Otago 56 North Harbour 21
Yesterday was almost certainly the last home game for my beloved North Harbour, since if they won, they’d face Auckland at Eden Park in the semi’s. So I decided to go.
It was more painful than having sections of cancerous flesh forcibly removed from my back.
It’s all pretty simple really. North Harbour stopped playing when they won the Ranfurly Shield.
That’s it. They mentally switched off, and went home. The team on the field the last two weeks, with few exceptions has been a bunch of witless, brain-dead zombies.
I’m somewhat hesitant to be too specific about some of their pitfalls from yesterday, since it’s somewhat harder to see the specifics from the stands as opposed to in front of the tv with all the instant replays and commentary.
However, the list of obvious deficiencies are lengthy.
- Backs refused to kick the ball out inside their 22 when the scores were 0 – 0. There was wind, but it wasn’t that bad.
- Loose forwards were non-existent.
- Scrums were awful.
I want to elaborate a bit on the loose forwards issue. The loose forwards were Nick Williams, Regan Tamihere and Anthony Boric. Of these (and possibly of the entire team), Anthony Boric was a gem. He captained the team early in the season while Rua Tipoki was still serving out a suspension. I think the team might still be in the comp if AB was still the captain. He’s a young man (22) with a great mind, a strong sense of responsibility and a an untouchable strength of will. He should be an obvious pick for the All Blacks end of year tour, but the selectors have missed more obvious selections before.
Anyway, loose forwards. They are so important to North Harbour because of their style of play. You don’t necessarily expect the loose forwards to make a lot of ground from the rucks like Rodney So’oialo or Jerry Collins would. But where Harbour makes it’s ground is in full use of it’s backline. You expect that from any ruck, the ball could and should end up with the wings, or at least the centre.
If they get tackled quickly (which happens at least 50% of the time) you need the loose forwards to be there to protect the ball. If they did nothing else, this is imperative for the Harbour team. But it just didn’t happen.
It became almost predictable that if the ball went out to the backs, and they were tackled, there would be a turnover, either directly or by a penalty. This was sad, as this occurred in many promising Harbour attacks.
However, all said and done, I was glad I went. We are hoping to go to the UK to work for a while early next year, and so this is likely to be the last Harbour game that I had the chance to go to. If I had watched from home, I may have wished that I’d taken the opportunity to soak up the first-person experience.
Well I did. And for Harbour, there’s always next year.