The Bull Ring, New Plymouth
Ref: Mr. Paul Honis
So, this one should be easy, shouldn't it?! I could have written it the other day, couldn't I?!
The column would have gone:
"Scotland not fit to shine Maoris' boots, etc..."
"Mr. Honis is as useless as we remember, etc..."
"Maori shine in brilliant display of festival Rugby, etc!"
Don't lie, that is what you thought! I know it was what I thought, and in the words of Jane Austin's Mr. Bennett "I am thoroughly ashamed of myself!" (I hope that this little bit of culture doesn't frighten you off to "Thugby Haven"!)
There we were being so sensible about the ABs vs Tonga game, what happened?
Well Scotland didn't help with their dismal display against the Vikings. They beat the combined Poverty Bay/East Coast Bays team convincingly, but that team was third division!
Even after the wake up call against the composite Northland Vikings, and a settler in between, I didn't think the Scots would run too hot against a team made up of Super 12 players. Little did we know!
And then there is Mr. Honis. He of the Canterbury vs Auckland Super 12 game 2 years ago! Where he resorted to Golden Oldies style scrums to bring some sense to the forward packs! (And made Craig Dowd's day, as the Blues were getting pushed all over the place!)
What could you expect of such a man. Turn over a new leaf? He would have to uproot a large tree!
And yet it all came together as a game that was altogether interesting, mesmerising, and sometimes pretty damn ugly!
Mr. Honis played quite a good game. He got scragged twice, but I don't think that was really his fault. I'm not sure if the Maori deliberately used him as a shield, but the Scottish players made sure that Mr. Honis knew that they considered it a problem.
You should avoid a referee at all costs, and definitely shouldn't grab him! Whether Scotland actually gained anything from it, I'm not sure, as both scrums went to the Maori.
I wonder however what a less temperate Referee would have thought about the incidents. Mr. Honis's "Try to avoid me!" is not the tone to take with forwards. He should have made a little bit more of the jersey grabbing incident. Nothing too dramatic, something along the lines of telling their Captain to "Let me decide if they are infringing!"
Mr. Honis has always been a generally good Referee, and in this game he managed to keep it simple. No dramatic solutions to difficult problems. For example: he let the scrums collapse, some of them in a pathetic manner. He just went around to the trouble side, and started it again.
He shouted information to mauls, his "use it or loose it" calls seemed to be mostly clear, timely, and a reasonable period to comply was allowed.
There are of course a few things that I think he should work on.
He had a habit of saying "Hard Luck" to a side who infringed when they were going well, and saying "sorry" for pinging some types of infringement. The first is not too much of a problem, if you want to call the Captains by their first names, and comment on the game occasionally, that's fine.
But it is tough luck if somebody doesn't like being pinged, there is no need to apologise for it - even if it is a 7 foot Lock that you are addressing.
Of course Mr. Honis should have apologised for the knock on decision against the Scots, late in the second half, (Gibson lost it forward). But I don't think that mistake changed the game.
A look at the penalties shows Maori 4, Scotland 11. Two of the Maoris' were for not releasing, but I would say that this was a reasonable number even for this level of game.
The Scots had a bit of trouble at ruck and maul time - 3 penalties for "hands in ruck", and one each for "Driving over the top", and "playing the ball on the ground". They seemed a bit impatient at breakdowns, but that is probably just a cultural difference. I often think that Southern Hemisphere teams are a bit polite at rucks and mauls, especially New Zealand teams.
Perhaps it is also a discipline thing. Certainly I would like to think that Super 12 has matured forwards a bit. Get pinged too much, your team looses the game, and you loose your position! After all, we didn't see Greg Feek give away a single penalty!
So yes I think that the Scots played more dirty, but it only seems bad in comparison to what we are used to (in the Super 12 for instance). But they can expect to keep on getting pinged for it, for the rest of their tour.
I won't comment too much on the game, except to say that I felt a bit for Scotland at the end, they must have felt that they had been robbed of a draw. Not that Scotland really sparkled (except for the two tries, which were beauties!). It was more the fact that the Maori looked far too disorganised at times. A draw would have been a fair result.
Mat Te Pou would have been heartily pissed off, and I don't think that any player would have played their way closer to AB selection (certainly not Rhys Duggan!).
But at least Mr. Honis is coming right.
No you're right... It isn't much of a consolation!