The official New Zealand Rugby Awards aren’t happening till next week, but it’s unlikely that any of this list will be getting any gongs. But in the spirit of not taking things too seriously, these moments of foolishness in our national game demand to be recognised. So, without further ado, here are Rugby’s Bottom 10 Moments for 2023:
Breaking the Ranfurly Shield
Hawke’s Bay went from Shield glory to ignominy to severe acrimony within the space of 24 hours back in October, first winning the famous Log O’ Wood off Wellington and then breaking it in half in the early hours of the next morning. Hats off to HBRU chief Jay Campbell, who did more media engagement in the following days than probably all other provincial chief executives have in the last decade put together, but really it was a pretty weak move to not even put up someone who was actually at the now-infamous after party to explain themselves and apologise.
Sam Cane’s no-show
Not the red card in the World Cup final, because that was a matter of inches away from being a perfectly fine tackle. Back in the Super Rugby Pacific final, the All Black captain found himself off the field for the crucial stage of the game, but what wasn’t so forgivable was his absence from the post-match press conference. Sam - you should know better than that, mate.
Matatū forgot how many points a penalty is worth
Super Rugby Aupiki had its fair share of exciting games and the 25-24 win by the Hurricanes Poua over Matatū was no exception. However, it had no right to go as long as it did after eventual champions Matatū were awarded a penalty straight in front of the posts and then inexplicably kicked to the corner as time expired. Even more perplexing was tapping a follow-up penalty rather than backing the lineout drive that they’d turned to in the first place - which they promptly knocked on to hand the Poua the win.
Pretty much anything this bloke said or did this year. Take your pick.
Ardie’s throat slit
It’s pretty hard to fault much about Ardie Savea’s season but letting himself get wound up by a halfback from the Melbourne Rebels was a bad move. What made it worse was the Hurricanes skipper’s parting gesture to Ryan Louwrens after Savea had been yellow-carded, which cost him a one-match suspension. To his credit, Savea seemed to realise straight away that he was in the wrong and, admittedly, it was unique to see that sort of passion in a Hurricanes v Rebels game.
World Cup taking way too long
After the All Blacks’ opening match against France, it took just over five weeks for their next competitive fixture, the quarter-final against Ireland. For context, the entire 1995 World Cup tournament took four weeks from opening game to final.
Not better late than never
Manawatu and Wellington met in an NPC match in August but Turbos loosie Josh Taula’s wipe-out of Ruben Love was so late it could’ve happened in September.
Polar opposites from the TMOs
The main narrative since the World Cup has been how much intrusion the TMO (television match official) has over test rugby. But really, it should be about how it can get to that stage only a matter of months after the main complaint was that the TMO wasn’t doing nearly enough.
Mark Tele’a’s big night out
The in-form All Black winger channelled his inner Cory Jane not only on the field but off it too. Tele’a found himself stood down for not just a week, but the most important test the All Blacks were due to play so far thanks to rolling into the team hotel in the early hours of a Sunday morning. Special mention to Cam Roigard, who was also stood down at the same time for unspecified reasons, unlike Tele’a he never regained his spot in the matchday squad.
The Black Ferns created some unwanted history of their own this season, with a record loss on home soil and the first-ever send-offs in the side’s entire history. Iritana Hohaia has the dubious honour of being the inaugural early shower taker, but at least that was a clear accidental head clash in a test against the USA in July. Later in October, though, replacement prop Chryss Viliko’s thunderously stupid ruck entry and connection with French midfielder Gabrielle Vernier’s face got her rightfully marched with absolutely no room for complaint or sympathy. Coach Allan Bunting made mention of Viliko’s previous rugby league experience maybe playing a part, but that doesn’t hold much water as what she did is just as illegal in that code too - in fact, you can’t even do it in the UFC.