31 Jul

Two Flashes of Genius From Jane
by Paul Waite
31 Jul 2010

The All Blacks took it to the Wallabies on their own patch at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, scoring a resounding 49-28, 7 tries to 3 victory.

It has to be said that what could have been an absolute cracker of a test match was ruined by the muppet with the whistle. I don’t have an issue with referees being reasonably strict interpreting the Laws, but South African Craig Joubert obviously studied at the Hitlerian University of Rugby Refereeing, then presumably went on to do a Ph.D. in ‘The Effects on a Rugby Game of Blowing A Whistle and Waving Yellow and Red Cards Around’.

To say that Joubert had an eagle eye for an offence is the same as saying Stalin was a bit of a naughty boy. It wouldn’t be so bad if all, or even most other referees did the same things, giving the players a heads-up on what to expect, but he’s so different it just makes it all very silly.

Just to show you how silly I thought it was, when Drew Mitchell was yellow-carded for the second time for interfering with the ball after the whistle had gone (preventing a quick play by an All Black) and therefore had to march off for good with Joubert waving him goodbye with a shiny red piece of plastic, I actually felt sorry for the Wallabies! Which, I have to tell you, was quite unnerving since it has never happened to me before.

Well of course we then had a test match with 15 men against 14, with three-quarters of the time left – pretty much a ruined game if ever there was one. Yes, Australia did rally in the second half and provide a huge amount of fight, but the result was never in doubt and that was hard to take.

The kicker was, the game would have been a hum-dinger with 15 vs 15, and the All Blacks would have had to fight that much harder for supremacy.

So let’s get to a bit of the actual rugby. The test started out with two mistakes by the No.10′s Carter and Barnes. Carter was up first, doing that lazy clearance thing I’ve seen as an intermittent fault in his game for a long time. He received the pass, then took ages to run and clear, getting it charged down and giving away a soft try. Just to show that whatever the All Blacks could do, they could match it, the Aussies passed the ball to their own idiot, and Berrick Barnes proceeded to gift none other than Dan Carter himself with a charge-down and resulting try. All within 5 minutes of each other which was quite bizarre.

After that the teams started playing some real rugby, and the All Blacks looked the better side immediately. Their carries went further, and their defence was harder. They also seemed to have that little bit more variation moving the ball. Though the Wallabies moved the ball energetically and fast, it tended to get too lateral too quickly, and they ended up going from side to side.

Of course the refereeing wasn’t helping much. With both sides determined to keep the ball in hand the breakdown and tackling came in for some very anally-retentive rulings from Joubert. Every little real and indeed imaginary thing was picked up by his antenna. A case in point being a collision/tackle made by Whitelock and I think McCaw which had the unfortunate Wallaby sandwiched and flipping horizontally then falling onto the deck. Joubert erroneously saw this as a ‘tip tackle’, but luckily his brain didn’t manage to conjure up a jersey number so nobody got sent to the bin in error that time.

The test was notable for two pieces of shear magic conjured by All Black winger Cory Jane. The first involved the ball being spun to his right wing on the Wallaby 10m mark where he made ground but encountered the fearsome Rocky Elsom coming at him to barge him out of play. Jane calmly fended Elsom with his left hand, giving him time to drop the ball from his right and put in a beautifully weighted centring chip for Mils Muliaina to run onto and score.

In the second he received the ball out on the same wing 15m out with a player to beat and Genia coming at him like an express train from in-field. He fended the first player, stepped past, judged Genia’s speed and angle and checked then changed direction in-field to wrong-foot him just enough to be able to step through and score the try. The clever way he assessed and used all of the dynamics of everything going on around him with split-second timing were just a joy to watch.

Unfortunately for the All Blacks late in the first half Jimmy Cowan got a rib injury and Piri Weepu had to come on. Weepu is a redoutable half-back but we needed Cowan’s style of game against the Aussies, and we greatly missed his fast pass, and darting runs around the ruck. That, together with a game Aussie fight-back saw the All Blacks game drop off in the second half to a level that they will be disappointed with when they review the recording of the test. In the final quarter they were not supporting the ball-carrier anywhere near the level they had been, and lost possession to turnovers several times as a result. This saw the momentum gained in the first half dissipate somewhat, and the machine stuttered.

Even so it had enough umph to score a couple more tries, and the eventual tally of 7 tries to 3, 49 points to 28 will have Graham Henry chortling over his glass of medicinal port tonight. With a 15 point maximum out of three 3N tests so far, only an idiot would put money against the All Blacks for the Tri-Nations this season, although the Bledisloe Cup is the real prize everyone wants to see retained in the NZRU’s trophy cabinet.

The Wallabies will take a little bit of comfort from the fact they battled well with the deficit of 14 men, however it was only a winger they lost, and they were being beaten quite handily before it happened, and now have to play the All Blacks back here in New Zealand. So I doubt much celebrating will be going on over in Camp Dingo tonight, and basically they have to face up to the fact that they were given a good hiding on their own turf whilst probably playing to their best abilities.

For the All Blacks, it was a good performance but it was definitely very patchy. The second half saw some of the wheels wobbling, if not coming off, and there is certainly a lot of improvement to be had.

As for the referee, there was nothing that a cold bath followed by a double labotomy couldn’t see right. I’m not sure how SANZAR or the IRB handle their referees, but I’d like to imagine that a report is being written which contains the phrases ‘over-zealous’, ‘utter wanker’ and ‘should never be allowed near a rugby pitch again’.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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