A Tale of Two Match Reviews

Depending upon your dedication to all things Rugby, your appreciation of the finer intricacies of the game and your understanding of the black arts of scrimmage, last weekend's match between the Queensland Reds and the NSW Waratahs was either the greatest thing in sport since William Webb Ellis thought to himself "Bugger this for a joke" or the most tedious thing in sport since the last soccer World Cup which was the most tedious thing in sport since the previous World Cup etc etc.

The Rolling Maul watched an intense battle between two fired up teams. Trench warfare where each centimetre could only be won by the taking of no prisoners, incurring vast numbers of your own casualties, and the spilling of lots of blood (and speaking of which if you want to see what happened to Drew Mitchell's leg and what the results were click here - warning: it's awesome). The Maul saw tactics and battle plans and "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu wrought large on the footy field.

But others with only a passing interest in Rugby or with less patience or the intellectual capacity to appreciate the finer point of the game (let's call them Rugby League fans) have indicated they watched a dour and boring struggle between two snorting packs of mindless rhinos determined to outdo each other in the penalty stakes, where negative play triumphed over a lack of imagination and even Quade Cooper (except for taking advantage of the defensive lapse to end all defensive lapses) was reduced to that of an error ridden incompetent. Where has beens and never wases proved they really weren't up to the task and apart from dented egos the most serious injuries on the night were as a result of accident or poor technique.

And therein lies the dilemma for Rugby; appeal to the masses or the converted. In Rugby's efforts to be attractive to everyone the rules have been tinkered with sometimes to the extreme (such as the ELVs and the embracing of 7s), marketing has focussed on more attractive members of the playing fraternity (ie backs) and tournaments have been developed to satisfy the demands of television rather than the preferences of spectators (Super Rugby).

Commentators have celebrated the brutalness of the Reds - Tahs match (yes Greg Growden, we're talking about you) but they should realise that their blinkered view of the game from the perfect media seats right on halfway may not match those catching the occasional glimpse on (cable only) TV in the pub or sitting in the cheap seats.

Players on the park too might want to contemplate the fact that if your forwards aren't doing the job no matter how much you perceive the dominance of your pack, and when you have a star-studded, young, imaginative and highly-paid backline then it may satisfy all sorts of tactical, technical and aesthetic requirements to spin the ball wide occasionally rather than spend 15 minutes parked on the opposition's tryline.

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