11 August 2007

Vikings vs Rebels this afternoon

| Kramer
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Just in case you have been living under a rock, the Canberra Vikings will take on the Melbourne Rebels in their first game of the new Australian Rugby Championship at Manuka Oval this afternoon at 3pm.

Brumbies Rugby have a prematch blurb, with details of the team which has been bolstered by the addition of many stronger players. Many of the new inclusions were benched for last week’s game (which we lost) so we could blood some of the new boys.

On another note, according to Rugby Heaven Lote Tuqiri and Matt Dunning will have to face us.

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Went out to Manuka to watch. Moderate crowd, of the friendly/good-humoured kind. $5 for a can of Toohey’s New is a powerful incentive to moderation.

The game. The Vikings, who had been (correctly) favourites, lost. It wasn’t the new rules, because both sides had to deal with them – the Rebels just dealt with them a little more smartly. It wasn’t the ref – he was remarkably laissez-faire and seemed to have thought that the disappearance of some rules meant that others could be ignored too. But he seemed pretty even-handed.

Both sides made mistakes, and the Vikings made more. When the ground is hard and the ball can bounce any way, it’s best not to let it bounce. It’s best not to ignore the ball when it’s unattended, because the other mob might have some plans for it too. Most of all, it’s usually better to catch and secure the ball first before deciding what you’re going to do with it. There was a bit of luck involved, and the Vikings got almost none of it – but they should not have needed luck to put the Rebels away.

This is a team with talent and they should have done better. Highlights were limited, if you were looking at the Vikings – the McLaughlin and Fainifo tries were pretty to watch and Fairbanks ran down a runaway Rebel with amazing speed and determination. Tawake was a bit uneven – some lovely barging runs (like a semitrailer without brakes going through the Tour de France) but some terrible handling at times. Salvi scavenged well and Saia Faingaa was pretty active. I’m still trying to work out Lealiifano.

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