Jade Stadium @ Lancaster
Saturday 14th August 1999
Kelvin Deaker (Hawkes Bay)
We at RugbyHeads are very aware of the needs of our public, yes we even modeled our customer focus on Telecom! So when we heard that not only was it Toddy's 100th game for Canterbury, but also that there was no screening on TV, we rushed off to buy some match tickets.
And yet how does this help those readers who live in Taranaki? Not much you would think, but you think too soon, for we went to see the game for you dear reader, not for our own selfish reasons!
I have one piece of bad news: if you are expecting an insightful critique of Mr. Deaker's performance, you are out of luck. I am very pleased to say that he did very little to raise my ire, although that makes it awfully hard to remember enough about his game to comment on it.
I do remember one thing that interested me at the time. The scrums were not that flash (well not all the time) and Mr. Deaker penalized Con Barrell for boring. Now I was taken aback by this, as Con is such a nice young man, that I thought that this would be the last thing he would do. But there was Mr. Deaker within 1m of the action, so I have to take his word for it.
One other little comment on one of the Touch Judges, he should consider himself very lucky if he has not been dealt to by the Ball-boys' Union. Well he deserved to be dealt to by the Refs association. He left his post on the side-line to retrieve an extra ball on the field, whilst a scrum was being packed. Since the half-back ran the blind side, it was good that the ball wasn't there anymore to cause confusion. However as he then kicked the ball for touch, the TJ had to scramble not only to get out of the way, but also back along the side line to judge where the ball went out.
But as to the game, I enjoyed it for a number of reasons. It was great to see the form of the new players. Especially impressive was a substitute, Ben Blair. He first came on as a blood bin replacement for Mal Arnold, and played left wing. Blair is I guess about 19, but looked a skinny 17. Within 5 minutes he got his chance to defend, and tackled his mark around the ankles.
He returned in the second half as a replacement and was shuffled into Full back. His first major run with the back-line was a perfectly timed full-back's run into the line and through the Taranaki defence to score a try. He then converted it.
Before full time Blair had managed another conversion and a penalty. Not too bad for your debut.
Scott Robinson started, and played his usual awesome game, running out of reach of his support a few times, but you can't blame a player for that. Angus Gardener came on with about 20 minutes to go and played out of his skin. The try that he scored was well deserved.
Broadly speaking the Canterbury Backs looked better than Taranaki's. They were running with more assurance, although Mal Arnold looked a bit slow at times, and the defence of both sides stalled many opportunities. The Taranaki forewards showed up ours in the driving over the ball department, but that may have been helped by having slower loose forewards. It was certainly impressive either way, and Canterbury were lucky not to suffer more because of it.
Only one really silly move that I can remember. The Canterbury backs counter attacked from behind their 20 m line. They had a great overlap of at least 3 players with only the Taranaki winger and sweeping fullback between them and the try line. Like in a dream they ran, passing the ball out to the Canterbury winger who was taken with the ball, and the move snuffed out. Out of 4 players, not one drew the winger into the tackle, so he just drifted to the next ball carrier and took out the last one. Stupid play.
I can't believe I forgot about him until now! But there was one other player on the field, who created magic every time he received the ball. That man was the energizer battery man himself - Afato So'alo. His first touch of the ball he ran around two players and back into the centre where he shrugged out of at least two other tackles. The crowd yelled every time he got the ball, and he rushed off to ensure that he was worthy of the cheering. It was a pity that he had to leave the field with a knee injury early in the second half, but as he was replaced by Ben Blair, the excitement continued.
As for the man of the moment Todd Blackadder, he had his usual solid game, including the obligatory extra hard work at times to reinspire his forwards. Ruben Thorn also had a strong game, and both Lancaster and Surridge received recognition from the crowd as they were replaced, having done their best in a torrid foreward encounter.
Hell, it was good to see the depth of the Canterbury team, only two names that I didn't recognise in the starting lineup, and replacements who are as good as the starting lineup. I am no longer too worried about how we will do without the AB's...?
Canterbury will whip some
Stop Press: I have just heard that Ben Blair has been rewarded for his effort, with a start at Full-back against Southland this weekend!