The opening round of the Mitre 10 Cup, with the weather good, and teams studded with household All Black names, had one grim spot, and it came from an expected quarter.
Just five weeks ago I sat in a stunned and sickened Orangetheory Stadium crowd in Christchurch watching Crusader prop Oli Jager lying prostrate on the ground after Highlander Sio Tomkinson had smashed into him. Jager didn't have the ball, Tomkinson didn't wrap his arms around him, and Tomkinson's shoulder hit Jager near his head, which snapped back as if he'd been in a collision in a car. Somehow Tomkinson wasn't even red carded, or cited.
In February, for a no arms, high tackle on Brumbies fullback Tom Banks, Tomkinson was only yellow carded, but this time Tomkinson was cited, and suspended for three games.
In Dunedin in the dying moments of Auckland's 38-6 win over Otago, Auckland first-five, Simon Hickey became the latest victim of Tomkinson's woeful tackling technique.
If the rugby judiciary has a book, it needs to be thrown. How can those of us who love it persuade parents that rugby is the sport for their boy or girl if the sort of damage inflicted on Banks, Jager, and now Hickey, is somehow written off as just a bit of rough and tumble, and all part of the game?
Now, four happier thoughts from the first round.
The great ones always look like they have time to spare
For much of the game in Pukekohe the contest was much tougher than the 41-24 win for Tasman over Counties Manukau would indicate.
What broke things open in the 51st minute, with Tasman only ahead 21-17, was a moment of sheer class from fullback Will Jordan. Taking the ball 65 metres from the Counties line he feigned to kick, then glided away from defenders, before sending wing Leicester Fainga'anuku in for the try.
Muhammad Ali once said that when he was on song in the ring, "everything felt like it was in slow motion." There have been moments in Jordan's burgeoning career where he seems to occupy the same sort of space.
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Yet more proof front rowers can do anything
In the 35th minute of the Auckland-Otago game the Auckland fullback, Jordan Trainor, made a terrific break from 10 metres inside his own half.
Spotting Trainor a couple of metres start was hooker Leni Apisai, who weighs in at a casual 112kg. He'd already scored one try from a lineout drive. This time, in wide open space, Apisai hit the afterburners, and when Trainor needed a support player in the Otago 22 it was the flying hooker, a former captain of the New Zealand under-20 side, who took the pass and sprinted over the line. For any numbers of reasons, not least the sight of so big a man running so quickly, the try of the round.
A very good, keen man
The Sky commentary team picked Codie Taylor, who had a storming game, as their man of the match in Canterbury's 43-29 win over North Harbour. It was a fair call, but for reasons not entirely connected to rugby, I would have chosen lock Luke Romano, who at 34 played 80 minutes with a single-minded ferocity that would have been impressive from a man a decade younger.
I was a wimp who grew up living in town, fantasising over Barry Crump's macho, deer culling, outdoor bloke, books, when a ute was a man's best friend, and footy boots shared the back tray with a couple of hunting dogs. Romano actually lives that life.
When he's not playing rugby he's a professional hunting guide in the wild back country of the Southern Alps, and one of many leading the charge to stop the eradication of thar. Little wonder he plays rugby with more than a hint of the hard bugger persona Colin Meads brought to the game.
If only all Wellington buses performed so well
Wellington were pretty average in their 53-28 loss to Waikato in Hamilton, but they did provide a moment many thought we'd never see again, that warmed the heart.
Julian Savea's sixth-minute try was a great reminder that when the line is near Savea at his best was an unstoppable force in test rugby at World Cup level. He went through the mill at Toulon, when Mourad Boudjellal, the ego maniac who owns the French club, became so unhappy with Savea's form last year he snarled "They must have swapped (Savea) on the plane. If I were him I would apologise, and go back to my home country."
In the more grounded, supportive environment of his hometown team Savea, at 30, looks like there's plenty of excitement left in his career.
Finally, the Rugby Championship debacle
Who wouldn't bet good money that the original weird demand from the government that squads of 42 players in two weeks of isolation would only be allowed to train in bubbles of 15 players wasn't the result of some wonk in the Health Department looking up "rugby" in Wikipedia, finding that it's a 15-a-side game and going, "Yep, that's it. They can train 15 at a time."
It's hard not to wonder now if the whole enterprise here wasn't doomed from the start because of a culture clash between New Zealand Rugby and the stultifying subculture that is Wellington bureaucracy.
Because let's be clear - it wasn't Sanzaar politics, and it wasn't Aussie money that took the tests across the Tasman. It was the refusal by Government ministers and their officials to apply common sense, and allow a little, albeit it tightly monitored, leeway.