Where do I start with this week’s good, bad and ugly of sport, because there’s one heck of a lot of ugly [there are no prizes for working out what that is] and not a lot of the rest?
There was some limited good news for our international teams, with the Kiwi Ferns beating the Aussie Jillaroos [12–6] in a rugby league test for the first time in seven years and the Black Ferns demolishing Wales 70–7, setting up a virtual final in WXV 1 against England on Saturday.
Locally, the Giants Blues and Reds notched up winning doubles in Intercity Softball, and Jeremy Anderson [74no] and Jack Wakeling [24no] put up a stonewall in an unbeaten ninth-wicket 79-run stand to deny Taranaki an innings victory; otherwise, this would feature in either of the next two categories.
The Kiwis were handed a rugby lesson by the Kangaroos, beaten 36–18 in Melbourne.
The Black Caps bowling had no answers to a rampant David Warner [81 off 65 balls] and Travis Head [109 off 67 balls] to set up Australia’s mammoth total of 389.
The run chase deserves to be in the ‘Good’, though. To get to within one shot of winning was a phenomenal effort by the Kiwis, led by rising star Rachin Ravindra, with his second ton of the World Cup.
Where do I start?
How about with an article I wrote for the Times-Age edition on September 10, 2021, when I referenced an incident in the All Blacks 38–21 win over the Wallabies in Perth, which saw fullback Jordie Barrett wrongly red-carded after he leapt high to catch a high ball, and stretched a leg out only for his boot to scrape the face of Aussie winger Mariki Koroibete, and the possibility of something similar occurring in the Rugby World Cup.
I assure you there are some freakish coincidences.
The year is 2023, and the All Blacks and Springboks are locked in a tense final in Stade de France to become the first team to win four Rugby World Cups.
The game is 26 minutes old [substitute Sam Cane for Barrett, and we know what happened next], Mr Whistleblower and his eagle-eyed TMO, after much umming, aaahing, and toing and froing, concur that it was a reckless or dangerous act and banish poor Sam to the sidelines.
This time, though, there’s no 20-minute wait before a replacement can come on [as in the Rugby Championship]; it’s kaput, end of the game, and it’s 54 minutes facing a stampeding wildebeest herd.
The All Blacks showed more guts than an Olympic superheavyweight weightlifter, but in the end, could not contain the bruising Boks and stumble to a devastating loss.
Unlike Barrett, whose red card was later deemed to be wrong by the judicial, and it was expunged from his record, Cane is likely to face a stint on the sidelines, but just imagine if the captain’s sending-off was deemed to be wrong.
The great whining Kiwi machine would quickly fire up, the noise would be deafening, and the crescendo would make the fallout from the 2007 RWC quarterfinal loss to France look like Cinderella’s happy ending.
The simple fact is that red cards can have too big an influence on the outcome of a game and invariably do.
Yes, the sentiment that World Rugby must take action to protect the head is necessary, but there are a disproportionate number of red cards in the game now.
In fairness, World Rugby have gone part way to addressing some of those issues with the introduction of the yellow card and assessment to upgrade to a red card, but the inconsistencies still appear to exist.
Is it time for rugby to rob the rugby league rule book once again? What is wrong with placing the tackler on the report, or a yellow card and on report?
Red cards and the rules around them are ruining rugby, and there are too many players and their teams being unfairly punished for marginal calls.
Unless for cases of serious, deliberate foul play, it is time for rugby to kick red cards to touch!
The issues surrounding the World Cup final, though, go a lot deeper than Cane’s red card.
There was the incorrect overruling of Aaron Smith’s try. TMO Tom Foley acted outside his authority when he alerted referee Wayne Barnes to a knock-on in the earlier lineout, which happened more than two phases [five] before Smith dived over.
That was just one of many instances when Foley, who appeared to want to be the star of the show, stuck his nose in, legally or not.
An even uglier aspect was the death threats targeted at Barnes and his family. It’s a game, get over it, and there’s no place for that disgusting behaviour.
My overall takeaway from the final, though, and it would have been the same if the All Blacks had won, is if that was to showcase the game of rugby, it was a disgrace.
What is obvious, though, is that World Rugby is killing the game with its own self-inflicted disease, and it’s looking terminal if a cure isn’t found soon.