The Bledisloe Cup rugby match at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne showcased everything that’s good, bad and ugly about rugby union.
The good: It was a close game, very physical, great skills, amazing atmosphere, huge crowd, passionate anthem, impressive haka.
The bad: Lots of stoppages, confusing decisions by the match officials, and tickets were very expensive (around $150).
The ugly: A brain snap by French referee Mathieu Raynal gifted the game to New Zealand and highlighted that rugby at international level is over-officiated.
The laws of rugby are many and complicated. As a one-time unskilled player in my youth, I only ever learnt the basics and scrums and mauls were a mystery; they remain so today.
Referees obviously need to enforce the rules and ensure player safety as best they can but they should never be the centrepiece of the game. A good referee goes unnoticed.
In the wake of Raynal’s controversial call of time wasting, there’s been some insightful commentary that he lacked empathy for the flow of the game.
It’s a good point. There’s no doubt a law about time wasting, but not many people can ever recall it being imposed at any level, definitely not in the last 90 seconds of a test match.
In the same game on Thursday there were other examples where both teams took longer than Foley did to resume play, but none were penalised.
I watched some of the Argentina-South Africa match this morning and observed the television match official speaking to the on-ground referee during play without being asked and getting him to change decisions.
There are two linesmen who can also influence the referee.
In all sports, television and sideline officials should only be there to overrule howlers — blatant mistakes which distort the scoreboard.
That’s especially the case in a highly technical game like rugby.
If governing bodies don’t show commonsense and rein in over-zealous officials, there will be more of the bad and the ugly in rugby and less of the good.