backline penetration, and with Aussie fullback Latham sin-binned for an innocuous high tackle, a chip ahead by pommy new boy Balshaw was seized by wing Dan Luger for a try just inside the touch-in-goal line. Ref Andre Watson of South Africa called for the video ref. The slow motion revealed that Luger dropped the ball before grounding it but the ref was clearly heard to say into his mike he was concerned only whether or not that constituted a knock forward or a knock down. The latter was obviously the decision as Watson then awarded the try.
Jonny Wilkinson added the conversion from the side line. Australian captain Eales commented, with that graciousness essential to being Australian, that England “got away with it at the end”.
Over the channel in France, the All Blacks failed in their bid to restore some tatters of pride to the battered black jersey. Coach Wayne Smith said he expected the All Blacks’ season to be judged by this final game, and if that is the case then the season was a failure (although the record books will show the All Blacks winning 3-2 over France for the season).
In losing 42-33 the All Blacks scored three tries, as did the French, the difference being the boot of Froggy flyhalf Lamaison. The All Blacks led at one time in the second half but the French scored a try to halfback Galthie and the All Blacks were left trying to score the winning try in injury time. Then Lamaison settled the issue with a last-gasp drop goal, sending the All Blancmanges off to play Italy next week with their tail between their legs.
It was a great game, apparently. I say apparently because of course I write to you from the lost wastes of Western Australia where rugby is as important as nude underwater skateboarding. But full marks though to the pro-active group of towering intellects in the Australian Rugby Union who fulfilled their obligation to promote rugby nationwide by selling the TV rights for rugby to Channel Seven Australia. Even fuller marks to the chimps in three piece suits who run Channel Seven who have come to the very reasonable conclusion that promoting rugby in Western Australia means showing only Australian games, when they absolutely cannot avoid it, squeezed in between much more important programs like Aussie Rules club games or late night movies. And did I follow the game on www.rugbylive.com? Damn right bucko. Bless you Paul Waite, you saint among men.
All that aside, as far as I can see from my one working eye nothing much has changed. England and France remain worthy members of the big five but I for one won’t be elevating them into the top three until they can chalk up a win or two down under. Good luck to them, well played and all that but let’s not get carried away.
And by the way, for all the mathematically challenged, next weekend’s game against Italy is the REAL last test of the millennium for the All Blacks. You know the millennium, don’t you? The one with a thousand years, not the one with 999 years?
Let’s hope it ushers in one of those New Dawn thingies. We could all use one.