15 Apr

A Simple Game
by Paul Waite
15 Apr 2001

First up this weekend was the Blues vs The Cats. With the unpleasant experiences of recent weeks watching the Blues, I took my seat with trepidation, and have to confess that I only lasted out for 40 minutes worth.

The Blues were slightly better, without really addressing their basic problem – they aren’t a team. A pox on their coaching staff for leaving Glenn Taylor out for so long. In this game he showed what an utterly stupid policy that has been. As for the Cats, they’re probably one of the most boring sides I’ve ever seen, and that includes the Brumbies. The term “wooden” comes to mind. Someone in Super-12 officaldom ought to commission a special trophy – a piece of ordinary 4×2 – to be presented to them at the end. It should have “Zzzzzz 2001″ carved in it.

Having installed a Linux operating system, during the spare time induced by the Blues – Cats game, I got back on station in a state of high anticipation for the next. Whatever happened in this one, I was going to see an Australian team lose – perfect!

With a row of cold ones and a good supply of assorted munchables, I reclined in the Lazy-Boy and punched the appropriate buttons. Marvellous; no worries about New Zealand teams vs The Rest etc. etc, just a good game of footy.

The Waratahs versus the Brumbies was indeed rewarding, not least because the Australian commentators, in particular a Mr. P. Kearns, were so obviously supporting New South Wales…er, sorry… The Waratahs, and they had to watch their team get a good shagging for the whole 80 minutes. The best part was they sort of kept in contention through the first half and most of the second, before being forced to drop their shorts and bend over for a jolly good reaming in the final 15. Wonderful stuff! Ominously for New Zealand and South Africa though, that lithe genius Stephen Larkham looks to be hitting form in tandem with human dynamo George Gregan.

Another entertaining aspect of this game was the continued antics of the Waratah loose-head prop Dunning. He got yet another intercept and then unleashed a monumental clearing punt that the legendary Don Clarke would have been pleased with. What with his Billy Bunter appearance, a preference for bizarre paisley patterned head-gear and these amazing performances, Dunning is rapidly turning into one of The Characters of The Super 12 2001. More power to him.

Back to this side of the ditch and another day at The Office watching the Hurricanes. Joy of joys – a rare game in the daylight! Shame Napier couldn’t turn on nice weather, but the whole North Island has been swiped by the tail-end of a cyclone so we won’t hold that against them.

Fresh from Brumby-bashing last week the Canes came out predictably a little flat and the Highlanders really took it to them with some great effort in the tight. Teamwork was the key as the Otago boys drove it up the guts and found the Hurricanes’ defence wanting. The only trouble was, Aussie ref Peter Marshal seemed to have got out of bed the wrong side and put in, for him especially, a rather petulant and irritating display of whistle-blowing. If he’d had an angry wasp up his back passage for the whole game, I might’ve understood it, but although I followed him closely, I never saw him reach around for a scratch, so that can’t have been it.

The final straw was when he binned Tony Brown at the end for a ‘head-high’. The poor bugger simply went to tackle Thompson, who stumbled just in front of him and ended up hitting Brown’s arms with his head. Piss-poor refereeing, and no mistake about that; I doubt Pete will be stashing the video of this one away in his collection.

The game itself was a ‘game of two halves’, to coin a classic cliche. In the first the Canes basically didn’t look hungry enough to win. By contrast the Highlanders did, and hit rucks and mauls with well-organised enthusiasm. Marshal’s own enthusiasm gave Holwell the chance to keep the home side in touch with penalties, and just before half time they scored a nice try to go in ahead. In the second half the Canes got a strangle-hold on proceedings with a better defensive effort and some brilliance from Cullen to score a try. More penalties helped too. A late rally by the Southern Men got them two deserved bonus points. I wish they’d invent a system by which the referee could be subbed off when he’s having a crap game. Marshal would have been enjoying a hot shower after about 20 minutes.

With only 30-40 minutes between this game and the Chiefs vs Sharks, I went into action. First a quick trip to lighten the load and then a visit to the beer fridge burbling away in the murky depths of the garage to drag in another crate of liquid supplies for the duration. A lightening raid on the kitchen for a further eight bags of nibbles, and finally The Settling In.

Never under-estimate the importance of Settling In; it’s crucial – a moment’s distraction grubbing about for that elusive next beer could mean you miss something. Start off with a check that enough booze has been acquired – a rough guide of one stubby per person per 5 minutes of game time will never get you into trouble. Next the same with the nibbles, and finally a logistics check: is everything within arm’s reach! checklist: (1) Beer (all units), (2) nibbles and dip, (3) remote control.

I was ready with the clock showing T-minus two minutes, beads of sweat popping on my brow as I struggled to find the optimum Lazy-Boy recline angle. Kickoff!

The Chiefs were a disappointment. The game reminded me of watching a couple of small terriers trying to tackle a pitbull. After about two minutes of watching it, I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. That Sharks outfit is bloody impressive, in the same way a steamroller about 15 feet high would be. Not only are their forwards, tight and loose, all immense buggers, they know how to play as a tight team with each other as well. This was a day that the Chiefs were taught a bit of a lesson and no mistake.

The Chiefs scrum was briefly on a par, but when No.8 Tukino had to leave the field it went downhill. It wasn’t really just because he’d gone, but the Sharks slowly got ascendancy and the Chiefs front row just got knackered to be honest. By the end it was being monstered.

Standouts for the Chiefs were Deon Muir and Marty Holah. These guys were massive. Both were everwhere, and Muir led his men with as much heart and intelligence as anyone could want. If he doesn’t get a shot at the All Blacks this year, then something is mightily wrong somewhere. With this one, the old chestnut “the game is won up front” comes to mind. The Sharks – just too big, too organised, too good.

One disappointment to me was the performance of Royce Willis. I got the impression that he simply doesn’t punch his weight when he takes the ball up. If he had the same approach as Muir has, in the body he has, then there would have been a trail of Sharks lying mangled in his wake. A pity, but maybe there’s a reason for it; who knows.

Finally, over in South Africa the Crusaders crashed to the Stormers, predictably. Sorry lads, this season isn’t going to be yours. Up in lofty Loftus the Bulls got both burly hands on the Wooden Spoon with a loss to the Reds, which says it all.

That’s it for another fun-packed Super 12 week!

Oh, before I forget, what’s the big deal with these bloody silly two-foot high kicking tees they’ve started using in the last few weeks? Christ! What next? Maybe we’ll soon be seeing a little launching ramp with protractor on it to fix the angle. I know! How about a small rocket-propelled cup with a rubber band to hold the ball on.

What a ridiculous sight eh? A ball sitting on top of a puke-green plastic tee 10 inches off the ground, and a ball-boy who has to stand by to retrieve it after the kick. What was wrong with a bit of sand or mud?

For fuck’s sake, get a grip! Rugby is meant to be a simple game – stop over complicating it!

Amen.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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