I woke up on Sunday with a voice that sounded not unlike Brad Thorn. It was slightly worse the night before. I had spent a good forty or so minutes yelling at the television screen. And yelling quite loudly too.
One-point wins seemed to be the new thing. We had just come from the Wellington-Auckland shield challenge, where a second-half of pressure from Auckland looked the business until the very end. My Wellington-supporting friend sat beside me making nervous jokes. I didn't really care either way (though of course if Auckland had won then Bay of Plenty would be challenging this week) so I got to enjoy some great attacking rugby without any angst either way.
Not so during the All Black game. First of all, the pub we went to thought they'd let the DJ play Michael Jackson tracks over the game. Thankfully before the haka this was rectified due to all of the patrons yelling at the bar manager. When he finally relented with a grumpy "I'll see what I can do", my friend said "because if you don't we're all leaving".
I'll tell you what I liked about this game. The All Blacks played pretty much the same gameplan as last week, but with Carter kicking for territory and the instances of running turned down a few percentage points. While the ball was booted up and back a few times the general rule of thumb for the All Blacks was to run it in an attacking fashion.
Of course what that means is we have a lot of rucks and what that means is there are more opportunities for the referees to accuse us of cheating (which we are doing some of the time). Oh and I'd like to see the Australians heavily penalised for their new tactics of taking players out in the air, it's just as dangerous as a spear tackle.
So the end result was the game we always want: close, full of running rugby, poor refereeing decisions, a yellow card to the opposition, and a gritty win that's only decided in the dying seconds. Perfect. Even Chris Rattue was happy with Graham Henry, mostly:
Graham Henry has the semblance of a good side, but by this point in the season they should be far more competent than they are …
As an ardent critic of the Henry reappointment and regime, I gladly admit here that he deserves praise for keeping a struggling team in the Tri-Nations hunt and retaining the treasured Bledisloe Cup. You can't scoff at that, and sometimes, at this level, winning is indeed enough.
Henry has handled a lot of pressure and may still emerge victorious out the other side. His side has not dropped its bundle and may indeed be starting to pick it up.
I wouldn't bother reading Stephen Jones.
I am currently taking wagers on how long Robbie Deans will stay as coach (I currently think he won't make it to 2011).
Well done England! If the Australians were reeling a little from the Bledisloe, then the Ashes defeat was a nice kick in the sack. For me it's one of those things I don't really care too much about because now we have to put up with arrogant England supporters (at least they're further away).
Apparently the Bay of Plenty rugby team were a work of fiction until this weekend. Despite good wins over Northland and Counties (without a coach) and a self-asserting win over Wellington, they weren't considered anything but a fluke until they beat Waikato.
Andrew Saville introduced coverage of the weekend rugby with "Bay of Plenty have proven themselves to be the real deal". In what world and in what tournament would a team that reached the semi-finals last year and is unbeaten after three rounds not be the real deal?
The implication is that Bay of Plenty wasn't considered to be a threat by the two Super 14 franchise-bases they played. If your coach does not consider a team it his competition to be a threat and you lose, that does not mean that team fluked a win. It means that the team was a threat and you were ill-prepared.
Auckland's one-point loss to Wellington was a truly fun game to watch (even though I almost broke some Radio New Zealand equipment in the media box and had to leg it). Mike got a very good snap of the try that wasn't. The reason why it wasn't given was quite clear from upstairs: the ref was on the wrong side and just saw the ball skitter away. With no help from the touch-judge or a video ref he couldn't award the try.
What I don't want to hear are people boo-hooing about what a travesty it would've been for Wellington to lose the Shield after a call like that. Other teams haven't won the Shield because of calls like that, so I think Wellington could suck it up.