24 Sep

Friday night fizzers
by Tracey Nelson
24 Sep 2006

The major outcome of the New Zealand rugby weekend nearly escaped under the blip of the radar, thanks to the hopeless TV schedule we have in place at the moment. No, I’m not talking about new-kids Tasman thrashing Northland by 56-15 on Saturday afternoon, but rather North Harbour finally getting something to put in their dusty trophy cabinet after lifting the Ranfurly Shield off Canterbury just after 6pm on Sunday evening.

That this game was relegated to the 4.35pm Sunday slot when all other games were completed by Saturday night was something of an insult to Harbour, Canterbury and the Ranfurly Shield, so in many ways it was rather pertinent that against the odds Harbour won the game and the coveted Log of Wood. It was against the odds that Harbour (who in 10 previous challenges had failed to win the Shield) did manage to come out on top as far as the scoreboard went, because Canterbury were dominant in just about every other facet of the game. Ranfurly Shield history has long been about teams who take their chances and nail their points, and on September 24 2006 that is exactly what Harbour did. Along with some tenacious defence and endless tackles, they eventually denied Canterbury the chance of winning the game. But I wonder how many people actually saw the game?

Congratulations to Harbour, but shame on those who decided this game should be played late on a Sunday afternoon. Why did it not get a Friday night spot? What was the reasoning behind playing Counties-Manukau vs Manawatu in the second leg of the Friday night double? While the 6.05pm game between the two Bay teams had a bit of skill on display and would have been a nice lead-in to a top six game, instead we had to watch the bungling efforts of two Repechage teams who quite frankly made the 80 minutes as tedious as an international long-haul flight in economy class – except at least you know you have duty free shopping to look forward to at the end of that. The only thing everyone was looking forward to at the end of the last Friday night’s second game was the final whistle blowing.

Meanwhile, the Waikato-Wellington game only got the 5.30pm slot on Saturday evening, with the Auckland-Otago game apparently getting top billing for the weekend. What a shame, because the best viewing spectacle of the weekend was undoubtedly the game out of Waikato Stadium. Both Waikato and Wellington were deserving of the Friday night slot with the standard of rugby that we saw. Obviously someone must really dislike Harbour though, because their second round draw has them playing one 2.30pm and two 4.35pm Sunday games – not a single top time slot for them.

What the powers-that-be need to get through their heads is that there is only so much rugby a soul can watch, and the NZ rugby public are discerning enough that they want quality not quantity. Hence they a) aren’t turning up at the games (the three Big Six games averaged out at around 12 000 spectators per game this weekend) and b) they are going to find something else to do on a Friday night than sit down and watch what is essentially Division 2 rugby. Most punters would be more interested in reading the fine print on their beer mat than keeping an eye on some of these Repechage games, and you really can’t blame them for that.

Thankfully this coming week we finally get a Top Six game on a Friday night, and with most of the All Blacks back in action hopefully we will finally see some top rugby and in the proper time slots!

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