Short Passes 4 November (Monday evening edition)

04/11/2019

A successful day of sevens rugby on Saturday down at Onepoto.

For the teams there it was a competitive morning and afternoon of rugby, with several eye-catching contributions across the leading grades. Defending American Ambassador’s champions Northern United took the honours in the Men’s grade and are odds-on to retain the American Ambassador’s Trophy when the series concludes this coming Saturday at the same venue (moved from Upper Hutt).

The Women’s competition could get interesting if Oriental-Rongotai enters this week. The Old Boys University Impalas won Saturday’s tournament, but had the services of two Ories players, Bernadette Robertson and Faa’usa Makisi – both influential. Meanwhile, some well-known Ories players – notably Ayesha Leti-L’iga and Amanda Rasch – were sideline as spectators.

Hugely disappointing that some clubs couldn’t show for this tournament. No Upper Hutt Rams (recent winners and leading contenders), Avalon, Petone (on tour overseas so they get a pass), Wainuiomata (a late withdrawal), Paremata-Plimmerton and Marist St Pat’s in the men’s division. The absence of MSP was particularly striking.  Just three Colts sides too, winners HOBM, Avalon and OBU.

Is this all a sign of the times?  If so, should the AA series be opened up to include invitational or composite teams or sides from outside the region?

As discussed here at the tail-end of last season, there could be a Hurricanes region-wide series of local sevens tournaments from November – February one of these seasons, incorporating some existing tournaments and with series points on the line. This could be supported financially to a small degree (travelling, accommodation costs for some teams, i.e Poverty Bay/East Coast teams travelling down for the Wellington leg and vice versa) and endorsed and in part promoted by the Hurricanes.

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The College Sport Wellington awards were on Sunday night in Porirua.

The rugby winners were Scots College’s Roderick Solo (boys) and Newlands College’s Milly Mackey (girls). Solo [below] led his Scots team to the Wellington Condor 7s title this time last week, while Mackey [pictured right]was playing for Petone in Saturday’s American Ambassador’s 7s.

Two other contenders, both from Aotea College, were in top form on Saturday for their Norths teams in the American Ambassador’s sevens. Harmony Ioane and Ropati So’oalo both scored a bucket load of tries.

Of note, Scots College sprinter Edward Osei-Nketia won the Supreme boys gong, the track sprinter having been linked to a sevens rugby tilt. His class mate and First XV and Centurions U18 captain and baseballer Sage Shaw-Tait won the all-rounder of the year award.

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Congratulations to South Africa, 2019 Rugby World Cup champions.

What will this World Cup be remembered for?  Perhaps not so much the players, but the coaches. The three leading teams brought heavyweight coaching teams, led by Steve Hanson, Rassie Erasmus and Eddie Jones, who sought to out-plan each other to glory. In the end, South Africa’s Erasmus won the game of rugby thrones.

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Several current and former Wellington club rugby players were involved in Saturday’s match in Te Aroha between the New Zealand Marist XV and the New Zealand Heartland XV.

The Marist XV won the match 29-19, with Manawatu Turbos fullback Ben Werthmuller scoring a hat-trick and HOBM midfielder Chase Tiati prominent. NZ Marist won the McCrae Cup for the first time in several years.

Tiatia captained the NZ Marist side that also featured his HOBM Eagles teammates Nash Fiso-Vaelei and Connor Collins and MSP flanker James Tuia and that was coached by Tawa’s Dion Waller who was listed as being affiliated with Palmerston North Old Boys Marist.

Wellington Axemen Anthony Ellis and Hone Haewera were both in the NZ Heartland team, while former Axemen midfielder Peni Nabainivalu was in their squad but didn’t play.

The NZ Heartland team head to Fiji to games this Wednesday and Saturday against Vanua Fiji.

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Below: Beat the All Blacks in the RWC quarter-finals or semi-finals and lose the final: 

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Remarkably, South Africa had gone 245 minutes without scoring a World Cup final try until Makazole Mapimpi touched down in the 66th minute against England in Yokohama on Saturday night.

Makazole Mapimpi has scored 14 tries in 14 tests, Cheslin Kolbe has eight tries in the same number of tests. New Zealand outscored South Africa 36 tries to 33, but South Africa scored 262 points compared to the All Blacks 250.

There were 28 yellow cards and 8 red cards at the World Cup. The application of the laws was a major issue with noticeably more leniency (thankfully) in the finals. There has never been a tournament in rugby history where the participants were better prepared so suggestions players didn’t know the laws was absurd. The laws themselves, and the inconsistent application of them, are perhaps a greater problem than the players?

New Zealand won five of the first six World Under-20 championships. They have won only two of the last seven. The trend in the teams who haven’t been successful is that the forwards have not quite delivered when it counted. In 2014, England beat South Africa in the World Under-20 final and their forwards were very much a strength.

South Africa won 79 out of 80 lineouts in the World Cup, their only lost throw was in the semi-final against Wales.

The last three teams to have won the World Cup have kicked the ball more than any other country. That’s right the All Blacks kicked the ball more than any other team in 2011 and 2015. The top four counties and their number of kicks in this World Cup were: South Africa, 195 England, 168 Wales, 181 New Zealand, 142

The multi-cultural mix of New Zealand rugby has always been a strength, but looking at the England and South African teams in the final both those countries appear to have court up on that front. Between 1978 and 2008 there were only 64 private school boys picked for the New Zealand Schools team. In the last eight years that number has been matched, suggesting rugby is becoming more exclusive here when our rivals appear to be heading in the opposite direction.

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Below: Jerry Collins. Gone but not forgotten.

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World Rugby had its awards on Sunday night (NZT). Winners were:

World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year – Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa)
World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year – Emily Scarratt (England)
World Rugby Team of the Year – South Africa
World Rugby Coach of the Year – Rassie Erasmus (South Africa)
World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year – Romain Ntamack (France)
World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year – Jerry Tuwai (Fiji)
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year – Ruby Tui (New Zealand)
World Rugby Referee Award – Wayne Barnes (England)
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service – Bernard Lapasset (France)
Award for Character– The city of Kamaishi
IRP Special Merit Award – Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)
IRP Try of the Year – TJ Perenara (New Zealand, v Namibia)

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An interesting read on New Zealand rugby from the UK’s Guardian. Link HERE and some key points below:

The administration’s obsession with the All Blacks, seemingly at the expense of all else, has not always gone down well with the country’s 26 provincial unions either. This irritation will only have been fuelled further by New Zealand’s failure to either beat the British & Irish Lions, or successfully defend the Rugby World Cup, in the last three years, despite much being sacrificed in provincial and Super Rugby in pursuit of those goals.

The challenges facing New Zealand Rugby, and its new chief executive, stretch far beyond rebooting the All Blacks though. Even allowing for the bumper new rights deal with Sky television (NZ), the warning light is flickering on the financial front, with player payments spiralling and revenues struggling to keep up.

While (the World Cup notwithstanding) strong results in the Test, women’s and Super Rugby arena are being maintained, the release of the previously iron-cast grip on the world Under-20s title is ominous, just two titles in eight years.

Worryingly, player numbers are declining among teenagers, which is a difficult trend to address given the numerous leisure options available and the tendency of that age group to flock together.

Robinson and his team must also find a way to redeem both Super Rugby and the domestic provincial championship in the eyes of a public who have walked away in large numbers.

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Some good work below by Northern United debutant Ropati So’oalo and established Wellington Sevens player Esi Komaisavai.

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Club Rugby covers rugby in New Zealand from the ground up, and remains independent.

Want to support ‘ground up’ rugby in New Zealand in 2020, and in turn support, foster and nurture college, club, non-professional representative and sevens community rugby? Please email editor@clubrugby.co.nz for more.

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