I don't like to complain about referees. If they blow a big call that's right in front of them or are just inconsistent to the point of randomness then I'll be a little bit grumblier. Generally I'm willing to forgive their sins. But the match in Tokyo on Saturday night had a bizarre moment that robbed the All Black defence of their bragging rights.
Referee Mark Lawrence went to the TMO to ask if the ball had been grounded over the line. The TMO (a "Japanese gentleman" according the commentary team) came back and told him it was knock-on. Lawrence said that it wasn't a knock on and just wanted to know if the ball was grounded over the line.
As a TMO what can you say? "Um, actually it is a knock on. I can't see if the ball is grounded over the line so why don't you award a scrum to the All Blacks at the 5m line?" The difference between perception and reality blurs a little when the referee claims something didn't happen when replays show that it has.
I understand that the referee had asked a specific question about the grounding but if the TMO said "knock-on" surely that means the answer is "no and they knocked it on". So Lawrence dicked about and made the TMO look again and again and in the end called it a try, which it wasn't, it was a knock on.
So, the Tokyo test: triumph of rugby marketing or side show distraction before the European games? As for the former the build up was as shameful as you can expect from a group of rugby idiots travelling a country with a completely non-western culture.
There were a large number of stories from the media entourage that boiled down to "Japan is so different it's crazy". At times it was just shy of casual racism. And the stories lacked basic details. When the All Blacks had a press conference and media session at "Japan's oldest rugby playing university", the name of the university wasn't given, causing me to yell it at the television.
The Wallabies players looked awkward and unprepared, which lead to one of my highlights: watching (I think it was Berrick Barnes) go to press his palms together and bow to a hostess before realising that it might not be the correct thing and then half-bowing and wringing his hands and in the end just standing awkwardly and looking back at his teammates for support.
Did anyone else think that this match would've been better suited to after the European tour and instead of a superfluous Bledisloe match it should've been an ANZAC Barbarians vs Japan?
But what about the rugby spectacle aspect of the game? I thought it was pretty good overall. The first half was pretty much all running rugby from both teams with some superb kicking for territory.
There were a few dropped passes but not the amount I was expecting. The rucks were played really tough with both teams getting turnovers and hitting into them hard.
But the best part was that we won. And Robbie Deans can bitch all he likes about cynical play and what not but he still didn't beat us this year. And of course Canterbury have collapsed since he left… oh….
I think that this weekend we discovered that the depth of Canterbury is pretty amazing. I was really impressed with the Cantabs on Friday night, they looked like a well-oiled machine with a number of weapons on attack and fairly tight defence.
I didn't get to see the Wellington game but Mike went along and did his usual great job of photographing the action. He did say that the running style of the match made it incredibly hard to shoot as he had to keep running up and down the park (avoiding the TV cameras).
The full gallery is here.
Why did I miss the Wellington game? It was Hallowe'en night and I was out having fun. And by having fun I mean killing zombies.
I finally got to enact a plan I had been dreaming up for a few years. I gathered to together some friends with NERF-style guns, we dressed up as Steam Punk zombie hunters and ambushed the Wellington Zombie Walk outside Te Papa.
Here's the video, we're pretty much wiped out at about the 2:10 mark.
There was only a handful of us against a horde of over 200, plus we were expecting slow, shambling, "traditional" zombies, not fast, running "nouveau" zombies. But they all played along and afterwards as we drank zombies at Motel we were still buzzing about how much fun it was.
The walk had altered and they came at us from a different angle. You can probably see in the video how excited/nervous/actually slightly scared we were. And when the horde showed up we faced the same issues movie zombie hunters do: zombies that aren't fully dead; what to do with a teammate who has been scratched; and is it ethical to shoot zombie children (yes, in the knees).
Mike has photos of the attack too (full gallery).