Saturday 3 July 2004
7:30 pm (local time)
Half time Australia 10 Pacific Islands 0
Full Time Australia 29 Pacific Islands 14
Prepare your dry ingredients: take 22 Wallabies who could do with another hit out before the Tri-Nations, 22 Tongans, Fijians and Samoans who were playing together in a test match for the first time, and one of the World’s finest referees on his last international outing.
Mix with 5 inches of rain (heem… that doesn’t sound so much does it – lets try 127 mm, plus bucket-loads more as needed), 19 thousand South Australian residents, and season with a handful of Australian commentators.
On second thoughts - no need to mix, just stand well back and blow a whistle!
I finally watched my video of the game Tuesday night - boy what a cracker.
Even though I had managed to avoid hearing the score for 3 days, I was worried that the game might have been a let down!
Silly man… there was far too much in this game that wanted to be good.
There were the Pacific Islanders for a starter, and importantly there was Mr Watson. The Wallabies when they got the ball contributed too. When they didn’t have the ball they got a lot of tackle practice!
Quite a few Wallabies got broken, which wouldn’t have made Eddie Jones any happier - but lets face it he’s had a hare up his a*se about this game for weeks, why would he suddenly start enjoying it?
I really enjoyed the Pacific Islanders game, they showed superb skill levels, even playing dry weather rugby in the wet. The close passing in the forwards was exceptional.
Of course the ball spilled a few times, but that happened for the Wobblies as well (sorry Wobbly).
Not so good were the PI backs on attack, they did a lot of sideways running, failed to commit the tacklers and didn’t make good use of their wings.
I admit I was enjoying the general feel of the Aussie team which seemed to hover somewhere between – Did anyone catch the number of that bus? & Aaww Ref?!?
Still the Wallabies did play quite well at times. I thought some of their play was a bit cynical; specifically the kicking that got them 2 tries.
But then why not? When faced with a wall of unyielding muscle - why not exploit an obvious defensive weakness?
Most of the Aussie back-line played well, Larkham had a good all-round game.
That catch, juggle and try of Giteau’s was superb. I’m surprised he didn’t have time to balance his cheque book as well during that dive.
He is certainly a class player. He should be banned from international rugby immediately!
André Watson had a cracker of a game. Yes there were a few mistakes, and a few times it felt more like he was refereeing a festival match. However his advantage, his clear description of infringements, and consistency couldn’t be faulted.
This was his last international, and he did a very sensible job. He blew up rucks before even more Aussies got injured. He asked for help from his able assistants when required. He even pushed Dan Vickerman out of the way before he yellow carded him. You can’t ask for fairer than that.
His call of the sin binning being “infringement” combined with “a lack of fair play” was excellent and timely. It’s the sort of message that should resonate around rugby circles longer than would “professional foul”.
Even with professionalism this is still a game, and fair play will always have its place. We are a race (human) that has rules for wars after all; surely we will always retain decency in sport!
On that point let me congratulate the Aussie commentators who managed to be fair beyond the call of duty at times. Of course they were also occasionally one-eyed and even condescending. That’s to be expected, and certainly not an exclusively Australian affliction.
But lets not finish on a sour note, this was a fine game: a game that jump-started Pacific Island rugby, gave Eddie Jones as much to think about as the ABs trial did Graham Henry, and showed how much we will miss André Watson.
Thank you Mr Watson, you will be missed.