The partisan crowd that turned up at Havelock Park to witness the first home game after the grounds was officially opened were treated to some ordinary rugby. The game did not reach any great heights but there were occasional flashes of brilliance and enthusiastic play by both teams.
For a team occupying the top slot after round one playing the fourth placed team, the rugby dished out was anything but superlative. A number of basic flaws were the order of the day.
Receiving a kick at the restart, it was refreshing to see the HSC # 5, go high up to claim the ball. However the support that he had by his team mates in bringing him down safely was conspicuous by its absence. On many an occasion he was isolated and thudded hard into the ground, losing the ball upon contact and I am sure that he must not be having too many favourites by his side.
The first half saw the UCL play their best rugby and they had HSC in a spot of bother. They opened scoring with a beautiful slicing run by their nippy scrum half, and the HSC defence was left bamboozled. After that sign of brilliance, the Lions settled into a more orthodox mode of play.
For some strange reason, HSC decided to take the fight to UCL forwards as opposed to spinning the ball wide. The UCL forwards are pretty big lads and do pack a punch for good measure. If HSC had continued in the same vein, the game would have been much closer as they clearly were playing into hands of the UCL game plan.
The second half was a different tale altogether. HSC used their superior back division to good effect. They spun the ball wide and the gaps in the UCL defence opened up. Some were large enough for one to drive a truck through. The lions had obviously had run out of steam in the second half and merely made up the numbers without providing any form of meaningful resistance.
Despite a few positional changes nothing seemed to work for them in the second half. It was obvious that the lion’s den was in disarray as there were frequent squabbles on the field on what should have been done. On a number of occasions there were some solo runs by members of both teams. In most instances, the support play was poor and the ball was knocked forward at the tackle. One can draw a leaf from the recently concluded Super Rugby, where the support play was at its best.
As I watched the final demolition of the Lions, I was wondering what would have been going through the mind of the lion hearted Dilip Selvam, now playing for the Lions. He was tipped to be the skipper of HSC at the start of the season and then for some strange reason decided to abandon camp, for the lure of the lions.
He looked a very meek and tame lion on the day and slowly limped off wondering what might have been had he stayed with HSC. I guess some of us make wrong decisions in our lives and whether he will get another chance to correct this is a matter of conjecture.
However if HSC are to make a bid for the title they would need to play a more disciplined game and use their three quarters much more throughout the game as opposed to occasional patches. They need to tidy up their tackling and at times be a little more imaginative in their style of play and game plan.
The need for a reliable place kicker cannot be overemphasised. Their forwards are mobile, quick to the breakdown and stay on the feet for some good turnover ball. However on a number of occasions they kicked away the turnover ball and I find that quite difficult to fathom. In fact I have seen this being done by other teams as well.
As much as the sides had contrasting halves, the referee too had a poor first half. He missed spotting late tackles, hands in the ruck, players in front of the kicker, players in an offside position in set pieces and the more obvious where players simply dived over the top in a ruck situation. I wonder whether the current Olympics had anything to do with the diving, as it appeared that they were diving in for a gold medal.
It was indeed sad to see the assistant referees who were wired up apparently not offer any support in controlling the game. In fact I wonder whether the equipment was working in the first instance as it merely was of ornamental value during the game. I cannot remember a single consultation with the assistant referee throughout the entire game.
Politics they say is a dirty game, and this has come to haunt the game of rugby as well. I am advised that a senior referee did not want to run the touch citing an injury but thereafter changed his mind when he realised that the expatriate referee was willing to run the touch.
In the other game worked off on Friday, Army showed their class with a smashing win against a hapless CH. Thus Army will be a serious force to be reckoned with in the remaining encounters.
(The writer can be reached via email@example.com.)