31 Mar

Blues Music
by Paul Waite
31 Mar 2003

It was billed as a titanic tussle and it was. The build-up to this game took me back to the early Super 12 days in 1996-7 when the Blues had the likes of Zinny, Fitzy , The Iceman and Robin Brooke. The Brumbies were a threat way back then, but also got dealt to by the better team.

Since 1998 the Blues have been wafting around in the doldrums rebuilding with mixed success, but last year they finally blossomed in the NPC, and this season they are putting together some mighty rugby once again. The team is strong right across the board, but key features are the defence which swarms and suffocates and owes a lot to Graham Henry (about $26 each apparently), Carlos Spencer’s magic, a very hard-hitting midfield, and a back three which would give NCC-1701 a run for its money. On the ball the whole team puts pressure on defences by keeping the ball alive and minimising the slower ruck and run phases. Even on a typical Auckland rain-filled night they put together some impressive attacking forays.

With both teams keen as mustard, we were treated to a great game. Even Andre Watson, by head and shoulders the best South African referee, had a good ‘un apart from one piece of utter bollocks. At one stage Muliaina had the ball and was half tackled, got up and was tripped again. He regained his feet, and got whistled up by Watson who claimed he’d been held. The replay showed that, although a touch-rugby ref might have had a good case, one handling a XV-a-side game didn’t. I’ve noticed a few of these crappy calls this season, and hope it gets stomped on before it takes hold. We want a dynamic game where players try to keep the ball alive, not a terminally boring ruckathon with recycling at every little ankle-tap.

Next up were the Highlanders entertaining their neightbouring foe the Crusaders. I really thought they might crack the hoodoo this season, but as luck would have it the lads from Christchurch fluked a penalty in the final 6 minutes to scrape home by a single point. It was a pretty dour struggle of little interest to the non-partisan observer keen on watching some flowing rugby, but for the knowledgeable fan it had the feel of a tight test match. Tony Brown made his comeback from injury in this game, and put together a solid, if uninspiring display (which some cruel observers might dub being back to top form). He had two attempted droppies in the final 5 minutes which would have made him a hero if they had landed over the bar, but in the event just made him a “guy who can’t kick straight” instead. Once again the Crusaders scrape through in an early-mid round of the Super 12. Just like last season, and look what happened then.

The Hurricanes put together what could be described in technical terms as a “crap” performance but still beat the Chiefs, who can consider themselves unlucky. Notable aspects of this game were the continued resergence of Christian Cullen, who has got all his old timing back, if not quite all his speed, and the absolutely awesome form of Canes No.6 Jerry Collins. The latter drives the ball up like a freight train, and punishes like a land-mine on defence, but more importantly he’s also regained the speed and ability to be all over the park that he lost last season due to bulking up too much. The other improvement is that, touch wood, he doesn’t seem to get injured every five minutes like last year. If he keeps this form up, he’ll be a cert to be typed into cell A6 in John Mitchell’s “My All Blacks Team.xls”. Don’t forget to disable the cell protection afforded to All Black captains before trying to delete Rueben Thorne’s name, eh John.

As to the game itself it was a funny old affair. After an initial good patch the Canes just couldn’t string anything together at all. A break would be made followed by a fumble. After that the Chiefs had all the ball, and looked after it better. All in all it looked certain that the Chiefs would overhaul the slim lead the Hurricanes had, but they just couldn’t finish. Desperate defence from players well and truly buggered by the flight back from SA somehow managed to hold the Chiefs out, and then a fresh pair of legs in the form of Ricky Flutey put it beyond doubt by dotting down a few minutes from time.

Elsewhere the Reds tanned the Tahs, with RL legend Wendell Sailor making a rare impact on a game with a pretty spectacular try. The Reds had the kind of abandonment and relaxation in their game which bespoke a team which had nothing to lose, nestling as it is, in the nether regions of the Super 12 table, and this paid off. The Tahs, still having serious thoughts about getting into the semis, looked like they were genuinely worried about losing, so they did.

Over in South Africa there was a totally unpredictable game between the Cats and the Sharks. I have to say that because my Competition Pick was wrong. The Sharks won this one, but I haven’t a clue on anything else concerning the game. Oh, just one more thing – the Sharks probably got more points.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebook

30 Mar

It's Raining Men
by Rob Wallace
30 Mar 2003

Horrible wet weather in Auckland was not enough to prevent the Blues from thumping the Brumbies 41-15, their biggest score against the Canberra team.

The rain hosed down all day, and gave the new drainage system at Eden Park a decent workout. Having been a bit wary of the new ‘hard’ ground, after the match the Blues were full of praise for the new surface, which was a vast improvement on the previous puggy surface when wet. And it helps to win.

Rupeni Caucaunibuca may have scored 2 wonderful tries, but it was the forwards who deserved the praise for the win. They unsettled the Brumbies and didn’t allow them to play their usual game, drove them back in defence, and did enough in set pieces to keep possession.

Bill Young, who along with Feek is one of the most destructive scrummagers in the game, gave the Blues front row some problems, and George Smith competed well in the loose, but otherwise the Brumbies were second rate. Williams and Mika cleaned up the lineouts, and in loose play the Brumbies had no answer to the succession of Blues players who contested the ball. The Blues also looked to create play, despite the conditions, whereas the Brumbies looked clueless.

Devine and Spencer were merely tidy, while despite the rain Howlett and Caucau looked continually dangerous. Tuitupou had an ordinary game, with several mistakes, and I’m sure that it will do him good and improve his concentration. Sometimes it can be all too easy, and better to see the errors here than later in the season.

In other games the Crusaders beat the Highlanders 17-16 in a tight game. The Crusaders forwards look to be working toward some form but they really miss the control and organization that Mehrtens brings. Currently the Crusaders backline looks directionless and without impetus, and other teams have now caught up with them defensively. And they no longer have the forward advantage that enabled them to capitalise on mistakes.

The Hurricanes eased to 2nd on the table with a 24-14 win over the Chiefs, and Cooper finally seems about to deliver the impossible – a ‘Canes tight five that can actually hold their own. Meanwhile the Reds overcame their appalling season start to beat the hopeless Warratahs in Sydney and extend their winning streak against NSW, while the Sharks also finally managed a win against the Cats.

Finally, back to an old favourite – the yellow card. The sending off of Fava in the Blues game, from what I could see, was unjustified. There was nothing in it. Yet the Blues scored 14 points while he was off the field and that, in reality, was the end of the game. It would have been much better for him to be cited, and dealt with later with evidence from both the referee and the TV shots, than to have this effect on the game for what seemed a minor offence.

24 Mar

Back into the groove
by Rob Wallace
24 Mar 2003

Teams can be a bit rusty after a bye and lose their momentum, but that didn’t trouble the Blues as they smashed the Reds 62-20 in Whangarei, which was ironic considering the Reds pregame shots about not rating the Blues, and implying the Blues were taking it too easy by rotating players.

It was by no means a perfect performance – there were too many errors – but it showed exactly what this Blues team is doing well. And it starts with the forwards – Spencer has always looked good with quality, front-foot ball and the current Blues pack is delivering it to him. And the whole team seems to be enjoying themselves as they play – a marked comparison to the dour faces from Christchurch. And when Carlos is enjoying himself, anything can happen.

Frontrowers Manu and Whitcombe started this match, and with Woodcock provided a very solid platform. Manu, in particular, had a very good game and I wonder how he now feels about his enforced switch to the Blues. Perhaps Auckland is looking attractive?

Ali Williams had a great game, and the pace and power of the Blues pack reduced the Reds to also rans. Support play was excellent and loose forward combination had another strong game.

The backs had a mixed day. Spencer was brilliant, both creating and scoring tries but the rest looked like they were trying too hard to score at times, and would have been better to play more controlled rugby and wait for the gaps to appear.

Gear had a tidy game at centre and set up a couple of tries with some nice short passes, Howlett enjoyed being back on the wing and looked more dangerous there as he ran in 2 tries while Caucaunibuca had his quietest game of the season as play didn’t flow his way.

Overall, it was good to see the team back into the groove as they begin to work toward the business end of the season. They may be top of the table but there’s a long way to go yet, and more often than not, the team that tops the table doesn’t go on to win the final.

23 Mar

Now You See It, Now You Don't
by Paul Waite
23 Mar 2003

It was another very entertaining and informative week in the Super 12 championship here in the sunny South. Totai Kefu provided us with a wonderful demonstration of how to go about motivating a team before a big game, when he obligingly rarked up the Blues in the media midweek.

The 62-20 humiliation of his “full strength” team can, in some part, be attributed to his dismissive opinion that they “weren’t that good”, and implications that they had scored most of their points by dint of opportunistic fluke. This all goes to show that, just because a bloke is bloody good at playing rugby, it doesn’t necessarily translate into being good at analysing it. It seems to me that even a complete imbecile could see that the Blues “opportunism” was the direct result of the pressure they put on their opposition; something no doubt, that a much sadder, and much wiser Totai could now testify to, having felt it first-hand last Friday evening.

Tappe Henning refereed the game in question and also provided some much-needed enlightenment into the complex world of refereeing. The Reds mauled the ball over the line in a shapeless mele of steaming imbecility, some of which were yelling “try ref!” and others (who seemed to be wearing blue, shouting something extremely rude, and to the contrary. Henning naturally went to the Third Moron Off-screen (TMO) who obviously replied with something like “search me, over to you mate”. Henning then gave the try, opining that he couldn’t see any reason that it wouldn’t be one.

Well strike me down with a feather. I’d naively thought, all this time, that it might have to be the other way around: ie. don’t give the try unless you can see a reason it *was* scored, given that a hand, an arm, a leg or some of the more unspeakable parts of the human anatomy might be placed betwixt ball and ground at the critical moment. So, using the very latest “I see no evil” Henning logic, if a Blues player sneaked a ball from a ball-boy and walked upfield un-remarked whilst play was at a standstill for some reason at the other end, it must be a try. After all the ref wouldn’t have seen the intercept, wouldn’t have seen the dash to the try-line and wouldn’t have seen the ball forced, but also wouldn’t have seen anything to indicate that it wasn’t a try either, so it must be a try eh? Colour me confused on that one but good old Oberfuhrer Henning has ever been thus.

The highlight of the game itself was the ever-marvellous Carlos Spencer. In the previous weeks I’ve said he’s back to his electric best. That’s wrong. Truth is I don’t think Spencer has ever played as well as we’re seeing him play right now. Even in 1997, as first-choice for the All Blacks he wasn’t as utterly dangerous with the ball in hand. He seems to have a real-time 3D map in his head of just where everyone is and six times the computing power of everyone else in coming up with a solution to avoid them. At this rate he won’t just be a chance of playing in the World Cup for the All Blacks, he’ll have Mitchell ringing him up every evening just to make sure he’s still coming.

Over the Tasman things initially looked good for the Waratahs, then they turned to shit. Actually the Tahs turned things brown themselves by blowing a gimme try in the turning point of the game mid second-half. After an early 21-0 deficit the Stormers had fought back well, but the Tahs were just about controlling things. Rogers made a superb break down the left and had the much feted Nathan Blacklock inside. Blacklock got the ball with the line begging but inexplicably decided it would be much more impressive if he beat yet another defender, like last week, before scoring and turned the wrong way. Bzzzt. Blown try. The Stormers brewed, and the Tahs gagged. It was touch and go, but the Stormers were the stronger finishers, with the home team reverting somewhat to their previous season’s lightweight play.

One other thing which struck me in this game was the complete ordinariness of Tahs halfback Whittaker. This bloke makes Justin Marhsall’s passing look crisp and quick by comparison, and that says it all. Much of the Tahs’ static backline movement in multi-phase play was the result of his dithery distribution.

Over at Kings Park the Highlanders flung themselves into the shallow end with the Hammerheads, and just about deserved to win a dour struggle. In a week where Taine Randell was taken to task for speaking his mind over a painfully obvious discrepancy in the South African disciplinary board’s consistency, the men from Otago did well to keep it together for this one. Actually maybe it helped them in an “us vs. them” team bonding scenario, who knows.

As for Randell’s outburst, it was very silly of him to expect that a South African board would mete out proportional punishment when on the one hand the offender was South African, and on the other a putative New Zealander. Pigs might fly before that happens. A deliberate flying head-butt which was definitely intended to harm the buttee got Venter 4 weeks suntan time. A raised knee against a South African player which was debatably intended to harm but was most likely just stupid and reckless got Tuilevu 50% more. Was this a reasonable advertisment for fairness in our game? I think not.

More power to Taine Randell and any other player willing to speak out despite the draconian muzzling clauses in their contracts, when the powers that be are doing a piss-poor job. Remember how John McEnroe raised the appalling standards of tennis umpiring by refusing to pander to the “old boys” in charge? Same thing here. Bringing the game into disrepute my arse.

Still in the Republic, the Canes blew away the Pussies in a meeting of two sides which like to play a helter-skelter style of rugby. The kiwi visitors stuffed the Cats by four tries to two, grabbing a full set of points, and moving up to fourth on the table. If they aren’t careful people will start to take them seriously. We’re presuming that normal service will be resumed once they get back to this neck of the woods.

Over the Tasman we were treated to a thrashing of the same kind of order as the Blues vs Reds match on Friday. The Brumbies hummed and clicked and totally rodgered the hapless Bulls who looked one-dimensional and tired.

Apart from the free-scoring blitz visited on the boys in blue during the second half, the highlight of the game for me was a complex dance of confusion enacted by referee Steve Walsh and George Gregan. “Sorry!” the ever-apologetic Walsh blurted, stepping right into Gregan’s path when the diminutive robo-half sought to feed a scrum. “Re-scrum.” he added, as the pack popped up. “I’ll step to my left.” he helpfully informed George, as the scrum set itself once more. Completely suckered in by the courteous Walsh, the intrepid Wallaby halfback surged forward, ball at the ready, only to be castled in a collision that must have rattled his upper set by a referee who might know his arse from his elbow, but not his right from his left.

It probably wasn’t payback for all the gob that Gregan visits on referess, and was just an example of Extreme Silliness but whatever the case it brought a chuckle as we watched it unfold. To be honest I have to admit to wishing that, one day, Walsh would cease and desist from his over-empathetic approach to refereeing and would, for once, simply tell a whinging skipper who hasn’t a clue about the Laws but thinks its part of his job description to have the ref on, to “just fuck off back 10 metres and stop embarassing yourself on TV”.

For the record Walsh said “sorry” a lot more instead, and the Brumbies won the game as easily as the 64-26 scoreline suggests, continuing in their march back to form, despite losing key player Stirling Mortlock for the season.

Finally, the Player of the Round for me has to be Matt Rogers of the Tahs. As a league convert Rogers breaks the mold. The lad is sublimely skilled with a swerve on him that would bamboozle even the most seasoned defender. Add to that his vision – the ability to be in the right place at the right time – and you have a potent package. He’s got to be a cert for a Wallaby jersey in this coming World Cup.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebook

18 Mar

Tah Very Much
by Paul Waite
18 Mar 2003

Well I’m the first to admit that I’ve been openly critical of the Waratah’s style of rugby over the past two seasons, but all that could change if they repeat their form of this last weekend.

This season they seem to have replaced the bizzy-buzzy, flattering to deceive, pretentious rugby of yesteryear with something of considerably more merit. For one thing they shunted a Bulls pack which weighs more than the Titanic did, and which demolished the Hurricanes pack a couple of weeks ago, to score a try from a rolling maul. No mean feat that. But one incident doesn’t sum it up – basically the Tahs look like they’ve grown up a bit and learned to put together some solid rugby, rather than the previous mis-guided stuff with all its tricksy-wicksy cuts and chops which promised much and delivered little. For their part the Bulls only managed a solitary try, and looked fairly toothless – or should that be hornless.

Speaking of a bunch of very big players with little in the way of creativity, the Sharks have to take the biscuit hook line and sinker, as it were. In seasons past this team have decided that the quickest route between two points is a straight line and who are they to argue with Euclid (as if they had a clue who Euclid was). Having no truck with the “hit spaces, not faces” brigade, the Sharks have also embraced the concepts of Newton, and determined that momentum is the second key ingredient of success on the rugby field. Indeed that old chestnut of Physics students, F=ma or Force equals mass times acceleration is obviously a favourite refrain on the Sharks’ whiteboard at halftime. It has to be said that in the aforementioned equation of physics legend, the “mass” part is evidently given more weight (sorry about that) than the “acceleration”, but our intrepid men obviously reckon that if you have enough of it then the resulting Force will be enough to propel you (in a straight line) right through, or over, the opposition defence.

Watching this bunch of rugby cretins you have to wonder at the aptness of the name Sharks. The array of very large animals with seemingly nothing but cartilage for brain-matter battering mindlessly away won’t be lost on the observant fan The fact that they need to field a player named “Wylie Human” might be evidence of a certain defensiveness in this regard. The Hurricanes ran rings around them on their first foray away from home, dealing with the awful attempts at attack fairly easily, and confusing their opponents with their radical non-Euclidean ideas when they had the ball. God preserve us from over-large morons.

Back here at home the Crusaders took on the Chiefs. The rumour is the Saders are over the hill, past it, shot their bolt, been reigned into the pack. It’s true that it looks like it. They are all playing like a bunch of stiff old farmers out on the back-blocks at 6am on a white-frosted morning, pretty much buggered but still grafting away for 12 hours a day nontheless and getting a result.

Key players have been missed and none moreso than Andrew Mehrtens, who is probably a few rounds away from being match-fit yet. Carter is an enthusiastic opportunist, but is too young to run a game the way Merhts can. Aside from that, the side hasn’t clicked at all and looks a bit ragged.

But a glance at the top of the Super 12 table will tell even an arithmetically challenged imbecile that, at equal first with 15 points writing the Crusaders off might be a tad premature. As usual they will be right there, on top form at the sharp end, and then we’ll see whether the rest can stand the pace. Even looking turgid and out-of-sorts, they managed to put away a spirited Chiefs side 36-29 and get the 5-pointer.

In the other games, the Brumbies plugged themselves in to their Bruce Stadium power supply and came out recharged enough to dispose of the Stormers 37-22. Like the Crusaders, a bit of early season off-form isn’t going to alter things. This team will pick up and be there at the end too.

Finally the Highlanders threw away a good chance to neuter the Cats, but allowed showpony Skinstad to go into the dressing room with that irritating smirk of his fully engaged. The highlight of this game was the sleight-of-hand by the Cats’ Bobo, as he made their final try. very nice. To the Highlanders – get the basics right and the rest will follow; you are much better than this.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebook

10 Mar

Take Control
by Rob Wallace
10 Mar 2003

With Carlos Spencer running the game like he had it on a string, and the backline looking sharper than a scalpel, the Blues cleaned up a creaky Crusaders team with a brilliant 39-5 win at Albany. Five points is the least any Crusaders team have ever scored in a S12 game, and that was due to a magnificent defensive effort by the Blues team, who continually pressured the Crusaders into mistakes and gave them no opportunity to use any possession they had.

You could tell something special was happening from the first blitz by Spencer, when he cracked the defensive line, off loaded to Howlett who fed Caucuanibuca, who promptly ripped down the touchline past the surprised Cantabrians to score in the corner. It looked so easy but it was done with tremendous pace and timing.

There’s a saying that good teams make their own luck, and the ball bounced nicely for the Blues all night, while the hapless Crusaders knocked on, missed tackles and made sundry other minor errors. About the only place the Crusaders had clear ascendency was the scrums.

Even what is presumed to be the top All Black loose trio had trouble containing the Blues. McCaw had a quiet game and was shaded by Braid, Thorne was nowhere to be seen while Robertson was outplayed by Gus Collins who is unaccustomed to No8 play. Robertson may have scored the only try, but his embarassing razor’ gesture has long worn out its welcome, and looks as tired and dull as the Crusaders backline is.

The Crusaders pack won enough ball, and we’ve seen them win games in the past with less possession, but they were unable to do anything with it. Anything they did do was snuffed out by the Blues defence, and they were unable to come up any creative play, especially in the backline. Even Brad Thorn was kept quiet, and Tuitupou provided great moments when smashed Thorn, and later Feek, back with some piledriving tackles.

The Blues forwards competed well and won enough ball to let the backs score the tries, but they were also responsible for the heart and organisation of the defence which was the key to winning the match. The backline was fantastic. Spencer played the best game from a 1st5 in NZ for several years, Tuitupou straightened the line and looked for gaps, while Muliaina held it all together and serviced the lethal back 3, all of whom finished beautifully.

It was a lovely style of rugby to watch, well removed from the patterned play of the Brumbies, or the pressure and choking style of the Crusaders.

In other games the Highlanders beat the Bulls, with the OH front row starting to look pretty damn good. Jonah returned for the Hurricanes in their win over the Stormers but looked way out of form and very disinterested. The Warratahs had a good win in SA over the Sharks, while the Brumbies looked lost and patternless without several of their key players. And finally in the battle at the bottom the Chiefs beat the Reds.

10 Mar

Video Nasty
by Paul Waite
10 Mar 2003

Hands up everyone who knows what the acronym “TMO” stands for. If you said “third match official” go to the corner, put this dunce’s cap on, and recite 1,000 times “I must try harder to get a life”.

No, it means “the moron off-camera”. For the less angry, possibly “third myopic official” would also be acceptable.

What the fuck was the silly bugger officiating over the Highlanders vs Bulls game this weekend doing?? Maybe he couldn’t take his eyes off a particularly juicy porno flick he was staving off boredom with long enough to do the job – who knows.

The issue at stake was whether a Highlander was in touch before he grounded the ball in the left corner, and in this case that was a pretty simple decision since the only part of his body which was being focussed on was his left foot.

The replay showed all of us that the boot indeed came everso fleetingly close to touching the white paint on its inside edge, but only for about half a camera frame at that. Possibly the TMO had a doctorate in Physics specialising in quantum mechanics, and was able, using arcane equipment, to discern that the wavefunction of an atom in said boot had indeed overlapped with one in a blade of grass sporting a bit of white paint. It was that close.

The clear decision was TRY! but the sub-moron skulking in the darkened room opted for the opposite.

It isn’t bad enough that we have to put up with the nonsense of “video refs” (let’s give them their properly crass name) at all, with the ridiculous delays and devaluation of the real referee’s job. No, we have to watch them get it badly wrong and influence the course of a game as well.

It just isn’t bloody well worth it. Let referees and touch judges do their job and chuck the third man out on his ear. The game would flow, and everyone would once again have the talking points arising from 50-50 decisions which possibly went the wrong way. Referees rarely get it wrong, and even if they do it all used to even out over a game anyway, so it simply isn’t worth all the shitty baggage which comes with it.

Of course this won’t be done. As with a lot of things rugby these days video refs are an important little bullet-point on the glossy brochure of TV Rugby Marketing. They don’t give a damn about the rugby or the spectator at the ground, as evidenced by their forcing the game to be played almost exclusively at night just for the benefit of subscribers sitting on their fat-arses around the World, despite the likes of Mitchell and Deans crying out for change.



Well the Highlanders did win the game anyway, no thanks to the TMO, but the Bulls continue to surprise. But enough of that, the Match of the Round was undoubtedly the Blues vs Crusaders and what a cracker it was! There was an air of “young tyros take on old master” about this match, played at Albany Stadium in Auckland. Right from the start it was evident that the Blues had come to play, when Rupeni Caucau engaged Warp Drive down the left to outstrip two covering defenders and dot down after a trademark Spencer break. What ensued was a game where the Blues out-defended, out-attacked and out-lucked the Crusaders. Deflections went to Blues hands, and basically it just wasn’t the Cantabrians’ night.

If anyone had any doubts before, doubt no longer – The Blues are back.

Elsewhere nothing exciting happened, apart from the Hurricanes winning, but that was only over the Stormers.

The Reds lost to the Chiefs with a display of ineptness on attack which probably had Andrew Slack weeping. They have a bye this coming weekend so they have a good chance of not losing. Mind you, they play the Blues the one after that, so the outlook still doesn’t look good for the perennial under-achievers. An extra Australian Super 12 team anyone?

The Waratahs beat the Sharks (but I’m not sure what we should have been expecting there), and the Brumbies once again sucked the lemon by going down to the Cats. I’m sorry but this isn’t good enough guys. The Cats lose to the Bulls, then last week lose to the Waratahs, who are fairly pathetic themselves. The Brumbies lose their last game badly, and would be expected to come out firing. This is as near to a “cert” in results picking competitions as you can get and what do they do? – lose! Hopeless. Brumbies – If you’re not careful I’ll pick you to lose in all the rest of your games, then see where you’ll be!

That’s it for this week’s Super 12 wrap-up. See you next week.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebook

3 Mar

Last Dance
by Rob Wallace
3 Mar 2003

The Blues began the weekend with a Herculean effort by a 7 man forward pack to defeat the Chiefs in Hamilton 30-27. After Troy Flavell was sent off for stomping after 5 minutes, the Blues pack showed fantastic determination to keep their team in the match. This was epitomised by Justin Collins who played lock for most of the game, yet still managed to outplay Gibbes in the loose.

Meeuws anchored a solid front row along with Woodcock, who put in a huge 80 minute effort. Mealamu’s current form is the best of any hooker in NZ, his throwing was accurate and his general play dynamic. Ali Williams dominated the lineout – even though he was the only lineout option the Chiefs were unable to shut him down. Rush kept it all together and led by example while Braid completely dominated Holah in the loose.

The backs had a more difficult time, with the Chiefs off side most of the game, but Caucuanibuca still managed to score a couple of brilliant tries. Spencer controlled the game well, but the backline really needed better front foot ball.

It wasn’t a good effort from the Chiefs. They are weak in the tight 5, relaxed too much when they were in front, and played the wrong pattern. Had they opted for territory and set pieces they would have been able to maximise their one man advantage, but their loose and sloppy style fell right into the Blues hands.

Despite the backline talent, they were too flat and unable to make any ground against an outstanding Blues defensive effort. This was Holah’s worst game in living memory, and Randle was lucky not to be sent off for a second yellow card offence after he stopped a certain try with off the ball obstruction. Randle continues to prove that when the big games come, he goes missing. In cricketing terms, he’s a flat track bully, and completely unsuited for higher honours.

In other games the Crusaders picked their game up another notch to beat the Reds 34-6. They haven’t hit top form yet but are moving toward it and next weeks clash with the Blues should be a cracker. Standout players so far have been Brad Thorn and Greg Feek. The Highlanders had a tidy 41-17 win over the Stormers, while the Hurricanes got thumped by a mighty Bulls pack and the boot of Louis Koen, losing 46-34 in Napier. This was the first win for the Bulls outside of SA and was thoroughly deserved. As for the Hurricanes – they’re not going to win many games until they get a decent front row.

I’ve been a Flavell supporter for a long time – so much talent, just waiting to be used properly – but this was the final straw. It was a reckless, stupid action, and one that hurt his team dearly. There really is no room for players like this in top level rugby, and I wouldn’t pick him for the Blues again ever – his talent is not worth the baggage that comes with it. He’s in front of the Judiciary and hopefully this episode of tapdancing on Greg Smith’s head will be Flavell’s last dance.

3 Mar

A Load Of Bull
by Paul Waite
3 Mar 2003

The classic game of this round was the Hurricanes v Bulls at McClean Park, Napier.

Perrenial wooden spooners The Bulls have been on the end of a fair few hidings from the Canes over the years, but they gained a small revenge this weekend with a 46-34 win.

The game was a like watching a pair of cerebral palsy sufferers trying to play table tennis at times. Both teams were laughably inept in their own ways. For the Hurricanes, the gameplan seems to revolve around avoiding any kind of set-phase play like the plague, and eschewing support at the breakdown. Instead they obviously think that the way to win is to rush about randomly and chuck the ball around until “something good happens”.

The set-phase strategy came unstuck in a big way against a Bulls scrum which has the weight and drive of one of those yellow bulldozers you see on building sites. Not the silly little things the Council has, but the great big Fuckoff kind they use to build 12-lane motorways. The cretins who tinker with the rugby lawbook have, for reasons known only to themselves largely outlawed the push-over try with the lunatic 5m rule, however the mismatch in this game was so marked the Bulls managed it. They reduced the Hurricanes pack to rubble, forcing a penalty try for pulling the scrum down on the line. Cooper needs to take his pack out next week and make it push the scrum machine 6km at 6am every morning as a reminder that success in the forwards starts from there.

The Bulls deserved to win but they shouldn’t get too confident. So far they have played two of the worst teams in the competition. Still, it’s definitely an improvement on last season for them and The Spoon looks like it might be heading to the Cats this year.

Speaking of which, they took another beating at home, losing 48-36 to the Waratahs, who are notoriously bad travellers. On second thoughts, make that a definite prediction for The Spoon.

Looking down the results, the Highlanders stuffed the Stormers like a Christmas haggis at Carisbrook to the tune of 41-17, and the Chiefs lost to the strong Blues outfit at home. Although the final score was close (30-27), the Blues were mostly in control of this game which is more than they were of Flavell, who still succumbs to idiotic passages of play where he behaves like a mentally impaired bouncer. This time he was red-carded for stamping on the face of an opponent, and he will undoubtedly be handed a ban for some weeks in a forthcoming judicial review. One day, maybe, Flavell might actually learn to focus all his aggression on the oval-shaped object instead of on people. If he did that, he would own an All Black jersey, however we think that Flavell is a case which proves the Law of Balance in Nature. Gifted with an abundance of physical talent for rugby, he was born with a brain the size of a newt.

The only other result to mention was the Brumbies, or should that be the Bumbles. The first half saw The Robo Masters’ famous endless loop of computer software seemingly hit by a virus. Maybe George unwisely opened an e-mail early on the day of the match and opened an attachment called “Blossom Drops Them” and *bang* all of a sudden its accessed his addressbook and e-mailed itself to the whole team. Next thing you know they are out on the pitch fumbling around dropping the pill like a bunch of retards wearing wolly mittens. Whatever the case, the Sharks didn’t care and took full advantange to beat them 25-17.

Rumour has it that Brumbies coach Nucifora has sucessfully applied an anti-virus patch to the operating system and next week the team will be bug-free and ready to robo.

Finally, the Crusaders effortlessly took the hapless Reds apart down at Christchurch on a wet evening, scoring 34 points to 6. They didn’t even have to get out of first gear really, with the Reds looking pretty clueless on attack. Just quietly, we think that the more Rugby League players that the Australian teams sign up, the better.

So that’s a wrap for Round Two of the 2003 Super 12. Despite the travesty which comprised the Hurricanes game, the overall standard is pretty solid and given another two weeks we should be seeing some very good rugby being played.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebook