Sunday, April 01, 2007

Monday Morning 9-for-9

July 24, 2006

1. All Blacks defeat Springboks at Wellington

New Zealand 35-17 South Africa

New Zealand 35
Tries: Weepu, McCaw
Cons: Carter 2
Pens: Carter 7

South Africa 17
Tries: Du Preez, Paulse
Cons: Montgomery 2
Pens: Montgomery

Half-time: NZ 19-7

Westpac Stadium, Wellington

New Zealand: MacDonald; Howlett, Muliaina, Tuitupou, Hamilton; Carter, Weepu; Tialata, Oliver, Hayman; Jack, Williams; Thorne, McCaw (captain), So'oialo. Replacements: Hore, Somerville, Rawlinson, Masoe, Cowan, McAlister, Toeava.

South Africa: Montgomery; Paulse, Fourie, Olivier, Habana; James, Du Preez; Du Randt, Smit (captain), Van der Linde; Van den Bergh, Matfield; Tyibilika, Smith, Cronje. Replacements: Pietersen, Bosman, Januarie, Van Niekerk, Muller, Andrews, Coetzee.

Referee: Joël Jutge (France)
Touch judges: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)
Assessor: Steve Hilditch (Ireland)

2. Dan Carter is a metronome, goes 9-for-9.

Peter Bills writes:

"All it needed was the world's best goalkicker to swing his boot with the kind of assured rhythm and precision that was generally missing from his team. He did so with poise, nailing the penalty goals like an undertaker sealing a coffin."

3. Springboks show a big improvement, but warned not to get too carried away.

Keo reports:

World Cup winners Joel Stransky and Hennie le Roux have warned against getting too carried away after the Springboks looked better in losing to the All Blacks yesterday.

The Springboks have received some praise for bouncing back from their ignominious 49-0 drilling by Australia in Brisbane the previous weekend to “only” lose 35-17 in Wellington.

The feeling from the Bok camp is one of mild satisfaction, but the inescapable truth is that the result is the sixth heaviest defeat suffered against the All Blacks in 68 Tests stretched over 85 years.

And it must be remembered that Springbok coaches and captains have been fired for less.

“There are two ways to look at it. It is a better performance and several things improved. There was a lot more passion and spirit to play for the Springboks,” Stransky said on SuperSport’s All Out Rugby programme.

“But it was a loss and it was a bad loss. And I think if we get sucked into that area of saying it is a good loss then we are saying we accept mediocrity and that it isn’t so bad.

“It is bad,” he emphasised. “We lost and we lost by 18 points. It is still a bad, bad loss.”

Read the rest.

4. Bok fans still disgruntled.

Although some feel the Springboks performed better, generally the readers are not convinced that the Springboks have improved enough and they certainly don't share coach Jake White's optimism - who suggested the Boks could still win the Tri-Nations. As most of the readers point out, the Boks lost again and not by a small margin either.

5. Piri Weepu will not face Wallabies in Brisbane.

How tough is this kid? How resilient? How injury-prone??!! Weepu copped a bad concussion in the Super 14 final and then slotted a 50 metre penalty. On Saturday he was down time and again, first his shoulder, then his knee. But he keeps rebounding and staying close to the collision area, getting knocked about but making a physical impact. He needs a rest. Keo reports:

Weepu was unlikely to start, but he would have added depth to the bench. Byron Kelleher will now wear the No 9 jersey, with Jimmy Cowan on the bench. Graham Henry has resisted bringing in Canterbury’s Andy Ellis, who is playing again after six weeks off because of injury.

Sam Tuitupou is also out because of a hamstring strain, but he would not have been in the match 22, with Aaron Mauger to start in the No 12 jersey.

Weepu has a grade one medial ligament injury to a knee and should be fit for the return match in three weeks time.

6. 3N standings.

Three games in, NZ leads the table, but so far all we know is the home team is winning and nothing's been decided.

The Tri-Nations Series Table
22 July 2006

Team P-W-L-D-BP. PTS.

1. New Zealand 2-2-0-0-1. 9 PTS.
2. Australia 2-1-1-0-1. 5 PTS.
3. South Africa 2-0-2-0-0. 0 PTS.

7. Wallabies prepare for All Blacks "A team".

Wallabies coach John Connolly yesterday said he would be "very surprised if we didn't play exactly the same All Black line-up we faced in Christchurch".

"Put Aaron Mauger, Rico Gear, Joe Rokocoko, Jerry Collins, Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu back into the All Blacks line-up, and they are a totally different team," he said.

"You just look at guys like Mauger, who are a lot more creative than those who were out there against the Springboks. But what you did see in that Wellington match was that as the Springboks discovered just before half-time, if you just falter momentarily, the All Blacks will nail you. We are very mindful of that."

8. Bizarre TMO call resolved to delight of everybody.

An unusual moment transpired in the 71st minute of Saturday's test match. The Springboks had just slotted a penalty to close the gap and Dan Carter kicked-off at the halfway spot. Bok fullback Percy Montgomery, who'd just made the successful goal, made a hash of the kick-off and let it go unclaimed. Winger Bryan Habana tried to regather the ball but knocked on, the ball advanced off Doug Howlett's leg and then All Black lock Ali Williams dived onto the ball and dragged it over for what looked like a dodgy non-try.

Referee Joël Jutge consulted briefly with his touch judge Alain Rolland before going upstairs to the Television Match Official (TMO) George Ayoub for a decision. On the instant-replay, everybody could see that Williams clearly did not have control of the ball and knocked it forward over the tryline, and then placed dodgy downward pressure on the ball in the in-goal area.

The decision should never have gone to the TMO, it should have been a scrum awarded to South Africa on the Ali Williams knock-on. But the referee missed that knock-on and called for a TMO ruling on the touchdown only.

The ruling explained by New Zealand match commentator Murray Mexted said the TMO is only allowed to make a decision on what occurs in the in-goal area. Now, you have to take anything Mexted says, as entertaining as he can be, with a grain of salt. But his view is supported from an interview earlier this year when TMO Hugh Watkins was quized on the BBC about his job:

"When you ask the television match official to clarify a particular incident, does the referee always accept their decision or is the final word with the referee?"

Steve Watson, Warrington

We can only consult the TMO for anything that happens in the in-goal area.

Therefore, if you ask for a ruling on the grounding of the ball, the TMO will watch the screens and come to a decision.

Sometimes the evidence is not clear and the TMO will hand it back to the referee to make the final decision. These are few and far between - thank heavens!

But in answer to your question, the referee is the sole judge.

BBC: Quiz the ref

Jutge missed the knock-on, and since TMO Ayoub was only permitted to make a decision on the downward pressure or control of Williams' alleged "try," it made a "by the book" jugment look farcical. To their credit the kiwi television commentators were running away it. "This is nonsense if they award this, Grant Nisbett spat in disbelief. Mexted agreed. Ian Smith called it "ludicrous."

Thankfully, common sense prevailed. Jutge and Ayoub got together, overruled the book, and awarded a 5m scrum to South Africa.

One wonders how Referee Assessor Steve Hilditch will assess the performance of Jutge and Ayoub on this. (I'd be curious to know if the Habana knock-on was even picked up by Jutge as well. An all-around botch.) In any event, the next IRB rules committee needs to look at usage of the TMO. Let's just be thankful no try was awarded.

9. Cocaine. Suspension. Don't compare me to Ben Johnson, Big 'Dell pleads.

Rugby Planet reports:

Disgraced Australia winger Wendell Sailor has spoken publicly for the first time since starting his two-year ban from rugby for testing positive for cocaine.

Sailor's Australian Rugby Union (ARU) central contract was terminated on Friday, but he insisted in a column in Sydney's Sunday Telegraph newspaper that he is not a drug cheat.

He also stated that he does not condone the use of drugs and explained how difficult the affair has been for him and his family.

"Right now, I'm gutted. It's going to take a couple of days to get my head around this, but I know one thing for certain - I am not a drug cheat," wrote Sailor.

"I'd be disappointed if people thought of me like that, and I'd be disappointed if people were to put me in the same category as a guy like Ben Johnson (the former Canadian sprinter who was stripped of a gold medal in the 100m after testing positive to steroids at the 1988 Seoul Olympics).

... "It's just been like a circus. I didn't even go out too often. The last thing I needed was people thinking I was living it up and saying, 'look at him, he doesn't give a stuff about his career'.

"As for my penalty, I think it's grossly unfair.

"I'm not playing the victim. I'm the first to admit I've made a mistake. But to get two years leaves a bitter taste in my mouth because I am not a drug cheat."



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