Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rugby World Cup III: How Can Such a Thing Be

Rugby is not like soccer. If you dominate possession and territory you usually win. If not through tries then through the penalties, and maybe drop-goals, that accrue when you are camped in your opponent's half. The match between France and New Zealand last Saturday was the 1% of matches where this did not happen. If that match were played a 1,000 times, NZ would win the other 999. But they choked. They had 72% possession and territorial dominance and they didn’t have the presence of mind to chip over a few drop goals as the French defence heroically countered every attacking gambit. The NZ team spent the last 10 minutes of the match bangng its head against a brick wall defence without ever trying to kick their way out of trouble. If Hernandez had been playing for them he would have popped over 3 or 4 drop golas with that kind of possession. There is no redemption here. Every player on that NZ team will know this to their dying day. OK Carter was injured. OK the pass was forward for the last try. OK the referee stifled McCaw from early on. OK the penalty count was 9-2 against NZ. It doesn’t matter. They blew it. They choked. Richie McCaw should have got up from a few of the rucks he buried himself under and given some leadership. The better team lost.

This is written with extreme objectivity and has nothing to do with the fact that I had a large bet on NZ to win the tournament last November.