Funny how five minutes changes the entire tone – the entire message – of what you write.
With last night’s Canada v. Tonga game hitting its final stages – the home stretch, which can feel like it’s lasting for about two or three hours in rugby – I was upset, bitter and a little surprised.
Surprised because the refereeing didn’t really seem to favour Tonga (I don’t believe any set of referees in this tournament have any care or emotion for who wins any of these games, unless the matchup is New Zealand v. Australia), but because it was so piss poor in every way that even the commentators and the play-by-play men couldn’t describe what they were seeing… they couldn’t describe this flaccid performance by the bald men in the pinnies.
That was one of the responses they had during a replay after the Canadians were penalized for obstruction. It was followed by this:
“(… crickets …)”
The worst (actually, missed) call came with the Canadians pushing the ball up field, surprising the Tongans with a grubber kick that caught them off guard and pushed them deeper into their own zone. Forgive me, because I don’t remember who the Canadian was, but the Tongan hooker (who was too fat, too slow and too surprised to actually make a play for the ball, and who was embarassed by the Canadian flying past him at full speed) stuck his foot out and sent our boy flying.
The crowd erupted, the commentators reached for the replay. Like any rugby or soccer game, they immediately took the initial reaction of neutrality, urging viewers that they didn’t think it was as bad as it looked in full speed… that was before they saw the replay, though.
“OH!” both of them shouted. “He’s lucky to still be on the field,” they said of the Tongan, before the ensuing line-out. It turned out to be a 14-point swing, with Tonga scoring immediately after (and adding the conversion) to go up, 20-13.
There were more bad calls… more and more that the commentators couldn’t rationalize and viewers couldn’t understand.
Trust me, if you watched this game hoping to get a greater understanding for the rules of rugby and how it’s played, you were S.O.L.
Maybe those refs really like coconuts.
Of course, the tide quickly changed, as if out of nowhere.
At first, it seemed like it would be one of those nights where the underdogs put up a valiant fight, get a couple of tough calls against them, and then take the “easy road,” using it as an excuse to not fight back (remember Serena on Sunday?)
It seemed like it was all for naught… like I would be watching a rugby match until 12:30 a.m. on a Tuesday for no reason.
The comeback was inspiring, the play of Adam Kleeberger and every sub from Connor Trainor to Ryan Hamilton was excellent, and the runs of flanker Chauncey O’Toole and center D.T.H. van der Merwe destroyed Tonga’s defensive line.
The Canadians repeatedly got slapped down for their efforts by a more skilled Tongan side, but our defense was strong enough to hold the line every time that the Islanders came downfield, and Canada somehow had Tonga confused and on the run for isolated five-minute pockets – short spurts, but effective enough to put up 25 points.
Before the game, Canadians did themselves a disservice by reading too much into Tonga’s use of 11 new players for this game (11 changes from their last game against New Zealand). They called it disrespectful and said Tonga might pay for it.
Come on, Gareth Rees! (former Canadian rugby head and Suspect #1)
Not only are you off-base (because Tonga didn’t necessarily start their BEST team against the All Blacks, anyway) but you took credit away from a potential Canadian win (which ended up being a real Canadian win). You were actually unpatriotic.
After that preview, I half expected to watch the game on a big screen with a bunch of losers yelling things like, “Hey, man! We’re Canadian! We were there on D-Day, bro! You can’t disrespect us, man! Nobody’s tougher than us!”
Umm… did you see how big Tonga was?
Of course, we won and we won valiantly. We were better than Tonga last night, and we looked better, too.
Of course, NOW, below Mr. Reed’s column on TSN this morning, there are comments from Canadians who are probably casual fans at most saying, “Didn’t we face Tonga’s reserves?”
We’re talking credit away from our own win.
Luckily, our boys weren’t as Tom Petty (a.k.a. petty) as we were.
By all accounts we should have been “smashed” last night (smashed is a choice word among rugby fans below the Equator) and we weren’t. Far from it.
At times, we dominated.
As it ended, BTO was cranked across the speakers in Whangarei’s Northland Events Centre.
On the ride home… sweet relief and a feeling of national pride.
White Cover Staff
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