Warning: this blog is predominately about Super 15 Rugby; so if that doesn’t float your boat, look away now.
I’ve never had much interest in Super Rugby — the Southern Hemisphere competition involving Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and now, Argentina.
My perception has always been that it is refereed poorly, with forward passes, crooked throws and feeds permitted in order to make the game more exciting.
The under-nine girls team could defend the gain line better and the most outrageous dummies get bought leading to inflated scorelines.
Now, I missed the final 6 Nations weekend where an avalanche of points suggests much of the same was occurring back home, but having visited the Allianz Stadium at Moore Park on Sunday to watch the Waratahs play the Brumbies, I have revised my views on Super Rugby. The physicality, flair and skill sets are stratospheres above levels to be found on a run-of-the-mill Premiership weekend.
If you caught the game in the UK on Fox Sports (you’d probably be lucky), try imagining the outcome if either of these teams were pitted against London Welsh.
Or… and I hate to say this… London Irish.
I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of the game; if you want that, please follow this link: http://www.foxsports.com.au/rugby/super-rugby/super-rugby-2015-nsw-waratahs-defeat-act-brumbies-in-thrilling-derby-clash-at-allianz-stadium/story-e6frf4qu-1227273430330
We had wonderful seats close to the 22m virtually on the touchline. Normally I wouldn’t want to sit this close to the action but we could almost feel every bone-crunching hit and action at the far end or side could be followed on one of the massive new screens at either end of the ground.
Okay, the referee was a bit of a clown, having felt the need to refer a clear deliberate (one-handed) knock-on by Brumbies’ flanker Scott Fardy to the TMO.
But when Fardy finally left the field amid boos and catcalls, the circus act that followed almost blew the big top off.
The Allianz, built in the mid-eighties, holds 45,000 and the 25,469 who turned up on Sunday were treated to a feast of rugby, highlights of which were Wallaby fullback Israel Falou’s 50 metre Phil Bennett-style break, side-stepping five defenders before setting up Tolu Latu for the ‘Tahs’ third try.
The other truly memorable moment, scotching my theory regarding Southern Hemisphere cat-flap defences, was Wallaby flanker Michael Hooper’s fifty metre cross-field scramble to deny fellow Wallaby wingman
Henry Speight a score in the corner which would have brought the Brumbies back to within touching distance.
On this evidence, I could happily watch this every week.
British (well, mainly English Premiership) Rugby, is now so formulaic as to make it boring.
Players play with a fear of losing rather than with flair, creativity and the freedom to try something different.
There are a few exceptions to this, and Danny Cipriani is one of the few mavericks allowed off his leash to challenge defences and make players think.
Sure, tackles are missed in Super Rugby, but this is because the defenses have to figure out what the attack will do rather next than fill the gap in front of them.
And how many of those utterly pointless drift-attack decoy lines were run on Sunday?
Finally… I’m writing this in PJ Gallagher’s bar in Sydney where the Guinness is better than good and I’m watching the final throes of a compelling World Cup semi between New Zealand and South Africa.
There’s a load of Aussie banter going on and a middle-aged fella in a South African shirt doesn’t like it.
Please God… grant me citizenship to this great country! G’day cobbers.