26 Jun

Not a Day For Dinosaurs
by Colin Johnston
26 Jun 2005

For those that thought lumbering dinosaurs, with brains the size of walnuts, died out many millions of years ago, it must have come as quite a shock to see such creatures plod out on to Jade Stadium tonight. Woodward’s class of ’03 huffed and puffed towards extinction – a fate that is long over due. Woodward standing in the coaches box wringing his hands like the owner of Jurassic Park.

The rest of the rugby World has known for the past 2 seasons that this semi-fossilised relic from 2003 has survived on artificial life support and DNA transplants for too long. Unfortunately, the mad professor that created them is blinkered by his previous successes, he is blind to the evolution that has been going on since long before his dinosaurs ruled the World but still he rambles on. He cannot see that this farewell tour for relics from a bygone age is an abomination and runs contrary to natural selection and all that Darwin held dear. Indeed rumour has it that he, the mad professor, shall have Martin Johnson, Jason Leonard and Co. removed from the cryogenic state they have been suspended in and shipped down to NZ for the second test.

Graham Henry is today the designer of a new species of team that eschews the old values of bump, grind, kick – rugby has evolved into a thing that can only be described as “entertaining”. Players are able to run and catch the ball at the same time. Some can even run, catch and pass again, all in one movement – amazing!

Through this evolution New Zealand extinguished any lingering doubts about themselves and the merit of this leviathan Lions touring party. In achieving today’s win Henry has already secured his hatrick of victories over the Tourists. Today was the one chance the visitors had to snatch an away victory and breed some discontent and uncertainty in the All Blacks camp. From there they would have hoped to go on to a series win. On today’s performances this Series will be a 3-0 whitewash. Well done.

Tonight the weather conditions should have favoured the lumbering Lions’ tactics: a style that Woodward opted for back in April when he picked his prehistoric squad. Unfortunately, the New Zealand pack didn’t believe the Lions hype and the Lions got turned over by the All Blacks in the forwards and not the backs. For Woodward this must represent as much of a humiliation as the 2 drubbings his England XV took last year in New Zealand. The mystifying interview after the match speaks volumes either for the man’s self control, the onset of his premature senility or his boundless ability for self dillusion. Presumably the spin off book that he will write as the sequel to his RWC 03 tome, “Winning!” will be entitled “Losing!”. I think even the best marketing executive will have severe problems shifting that one off the bookshop shelves.

Unfortunately, it is impossible for these Lions to go back to the drawing board. Sir Clive and Mr Larder smashed it, chopped it up and used what was left as fuel for their pre-selection BBQ for their 2003 dinosaurs.

In this first Test Clive’s old faithfuls of Hill and Back were hopeless, Hill got injured, which is the position he has played for the past 12 months, so no surprises there and Back was invisible. Again a role he has adapted to well since the RWC. Corry couldn’t go it alone against a rampant McCaw and Collins so any 40:60, never mind 50:50 ball went to New Zealand.

The Lions line out was hung out to dry, their scrum was poor and there was not one area where the Lions exerted any telling pressure for the rain lashed 80 minutes. From the whole sorry episode there are three moments that stick in the mind:

1. Umanga’s sublime scoring pass out to the Flying Fijian Sivivatu on the wing;
2. A fresh Steve Thomson, using his microscopic bronto brain, elects to bring his “prescence” to bear on proceedings and a tiring opposition by throwing in a feeble side step, rather than blasting into the tacklers, slips and turns the ball over; and, wait for it….
3. Woodward, for it is he, saying he would have to check the videotape to see if there had been any mistakes in selection!

Any mistakes in selection? Bloody Hell, a blind man on a galloping horse can see that there were mistakes in selection! The partnership of Jones and Wilkinson never worked. With BOD dumped and taken out of the game injured in the first minute the options left for Sir Clive were limited in the extreme. All of a sudden there were no line breakers in the midfield just 2 fly halfs and another dino from the distant past, Greenwood. If Henson had at least been on the bench there would have an alternative from the hopelessly failing Plan A; no Plan B was just the same but with evenless likelihood of success.

Lets talk about the mini, motor mouth that is Neil Back. Lucky to make the tour due to foul play in his last domestic match and the fact that he can’t hold down a regular game for his club side, he was on from the start and was anonimous. Just when I thought he had sneaked off at half time and nobody had noticed, he sneaked back on and gave away a needless penalty. Fortunately for the Lions Carter missed with this attempt and a couple of others or the score would have more accurately reflected the gulf in the teams.

For New Zealand, Jack and Williams fronted up and played storming matches. The front row, which should have been severely targetted were given an easy ride by the total exclusion of Sheridan. I couldn’t believe that selection either. After trashing Hayman in the first half against the Maori he vanishes from the scene, dropped into oblivion by the potty professor. Did I miss something? Was the point not to target New Zealand’s perceived weaknesses and exploit them? If that was the ploy it may have been better to have picked players capable of doing it. Just a thought.

There is always next week and we can only hope for some changes in selection, at least 2 will be enforced, the others that have to come are tactical. Bulloch in for Thomson, Williams/Moody/Anybody in for Back and Shaw in for Ben Kay (another nonentity from Sydney 2003). Jason Robinson can go home on the next flight, he didn’t want to be there anyway: Horgan or Shane Williams to start and Henson in the midfield…. or all three and drop Wilko? Might not work but at least it is a step forward from guaranteed, tried and tested abject failure.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather