Chris Rattue on sport

The latest sport analysis and comment from Herald columnist Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue: Well done, Blues - now do it again

7 comments
Benson Stanley of the Blues runs the ball forward during the round eight Super 14 match. Photo / Getty Images
Benson Stanley of the Blues runs the ball forward during the round eight Super 14 match. Photo / Getty Images

Here's the wee challenge for the Blues.

The concept is quite simple, even if largely foreign to this mad mob over most of the past decade.

Take what you did so impressively against the Bulls on Saturday and (trumpets, lights, firecrackers) ... DO IT AGAIN THIS WEEK.

It's a novel idea, playing really well two weeks in a row.

The Blues could even flirt with the bizarre and actually improve on the performance when they take on the Stormers at Eden Park on Saturday.

No doubt everyone is in a chipper mood in the Blues camp right now, having handed the champion Bulls their first defeat of the season. From what you hear, the Blues are pretty chipper anyway, win, lose or draw.

There was a sense of jubilation around Saturday evening's upset result over the Bulls, but I resisted the temptation to start hurling streamers about.

For a start, the Bulls - who were physically soft and wayward in the tackle - had just travelled from Pretoria via Perth. Perhaps a little complacent and travel weary, they were not at peak.

More importantly, what the Blues produced is what we should constantly expect and demand from a team out of Auckland, by far the largest area in a nation supposedly dedicated to rugby, a side with a once-proud history that has been demolished over the past decade.

Eden Park should be a fortress, a place of dread for visiting teams, no matter who they are.

What we've been dished up for so long by the Blues is totally unacceptable - one measly title in 12 seasons during which time the former world provincial heavyweights have made only two other finals appearances.

It would be nice to celebrate what happened on Saturday, but the let downs have been so frequent that I don't have the heart for it anymore.

Have the Blues turned a corner? Who would know?

The worst thing anyone could do is over-congratulate them back into their slack zone.

The game itself at Eden Park was a cracker and another vote for the new rule interpretations.

"Rule interpretations" was the relevant phrase in Wellington, where veteran South African referee Jonathan Kaplan gave a bizarre performance on Friday night when the Hurricanes and Crusaders fought out a draw.

The final stanza was the least of Kaplan's worries, even though the visitors' equalising try in a pile of bodies may be regarded as controversial.

To my mind, Kaplan made that crucial final decision by the book - he felt the try was scored and simply asked for contrary evidence, from the video referee, which was not forthcoming.

However two earlier tries - one to each side - were illegitimate, absolutely.

The Crusaders scored off a quick lineout throw after the referee and his assistant failed to notice Andy Ellis had not initially gathered the ball, as he was required to do.

Referee HQ has already admitted that Kaplan and touch judge Garratt Williamson erred.

Jeremy Thrush's try for the Hurricanes was just as bad to my mind. The lock, who had a storming game, clearly obstructed the Crusaders' defence, helping Victor Vito surge forward and provide a brilliant pass to set the move alight.

Thrush charged between Vito and Dan Carter, blocking the All Black No 10 from making the tackle. Carter looked dumbfounded, raising his arms indignantly and with good reason.

Thrush carried on his merry way, putting a less significant block on Richie McCaw before trundling on to catch up with the move and scoring the crucial try which put the Hurricanes back into the match.

Kaplan saw all of this, and inexplicably waved the game on.

If indeed what Thrush did was legal - and it most certainly isn't - then rugby might as well pack up the tent because the game would descend into a shambles.

These were not the only weird rulings from Kaplan. He allowed Andrew Hore to nick the ball out of a Crusaders ruck, claiming the ball was out when it clearly wasn't, and penalised McCaw for batting the ball into touch when it was slammed into him at point-blank range.

You could hardly blame Andy Ellis either for giving Kaplan a spray - for which he was penalised - when he ruled the Hurricanes had been moving forward in a ruck, when they had not.

Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper can bleat about misfortune, but on balance, most of the odd decisions went against the Crusaders.

As one strange decision followed another, you began to feel rugby had become unfathomable, until you realised the most experienced test referee was having a shocker.

Maybe all those games, all those decisions, became a blur for Kaplan.

The Cronulla Sharks - a win after 13 defeats. That will bring a smile to Ricky Stuart's face, or on second thoughts, a slight easing to the grimace.

Can the Blues carry on their encouraging form against the Stormers on Saturday night?

Weekend Winner

The Cronulla Sharks - a win after 13 defeats. That will bring a smile to Ricky Stuart's face, or on second thoughts, a slight easing to the grimace.

What to Watch

Can the Blues carry on their encouraging form against the Stormers on Saturday night?

- NZ Herald

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 28 Aug 2014 15:22:50 Processing Time: 456ms