Fact: All Blacks lock Keith Robinson is laying over a ruck and has just been rucked by an English player. English lock Simon Shaw runs up and knees Robinson in the back, quite close to his head.
Referee Nigel Williams from Wales didn't actually see this happen, and although touch judge Stuart Dickinson didn't catch the culprit's number, his recommendation was a Red Card!
I was happy to agree at the time, being: (a) hyped up, (b) an ABs supporter, and (c) anti all the "sort of things that happens at the bottom of rucks".
I mean if you can't express yourself with a pair of size 12s with sprigs, what are you trying to say? "Rucking is too good for you, you mongrel?"
Maybe it is a sign of the lack of rucking in some parts of the world, that this form of expression has been lost. It certainly hasn't been lost to NZ, as exhibited by an English prop when changing his jersey mid game!
So yes, at the time I was thinking "he's got to go". By the next day I was thinking, "Maybe a yellow card would have been enough. We will see if he gets suspended as well."
And lo... he wasn't.
But did you hear why? I read in The Press this morning that he was let off on a technicality. England lock escapes kneeing charge
It seems that Referee Williams stepped over the line by asking the TMO (Television Match Official) to identify the culprit. This is allowed by SANZAR rules and sounds fair enough, but is actually outside the TMO's jurisdiction during internationals.
So while Shaw's mate Danny Grewcock is given until the end of August to consider not stomping on people (along with having to keep his most unfortuate surname), Shaw himself is "let-off" with only the 69 minutes on the sideline - and his share of a series loss for his penance.
And I personally think that's ok.
But there are wider issues. Did it ruin the spectacle of the match?
If you take the extreme views then OF COURSE IT B***DY DID !!!!!!
English - "The flamin' ref robbed us of any real chance to win this game an' square the series. Look how well the boys did to hold out, but eventually the cynical theft of a player was going to tell. It were inevitable that the All Blacks would run away with it. I hope that they are happy with their win, hollow victory that it is!"
New Zealand - "Those friggin' poms used it as an excuse to play even more dirty in the tight than they were before. They were slowing everything - the bl**dy team took turns at developing injuries just before set pieces that were quickly cured by the magic water. They even bleated when the ref wouldn't time off (the b*rstards). We always knew that the poms would ruin what they couldn't win, it just started earlier!"
Of course you aren't likely to find that sort of un-informed drivel at Rugbyheads, so how is "it" really?
Spectacle- I believe I am right in attributing the quote "it's about winning" to Sir Clive Woodward. And winning is not about entertainment, or spectacle, or even dare I say it... fair-play. It is about getting the most points.
One hopes that the other fuzzy stuff will come along for the ride with an impending victory.
That the game turned out to be a bit more one-sided than was hoped, didn't take away from the effort of the teams. The skill level on display was high and both teams had their moments. Of course the ABs moments earned them some tries.
Losing a forward simply made things harder for England, who had not shown any particular ability to overtake the ABs, and didn't pull together as a team to find any more.
Does it matter that the red card changed the match?
Sure it turned the match on it's head, but the very fact that the ABs only managed one converted try for a half time lead of 10-6 suggests that it was still very even, and anyone's match at that stage.
This game wasn't one-sided and although it wasn't a classic, it wasn't strictly for the rugby purist either.
Those are the games with few points but lots of tight forward battles, precision tactical kicking, even drop kicking (for some people). These games are usually brought about by some third party - the weather, the referee... or playing in a sandpit.
What team would prepare their major game plan for survival? You should want to win, and win with skill and finesse. But when life or the opposition gets in the way of your carefully laid plan(s) - you have to adapt or "go home"!
The English team's reaction to the red card was not an immediate recipe for victory. Yes they became more cynical, but that is a feature of their play anyway, it is one of the reasons that they are a great forward-driven team.
Frankly I don't think that the England team really believed they could win in the first place. So when they lost a forward, they lost even the hope of winning. They looked like they were waiting for something to happen, and strangely enough... it didn't!
Injuries etc didn't really help them, but then maybe the replacements lifted
the team, as I was pleased that they came back a bit in the last 15
What the game "could have been" wasn't ruined by the red card, it was ruined by the response of the English team, and of course that of the All Blacks.
You can't blame the All Blacks, but just maybe you can blame England.
But I couldn't possibily comment... :-)