This weekends rugby was dominated by the championship. Credit again to the best team in the world, The All Blacks for completing yet another win and dominating the important parts of each match to win the trophy. The were put under some pressure by the Argentinian scrum early on but still found a pathway to success and their superior conditioning allowed them to come right back at the dominant pack in the second half.
The other match was a very absorbing high quality test match between the Boks and the Wallabies. Played at the oldest rugby stadium in the world, it was a tough battle with both teams in with a chance throughout the game. Perhaps it was the greater discipline of the Boks which allowed them to get over the line in the line and break the Wallabies resolve? Conceding just 4 penalties in the game is a mighty effort despite some of the pressure they were under at times and the players deserve great credit here!
Australia were tough and delivered on their game plan. I felt they were guilty of double stapling over the ball at times, but equally were quite unlucky not to get more rewards at the breakdown where I felt the Boks were often flopping on the pill without attempting to take a threat away and also arriving after the quick Wallaby loosies who all had huge games. Having said that, the work ethic and understanding of this facet has improved markedly since Richie Gray took over, and he deserves plaudits for his work.
Some interesting decisions on the day by a referee who facilitated a great spectacle… The poise, communication skills and general game management of Nigel Owens is the best in the world and with our own Craig Joubert is streaks ahead of the rest ( which is not that healthy but it is what it is ). He is an example for the upcoming referees with many attributes of pure quality in this most demanding of arenas.
Midway through the first half the Boks got a line out 5m from the Wallaby line, they won the ball, and Faingaa ran around from the tram lines and deliberately and cynically went offside almost acting as the Bok ripper. It should have been an instant yellow card. No debate. These actions must have a higher sanction and consequence as they are coached and are a negative blight on the game. The sooner referees address this, the better for the game, and the better they will look as well!
Also, Habana was tackled in the air by Ashley-Cooper and once again, no upgrade of sanction. This is inconsistent with the mandate put out by the IRB protecting the jumper. Unless there is a simultaneous attempt to win the ball, taking into account the position of the jumper, it is the responsibility of the chaser to show greater awareness to the vulnerability of the catcher.
The were a couple of clean outs by the the Boks which were less than desirable, notably one by Jannie du Plessis which should have been penalized, and the officials were lucky they picked up the pull back on Pollard in a vulnerable position under the Bok poles, so credit to the TMO for saving their bacon! Australia clearly didn’t want to defend the maul, and were intent on stopping it at source, sometimes splitting the pod on the way down from the contest in the air… Also a coached tactic which referees need to better understand and apply. Having said that, some of the maul formation is equally not always accurate, and this vexing subject needs much more debate than it gets at present.
I went to the Toad next to the ground after the game and had a few drinks with the boys, and I must say it was great to be at a test match at Newlands again!
The Lions and WP continued on their inexorable march to the final of the CC with comprehensive victories in usually tough venues, while the Sharks stayed in touch and the Bulls pulled off a nice win on the road.