Rugby union bosses should make an immediate call to Dan Carter – and not to wish the fallen Crusaders star good luck in recovering from an ankle injury.
Chris Rattue writes for the NZ Herald that Carter should face the judiciary over his leg-throw tackle on Hurricanes back Tane Tu’ipulotu – it’s an action that needs to be stamped out before it creeps into the game.
There were two absorbing Super 14 battles – from a New Zealand perspective – in the latest round. For all its mad mysteries, rugby still produces games to gnaw at the nerves and set the heart racing.
In Auckland, the Blues and Bulls played out a murky B-grade thriller, full of villains and one definite hero – the brave and clear-thinking Nick Evans. The big-name champion Bulls wasted muscular advantages, while the Blues couldn’t get their best runners into clear air.
In Wellington, the individually belligerent Hurricanes were exposed again as disjointed pretenders against the efficiency of the Crusaders, whose coach Robbie Deans is the Super 14 grand master.
Both games threw up what should be new rule controversies – as if rugby needs more of those – involving Carter’s tackle on Tu’ipulotu and a block by Blues centre Isaia Toeava which assisted Keven Mealamu’s try. There are laws which already deal with these situations. They just need to be applied.
Carter extended a leg to throw Tu’ipulotu to the ground and paid a heavy price.
The extensive rugby law book does not specifically mention this type of tackle, as far as I can tell, but Carter’s method should fall into the outlawed “dangerous” category.
The main risk is to the ball carrier, whose lower legs become an axis as the body is flung down. It’s a type of throw from judo, whose exponents learn how to break the impact on a semi-soft and vacant mat. Rugby players have no such advantages.
Carter looked old before his time in making the tackle. Unlike virtually every All Black No 10 before him, Carter is a fantastic defender – as brave as Jonny Wilkinson and with a better technique.
But at just 26, he played the part of a cynical old pro in bringing Tu’ipulotu down as the Hurricanes mounted pressure. Carter’s injury probably came about because he led with the leg, and had to stretch to do so. (Hopefully, coaches around the country will ensure their young charges do not follow this superstar’s defensive lead).
As for Toeava’s block on a Bulls player at a maul, pure and simple – the try should have been disallowed.
The laws state a player must not stand in a position that prevents an opponent from tackling the ball carrier. Toeava did precisely that, and used his arms to further impede. A remarkable modern trend is the way players can take out opponents off the ball. The rules have changed but surely not to this extent.
Debates over rules continue to dominate rugby, so it is perhaps hypocritical to go on about them here – but the temptation is too great.
Referee Steve Walsh put on a masterclass of pedantry in Wellington on Friday night. Over-control made for out-of-control, yet it created a strangely interesting game. In defence of Walsh, the Crusaders and Hurricanes pushed the laws to the limit.
There were more than 40 penalties or free kicks, and the game took on the shape of league, where one side must retreat when the referee calls hold.
The trouble with the rash of free kicks though is that the rulings are clouded by rugby’s technicalities and a pile of bodies. Perhaps we have to get used to a new form of the game, where a brief free-kick stoppage is not a dastardly thing.
But rugby has already reached an ELV crossroad where it must decide if it wants to be a game of tap-and-go.
It was an engrossing battle between testy rivals in Wellington.
There is a core of intelligence to the Crusaders’ game that no team matches since the decline of the Brumbies.
Exhibit A: compare Crusaders linchpin Leon MacDonald to Blues No 15 George Pisi, whose crazy legs match his rugby brain.
Evans, who was as much a battering ram as intelligent RAM at Eden Park, brought a Crusaders-type touch to the Blues with his well-taken, winning drop goal. Many of the Blues’ moves misfired before Evans found order out of chaos.
What would one of his inside back predecessors, Luke McAlister, have done in the same situation, you wondered?
McAlister led the muddled chorus of excuses in Cardiff last year, proclaiming the All Blacks were crusaders for the beautiful game rather than World Cup cynics who would resort to the ignominy of kicking drop goals. Or words to that effect.
If New Zealand is really this paradise of rugby beauty, then what were Carter’s tackle and Jerry Collins’ high hit on Kieran Read on Friday night all about.
The Blues are not, for now, a better team with Evans and Benson Stanley running the ship instead of characters like Carlos Spencer or McAlister, rugby magicians and gamblers. Far from it. But the presence of these two wise heads means there’s a chance they could be.
Evans and Stanley would also benefit greatly from a fullback who at least had a passing acquaintance with a recognisable battle plan that forces opponents back and creates genuine gaps for Joe Rokocoko and Co.Tweet