First of all congrats for a job well done to the All Blacks. Backing up two tests in a row in under a week, and flying 18 hours to South Africa to play at 6,000 feet above sea-level isn’t for the faint of heart. Particularly seeing as the last test was gruelling.
In their favour was a Springbok team shredded by injury, but at home the Bokke are a different animal, and sure enough they came out and gave it a hard crack.
Speaking of which brings me to the title of this article. When are the authorities going to nail Victor Matfield to the wall? This thug is a disgrace to the game. For the second year in a row he has taken the field with the intent to smash the shit out of a key All Black, using that deliberately fashioned forearm ‘guard’ of his. This season it was Dan Carter he tried to dispatch, last season he succeeded in concussing Byron Kelleher.
OK, I love the hard element of the game like the next bloke, but this kind of carry on is out of step with what the game has become. It belongs to the 1950′s.
Last season we heard from South African sports writers and players that ‘everyone knows about that forearm guard’, and ‘everyone knows why he wears it’. I realise that referees and TJ’s have to referee what goes on at the time, but there are citing processes, so why aren’t they working to stamp this out? Give him his due, Matfield doesn’t over-do the technique, and so far that’s probably keeping it all nicely below the radar.
Whilst that continues, I guess we’ll be seeing a few more cross-eyed victims limping from the pitch in a daze due to Matfield’s attentions in years to come.
As to the performance, it was the classic game of two halves. The team still has a distinct tendency to screw up at the lineouts, with yet another different combination showing the same problems. The scrum did well again, and Tialata stepped up a gear, operating well on both sides which was heartening to see.
Out back, Weepu fought and harried, but that extra step he has before delivery will come back to haunt the team if he can’t rid himself of it. Elsewhere he was solid. Outside him Carter was all class as usual, and shrugged off The Thug’s attempt to decapitate him. The 60-metre kick in the thin air of Loftus was a corker!
Gear was fizzing as normal, sharp as a tack and quick as lightning. On the opposite side, Sivivatu was considerably diminished from his previous test form, looking slow and lethargic over the 80 minutes, despite taking an excellent try. Behind these Mils slotted in at fullback as of old, and looks to be the best in the World there. Hopefully MacDonald’s hip injury will heal quickly, but it causes a problem due to Toeava looking out of his depth at centre. The selectors may well be hoping that Conrad Smith gets back up to speed sooner rather than later.
Hopefully the team will now take a well-earned rest before going for the second in a row against the old enemy.
Haka Man of the Match was Rueben Thorne. The guy was everywhere, and a threat with ball-in-hand.
I just happened to be reviewing the video of the final Bledisloe test up at Eden Park last saturday, and cripes I could hardly believe my eyes. Can this really be him? Well, you tell me – have a decko below and see if you can spot the difference, I can’t!
Now let’s look at what Frankenwaugh has been saying in the Press shall we?
“I think if you are at the breakdown you are going to get cleared out, aren’t you?
“That is part of the game. And if you are going to be near the ball and you are going to play test matches that is what you have to expect.
“So I don’t know what he is whinging about.”
Actually he was talking about Graham Henry “whinging” there. After all Henry had got tremendously worked up and emotional over all the deliberate violence focussed on McCaw and had the gall to come out with this provocative-as-all-fuck statement:
“It was a tactic to take McCaw out of the game…but that’s part of rugby and you live with that.”
Doh! So you can see where Frankenwaugh was coming from. Must be that replacement brain; you can never get a decent brain from the local butchers nowadays.
But there was more from that myopic Wallaby cheerleader, Greg Growden, writing about what the NZ press had been saying about the cheap shots and shitty attitude shown by the Wallabies.
“The Wallabies are not exactly accustomed to this sort of venom. Usually when they go over to New Zealand, they have to accept being called cream puffs, nancy boys, soft centres, losers, big sheilas — anything but intimidating standover men.”
They are a pack of useless, losing nancies who couldn’t intimidate a 12-year old Kaurangahape Rd. rent-boy never mind the All Blacks.
The disgust being shown over here is contempt for those incompetent fuckwits Waugh and Elsom who imagined such a one-dimensional, over-emotional bout of idiocy would a) intimidate the All Blacks, and b) get them a win. It was so utterly inept that it was an insult.
Packed off back home with a 3-ZILCH Bledisloe Cup Series – nice one, and be sure to try that again soon.
While we’re at the quotes, here was one from Great Auntie Connolly himself concerning the gap between the sides:
“There really isn’t much between these two sides”.
Keep on dreaming John. That’s a bit like saying New Zealand isn’t far away from Australia. So what? It isn’t like Qantas and Air NZ are worried about a drop-off in demand anytime soon.
It was nothing less than a night of shame for Australian rugby.
Several individuals in the Wallabies side came with the clear intent of doing grievous bodily harm to All Blacks openside flanker and skipper Richie McCaw.
Who knows how this came about? John Conolly’s motivational talks are probably about as impressive as his post-test media sessions, sounding and looking as he does, like a garrulous tetchy old auntie. And it was only a few of the team who switched focus from the ball to man. My bet is a few bites from the rabid Aussie media pack turned a bit sceptic, and mean minds became poisoned with the idea of taking McCaw out.
It isn’t the first time an Australian team has behaved like this either. We still remember the way George Smith cynically took out Justin Marshall in the 2003 World Cup semi-final.
And the high and mighty across the ditch have the gall to bring up the Loe – Carozza affaire forever and a day. The Land Of The Underarm Bowling Incident, inflamed by foul play and bad sportsmanship. What a crock.
So, from what transpired, it appears that Rocky Elsom, Phil Waugh, and Lote Tuquiri (at very least) took the field with their minds bent on doing bodily harm, or at least caught up in an emotional madness which leads inexorably towards that kind of cynical act.
McCaw bore the deliberately swinging arm of Waugh, and the stupidly late ‘cleanouts’ of the frothing Elsom stoically, and just got on with playing footy hard and fast. That’s where it should have ended – another bunch of Wallaby losers going home having applied clever football and thuggery in equal measure, but to no avail.
Unfortunately Tuquiri had other ideas. It’s unfortunate about Lote, that his mean hatchet-face is matched by an equally mean attitude. His response to McCaw’s injury was all ‘spit and fuckya’, as he mouthed off and made inflamatory gestures to a crowd incensed by the replays. Not a sign of care about a player whose career he’d possibly ended, or worse, paralysed from the neck down. Not even a ‘how are you’ after the game. Well, what can you expect from an ex-leaguie.
To say that all this has angered us here at Haka is a gross understatement. It isn’t just the single (though dire) spear tackle, it’s the shitty attitude brought to the game by those few Wallabies. All the others like Gregan, Larkham, the redoubtable Mortlock, the quicksilver Giteau and so on simply came to play rugby out of their skins, to give it hell and to have nothing left at the end of 80 minutes.
Hats off to all of them, they can be proud of a great performance. But it was all terribly marred by the nasty intent of the few who came to maim. There’s no place for that stuff in the game these days, and hopefully an example will be made by the judiciary against Tuquiri today as part of the redress for that.
[Private message to Tuquiri, Waugh and Elsom: in case you didn’t notice, you just lost the Bledisloe Cup Series 3-NIL].
Click for Movie of That Spear Tackle
Stop Press: Tuquiri has been given a 3-month ban, until November 2nd. This means he misses 4 inconsequential games and only one test match. Time the IRB woke up and changed this nonsensical methodology. Sentences should be for N games at the same level that the incident happened in. Tuquiri should be banned for a certain number of consecutive tests, whenever they come, not some irrelevant time period.
Tuquiri is, of course, denying all care and responsibility for his actions, and is going to appeal. Not to me he doesn’t.
Other people seem to be quick to jump in and add to the smokescreen. Apparently it was mainly McCaw’s fault that he landed on his head by ‘twisting’. There’s only one answer to that rubbish – look at the replays.
While most of the talk after the Eden Park Tri-Nations/Bledisloe Cup test between the All Blacks and the Wallabies has been on the Lote Tuqiri spear tackle on Richie McCaw, and replays of the incident show that Tuqiri’s actions were definitely questionable and illegal (as ruled by the judiciary with a 2 match ban handed out), the spotlight should not so much be on Tuqiri as the match officials who were charged with the running of the game and policing the laws on the field.
We probably haven’t seen this degree of ineptitude since the first Lions test in Christchurch last year, where funnily enough there was yet another “spear tackle” incident. Spookily, the same citing commissioner, Willem Venter of South Africa, was also officiating. Saturday evening was an exceedingly poor performance by all three officials on the field namely referee Chris White (England), and his two touch judges Mark Lawrence and Craig Joubert (both South African).
It would seem that the two TJs were doing everything but watching the game in front of them, as they missed numerous off the ball incidents, forward passes and dangerous tackles. Had the referee and his TJs been a bit more vigilant in this match we may have enjoyed a game free from the off-the-ball attacks on All Black captain McCaw, and one Australian loose forward’s attempts to cynically slow the All Blacks’ ball by playing offside on numerous occasions. White must take the prize for the most ineffectual refereeing of the season, awarding the All Blacks 4 penalties (3 offsides and 1 high tackle) and 2 advantages (offside play) whilst also dishing out three warnings for offside play and a warning for off-the-ball play all against the same Australian player, Rocky Elsom – yet allowing him to remain on the field until subbed off.
But Elsom’s efforts to disrupt were insignificant compared with his side’s overly aggressive “tackling” efforts on the night. For starters, a stiff-armed, high shot from Phil Waugh on McCaw early on in the game occurred on TJ Lawrence’s side of the field, and was also in full view of the referee yet nothing was seen by either of them. Later, not only was the Tuqiri spear tackle missed, but so was an equally reckless tackle on MacDonald by Larkham just seconds beforehand, which only just missed being as bad as Tuqiri’s because Larkham fell with MacDonald (whose head contact with the ground was possibly harder than McCaw’s). These two events happened only 15 – 20 metres infield from TJ Joubert (though mind you, the O’Driscoll incident happened at the feet of the TJ in that match and he didn’t pick it up!), and a lesser distance from the referee – although he may have been obscured by players in front of him as he moved from the centre of the field towards Joubert’s touchline. The ironic thing is that a minute earlier he had penalised Elsom for a high tackle, that frankly was barely at shoulder height and didn’t warrant anything more than a quick verbal to keep the height of the tackles down. How he managed to pick up that insignificant high tackle and yet missed two players being simultaneously dumped to the ground from above waist height is anyone’s guess.
Chris White should be feeling very thankful that there was no serious injury to McCaw as there was to Lions skipper O’Driscoll, and I’m sure he must have been feeling a bit foolish having missed such an obvious dangerous tackle when the replay was shown four times on the big screen at the ground. That both White and Joubert managed to see Waugh pulling Ali William’s jersey to hold him back in the dying moments of the game and issued him with a yellow card was almost laughable, such was the insignificance of that foul in comparison with the cheap shot he put in on McCaw in the 11th minute.
White’s rulings at rucks also caused some confusion, this being one of the incidents I picked up in the game in the 66th minute: a ruck had formed and Australia had possession. The ball popped out the back of the ruck, so was “out”, and McCaw stepped through the ruck to pick up the ball as Gregan attempted to tackle him. The whistle was blown and White announced “Let’s tidy it up boys” and awarded a scrum feed to Australia given the arm signal indicating that they were going forward. McCaw looked bemused, while Gregan queried whether it should be a penalty to Australia because surely McCaw must have been offside for Australia to be getting the scrum feed. White replied “It’s a ruck and he was on his feet”. So by that reckoning McCaw was entitled to pick the ball up and therefore the All Blacks now had possession, which then begs the question why did White blow the whistle and award a scrum to Australia?
Paddy O’Brien, head of referees at the IRB, has his work cut out to bring his international team up to scratch. To suggest that changing the laws of the game is going to cut down on foul play and professional fouls is a head in the sand approach, when all that is needed is for referees and their touch judges to show some vigilance and due diligence when officiating.
For the record -
PENALTIES CONCEDED BY AUSTRALIA
3 min 20 sec: Offside (Elsom). Ref plays advantage.
3 min 39 sec: Offside (Vickerman). Ref plays advantage.
3 min 46 sec: Offside (Elsom & Vickerman). Ref awards penalty to NZ.
11 min 39 sec: Holding on to ball in tackle (Holmes). Ref awards penalty to NZ, have missed a stiff arm high shot on McCaw by Waugh at that very breakdown. No flag from TJ Lawrence.
18 min 27 sec: Holding on to ball in tackle (Sharpe). Ref awards penalty to NZ.
20 min 15 sec: Playing ball on ground (Mortlock). Ref awards penalty to NZ.
29 min: Elsom clears out McCaw off the ball, right infront of TJ Lawrence. TJ reports to ref that both players had “just been scuffling, nothing in it”. Elsom spoken to by ref.
31 min: General offside. Ref awards penalty to NZ.
32 min 47 sec: Hands in ruck (Elsom). Ref awards penalty to NZ.
33 min 53 sec: three warnings given to Elsom for not retiring onside at rolling maul in own 22. No advantage played.
34 min 02 sec: Offside (Elsom) at same rolling maul. Ref plays advantage and NZ score try.
43 min 10 sec: High tackle (Elsom). Ref awards penalty to NZ.
44 min 40 sec: Two reckless tackles (Larkham on MacDonald and Tuqiri on McCaw), both after the ball had been passed and both in clear view of TJ Joubert. Referee may have been obscured from the Tuqiri tackle but should have seen the Larkham one. Nothing happens on field but Tuqiri cited by match commissioner Willem Venter after game.
45 min 50 sec: Offside (Elsom) in own 22. Referee awards penalty to NZ.
50 min 12 sec: Offside (one of the props, number not called). Referee award penalty to NZ.
78 min 12 sec: Jersey pulling/professional foul (Waugh). Ref awards penalty to NZ and yellow card to offending player.
PENALTIES CONCEDED BY NEW ZEALAND
Lying on ball in tackle (Hayman). Ref awards penalty to Australia.
Playing ball in the ruck (McCaw). Ref awards penalty to Australia.
High tackle (So’oialo). Ref awards penalty to Australia.
Offside, detaching early from scrum (Collins). Ref awards penalty to Australia.
Once again the Aussies have showed everyone how not to deal with the All Black Haka.
First of all they insult it in the media a few days prior to the test, then some genius within their ranks decides that, after the Haka, the team should get the tackle bags out, together with a few training cones, and run through some irrelevant drills making All Blacks stand, fuming, ready for kickoff.
Duh. If I had to come up with a guaranteed way of lighting a fire under the All Blacks just before they ripped into my team, that would be it.
In the past we’ve had all sorts of other failed tactics – removing the team to go and stand far away under the goalposts, linking arms and pacing as a unit into the face of the haka, going up to the haka leader and yelling insults into his face from a distance of 3 millimetres, turning away and huddling, standing and openly laughing at it. One of the funniest and least effective has to be this idea of having the Wallabies standing around looking like muppets in full training suits, then dawdling off to remove them after the haka. If they had a big neon sign saying “WE’RE DELAYING KICKOFF BECAUSE WE’RE INTIMIDATED BY THE HAKA!!” it wouldn’t be any more obvious what’s happening.
When will coaches and teams learn? The very best thing you can do for yourselves is to face the haka silently and respectfully, then get on with the damn game. Anything else is like emptying a can of petrol on a fire to try and put it out.
Now to the game itself. Here’s a public notice to Steve Hansen:
STEVE – TIME TO PANIC, THE LINEOUT IS BROKEN.
After each and every test this season, where the lineout has been a dysfunctional, unreliable mess, we’ve been treated to a “there’s nothing much wrong, we’re not panicking” dismissal from the burly All Blacks forward coach. This has been echoed from within, in the form of Ali Williams & Co.
In this test, the All Blacks can count themselves lucky that they didn’t lose, and the reason was the mis-match in territorial stats chiefly brought about by their lineout woes. In the final 10-15 minutes they lost several key throws, and allowed the Wallabies to mount wave after wave of attack. Man of the match Richie McCaw single-handledly saved his side from defeat with a miraculous tackle and regain in the All Blacks left-wing corner with minutes on the clock, a chance resulting from another of these lineout losses.
So please, no more denials. We have big problems in that phase of the game, and it needs a huge amount of work to get us back to where it should be, that’s clear.
Moving from the lineout, the scrum was once again a weapon, but somewhat negated by the usual display of refereeing incompetence from Alain Rolland, who took it on himself to ‘protect’ the poor little Wallabies from the All Black front row’s hit. Despicable. What next – stopping them pushing too hard perhaps?
However, for a team so dominant at scrum time, the All Blacks still haven’t sorted out their mauling. It remains very deficient in technique, with the likes of Rodney So’oialo persisting in using a body position as upright as your average lampost, and others simply not reading the opposition as they should, or offending by pulling it down or joining from the side. That together with mis-judgements in numbers required resulted in another hard day at the office defending it. The only consolation was, it was marginally better than last time. Going forward isn’t much better, with only one decent maul completed by the All Blacks.
Finally, the All Blacks kicking game was sub-par in this test, and completely out-classed by Australia. Kicks from the men in black lacked depth and accuracy, and usually served to simply kickstart another Wallaby attack. When the ball was booted in the other direction it always went where it should, and gained large amounts of territory.
However looking at individual All Black performances, there wasn’t anyone who was poor. The faults were of a combinational, teamwork nature, not down to individuals.
The single big positive in this test was the All Black defence. To keep an Australian team which had so much possession and territorial advantage try-less is a startling accomplishment, and one to be proud of notwithstanding the aforementioned faults.
The main celebration from this result is that the Bledisloe Cup is once again safe for another season. Despite the obvious deficiencies in the team, the All Blacks won away at a venue which is traditionally a Wallaby fortress, and that was no easy task.
Looking ahead, we can expect more ‘rotational’ changes by Henry, and no doubt more crappola from the dysfunctional lineout (why change anything while you’re winning?). The trip to South Africa will probably see some other key personnel rested, such as McCaw and Hayman so we can expect the ‘B’ team to be different from the last ‘B’ team.
Whatever the case, well done to the All Blacks for winning the Bledisloe, and good luck for the next phase of the campaign.
Jerry Collins: Amateur Hairdresser
Collins demonstrates how to undo the plats in a dreadlock hairdo using George Smith as his model. Backing by Eminem (Just Lose It).
Ok, here is a breakdown posted to me by Tracey Nelson. It shows what happened at each lineout from the All Blacks’ perspective.
So’oialo & Williams
Woodcock & Williams
Woodcock & Hayman
So’oialo & Woodcock
Hayman & Jack
Woodcock & Collins
Vickerman gets up in front, throw possibly a bit short
Hayman & So’oialo
Had all day to sort call out but lots of confusion before throw, Australia steal
Williams & Hayman
Ball won, but throw ruled as not straight
Collins & ?
Williams & Jack
McCaw knocks-on, not good lifting as unstable in air
Masoe misses ball completely, Jack manages to tip it back but Hayman knocks on
Masoe and So’oialo
Australian jumper gets up in front of Jack
Woodcock & Hayman
Wrong call? Williams readied for jump but ball thrown to nobody at the back
Woodcock & McCaw
Not lifted high enough, Australian jumpers get in front
Ball totally overthrown, McCaw manages to retrieve but then dumped to ground and supposedly knocks the ball on (but he didn’t)
Hore’s only lineout throw is long and straight to McCaw, uncontested at back
Plus won another NZ ball not meant for him
Outjumped 3 times, the other miss being an overthrown ball)
The one miss being a ball that was totally overthrown)
Ever wondered how, and perhaps more importantly why, our resident rugby oficionada Tracey Nelson assembles those amazing match statistics revealing the internals of the All Black machine?
For those of you left wondering what I’m on about, take a look at the post that started it all, entitled Domestic Blindness but known throughout Hakadom as The Case of the Invisible Blindsider, a.k.a. The Rueben Thorne Affaire. At that time Thorne was under attack from public and media alike due to being Mr. Invisible during test matches.
Of course, the fact that later on the All Blacks got dumped out of the 2003 World Cup in the semis with Rubes as skipper didn’t help his profile any.
Being a true red and black Cantab fan, Tracey supported Thorne vocally all through this time, telling everyone who would listen (which was nobody, actually) that he was working the hardest of them all, if only people actually watched what was going on in the game instead of sucking back the tinnies whilst making all the usual comments the famously fair and knowledgeable kiwi footy fan makes, such as: "get stuck inta those ozzie puftas ya bloody losers!" and "where the fuck was that useless shit Thorne when Mortlock busted through our midfield eh Kev?".
Well, the deaf ears were turned, and the eyes remained blinkered so Tracey swapped the legendary Cantabrian Eyepatch for a remote control and a video of the test. Rumour has it that the remote in question was sent in for repair on the Monday but finally ended up in a glass cabinet in the research lab at JVC, where the engineers have so far failed to replicate the forces needed to make the buttons protrude out the back quite like that.
The numbers were pretty compelling. Rubes was actually getting stuck in there, and doing a shitload of work that nobody ever suspected! Pro rugby, TV and media hype and the whole rugby as an entertainment thing had primed everyone to look for the ‘big hit’, and the prominent carry of the ball by a block-busting loosie. Tries grounded safely and professionally followed by a brief grimace in celebration were giving way to flash-harry swan-dives executed by players sporting hairdos with go-faster highlights and, even worse, eye-makeup. And they were followed up by (shudder) expressions of uncontained joy.
The traditional appreciation of NZ rugby fans for the ‘hard yakka’, the dour tight-loose work ethic was on the wane. People simply weren’t seeing what Thorney was doing, at all.
With Rubes now flavour of the month with the All Black selectors, it’s easy to say that Tracey’s stats vindicated him. That would be a tad too simplistic, because he’s added some spice and bite to his game since the old days. But the main point about his value was proven – by the numbers.
So what does it take for Tracey to compile the statistics nowadays? Speaking as one who has actually witnessed an All Black test on the operating table being clinically dissected, the emphasis is most definitely on the details revealed in slow motion – who is doing what to who and exactly when and how they do it.
Every time a tackle is made, or the ball goes to ground the video is paused stepped and replayed one to five times to see what happened.
If the All Blacks are attacking, then the famous First Three To The Breakdown (a.k.a. The Rueben Three) are noted, and if defending then the player making the tackle, the player assisting and who gets to the ruck or maul next in support. At the same time every penalty is recorded, with All Black players conceding them and details of what actually happened. Turnovers are also written down with all the details of who and how, and of course the way all the lineouts and scrums panned out.
Tackles are interesting. Everyone has their own viewpoint, but the key is to be consistent with stats. Tracey counts a tackle by the Rugby Lawbook – the Tackler has to go to ground with the Tacklee, M’lud. An ‘assist’ is when a team-mate comes in to help out, but doesn’t go to ground. Of course it’s a grey area, since assists sometimes go to ground, and occasionally two players execute a tackle at the same time, but mostly the freeze-frame reveals all.
All-in-all it takes Tracey about three whole hours to go through a single test match, depending on the kind of game it was. If it’s all open, clean moves and friendly, then its a relative breeze. If the teams are in a gnarly mood and with each confrontation they’re all over each other like a rash, in a melee of thrashing limbs, then it can become a form of torture.
After that, you can add half an hour or so to write everything up and publish it on Haka, and Tracey doesn’t get much change from four hours of hard yakka. As she says "it’s a bugger of a way to spend your Sunday!".
For all you fans of Tracey’s stats, there will surely be more to come, but no promises for this season’s Tri-Nations which is such a protracted event now that it’s been extended. Instead you can expect spot analysis as and when the test warrants it, or when we’re talking the Big Time as in the Rugby World Cup etc.
For now just join me in thanking Tracey for all the time she’s spent giving us this info up ’til now, and let’s look forward to many more in the future
A statistical analysis, properly conducted, is a delicate dissection of uncertainties, a surgery of suppositions. ~M.J. Moroney