by Rob Wallace
3 Mar 2003
The Blues began the weekend with a Herculean effort by a 7 man forward pack to defeat the Chiefs in Hamilton 30-27. After Troy Flavell was sent off for stomping after 5 minutes, the Blues pack showed fantastic determination to keep their team in the match. This was epitomised by Justin Collins who played lock for most of the game, yet still managed to outplay Gibbes in the loose.
Meeuws anchored a solid front row along with Woodcock, who put in a huge 80 minute effort. Mealamu’s current form is the best of any hooker in NZ, his throwing was accurate and his general play dynamic. Ali Williams dominated the lineout – even though he was the only lineout option the Chiefs were unable to shut him down. Rush kept it all together and led by example while Braid completely dominated Holah in the loose.
The backs had a more difficult time, with the Chiefs off side most of the game, but Caucuanibuca still managed to score a couple of brilliant tries. Spencer controlled the game well, but the backline really needed better front foot ball.
It wasn’t a good effort from the Chiefs. They are weak in the tight 5, relaxed too much when they were in front, and played the wrong pattern. Had they opted for territory and set pieces they would have been able to maximise their one man advantage, but their loose and sloppy style fell right into the Blues hands.
Despite the backline talent, they were too flat and unable to make any ground against an outstanding Blues defensive effort. This was Holah’s worst game in living memory, and Randle was lucky not to be sent off for a second yellow card offence after he stopped a certain try with off the ball obstruction. Randle continues to prove that when the big games come, he goes missing. In cricketing terms, he’s a flat track bully, and completely unsuited for higher honours.
In other games the Crusaders picked their game up another notch to beat the Reds 34-6. They haven’t hit top form yet but are moving toward it and next weeks clash with the Blues should be a cracker. Standout players so far have been Brad Thorn and Greg Feek. The Highlanders had a tidy 41-17 win over the Stormers, while the Hurricanes got thumped by a mighty Bulls pack and the boot of Louis Koen, losing 46-34 in Napier. This was the first win for the Bulls outside of SA and was thoroughly deserved. As for the Hurricanes – they’re not going to win many games until they get a decent front row.
I’ve been a Flavell supporter for a long time – so much talent, just waiting to be used properly – but this was the final straw. It was a reckless, stupid action, and one that hurt his team dearly. There really is no room for players like this in top level rugby, and I wouldn’t pick him for the Blues again ever – his talent is not worth the baggage that comes with it. He’s in front of the Judiciary and hopefully this episode of tapdancing on Greg Smith’s head will be Flavell’s last dance.by