9 Nov

One Out Of The Box
by Paul Waite
9 Nov 2003

Well now we know what’s inside the Black Box.

One of the most potent teams at this tournament, that’s what.

A lot of questions were answered in this entertaining quarter-final of running rugby, not least ones surrounding the All Black forwards who must now be enjoying the warm glow engendered by figuratively screwing up all the criticisms which have surfaced during the past week and ramming them home somewhere that the Sun doesn’t shine too much.

The comparison between the previous game against Wales and this performance was like comparing chalk with cheese. Gone was the soft defence, gone was the lack of support at the breakdown, back was the kind of running onto the ball which we’ve seen glimpses of in the Tri Nations.

This game was won where it always is – up front. By the last quarter the Springbok forwards were just hanging on, as evidenced by two huge scrums from the All Blacks one which disintegrated the Bok pack, and another which shunted them on their own line causing a turnover to create a try to Rokocoko. All of the Black Pack had huge games, but three stood out – Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu and Chris Jack. Over here in New Zealand we’ve believed McCaw if the premier No.7 in the World for some time, but in this game he extended the lead he has. Mealamu once again showed that magical trick he has of evading tackles and making ground, and was rewarded with a fine try. Chris Jack was just a dominating figure in the lineout and around the park.

Out in the backs Carlos Spencer stepped up as All Black fans had hoped he would. Spencer loves the big stage to strut his stuff, and he brought out quite a few tricks tonight. But it was his running which was back to it’s electric best, and added to the balance and vision offered by Mauger outside him, the South African defence was kept guessing for most of the game.

In the end the overall feeling is one of the Springboks being outclassed both up front and in the backs for the full 80 minutes. If anyone dared, they could probably point accusatory fingers at the way the All Blacks ‘blew’ chances in the first half by taking wrong options when they made break after break to come away with no points on the board. For most of the game South Africa were quite evidently struggling to contain their opponents, and on the basis of posession alone might have called a 20 point deficit at half time a fair one.

So, as always, the cliche “we have plenty to work on” can be used by the All Blacks as they prepare for the semi-final against Australia next week.

In the meantime though, the whole squad can deservedly feel they have restored the faith of their supporters in them.

Well done Black!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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7 Nov

What's Inside The Black Box?
by Paul Waite
7 Nov 2003

There’s an imaginary or at least conceptual artifact that we refer to in the IT industry. It’s the “Black Box”. What it represents is a thing which does some tricky shit, but how it actually achieves it is hidden.

That’s how I feel with this All Blacks team. I feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve, looking down at a specially interesting present underneath the tree. I pick it up and shake it. It makes some very interesting noises indeed, but I haven’t got the foggiest idea what’s inside. The outside appearance gives no clues whatsoever.

A package of seemless black wrapping paper, and which looks exciting and which emits some very interesting noises.

This All Blacks outfit has me totally baffled. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are only two possible explanations: either they are sandbagging to an unprecedented level, or what you see is what you get and they’ll be out of the cup this weekend.

There are indications that the former may be the case. The Black Box prevents us from seeing the truth inside the machine, but the noises which have been emitted recently give us tenuous clues.

After the Welsh game the degree of relaxation about the awful defence and loose play from the so-called tight forwards was astonishing. Mitchell and Deans gave all the appearance of a pair of scientists who had made a few little tests and had acquired the expected results. No trace of consternation was evident and indeed they seemed quite happy in a genuine way.

A few days afterwards, there was a statement from one of the players to the effect that they had been “trying some new things” in defence, which supports that view.

Looking back at the game itself in a cooler light, there were clues there as well. The defensive line was quite different from that seen previously in the 3N, with a simple line across the paddock, which allowed the chip kick to be so effective for the canny Welshmen. The looseness of the play and the missed tackles resulting from it have been commented on previously, however the Spencer try was a markedly different passage of play. This came once the Welsh had gone ahead on the scoreboard. All of a sudden the All Blacks rampaged downfield, playing a different style of rugby than before, and at the end ran a worked move we hadn’t seen before and scored from it.

My bet is that the move was brought out before its time, simply to re-establish the lead.

But all this is still conjecture. We’re still contemplating the Black Box and wondering what the hell is inside it. In theory we’ll find out this Saturday when the All Blacks take on the confident Bokke.

But life being what it is, my bet is all we’ll find inside when they take the black wrapping paper off is another Black Box.

Go Black (Box) !

Paul Waite

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4 Nov

RWC 2003: How did Wales score those tries?
by Tracey Nelson
4 Nov 2003

This is just to clear up what actually happened each time Wales scored a try. I’ve also included a summary of one other major break in the first half that nearly eventuated in a try but ended up as a penalty shot at goal for Wales.

Try 1: Welsh first five Jones puts a chip kick over the top of Williams who is standing just off the ruck. He runs through and regains his own kick and smartly passes to left wing Shanklin who slips McCaw’s tackle. Howlett makes the tackle on Shanklin, Thorne is the lone forward back in support and attempts to get the ball but is driven off by No 8 Popham and lock Sidoli (very Welsh name that). The ball is then spun out left to replacement player Thomas who is hit in a huge tackle by MacDonald, but the ball is quickly recycled left again where Howlett is left with a two-on-one situation and centre Taylor goes over to score.

Penalty goal: A missed touch-finder by Spencer is gathered near the sideline, Thorne makes the tackle but the pass goes to blindside flanker Thomas (J) who runs through the gap between Somerville and Howlett – Somerville attempts to tackle but misses, and a later attempt by Howlett slips off. Eventually McCaw concedes a penalty at the ruck.

Try 2: A chip kick is put up the centre of the field by Spencer for Howlett to run onto. Howlett doesn’t manage to recover it, makes the tackle on the Welsh player who does and is then buried in the bottom of the resulting ruck. The ball is passed out to winger Williams on the fly, who steps and evades Brad Thorn’s tackle at the edge of the ruck, then Muiliaina gets stepped and beaten as he attempts the head-on tackle. Williams passes out left to Shanklin who is caught from behind in a tackle by Marshall, but the pass is got away to Parker who falls over the line with Howlett absent from his wing.

Try 3: Wales have a ruck inside their own half and the ball is quickly swung out to the far left of the field. Hewett and Thorne are the two defenders on the end of the defensive line, Thorne looks to cover the winger and Hewett can’t move fast enough to close down the gap on Williams who speeds up field with Thorne in pursuit. Williams passes to Sidoli who slips Thorne’s tackle only to get tackled by Howlett. The All Black defence are slow to come back and are looking disorganised as Wales swing the ball out to the right. A high tackle by Collins is penalised and Wales take the lineout. From the 5m lineout they rumble forward, a ruck forms and Charvis goes straight over the top to score as for some reason there is no NZ defence behind the ruck.

Try 4: A botched lineout throw by NZ gives possession to Wales. Replacement back Sweeney runs onto a pass from the ruck, evades Spencer’s close-in attempt at a tackle on the Welsh 10m line and takes off downfield. Muliaina makes the tackle but Sweeney offloads to Charvis as McCaw catches him from behind, only for a pass (albeit a bit forward, but then Andre Watson isn’t flash at picking up forward passes as we saw with Howlett’s try!) to be put up to Sweeney again. Sweeney is tackled by Howlett just short of the goal line and a ruck forms with no end of hands in it from both sides. The All Black forwards are regrouping on the line but Wales quickly spin the ball left where they have a 3 on 1 overlap on Mauger and Spencer. A huge long pass is hurled out to Williams, Spencer attempts the intercept but fails, and Williams runs over un-touched to score.

3 Nov

Send In The Clowns
by Paul Waite
3 Nov 2003

Rumour has it that Adidas is poised to unveil a new All Black strip for the knockout stages of the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Informants from inside the company have revealed that it consists of a baggy one-piece black satin body-stocking, covered with very large white polka-dots. and specially fitted size 14 boots for extra grip.

What a bunch of bloody clowns.

Is it just me, or does the memory of Rueben Thorne talking sagely to the media about “our first real test”, and “needing to be more accurate” jar ever so slightly with the lunatic playing approach demonstrated last night?

Right from the off, the All Blacks looked like they’d each been fed a double dose of meth-amphetamine, and told by their esteemed coaches to try not to think at any stage, and just “run and throw it about like friggin’ loonies ’til you score”.

Forgive me, but that seemed to be the gameplan.

If the attack was frenetic and ill-conceived, the defence was something else. It has been a facet of this present All Blacks side that the defence tends to go as soft as a pensioner’s appendage with poorly executed tackling technique to the fore, allowing the opposition to make cheap ground and quickly threaten inside the 22m. The fact that ‘big hits’ are put in regularly just flatters to deceive – make no mistake, the defence of this All Black team is a big weakness.

However, astute observers will correctly point out that the All Blacks’ problems all started from the tight-five. Last night there was nothing resembling a solid platform provided by these guys, who were as loose as the proverbial tarts drawers. Poor old Richie McCaw had a nightmare of a game, but you only have to remember how frustrated and useless Josh Kronfeld used to look when his tighties were farting around like little old ladies at a bring and buy sale to see the reason.

Why is this? The unit is the same one which did well in the 3N, and has been developing nicely, or so we thought.

You need go no further than the Leggo-blocks approach to team selection that Mitchell has been using at this tournament. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the most important thing you can have in the team at a tournament like this is momentum. Tana Umaga’s injury panicked Mitchell into a silly decision to adopt a dizzy merry-go-round approach to team selection which has resulted in the current state of affairs where we effectively had a team which wasn’t.

Believe it or not rugby is still a team game, and the old adage that a team is greater than the sum of the parts is dead right. Last night the All Blacks were about equal to the sum of their parts, although the crueller commentators amongst us would argue it was slightly less.

Finally, and following on from the points above about momentum, it was extremely poor judgement on Mitchell’s part to hold Jerry Collins back for so long. The fact he got injured last night is a direct result of this. Followers of Collin’s career will have observed that he plays his best rugby, and remains uninjured, when he is in the groove. The best thing Mitchell could have done was to play Collins in every single pool game. Instead we have the current sad situation.

Can the All Blacks bounce back? Of course they can. Any team can have a bad one, and improve. The issue, however, is that serious miscalculations have been made and as a result ground has been lost which can never be recovered at this point.

The team will be the first to admit to themselves that they put together a truly awful game of rugby, with all due respect to a plucky, if pretty ordinary Welsh ‘B’ team. The coaches will admit the same, whatever the media line is.

The test of their mettle is in the way they go about trying to fix the glaring defensive holes, and lack of tightness in the forward play at this late stage with no more pool games to allow it them to refine it fully, and to let everything properly gel.

We’ll see next week when they take on a Springbok team which is very much improved since losing both their 3N tests against the All Blacks this year, and which is hungry to win.

Let’s get the clowns out of the ring, and bring on the serious act.

It’s showtime.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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2 Nov

Brief Interlude
by Paul Waite
2 Nov 2003

Ok, sorry for slacking off after the Tonga test and being too lazy (or too busy I’ll let you guess) to write it up.

It’s too late now to do it justice, but suffice to say that I was fairly pleased with that effort since it brought with it much more control and less of the helter-skelter bullshit we’ve been treated to in the first pool games.

The up-coming game tonight against Wales is a key one in that it marks the start of the serious stage of the tournament. The team picked is just about the strongest All Black side we can field, excepting Chris Jack, and I am looking for a big step-up in accuracy all-round.

I want quality, not quantity. I don’t necessarily want a 60-70 point winning margin, if it comes from chucking the pill around all over the place and dropping it as much as catching it, and notching up tries by attrition. That kind of stuff isn’t translatable to the tougher rounds, and is worthless.

What is needed is a lot of control and knowledge of how the game is unfolding to be demonstrated. If they begin slowly and build from the basics, we should see success in these aims. If they try to spin it like headless chooks from the off, I’ll know we’re in trouble for later in the comp.

We’ll see what we’ll see, but good luck to all the team and all the best to Wales.

On the subject of the Welsh selection I can’t quite believe some of the ignorant comments coming out of that country from it’s so-called leading lights in the game. Former test players have been denigrating Hansen’s option to rest crucial players and essentially pick a ‘B’ team to face the All Blacks, and have been insisting that Wales should be playing their best team against New Zealand because of the tradition between the two countries, and to show respect.

I’m a great lover of rugby tradition, however a RWC tournament is a tactical mission, not a nice long tour of the Home Unions by the All Blacks taking in Llanelli, Neath and Newport on the way to a single test match on a misty and emotionally charged Saturday afternoon at Cardiff Arms.

Right sentiments, wrong millenium.

Paul Waite

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2 Nov

IRB Eligibility Rules Need Overhaul
by Paul Waite
2 Nov 2003

John Boe, the Manu Samoan coach, has lashed out at the way the NZRFU captures too many young Samoan players in it’s selection net, locking them up from playing any future rugby for Samoa.

My view is that the net is far too wide, and Boe, Michael Jones & Co. have a perfectly valid point.

For their part the IRB ‘one player, one country’ law is also very sensible, the only issue being what triggers the option being taken up by a player.

A straightforward and fair approach would be to regard XV’s test matches as the be-all and end-all of eligibility selection. This is eminently logical, since it is test matches for the National team which is the pinnacle every player is aspiring to. All other forms of representation are arguably “developmental” in nature, and could be disregarded.

To spell it out, a player would only trigger the eligibility law if he or she is picked in the 22 selected for a test match for the country of choice.

All other variants of representation: Sevens, Under-21′s, ‘A’ teams etc. would be disregarded completely, allowing players to learn their game and try out for teams like the All Blacks in the various grades of representation without jumping off the metaphorical cliff without a parachute.

This would not disadvantage the big guns, such as the All Blacks, since players could still try to gain the Black jersey if eligible for the attempt, and if they didn’t quite make the grade then they could turn to Samoa, or Tonga etc. and avoid the ‘locked out’ syndrome that can occur with the laws as they are presently.

Seems straight-forward enough.

How about it IRB?

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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2 Nov

Wake-up Call For NZRFU
by WAJ
2 Nov 2003

The NPC is over for another year.

The final act was a promotion-relegation battle between Second Division Champions Hawkes Bay and First Division relegation candidates Northland.

The result was a 66-12 thrashing of Hawkes Bay by Northland.

I can hear the crackle of cadaverous, dry skin as the denizens of the NZRFU head-quarters congratulate themselves over the wisdom of having this playoff match. Phew, that was lucky. We don’t want a bunch of “minnows” getting a towelling every week and going straight back down in a season do we?

If that’s the line, then it’s as good an example of linear-thinking bollocks as you’d ever come across. If you want another pointer, listen to what the “minnows” of this Rugby World Cup have been saying on the matter.

First of all, the promo-relegation playoff is a grossly unfair fixture, heavily weighted as it is to the team which has been effectively in training for this very game by playing against crack sparring partners in the higher division. The potential for the up-coming team to learn and develop in a similar or better way is thereby denied them.

For the incumbents, the ‘hardening’ effect of playing against the top teams for a season has a huge impact on the speed and way they approach the game, and these are things which the likes of Hawkes Bay should be given the chance to gain for themselves. It is NOT a measure of the innate ability and potential of a team, rather a combination of that and those other factors.

There would have been huge value to be had in promoting Hawkes Bay this season. They would have obtained extra sponsorship for the next season, and could have added the odd player or so in key positions, and then had a massive year next season playing against the very best. If they finished up going straight back down having been thrashed every game it would not be a bad thing – once again listen to what the “minnows” in the Rugby World Cup are saying. To test yourself against the best and to learn is what it’s all about.

We have to remember that the game, especially down in Division 2 and 3, is for the players and not for television or anyone else. Down there, players have jobs, and play for the pleasure of playing the game.

A more dynamic promotion/relegation path would increase the motivation for all players, not just the few gifted ones, but also the journeymen who are the backbone of the whole of rugby. Providing these guys with the opportunity to measure themselves against teams with All Blacks in it is an awesome thing, and much would be learned and passed on, even in a large defeat.

By increasing the interchange at the Division interfaces, we would also reverse the current trend, which is showing a widening gap between the divisions.

The promotion-relegation game is not a confirmation of a gap in standard between the divisions, it is one of the principle reasons for it.

The 66-12 thrashing is only proof to those with their eyes open, of the fact that the current system is wrong.

Time for the NZRFU to wake up to that fact.

18 Oct

A' Is For Awful
by Paul Waite
18 Oct 2003

There are two options.

Either the All Blacks are sandbagging, or they are really in strife at this Rugby World Cup.

The piss-poor performance visited upon us last night against Canada ‘B’ was probably the worst I’ve seen from the team since the dark days of 1998.

Try as I might I can’t blame it all on new combinations, and first-starts by players fizzing at the bung after eight weeks of camps. Does that explain 60-70 minutes of players dropping the ball, failing to support the ball-carrier, taking the wrong options and generally looking like a third rate bunch of woofters? It does not.

I’d love to know what happened in those training camps during August and September. Ostensibly it was to take what we had at the end of the Tri-Nations, and improve on it. The idea, presumably, was to end up with players who were fitter, and who were also more sure of the playing patterns, and combinations. Added to that I expected Carlos Spencer to have brushed up on his kicking accuracy, but that’s another story in itself.

Instead what are we seeing? Well it looks to me just exactly like a bunch of guys who are having the very first game in their lives together without the benefit of any coaching whatsoever (“Hello there, what’s your name? Daniel? Great, look, would you like to stand in at second-five and I’ll have a stab at centre eh?”), and who are trying too hard, and aren’t properly fit. The latter accusation seems ridiculous, but why was Kees Meeuws was puffing like a steam engine and sweating like a pig, and why did Mils Muliaina plod past the Cannuck fullback like a granny and suck in the big ones afterwards like it was the first game of the Super 12? Others looked significantly short of puff too – what’s going on?

So, is it all a ploy to fool the Big Guns and leave nothing worthwhile for video analysis? If so it’s a bloody superb performance – I’m certainly not storing any of this crap on video (once is enough thanks), and I can see Clive Woodward laughing his head off at it and filing it alongside his collection of The Two Ronnies for when he’s in need of some light relief.

From this you might be tempted to guess that I don’t think that the All Black 2003 Rugby World Cup Campaign is on track. You’d be dead right.

So far our number one goal-kicker has proved to have had a relapse with a sharp drop in form since his 50% kicking rate in the Tri-Nations. The only other kicker whom you could confidently slot into the test team against the likes of England, Ben Blair, is now being sent home injured. The third choice, Dan Carter, who has question-marks over him since he ‘choked’ at the job in the Super 12 finals, is not the first choice in his position – Aaron Mauger is. Added to this, we have had two Pool games featuring most of the 30-strong squad which have been a showcase for how not to perform the basics of rugby, and how the team is not gelling the way it should do if it is to win a Rugby World Cup.

So, no, I don’t think much of the All Blacks’ start to this tournament, and no, I currently don’t think they have a prayer of winning it.

The only gliimmer of hope that I have is if the team is indeed sandbagging it, and is going to suddenly turn it up to fuill noise and play with purpose, poise and excellence when (if) we meet England in the Semis, and Whoever in the Final.

The only trouble with keeping plays and ploys, and all the rest of it secret on the training paddocks, is that Real Life is usually completely different and has a way of showing you up.

So even if the All Blacks have kept a lot of cards up their sleeves, they’ll be no good if they drop them on the floor when trying to take them out.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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16 Oct

And They're Off!
by Paul Waite
16 Oct 2003

The All Blacks Rugby World Cup campaign kicked off last Saturday with a handy 70-pointer over Italy. The match was largely as you’d expect, with a lot of hesitancy and awkward play for the first 60 minutes.

There were two downsides to the game by the end. The first was the injury to Tana Umaga, who is now almost certainly out of the running for the rest of the tournament. His replacement is Maxwell, brought in actually to cover Ali Williams, who was already struggling with a stress fracture of the foot. Although the AB camp is currently being cagey, we’d expect some kind of announcement within a few days to the effect Maxwell is coming on board and Umaga is flying home. This might be left until after the next test, so that Umaga can stick around and support his replacement Ma’a Nonu through his first start, and debrief afterwards.

The other downer was the poxy form of Carlos Spencer with his goalkicking. Already in the spotlight after a less than distinguished domestic and Tri-Nations international season, where his kicking rate was generally about 50% in pressure games, Spencer looked to have made himself worse after 8 weeks of solid practice in World Cup camps.

Not only did he miss the easy ones, he missed the even easier ones – 35m kicks from more or less in front which my granny would have been hanging her head in shame over. With a windless and rainless and be-roofed Telstra Dome showing all the atmospheric turbulence of the insides of a Watties Baked Beans can, he couldn’t even blame the weather. Thankfully he managed to trip up Umaga and rip the latter’s knee to shreds, banging his own in the process. A theatrical limp after this incident gave him the perfect excuse to hand the kicking over to Dan Carter and save further acute embarassment.

The party line at All Black HQ is “kicking problem? what kicking problem?”. We New Zealand fans seem to be blighted with coaches who are very good at everything barring one thing for which they have a blind spot. For Wayne Smith and Tony Gilbert it was a failure to understand what the attributes of a good opensider are (“Taine Randell will be the World’s best No.7 within 12 months” – T. Gilbert). With John Hart it was a blindness to the fact that his charges were losing touch with the basics of the game. In the case of Laurie Mains it was a failure to realise that players perform badly if they are continually swapped in and out of the team and position, and for Grizz Wyllie it was underestimating what Buck Shelford meant to the team.

With this current pair, Mitchell and Deans, it appears to be a blindness to the old adage “kicks win tight tests”. The thing about old adages is that they are only old because they’ve lasted a long long time, which in turn means they have a bloody good chance of being fair dinkum.

With Umaga out of the picture, the coach and his aides de camp need to take another look at the backline, and in the process should consider this kicking problem before it comes back to bite them big time. Muliaina played centre for a good part of the Super 12, and is the kind of rangy, clever running back with good defence that would do well for us. Moving him from fullback would allow the Blair Version 2.0 package to be installed, and the team rebooted. Although Blair is smaller than the ideal, he punches above his weight, and would undoubtedly do the business.

Another option is to keep Mils at fullback where, let’s face it, he is a natural, and put Mauger at centre with Dan Carter at second five-eighth. Carter would then do the kicking. The drawback here is moving Mauger out would lose his good combination with Spencer, and Carter is also very young to be taking on the likes of England and Australia yet. Arguing for it is the fact that Mauger is an accomplished footballer and could make the change. Also Carter is so gifted nothing seems to faze him, and he could well turn out to be a success. In fact Carter will, I predict, become the de-facto All Black first five-eighth in years to come.

Which also brings us to another, more radical, option – replacing Spencer with Carter, and putting Nonu into centre alongside Mauger. This one is probably the least likely, since Spencer seems to be “it” for the duration.

Whatever the case, the mix simply HAS to involve a kicker other than Spencer, who is the worst thing since stale bread in this regard. Failure to fix this problem, standing out like the proverbial dog’s bollocks as it is, is tantamount to gross incompetence from an otherwise very perceptive and clever pair.

Stop Press: Tana has been given a breathing space to allow the swelling behind his jknee to come down. After that it will be assessed and there is a small hope that he will be able to play in the final stages of the tournament.

Paul Waite

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14 Oct

The Cribb Incident
by Tracey Nelson
14 Oct 2003

There are some things in rugby that just annoy you (such as fatties in the backline, shoddy defensive efforts, botched lineouts etc) and then there are things that make your blood run cold. Ron Cribb’s stomping on Ryan Glover’s head in the NPC game against Canterbury on October 11th is one of those things.

Cribb has been suspended for 6 weeks by a NZRU judicial committee after they viewed a videotape of the incident and heard evidence from Cribb where he claimed the contact made with Glover’s head was accidental, that he had no intention of injuring the player and what he did was ‘entirely inadvertent’. His explanation was that he was endeavouring to secure possession of the football located beneath the body of the Canterbury player and that the contact made with his head was an accidental result of that rucking.

Amazingly, the committee was satisfied that Cribb had not deliberately brought his boot into contact with Glover’s head even though they viewed the videotape and must have seen Cribb run over to the ruck from where he was originally positioned to the right of it, cross around behind it, come in above where Glover’s head was on the ground and bring his boot down on it. How he could tell that the ball was ‘under the body of the Canterbury player’ (who was by this stage buried under bodies from both teams anyway) is nothing short of incredible, especially given that the ball was coming out on the other side of the ruck.

The judicial committee have made a statement that Cribb’s actions were “quite reckless and unnecessarily exposed those players (lying in the ruck) to risk of injury” and that it was a relatively bad case of its kind. Damn straight it was. But what I would like to know is why he wasn’t also cited for his earlier late elbow charge on another Canterbury player in the same game – perhaps if he had been the judicial committee may have been able to factor in that Cribb was in a reckless state of mind throughout most of that game and was in fact deliberately targeting opposition players.

But the crowning glory to this nasty incident has been statements from Harbour coach Russell Jones and CEO Doug Rollerson, where both have said that this sort of action is totally unlike Cribb and he is an exemplary player. Both also went on to suggest that he only ended up standing on Glover’s head because of confusion over how the referee was ruling things at the ruck and breakdown. Now I could probably pull out any NPC game this season where Cribb has played and show you an example of over-vigorous rucking, not to mention he’d already been suspended earlier in the season for brawling and throwing punches in a game. I would suggest that Messrs Jones and Rollerson take a closer look at their entire set-up at Harbour, which is rapidly gaining the reputation as a breeding ground for thuggery in the game, and instead of pointing a finger at the referees try putting their own house in order first.