by Rob Wallace
13 Apr 2003
I’ll start with the Crusaders. Finally! is what springs to mind. Well, for half a game at least. New Zealand needs these forwards to perform and at long last we saw hints of the quality they can deliver. Great first half, 2nd was a bit close to deja vu really. Having seen the Blues pack struggle in set pieces against the Bulls it’s clear we need a top-notch forward pack and without the Crusaders performing we won’t find the best mix. These guys really need to step it up from here for the rest of the season, for the good of Kiwi rugby.
It was good the see Jack playing at TH lock and he looked solid in that more conservative role, while Maxwell looked wonderful for 30-50 min. Thorn wasn’t missed at all, and the Crusaders looked much better for reverting to the more traditional roles. Broomhall looked scratchy, and when Robertson replaced Thorne not much changed. In fact Thorne had one of his most nondescript games ever, and he really needs to pull finger.
Highlight for me was Hurst. Sure he received good ball, but he really got that backline going for the first time this year with his swift delivery and I thought he was a big improvement on Marshall. Hell, even Ralph looked good.
Worst part of the game: Skinstad’s hair.
The Hurricanes looked pretty solid in their 42-26 win over the Warratahs. Another good effort again by the pack, and Tana seems to love it at 2nd5. I keep waiting for the bubble to burst but they keep producing the goods. The OH clash will be a cracker.
The Chiefs were awful, losing 25-31 to the Sharks. At least Holah is running into some form. As for the others- forget it. How can Waikato be so good and the Chiefs so poor?
As for the Blues. This is a backline. It’s good they have some forwards to deliver the ball, but I wouldn’t rely upon them. They play a fast, light style of football that suits them, and while the Blues will thrash useless teams they will struggle against good ones until they get a better forward platform. Manu seemed to struggle, and the front row went backwards, and it was only the continuity and skill that kept them out of trouble. Mika looks injured to me and is a shadow of last years NPC form, while Williams is struggling as teams double-team him – he needs more support to take the pressure off [where are you, Bryce?]. Collins had a fantastic game, but the highlight was Muliaina – currently the best centre in the S12 while Umaga plays 2nd5. Overall, 5 points for the Blues, but more work needed.
On other matters: I’ve been to two of the Warriors home games, for a win and a loss. There’s no doubt in my mind that the smaller stadium facilitates a better crowd atmosphere. At Erickson you’re close to the sideline and always near someone who is cheering. It’s a better atmosphere than Eden Park [except when full] and you can move all around the stadium, which is great for the kids who go and play silly beggars on the steep hill behind the ingoal and then attack the fast food vendors. I’ll think about going to some more games, especially if they’re on a fine Sunday afternoon – stuff this night rugby.
At the movies with the kids last weekend we ran into Jonah Lomu. The kids said hello, and Jonah gave them a smile and a reply. Jonah himself is awesome in the flesh – lean, mean and really cut. It’s with a lot of sadness that I read in the paper that he’s had an operation on a vein to help his kidneys. I guess this is the creation of an AV fistula, connecting a high-pressure artery in the forearm up to a vein, giving a huge flow vein, which is a prerequisite for hemodialysis. It’s basically only done when the kidneys have failed to such a state that dialysis is inevitable. Sometimes, after a spell of dialysis, things improve, but deep down I’m worried we won’t see Jonah on a rugby field again. It’s also been salutary to see the article from John Mayhew, intimating that Jonah’s poor performances are illness related. If this is the case, I’m going to miss the big guy.