Firstly, let me congratulate the All Blacks on getting back to winning ways. Although not as convincing as I suspect Steve Hansen would have liked New Zealand were the better team over the course of the eighty minutes even though they were down to fourteen men for nearly a quarter of the game. Some in the Kiwi press are highlighting these yellow cards as an example of a Northern Hemisphere conspiracy against the world’s number one team but as I have commented in previous posts I wouldn’t expect anything less from a media whose chip on their shoulder must be the largest in professional sport.
In the Ireland game there were a number of contentious decisions which have provoked the ire of the Kiwi press not so much for the decision but for the furore which they have caused in the British Press:
Beauden Barrett’s Try
Barrett did not ground the ball, at least the TMO shouldn’t have been able to conclusively say he had grounded the ball so in the first instance no try should have been given. However;
Johnny Sexton’s High Tackle
This was a high tackle and in my opinion did warrant a yellow card, although the extenuating circumstances are that Barrett was falling to the ground when Sexton connected and this may be why Sexton escaped with a yellow card. Either way Barrett’s try would have been replaced with a penalty try and so the TMO’s mistake was not as pivotal as some Northern Hemisphere commentators are making out.
Sam Cane’s Shoulder Charge
This was out and out thuggery and the fact that the Kiwi press are complaining about Cane being cited is mystifying. Not only did Cane lead with the shoulder there appears to be no intention of trying to wrap an arm around Henshaw and Cane is lucky that any ban handed out dovetails nicely with his injury and the end of the season. In future I would be happier if bans were handed out to cover a number of games similar to the one the offence was committed in.
Malakai Fekitoa’s High Tackle
Although another tackle which was brutal to watch and also worthy of being cited I don’t feel this was in the same bracket as Cane’s but instead highlights a dangerous trend in New Zealand Rugby. If Fekitoa had made that tackle for the Highlanders or playing in the Mitre 10 Cup he most likely would have received a yellow card but, importantly, there would not have been the controversy because there is a worrying number of these high tackles which go unpunished in the Southern Hemisphere.
Malakai Fekitoa’s Second Try
Another try that shouldn’t have been with this time a forward pass being the reason why the try shouldn’t have been rewarded. This is an area where sadly technology is ruining the game, nowadays it is deemed an acceptable pass if the ball initially travels backwards out of the hand, even if it looks like it goes forward. On Saturday the ball didn’t go backwards out of the hand but if the TMO had been called into adjudicate this shouldn’t have been a discussion. I heard one Australian commentator state recently that this rule should be rewritten to be if the ball looks like it has gone forward then it has gone forward regardless of how it left the hand. What I wouldn’t give for this type of common sense to return the modern game.
However even after taking into account all of the above New Zealand did deserve to beat the Irish, even though the score could have been a lot closer than it was, and surely the Kiwi media should spend more time praising an impressive defensive effort of a team with their backs to the wall rather than trying to pick a fight with their northern cousins.
Then again there is a Lions tour next year and a little controversy always adds a lot more spice.