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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly And The Brilliant

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly And The Brilliant

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly And The Brilliant

BlackFerns_WorldChamps2017_primary

THE brilliant, the good, the bad, the ugly and the rest from a momentous weekend.

The Brilliant:

 No matter how enthralling the test in Dunedin was this weekend, top billing goes to the Black Ferns (pictured). England’s full time pros couldn’t contain the power forward play of the New Zealand women who claim a fifth World Cup, and probably their most meaningful. 

Coach Glenn Moore took a punt by playing the game right at England’s greatest strength, defying all presumptions that any chance New Zealand had would depend on their outside backs.

England made a full contribution to an exceptional game, but were caught off guard by the New Zealand tactics and beaten right where they thought they had the winning edge.

I happened to see some of the first Women’s World Cup back in 1991, played mostly on the backfields of Wales. The game as it is played now is almost unrecognizable, and deserving of greater recognition.

The Very Good :

The test in Dunedin was as exciting as it gets, thanks to a vastly improved performance by Australia, a freakish start and a finish that had more plot twists than Game of Thrones.

So yes, absolutely one of the most thrilling tests we have seen in a good while, but 17 turnovers conceded by the All Blacks and 32 missed tackles by the Wallabies mean it stops short of being a truly great exhibition of test rugby, such as the All Black Springbok epic at Ellis Park in 2013.

It wasn’t bad though, was it?

The Good:

What it did show is that the All Blacks are still second to none at winning from a waist- deep-in trouble situation. 

Questions have been asked about Kieran Read, and how much captaincy might be affecting his game, about whether he can develop the McCaw like authority when dealing with the refs, and even, just quietly, about whether Sam Whitelock might be a better bet down the track.

Read went a long way to answering all that in the final, desperate moments of the test, when he led the charge to the finish line.

The Bad

(1): Those 17 turnovers, most from handling errors.

The All Blacks tried to play at a breakneck pace, but with a much better defensive effort from the Wallabies, the errors came too thick and fast. SBW made five and will no doubt be copping much of the blame, but one of them was a backflip from Aaron Smith aimed fair at his face, and others seemed more about bad timing.

When it fires the All Black attack is still the best in the business, but in 2017 it just isn’t purring along like we’ve become used to. 

The Bad (2): The Pumas lack of discipline is costing them test matches. They played 44 minutes of the test in Salta with 14 men. Tomas Lavanini is a serial offender and should come with a health warning. Dumb.

The Bad (3): The ongoing search by Northern Hemisphere referees in this southern winter to find reasons not to award tries.

If Nigel Owens didn’t see Brodie Retallick force the ball then why did he point quite clearly at the spot with one hand and signal a try with the other. He was right there and would have known that no TV angle was going to offer conclusive evidence either way so why did he go to the TMO? 

The Ugly:

Michael Cheika doesn’t just wear his heart on his sleeve, he wears it on his arms, his face, and everywhere else. Because of that he is a magnet for the TV cameras.

Every decision during the match is greeted with rage, derision or mock humour, every match followed by a stream of accusations at either the referee, the media or the opposition.

His Wallabies played with courage and determination and with great improvement on Saturday night. They deserve credit, but they didn’t deserve to win.

And Brodie Retallick did not deserve to have his reputation besmirched by the accusation of foul play levelled at him in Cheikas regular post match rant.
”It was clear to everyone he has picked one of our blokes up and put him on his head…luckily he didn’t end up with a broken neck”

Replays showed that Retallick was actually using his hands to push himself back to his feet when Ned Hanigan went over the top of him. The referee saw it, the TMO checked it, and the citing commissioner clearly saw no cause to act on it.

And yet Cheika saw fit to practically accuse a player of attempting grievous bodily harm.

In the past he has taken attention away from his team’s poor performances, which is perhaps noble, but this time he’s taken attention away from a good one, and they don’t deserve that either.