Despite an improved performance from Wales and despite some sublime skills on show from the All Blacks, last Saturday’s game will sadly be remembered for mainly the wrong reasons.
New Zealand hooker Andrew Hore committed an act of blatant thuggery and cowardice, by striking Wales lock Bradley Davies from behind, with a forearm hit to the jaw. Whether Davies was blocking or being a lazy runner is irrelevant – what Hore did, in just the second minute of the game was unjustified and inexcusable. To strike a defenceless person from behind so hard they are severely concussed and hospitalised is an act that should never be committed, let alone on a rugby pitch.
With Davies departing so early, and Jarvis the Welsh tight head getting injured in a subsequent ruck, Wales were placed at a huge disadvantage little over a minute into the game. The fact that New Zealand were allowed to continue with their full 15 contingent as Hore’s violence was missed, grates even further.
There have been trials this season of using the TMO to adjudicate on foul play. One can only hope that the trial turns into standard practice.
New Zealand are a team that is supremely talented and quite clearly the worlds best, yet the incident created by Hore detracts from this completely. It was a cheap shot, a disgusting shot, and the handling of the situation by All Blacks coach Hansen has left a lot to be desired. You would expect a firm denouncement of Hore’s actions, instead the matter has been skirted around. It is not the right message that New Zealand are sending out.
The game itself was one of fits and starts, not truly becoming a contest until the second half. Wales, long in their history being described as the players of a beautiful offloading game, turned to a more ungainly tactic – the thirteen man lineout.
The likes of Richie McCaw looked on bemused as the whole of the Welsh team involved themselves in the lineout, and they charged over for Scott Williams to score. Beautiful it was not, yet it was sublime in its audacity.
Wales were clearly second best in the contest, yet their players gave a far more committed approach to the game, that can at least give supporters more hope going into future games. Yet it is the supporters, or rather “supporters” themselves that showed another ugly side to the game.
The abuse of players on social media networks, notably targeted at fly half Rhys Priestland, have been depressing to behold. Added to that the jeering of a player in the Welsh shirt, as he is representing his country, by a home crowd, is something that should never be witnessed; on Saturday it was.
Rugby in its march into the professional game must manage itself carefully. It has long been a sport of a brilliant ethos, both on and off the pitch. The growth of social media and the need to hyperbolise situations in the press is beginning to have an alarming effect against this.
Rugby players haven’t changed all that much. They love the game, they are committed and they give everything when they put on the shirt of their club and country. Those professing to be staunch Welsh fans should remember that, before they so heartlessly and cruelly attack those that less than a year ago they were hailing as heroes.