And a happy June long weekend to you all. I hope you all dodged double demerits, Maccas drive-thru queues, road ragers and traffic jams for long enough to actually do something enjoyable over the break.
Personally, I had a school reunion and so only caught bits and pieces of the rugby. Thankfully that included missing much of the live telecast of the Blues v Brumbies match while between too many lies, pies and minor exaggerations of how much faster, stronger and funnier we used to be. And I have to say that after watching the game today (Monday), I was actually glad for the distraction because, given I was in public, it was probably a good thing my focus was elsewhere at the time.
In short order, how the continual pulling-down of the Donkey driving maul early in the game was not awarded a penalty try was embarrassing. And again, how that last Donkey pilfer some 30yd out almost in front of the Blues posts at 79min was likewise not awarded a penalty (shoot for 3pts and a win) was again poor officiating.
Were such non-decisions enough to overcome the Auckland/Barrett juggernaut? Perhaps. Maybe. Maybe not. So congratulations to Auckland and that’s the way the game goes sometimes. Bad luck Donkeys.
But beyond that, what’s really getting to me is the absolute refusal by officialdom to apply anything like consistency to dangerous contact and tackles. And specifically, the gob-smacking decisions to NOT award 2 red cards against the Blues for breathtakingly reckless and dangerous play.
In-case you were on another planet and don’t know what I’m talking about, let’s look at those two instances further. At just under the 52min mark of the match (approx 3:35 on the clip below) we see Blues No2 Kurt Eklund put Andy Muirhead square, clean and clearly on his head. Eklund flips him upside down and Muirhead goes head-first into the turf. And again at the 74min mark, at approx 4:30 on the clip below, we saw Brumby 11 Tom Wright get a flying headbutt directly to the noggin courtesy of Blues 7 Adrian Choat. In both instances, vino was airily waved away for cheese. And I have to say both were embarrassingly bad decisions by the officiating party.
By any reasonable viewing, even in the days before the current ‘crackdown’, both those incidents were red cards. Spinning a guy past 90* and putting him head first into the turf has been a send off event for as long as I’ve played this game. Likewise, smashing your head up and through the contact space into another guy’s head, be it in a tackle or not, would likewise see you boire le vin.
But somehow Muirhead was judged as not a spear-tackle and Wright was somehow ‘passive’ in taking Choat’s skull in the mush – in other words, it was the victim’s fault. As such, both Eklund and Choat saw cheese. And in munching cheese for 10min, neither must front a judiciary for further review.
Now some may say, “that’s how it goes.” And I get that. I really do. I’m still a bit of the old fashioned type and I tend to say we are all fully informed, consenting adults partaking in a sport where we know the risks. So we should ‘back the truck up’ a bit with all these ‘clamp-downs’. Leaving aside blatant foul play, things can happen when you’re moving fast and the bodies are flying. However, my issue stems from the inconsistency of cards and the definition of foul play.
And we only have to look one week back involving the Donkeys again to see this inconsistency and the idiotic consequences it has. In the previous week’s match, we saw Brumby 13 Len ‘Sticky’ Ikitau make a high tackle at approx 22min (1:14 on the clip below) on the Canes No10 Aidan Morgan. Now we have all seen plenty of these types of tackles get made. And in the modern environment this type of contact has been deigned a vino. And as a vino, it goes to judiciary. As such, Sticky copped a 3wk rest and physio spell on top. Ok, so be it. I disagree, particularly with the additional 3wks spell, but that was the protocol applied by the powers that be. Let that be the current benchmark.
And if Sticky’s effort is the benchmark, then surely using your head, front-on, to bash someone in a tackle is a step higher again is it not? And surely lifting a ball-carrier in any manner so as to land him on his head is likewise a step higher again is it not?
But no… I draw the viewer’s attention to the 24min mark of that same match from last week (approx 1:45 onwards in the clip above). Herein, not 2min after Icky’s transgression, we see big Owy Franks use a WWE style flying headbutt to just about send Donkeys 10 Noah ‘Lolly’ Lolesio into lolly land. Let’s be clear: Franky isn’t coming across in cover or moving with the ball-carrier. No, he is front-on, driving his head up and through the tackle space and squarely into the face of Lolly. No ifs or buts to it. Flush on, driving upwards, resulting in head-on-head contact. But somehow, in applying ‘the protocol’ Big Owy only munched cheese.
And in the very next week after Sticky was adjudged so foul, we saw Messieurs Eklund’s and Choat’s aforementioned bits of play somehow not be judged as foul and warranting vino.
So somehow in all that, Sticky gets a red card for a glancing upper-arm/shoulder to the ball-carrier’s mush and he gets a subsequent 3x match suspension that will likely cost him a Wobbly jersey. Whereas comparatively, for recklessly driving a melon up and through the front-on contact space into a ball-carrier’s mush, both Owy and Choater only see cheese. And apparently, under the Eklund precedent, we can now turn a guy 90* and drop him on his head and likewise only munch cheese.
Frank frank – in any sort of objective assessment of these 4 instances, is Sticky’s effort really the most egregious? You’ve got to be kidding me. I can tell that from all those shots to the head, I know the one I would rather have to take.
So I have to ask, is the ‘crackdown’ and the ‘protocol’ really about protecting the head and neck of players or not? Because if it is, then the handling of those four instances, two of them only 2min apart, makes such approaches an absolute mockery. Or should we just grow up and acknowledge they are just another couple of pieces of public-relations bovine-excrement and cynical attempts at civil-suit minimisation, to be tossed aside when it gets to the real business of ensuring a Kiwi v Kiwi Super final?
But enough of that palaver.
Welcome to Episode 13 of the Chewsday Chew. The purpose herein is not to write something overly sagacious, complicated or mesmerising, but rather to pose a simple observation, question or proposition and let the good readers of this esteemed site share their opinions thereafter. Call it the lazy man’s attempt to fill a void by poking our collective bear of rugby knowledge to share their reflections and lift the average beyond the humdrum.
And given the blatantly perverse pendulum application of the ‘to card, or not to card’ question in the last two weeks, I’ve been thinking of the other times where the application – or the non application – of cards has just made no sense to this little black duck.
Firstly, reflecting on Eklund’s inverting effort on Muirhead, I am reminded of that other classic bit of Kiwi choreographed inversion cooperation wherein Tana Umaga and Kevvy Mealamu tried to invent the inverted lineout using Brian O’Driscoll as the jumper. How that was ‘missed’ at the time by a small army of match officials and tv staff was a scandal of ‘Suzy the Waitress’ proportions…
Secondly, reflecting on tacklers ‘using their head’, the non-use of a card for either Sam Cane or Ofa Tu’ungafasi when they fractured Remy Grosso’s skull has often left me wondering just how seriously some of our local rugby friends really do take the issue of player safety…
And just proving that lightening can strike thrice (at least in New Zealand), another classic ‘no card event’ that really sticks out in my memory was Joe Moody’s shot on Kurtley Beale. Now while I am no fan of Beale, how this was missed by 4 different match officials and 19 dozen tv production staff before the conversion was kicked has always left me …perplexed…
Another carding event that can be relied on to get me stirred up is this piece of
cheating noble and admirable play from French captain Antony Jelonch…
And yet another card that has not ever made sense to me was Busy-Bee DuPlessis fantastic shot on Dan “You Can’t Touch This” Carter…
But when it has all been said and done, the most dastardly bit of completely unacceptable use of a card I have witnessed surely belongs to Nigel ‘Black7’ Owens…
But anyway, them’s the breaks I guess. Just ask Remy Grosso.
So come one and come all. While in our game we treat our refs with at least some modicum of respect, we all have that special bit of injustice buried in our cranials. And now is your time to pull it out, polish it up, post it high and vent your spleen over the injustice of it all…