No, not ‘the Welsh’, and certainly not the Welsh rugby team.
The Welsh Rugby Union decided that it would be a great idea to dismiss The Haka, shifting it from its traditional (and only meaningful) slot just before kickoff.
Despite assurances that it was just a one-off due to the marking of 100 years of rugby between the two nations last year, the All Blacks were informed about a month ago, that once again the Haka must be done between the National anthems. Apparently, “negotiations” (a word used by WRU) had been on-going up until the kickoff. By negotiations, they mean that they were insisting on the change, and the All Blacks were consistently saying “sorry, but no”.
A decision made by the real Village Idiots of World Rugby, and a transparent attempt to defuse the haka, relegating it to a side-show entertainment and stripping it of its true meaning.
Protestations by the WRU that they want to “respond to the Haka” with the Anthem are utterly ridiculous. Over a century of tradition, the Haka is a challenge issued by the All Blacks to their opponent just before the two teams go into battle. The key thing is, it’s between the two rugby teams, not between the All Blacks and some bit of totty warbling a bloody anthem with the crowd. If that then what next? Maybe the English will insist the Haka is done after the game in downtown Twickenham, where they want the local Morris Dancers to “respond” to it. Perhaps the French might like to move it to the previous lunchtime, and respond to it by cooking a really mean six course banquet – “eat our soufllés and despair! you silly All Noirs!”
The All Blacks Haka belongs to the All Blacks – the players, not the NZRFU, or anyone else. The hosting Unions, as always, have the right to veto it – it has historically been performed at the invitation of the hosts. What they don’t have the right to do is dicate how it is done or when. Either it’s performed just before kickoff, as it always has been, or not at all. Take it or leave it.
Anyway the issue blew up in the WRU’s faces, as the All Blacks called their bluff, and quite rightly took the Haka indoors and performed it as a part of their own match preparations in the changing rooms. It beggars belief that the WRU, surely head of rugby in a Nation which loves and embraces the great traditions of the game more than most, should seek to do this.
Let’s hope some vestige of sanity exists in the Welsh rugby halls of power, and they see sense next time, or they’ll continue to be the laughing-stock of the World’s rugby village.
The other village idiot was the grinning imbecile with the hair-triggered whistle refereeing the game. I knew we were in for trouble when he penalised Richie McCaw for “coming in late from the side” in a tackle, when McCaw was actually the tackler, and made his tackle legally, and immediately released in text-book fashion.
The test was puctuated by a further series of too-hasty, and flawed decisions from our ‘newbie’ test referee, Dave Pearson, who nonetheless cackled and grinned like your friendly neighbourhood lunatic all the while, obviously enjoying his debut hugely. Let’s hope he enjoys his post-match peer review as much. The cap on it all was the ridiculous penalty try he awarded to the All Blacks. Ok, there was a Welshman desperately killing the ball 1m out from the line, but all that was required there was a penalty and a sin-bin. There are plenty of times tries are NOT scored from that position, so the All Blacks wouldn’t “probably” have scored. God knows he’d been keen enough to sin-bin the All Blacks all through the test, although Hore’s stupidity meant he roundly deserved his.
I only mention referees when I think that their performances have adversely and significantly affected a game. This performance did just that. Though it didn’t affect the outcome, the score being too lop-sided an affair, it did detract hugely from the rugby on both sides of the ledger. His too-quick-by-half rulings had both teams on tenterhooks, wondering what he’d whistle for next, and that resulted in some terribly robotic phases of attack and defence at times.
But enough of the idiots of the piece. The first half was one of pure majesty, as the All Blacks swept past their opponent’s defence in a Black Wave down the left to score a wonderful try through Sivivatu and Luke McAllister early on, and set the tone for the test.
After that it was all the Welsh could do to hang on until the relief of the half-time whistle and “only” a 28-3 deficit. In-between, there was no joy at all for the home team, the home crowd, or the WRU. It was All Black. In the scrums, the Welsh were never in it. From the very first one the All Blacks were demolishing their opposites, and only the help offered to them by the incompetent nincompoop with the whistle kept it from becoming a rout. Apparently, when a scrum is driven backwards by a dominant pack, and wheels then that means the All Blacks (for it was they) were “deliberately screwing the scrum”. As if the weaker scrum has to always go backwards in a straight line, or something. I’d say it was just as likely that a scrum has a weaker side, of the two. In other words it’s totally impossible to make that call in a normal test match. The forces in the scum are a complex affair which rarely cancels, and hence usually results in movement of some form, so for our little debutante to make that decision he’d have to have the Wisdom of Jove, or the Omnipotence of God. Bullshit.
Actually I’m sick of seeing this kind of rubbish officiating from referees these days, unfairly protectiing a team struggling in the scrum at test level. The All Black pack have trained long and hard on technique as well as strength to get where they are, and to have that dominance partially nullified against a lesser opponent which hasn’t put nearly the amount of work into it, puts an ugly blight on the game. It just adds to the sense that the scrum, one of the most awesome and unique spectacles in World Sport, is under attack from officialdom. Of course it would probably be useless to complain to the IRB, because they seem to have pulled on the jersey of the team for The Problem XV, not The Solution XV.
Looking back at the brighter side of things, Dan Carter couldn’t failed to have impressed the legendary Barry John as to his credentials for the position of The World’s Perfect 10. The man was everywhere. He kicked from hand flawlessly, and long. His place-kicking was also high-class, except for one uncharacteristic short-range miss, which we can probably blame on Millenium’s Dead Turf Syndrome. But most of all his tactical awareness, and incisive breaks were the hallmark of another top-notch All Black performance.
Alongside him the rest of the backline did their bit. The midfield is still a work-in-progress, showing some good and bad moments, but never looking weak for that. Kelleher bore the brunt of the half-back’s effort, putting in some super work in the first half when things were tense and loose ball needed tidying up.
In the forwards the scrum was, as mentioned, mighty. Tialata has really grown over the past 12 months into a world class loose-head prop, and on the other side Carl Hayman is without peer. In the locks, apart from a bad handling error early on Robinson gave the lineout that solidity he always does, stealing one throw off the Welsh. His partner Ali Williams had another excellent game, capped off by his stunningly good 50m clearing kick to touch from the 22m, which he made when covering in defence. The loose forward trio is currently the World Rugby Benchmark for such. McCaw, So’oialo, and Collins are such damaging bastards on defence, and challenging runners on attack, sucking the life out of their opposites over a full 80 minutes (well, only 70 for Richie, care of Whistling Willy Wanker and The Sin-bin Factory), as evidenced by the pained expressions on some of the Welsh players’ faces.
So this test was a great and fitting finale to an interesting and valuable end of year tour.
We’d all like to take this opportunity to say a big ‘well done’ to the All Blacks, coaches and management, wish you all an early Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and thank you for what’s been a tremendous year of rugby.
Time to dust off the barbie, and get some good old R&R in!
The Haka Team