The All Blacks no longer even bother to bend the laws. They set out to deliberately cheat.
Mark Reason, The Dominion Post
If New Zealand go out of a consecutive World Cup because of another dodgy refereeing decision, they will have no one to blame but themselves. The All Blacks no longer even bother to bend the laws. They set out to deliberately cheat.
For only one piffling syllable, CHEAT is an awfully big word. “Who are you calling a cheat?” demands the card-playing gunslinger, just before the mandatory murder and the five aces sliding from the sleeve.
The All Blacks cheat in spades. Half of their tries in the Tri- Nations have been set up by blatant cheating.
Go back to the first South Africa game just before Wyatt Crockett scored in the corner. It is hard to believe that Richie McCaw could be four yards offside and get away with it, but there he is holding back the South African lock.
In the first game against Australia they are at it again. Piri Weepu set up the first try by going through a hole created by Ali Williams holding Quade Cooper to the ground.
In the buildup to the second try Ma’a Nonu sets a screen (much as they might do in basketball) for Kieran Read.
Every week Paddy O’Brien, the International Rugby Board head of referees, sends out a directive to the coaches about issues that have arisen from the weekend games. At this point O’Brien warned coaches about all the holding back and obstruction that was going on. He might as well have told the All Blacks to stop doing the haka for all the notice they took.
New Zealand were at it again on Saturday. There were just three incidents in the leadup to their first try, but the second try was exceptional. As Nonu was running through another black hole, a prone David Pocock was waving his arms in frustration. McCaw and Keven Mealamu had held him pinned to the ground for 14 seconds.
Even by the very high standards of the All Blacks, 14 seconds must have constituted a personal best. Does McCaw have an invisibility cloak that only television cameras can penetrate? Even Robbie Deans called him “a bloody menace” and that’s when he was coach of the Crusaders.
Perhaps the funniest moment in Saturday’s game was when the commentator opined that Brad Thorn had been “unfortunate” to bump into Williams. The ref was gullible enough to award an accidental offside.
Accidental? Don’t make me laugh. The next time the All Blacks play a big game, watch what they do around the breakdown. They deliberately splinter off into offside positions to block the defence. It’s about as accidental as the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior.
Ad Feedback O’Brien told me while he was in Italy for the Junior World Cup that no World Cup has yet been decided by a bad refereeing decision.
A couple of weeks later, Paddy was overtaken by events. The refereeing of the final of that Junior World Cup was one of the most unfortunate performances I have ever seen and certainly determined the outcome. I suspect this coming World Cup is an injustice waiting to happen, but don’t blame the refs, blame the players and coaches.
One of the joys of that Junior World Cup, as O’Brien observed, was that the players haven’t learned (fully) yet to cheat. O’Brien also knows that one of the biggest challenges senior rugby faces going forwards is to stop the culture of cheating.
Is the batsman who knows he nicked the ball and refuses to walk a cheat? Is the footballer who dives in the penalty area a cheat? Is the rugby player who holds back an opponent a cheat? You bet they are. People call it “the professional foul”.
No, it’s just cheating.
Yes, I know other teams cheat, although none of them are as accomplished at it as New Zealand.
On Saturday Will Genia was the first to take up a blocking position on the All Blacks side of a ruck and was called back by the ref. Genia threw up his arms in apology – as if.
The former Australian coach Bob Dwyer, like most of the planet, believes that New Zealand lead the world cheating averages. He said: “Richie would be guilty six times of obstruction in every game. I think we have to keep criticising the New Zealanders and making people aware of what are illegal tactics.”
In that context, I don’t want to hear a single New Zealander whinge about a bad decision during the World Cup. The moment you set out to deceive refs is the moment you lose your right of appeal.
If you live by the sword, be prepared to die by the sword, and the cheating All Blacks wield the biggest claymore of the lot.
* Mark Reason is one of England’s most experienced sports columnists. A long-time senior writer for The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph in Britain, he migrated to New Zealand and now calls this country home.