I’ve just finished watching the second-last match of this year’s Tri-Nations rubgy tournament, over an excellent fry-up breakfast. And what a close match it was!
For those that live in rugby-deprived countries, the Tri-Nations is a yearly tournament between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. This makes it international rugby’s toughest tournament after the World Cup. South Africa won last year, after a few years of very poor performances, and had been looking good for winning it again this year. Before today we’d won all our matches, including a vital away win against Australia last week (I watched that one at Aventura Warmbaths, a great water theme-park and hydro, while spending a weekend away with some friends).
Anyway, today’s match was at the House of Pain stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand. It was a great match to watch, with some very exciting play from both sides, and both sides looked in control at different stages of the game. South Africa was significantly down midway through the first half, after a brilliant drive through three tackles by a New Zealand forward led to their second try, but we managed to come back by half time, and siezed the lead with ten minutes of the match left. Unfortunately we went on the defensive a little too soon, and New Zealand managed get the ball through our defenses after a extremely tense few minutes’ play right on our goal line. There wasn’t time for a reply, and New Zealand won 31-27.
South Africa’s team played well, and with the exception of some great runs by New Zealand’s Rokocoko, the defense held up well — it certainly looked more convincing than in last week’s match. However, our tries again came from breakaways and interceptions, rather than solid back-line running play. The backs once again had great trouble moving the ball cleanly down the line to the wings, even when they had overlaps, and at least one very good opportunity for a try was lost due to missed passes.
This leaves South Africa still ahead in the log, but the last match of the tournament is between New Zealand and Australia, in New Zealand, and it’s hard to see Australia winning it. Never mind the fact that they’ve yet to win a match in the tourament, they also have no fewer than fifteen of their top players injured — most of a team. If New Zealand wins, it’ll come down to bonus points, and New Zealand is ahead in those. So our chances are not looking too great at the moment. In the words of one of the after-match commentators, “I’m not going to enjoy it, but I’ll be supporting Australia next week”.
And yes, it’s been great to be able to watch some sport I understand, for a change.