Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Shockers look ominous for Deans and McClennan

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Wallabies coach Robbie Deans. Photo / Getty Images
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans. Photo / Getty Images

Ouch. What a mistake-laden, excruciating Bledisloe Cup clash, a match that could be the beginning of the end for Wallaby boss Robbie Deans.

The pretentiously named Rugby Championship got off to a woeful start with a lacklustre shocker in Sydney, while Argentina were out of their depth at Newlands.

The Irish referee Alain Rolland, who gave a control-freak performance in Sydney, can be heavily blamed and the veteran television commentator Grant Nisbett spoke for many when he questioned why Northern Hemisphere referees were necessary in the Southern Hemisphere tournament. Rolland is down to control two more matches in the series, but Sanzar would be within its rights to demand an IRB change, given the extent of his nonsense on Saturday night.

There are two reasons why a game-wrecker like Rolland is endured by Southern Hemisphere rugby, which values skill and flow over rulebook sub-clauses. In a sport obsessed by the World Cup, the All Blacks and co need to experience a nitpicker like Rolland for future reference.

And as an alleged world game, rugby rightly values exchanges of "neutral" officials.

Those reasons won't hold up, though, in the face of too many performances like the one Rolland put on. Sanzar should see itself as a separate corporate identity that can't have its prospects wrecked by an interloper over whom they have no control. Rolland was a shocking bore in his zeal to find penalty offences.

The players didn't help with an almost comical array of mistakes and poor decisions not befitting the two top-ranked teams in test rugby. The All Blacks should have won by 20 or 30 points considering how bad the Wallabies were, a result that would have put three or four large-sized nails in Robbie Deans' coffin. He's still on very shaky ground, though.

Australia lack sufficient world-class players and enough forwards with the heart and physical power a la David Pocock to match the All Blacks. Stretching their shallow pool of quality players over five Super 15 teams has also been a disaster. But even those of us who have backed Deans can only start to feel that enough is enough having witnessed yet another substandard performance. Ultimately, the buck stops with the coach in sport, rightly or wrongly, because there is always the chance that someone else could do better.

Deans' Wallabies always fail in the same department against the All Blacks - the physical battle. Playing at home, with some element of surprise on their side in the opening exchange of 2012, the Wallabies should have been genuine if outside chances. But they weren't even close, whatever the scoreboard said.

Deans' overall record is just about defendable and he may have South Africa's measure. But when you add up the serious hiccups during his reign alongside the All Blacks' overwhelming dominance, his continued employment must be in doubt.

Australia are taking a right good kicking lying down, which is un-Australian like. Perhaps the modern penchant for spin involving "looking for positives" and development plans is working even in what should be the cut-throat world of test rugby, along with Aussie rugby boss John O'Neill's sway over opinion.

The best of coaches can find circumstances beyond them, and this is now the case with Deans, a true maestro in his former life as a Super 15 coach. Even his supposed trademarks - tactical nous and sharp execution - were hopelessly absent in Sydney. It is difficult to figure how he can get away with what happened yet again, because his Wallabies were atrocious.

Super 15-winning coach Ewen McKenzie waits in the wings. Could he do any better? Who knows, but he is Australian, and change for change's sake is a viable theory when anything has been stuck in such a horrible rut for so long.

* * *

On the subject of bad football games ... the Warriors' match against Penrith at Mt Smart Stadium yesterday is as low as the NRL gets. This was the worst game I've seen for many seasons, riddled with poor handling and misguided energy.

Neither side deserved to win, the only blessing being that the torture did not continue in golden point extra time.

Good NRL teams would have trampled them. It was difficult to find anyone in and around the game last week who thought under-siege coach Brian McClennan would survive to start the 2013 season.

Losing to just-as-bad Penrith has further hurt his cause. How could it all have gone quite this badly? There was so much to hope for in the McClennan era, not the least being the rise of a genuine Auckland league character to the game's most important job.

It will end in tears. The owners can't afford this type of risk. Bluey will be shown the door.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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