Well, the dust has settled somewhat and I’m still PISSED AS CAN BE at the way things happened in the second half on Saturday.
We had it all going our way; the Crusaders had lost and we were 18-7 up and completely in control. All we needed to do was cross their line twice more and we could have cut the Saders’ lead back to only 3 points. Now, we face a long, hard slog to ensure that we play a semi at home.
Bryce Lawrence is an idiot. Let me just get that out of the way right now. His handling of the second half was diabolical and both carding decisions were frankly ludicrous. It’s like a little switch flicked in his brain (or maybe the NZRU called him at half time with instructions) and he just started blowing the game all one way in the second half. The real clincher for me was when he completely ignored one of the Brumbies players loitering MILES offside and interfering with Pienaar’s pass from the base of a ruck. At that point, I knew that he was going to ensure a Brumbies victory, regardless of what actually unfolded in front of him.
We didn’t help ourselves much, though. Hell, we never got our hands on the ball. I’m not sure why that was; my gut feel is that Lawrence was allowing George Smith and his merry men to get away with absolute murder at the breakdown. When we tried to do the same, we were penalised and carded.
The lack of on-field leadership was pretty evident too. Muller tried hard, but we need some of the others to stand up and help him. Jacques Botes, BJ Botha, Deon Carstens, Stefan Terblanche and Odwa Ndungane: those guys are the senior figures in the team and they need to put their hands up when the chips are down. I’m getting a bit bloody tired of Brad Barritt being the only guy in that entire backline who actually has his head firmly screwed on; Fransie and the other wonder-boys are as much use in a real do-or-die situation as a polystyrene swiss army knife.
Anyway, I guess what’s done is done. Kudos to the lads for at least getting back within 7. That was key and showed a lot of guts. At least now there can be no more complacency and no further illusions. We need to go out and beat the Waratahs on Saturday. That much is non-negotiable. We will have another Kiwi ref trying hard to exact some vicarious revenge for the Hurricanes match, but we just need to play through the pain and ensure we get the result. We can no longer realistically hope to catch the Crusaders, unless the Blues pull of a shock victory this weekend but for the Sharks, we can now no longer afford to lose and still enjoy home ground advantage in the play-offs.
A sobering thought, yet this oval ball bounces pretty funny sometimes. We got out of jail in Wellington, so maybe one could argue that we did deserve this result. It doesn’t go down very well, though.