OPINION: That great rugby philosopher Tana Umaga was on the mark: Rugby, which was once a contact sport, has become tiddlywinks.
After our first weekend of summer Super Rugby, it’s obvious the game’s hierarchy aren’t using their heads when it comes to fleeting contact with the head.
These yellow cards need to be red-carded because play is no longer continuous as the three refs stand in the middle and forensically check on the big screens for criminal negligence.
It’s made worse when replays are slowed down, the victim stays down writhing and the crowd gets involved and sways the ref.
Losing a player for 10 minutes can turn matches on their heads, so to speak. It has also put me off watching sevens, with players binned for technical breaches.
Get rid of the yellows and if there are deliberate acts, put players on report as they do in the NRL. Rugby used to be a 15-a-side game, not one team reduced to a league complement.
The referee should be permitted to use common sense and adjudicate as to whether contact with the swede was deliberate. If not, then a penalty should suffice and get on with the game.
Manawatū flanker Antonio Kiri Kiri, on his Super debut for the Blues, was committed to his tackle on Lima Sopoaga on Friday night. Sopoaga stooped low and Kiri Kiri’s tackle slipped up, but didn’t injure him.
The refs are now given no discretion, so Kiri Kiri went to the cooler and the Highlanders bowled in for two quick tries. Then he had to face the judiciary where they take hours to apportion blame over an incident that lasted a split second on the field.
Surely the silly yellow was sufficient sanction.
Scott Higginbotham was crazily shown red in Melbourne for a stand-up tackle that ended up being reckless, just as Sonny Bill Williams’ was against the Lions last year. Higginbotham’s tackle was a penalty at best when viewed in real time and yet the judicial wombles gave him three weeks off.
We’re not talking about malicious stiff-arm coathangers here. What about the dozens of thumps to the heads that go unnoticed in rucks?
Another Manawatū forward, Michael Alaalatoa, was similarly yellowed for the Crusaders against the Chiefs – not his fault Damian McKenzie is a shrimp. Not deliberate dirt either.
Neither was Lachlan Boshier’s high shot on a low-flying Ryan Crotty, which slipped up from the shoulder.
It merited a penalty try, but to also bin the Taranaki loosie was double jeopardy. It provoked me to switch over to the far cooler curling at PyeongChang.
Crowded houses at Hokowhitu
For whatever reason, the spectator galleries at the NZPGA Golf Championship at the Manawatū Golf Club at the weekend were the biggest since the era of the professional tournaments almost half a century ago.
The popularity quickly prompted almost everyone to sound keen about taking up the third year of the proposal, even if raising the $250,000 to run New Zealand’s No 2 men’s tournament is a mighty chore for a golf club.
When Ben Campbell putted out on the 18th green, the crowd was three deep and more. He was almost predestined to win this time after losing in a playoff last year.
But he took a risk getting it done, misjudging the wind and driving over the left line of trees behind the No 2 tee block, landing in the thick of them. As he said afterwards, he was blocked out and was faced with playing “a big cut”, the ball spinning left to right, over the left-hand bunkers and back to splash safely on to the green.
He courageously pulled it off after leading from start to finish, the first Kiwi winner since Michael Hendry in Queenstown in 2013.
After getting to be the world No 6 amateur, some doctors told Campbell he would never play golf again after the chronic viral infection in his chest. He had two years working with coach Andre White at Manawatū and now has qualified for the Asian Tour after finishing sixth in Thailand following five rounds of qualifying.
Peter Lampp is a Manawatū Standard columnist.