Sunday, 3 August 2014

10 Observations From the Super Rugby Final

The Rolling Maul and the missus coughed up big bucks to sit in premium seats for the Super Rugby Final. We were so close to the action we could read Israel Folau's tattoos, not that they were worth the effort, just a mix of motivational claptrap, biblical verses and plugs for sponsor's products.

It certainly provided a different perspective on Sydney's Rugby community, the Olympic Stadium and the game itself, and not all of it favourable...

1) Still waiting for the members discount
So sure we had the super-dooper el-primo seats but those idiots at Waratahs HQ made us pay full price thanks to a ticketing stuff-up and now they won’t return my abusive emails to give me my refund. I mean how many times do I have to tell them they’re morons before they’ll listen to me?

2) The Olympic Stadium's atmosphere tipping point
It's been said by pretty much everyone that the Olympic Stadium is a soulless, cavernous, hulking monstrosity and they're all correct. The Rolling Maul has been there for games with less than 25,000 people where the atmosphere is so dire you can count and hear the tumbleweeds bouncing around the vacant swathes of seating. Full 'er up though with 80,000+ screaming Rugby fans and the place rocks. So last night's 61,000 demonstrated that with even with the top tiers largely empty you can generate enough noise and passion to overcome the stadium's weaknesses, though the quality of the Rugby on display probably helped. In summary, don't bother going unless you're expecting a crowd of over 50,000.

3) Tom Carter and Brendan Cannon living legends?  
The pre-match entertainment was largely non-existent. The Qantas choir went through their biggest hits (you know each of them) and apart from that it was pretty much business as usual, though at least the NSWRU stumped up a few extra bucks for some pathetic blue fireworks and flamethrowers instead of the usual sparklers. The call card of living legends with their marketing department-speak motivational quotes was an interesting diversion, especially given that they included Tom Carter in their list. Sure he played 70-odd matches for the Tahs but 50+ of them were from the bench. His total game time probably adds up to about 25 matches. And Brendan Cannon  a living Waratahs legend? The man who played for 4 Super Rugby teams and who regularly professes his passion for the Force. How can he be compared to Nick-Farr Jones, Phil Kearns, Tim Gavin and Phil Waugh? And how did Matt Burke not get a Guernsey?

4) Hobnobbing with the hoi-polloi
The Rolling Maul only scored such great seats courtesy of our 7-year old's free Junior Membership bumping us up the pecking order. Usually we're behind the goal posts with the screaming kids, the bucks parties and the NSWRU freebies. So it came as a pleasure so sit amongst knowledgeable and enthusiastic adults. Even more pleasing was the high proportion of females, even if they were mostly old enough to remember when Rugby was played in woolen jersies. Still, the passion and excitement was there and we all went suitably nuts at the end, high-fives all round and best new buds and all that.

5) The Tahs lineout was a shocker, the scrum not much better
This is an observation that everyone has made and it's still a wonder that Crusaders didn't win the thing given their domination in the set pieces. The Tahs best efforts only achieved parity, but it was usually up to the backs or the defence to keep the Tahs in with a chance. This doesn't bode well for the Wallabies where they'll be found out if this sort of performance is any indication.

6) Michael Cheika's face told it all
There were some worrying signs mid-week when Michael Cheika seemed to smile during a press conference. He was even seen to laugh at one point and make a joke of sorts. This is not the Michael Cheika that punches walls and kicks doors and sprays venomous ranting rages and players who don't pull their weight. Of even more concern was Cheika's face 15 minutes into the final. He was relaxed and calm. Fortunately the Crusaders kicked into gear, the referee ruled a couple of contentious head-highs and tries in favour of the Crusaders and Cheika went ballistic, thumping the table and ranting at the Rugby gods. And just in time to set things right. Phew!

The Crusaders collect their
'L'osers medallions
7) Richie McCaw is a grub
Biggest boo of the night was when Richie McCaw was introduced on the big screen to the crowd pre-match. All pantomines need their villain and McCaw was ours. And true to type he played the part brilliantly, pushing the rules and the referee to the limit. Early on he seemed to have the upper hand, indeed the Tahs seemed to be getting pinged more often. But in one foul swoop, with a minute-and-a-half to play, McCaw was caught where he shouldn't be. Now whether we was actually off side, or entering illegally or not is not the point. He went for the ball and it wasn't there so he was somewhere he shouldn't have been. The rest, as they say, is history. Bloodied and bruised (the cherry on the icing on the cake), McCaw accepted his fate. The villain exited stage right.

8) That kick
It will go down in history as a brilliant kick, but from the perspective of 61,000 fans looking through their fingers and not breathing for fear of creating a dangerous cross-breeze, it was a wobbly and dodgy molly grubber of a miss-hit that seemed destined to fall short. That it just cleared the cross-bar was a shock to everyone. And it only added to the crescendo of relief and jubilation that resulted. Yet on TV, the match coverage showed a well-struck missile that 'has the legs' as the commentator put it. A mystery to add to the miracle.

15 mins after holding aloft the trophy and the
banners fly high - bit what about
the Sheffield Shield?
9) You call that a brewery?
Across from the entrance to the Olympic Stadium, 'The Brewery' had expanded from the hotel it served out to encompass a fair chunk of the stadium's forecourt. Fair enough, all big events need a watering-hole. So everyone trooped along for a celebratory knees-up. At least that was the plan. the only beers on offer were cans (max 2 per person) of mid-strength Super Dry (super watery) and XXXX Gold (mid-strength urine). So what does the brewery brew then? Ginger Beer? Coffee? Fortunately Bill Young's pub, the Concord Hotel, was only a 15 minute walk away and it was serving full-strength beers on tap all night and out of glasses.

10) The Waratahs won! What now?
So the Rolling Maul loves a good whinge. But the Tahs won and it was bloody awesome and everything was worth it. But what now? This blog has made its reputation on slagging off the very team it professes to support. Well very clearly on Saturday night the talk turned to dynasties, raised bars, back-to-back and threepeats. And nothing else will do.

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