Rugby is by far my least favourite of all the ball sports, but as Sports Editor of The Sphinx, it has been decided that I will be on safari with the Lions in New Zealand. By “on safari”, I mean I will rise at 8am twice weekly to watch the games in bed, because I don’t care enough about the sport to venture downstairs.
It’s first important to remember that there’s about 8 countries in the entire world that play rugby seriously. Every 4 years, 4 countries combine to try and defeat New Zealand, South Africa or Australia. The four countries that make up the British and Irish Lions do play these southern hemisphere teams every November and June, but for some reason they find it necessary to combine their powers and still invariably fail to beat these nations. The Lions then still have to select Ben Te’o and Jared Payne, who aren’t good enough to play for New Zealand, and CJ Stander who moved to Ireland because he wasn’t good enough to play for South Africa.
Today, the opponents for the Lions were the Blues. It was literally the meeting of the names of two tables in Miss McGee’s Primary School class. The Auckland Blues are the worst of the 5 New Zealand franchises in Super Rugby, and finished in the lower half of the entire standings. You’d think that the best of the Home Nations would be able to comfortably beat this team, lol nope. They lost 22-16, looking woefully inadequate any time the Blues were able to attack down the flanks. The Lions are coached by Kiwi Warren Gatland, who pioneers a style of play known as “Warrenball”.
Warrenball is, as I understand it, just getting loads of big strong lads to run really hard in straight lines to try and run over the other team. Which is fine, but its limitations were woefully exposed by the Lions whom were the dominant side throughout the game controlling both possession and territory, and yet they failed to really stamp themselves on the games.
If I was in anyway bothered about the fortunes of this ridiculously outdated colonial throwback, I’d be incredibly worried about the Lions throwing this game away twice. They took the lead following a Leigh Halfpenny penalty in the 70th minute, but they were incapable of holding on for even 3 minutes, when a series of Blues’ offloads let them run straight up the middle of the park and score under the posts. Then, following a turnover penalty in the last minute, they kicked for the corner. All they had to do was throw the ball to one of their pack and push the ball over their line. Commentators were giddy with excitement, effectively talking as if the game was fait accompli.
However, what actually happened was that the Lions Hooker Rory Best hopelessly overthrew, and the Blues regained possession and kicked the ball out of play to win the game. For some reason, I had a look on Best’s social media feeds, and what I did find was multiple pictures with the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster. A Party who’s main policies seem to be blocking gay marriage, abortions and rights for Irish Language speakers in the north of Ireland, this made the entire incident even funnier.
Unlucky lads, better luck Saturday.