ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Rugby was rescued from itself by the twin drop-goal drama at Dunedin.
After the pre-match smeared itself in #worldfirst syrup and licked itself clean, the game between the Highlanders and Chiefs started with the first of 1000 peeps from Paul Williams' whistle.
Super Rugby Aotearoa's inaugural match quickly settled into the sort of free-flowing exhibition style match we all craved. And all of the that previous sentence is true if the flow you were after was a tour of the rugby's newly embossed law book and the exhibition you sought was an epic demonstration of how to navigate said law book.
Every breakdown was policed with all the subtlety of those tasked with clearing protesters for a Donald Trump photo shoot. It brought back to mind those loveless rugby days from 2007 to '09 when it was far more productive to play without the ball.
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(It should be pointed out that Williams, like all his colleagues, has been asked to referee this way and it is easy to imagine his performance earned an AAA rating from his assessors. The hope is that the short-term pain of high penalty counts will give way to a more open spectacle with less emphasis on the collision game at breakdown and more room for playmakers to become influential. It was just a shame rugby had to be welcomed back with 30 penalties.)
And in praise of the spirited Highlanders and rusty Chiefs, they didn't resort to kicking the ball away, though it might have paid to. Time and again they tried to build something only to fall foul of some geometric infraction.
On a couple of occasions they were left alone long enough to fashion a couple of terrific tries. Sio Tomkinson scored a beauty for the Highlanders off a perfectly angled run and Sean Wainui was the beneficiary of some slick Chiefs' back play.
Mostly, though, it was grim viewing.
Rugby's feel-good return quickly transformed into feel-frustrated, and with about five minutes to go it was a genuine feel-grumpy spectacle.
Sport often finds a way of redeeming itself without contrivance, however, and this was no exception. The final five acted as a perfect rebalancing of the previous 75 – and it happened in a most un-NuZild way.
With the Chiefs down by one, old twinkle-toes Damian McKenzie used his feet in far more prosaic fashion, slotting himself in the pocket and banging over a perfectly functional three-pointer. Chiefs' coach Warren Gatland, in charge of a far more accomplished squad, must have thought they'd escaped an ambush.
Bryn Gatland's reply was far more poetic and the perfect end to an imperfect occasion.
Thirteen months after injury pushed pause on his career and only a late call-up to the Highlanders' bench, Gatland took aim from about 38m and hit a left-to-right fade that left his dad hurt but proud.
That is what this game will be remembered for.
It took a while to get there, too long perhaps, but rugby was back and it felt good.