Joy of joys, the pre-season is over, and the un-televised losses are out of the way. Now we only have the televised losses to dread.
The first Canterbury game was refereed by the second best Ref from New Zealand, Mr. Paddy O'Brien.
Now don't get me wrong, Mr. O'Brien is quite good, but he isn't as polished as Colin Hawke. And no, it has nothing to do with Big Col coming from Timaru!
Only a few things annoy me more than bad referees, and they are (in order) any Sky commentator, and Canterbury playing badly. So in this game, I had more to worry about than any minor mistakes that Mr. O'Brien made.
Those Sky Sport guys are so biased that they would make most Aussie Commentators blush!
Pot calling the kettle black? Absolutely!
The difference is that you pay to receive quality sports coverage, and get those "ah-soles". When you come to Rugbyheads, we are up front about our Red and Black preference, and we don't force you to read the advertising!
Also we are developing a broader base of bias this year. Look out for stories about the Auckland Blues!
As for Canterbury playing badly: well that Justin Marshall can play damn ordinary sometimes, Norm is still throwing flick passes to no-one, Leon Macdonald can't break the line - and then he won't pass the ball, the forwards were a bit polite on a few occasions around the break-down...
But hey, we did win.
Now Mr. O'Brien. He had something to say from the start, and some of it was constructive, and some of it was about scrums.
Why is it that the first scrums always suck? Maybe we should just start the game with a quick punch up between the forwards. Then maybe they could get on with the job.
It may be that they are quite alright with each other, but are just testing the Referee!
If that was the case, then they managed to quickly elicit a "Wait, wait, wait, wait..." out of Mr. O'Brien. That is his only real problem, that he says too much of nothing sometimes.
The first bit of controversy was Toddy getting pinged for playing his opposing lineout jumper in the air. Mr. Blackadder thought that he had a right to play for the ball since he was up there, but it seems that this doesn't include wrestling it out of the other lock's grasp!
It's one of those things that is simple on paper, you don't play the man in the air! But if you are in the air, and you think you can get that ball, then you probably think that it is worth a crack! At least it was at the Chiefs' end of the field.
Second half. There were three incidents of note. The first was on the edge of a ruck, where it looked for all the world that a Canterbury forward had accidentally kicked the ball forward. Mr. O'Brien decided that it was pulled back by Black. Tony Johnston was amazingly generous with his comment, "It looked like a Canterbury player kicked that through, but Mr. O'Brien was closer than I was".
Of course Tony might have been desperate for something to say, as he strangled John Drake to stop him sharing his opinion with us!
Throughout the game, Mr. O'Brien was commenting on the play, calling advantage, warning people to get away, or back on-side. But I think that he needs to be a bit more realistic. He pinged the Chief forwards at one stage, and when they complained, he said that he had warned them.
Sure he had! He had been standing behind the maul, right beside Justin Marshall speaking calmly to the forwards.
But do you really think that his remarks had any impact on forwards who are desperately boring into the side of a maul, with the aim of either wrenching the ball off whoever has it, or wrapping it up so tight that it will have to be surgically removed?
No, I don't think so either!
Finally we had the Greg Smith incident. I can't actually remember what it was about; punches were compared for cheek jarring firmness, or something. Anyway Smith was called out, shown the yellow card and invited to refresh his-self with a little 10 minute rest on the sideline. When he returned, Mr. O'Brien stopped everything to have another little talk to him, just to tell him that everybody else was playing nice, and he shouldn't spoil the party by doing otherwise. Very Headmasterlike, as Tony Johnston commented, to which I agree.
So there you have it, a reasonable performance from Paddy O'Brien, however he obviously hasn't revised his reviews from last year. If he was to do this he would see that he is repeating the same mistakes.
How many times do I need to tell you, O'Brien?