Trans Tasman Super Rugby
by Rajitha Ratwatte
Round two of the Trans-Tasman super rugby tournament had two matches played on Friday night. The first one was the Wellington Hurricanes at home to the Melbourne Rebels who had been thrashed by the Auckland Blues last weekend. The Melbourne team were still missing the services of ace placekicker Reece Hodge and the Wellingtonians still without skipper Aardie Savea with Dan Coles captaining in his stead and Nani Laumape the tough irrepressible center back, in probably his last game of super rugby, as he has signed up with a French club.
The wind always blows in Wellington and the home team won the toss and chose to play into the wind for the first half and the visitors kicked off. A long opening sequence ended with a kickable penalty being awarded to the Hurricanes, but the touch option was chosen. The Melbourne team was defending well with the backs coming up together and tacking hard. The forwards even turned over the ball from two rucks effectively. The first scrum was six minutes into the game and the Melbourne pack did a much better job than the previous week, holding up well. A series of penalties were awarded to the ‘Canes as the Melbourne line was found offside for coming up too fast in their over-eagerness to rectify last week’s errors. All possible three pointers were disregarded as the Wellington boys had bigger things in mind. In the 14th minute referee Graham Cooper had enough and dished out a yellow card to the Rebels tight-head prop, (probably for the sins of his backs!) and this, of course, meant a one-man advantage to the ‘Canes for 10 minutes. Julian Savea playing on the wing, made an interception in the 19th minute and ran around 90 meters, and scored under the posts, absolutely against the run of play. The conversion was not a problem 7– 0 to the Hurricanes. Around two minutes later a penalty on the opposition 22, slightly left of the posts was taken, partly to eat up time until the teams were back to full strength and Matt Toomua the Melbourne skipper slotted it, taking the score to 7 – 3. In the 24th minute Nani Laumape who had been running hard at the opposition from no 12, finally broke through, offloaded beautifully to his scrum-half Billy Proctor who scored under the posts. Seven more points was a formality and the score read 14 – 3 to the Hurricanes. The Melbourne team was playing well stringing together 13 phases together and even winning a scrum penalty all to no avail. An almost certain three pointer was disregarded for touch but the Wellington defence which was found wanting last week, held its own and half-time was reached with no change in the score 14 -3.
The Melbourne Rebels scored first in the second half with their first try in this tournament coming from multiple phases and culminating in Michael Wells scoring far left. The Kick was missed, and the score read 14 – 8 the rebels were catching up and playing well. At this stage, Wes Goosen playing on the blindside wing for the Hurricanes beat nine defenders on the run and was brought up just short of the line. 54 minutes into the game ‘Canes half-back Proctor was back in the game with a great run ending with a pass to the Julian Savea (also known as the BUS) who powered his way with afterburners on, ran 20 meters along the touchline, and cut inside to score under the posts. Easy work for Jordie Barret to add the extra points, 21 – 8, and the Hurricanes looking ominous. The 59th minute saw the Rebels score another try far left Through Campbell Magney, but Matt Toomua’s kick smacked the left upright and didn’t go over; 21 – 13. In the 63rd minute, a kickable penalty was not taken by the Hurricanes with the touch option preferred. This was justified two minutes later with a perfectly weighted cross kick from Oban Ledger wearing the no10 jersey falling into the hands of his winger Wes Goosen who dotted down in the extreme left corner with consummate ease. Wes Goosen getting rewarded for his efforts and Oban Ledger succeeding in his second attempt at a cross-kick. His earlier attempt in the first half eluding the arms of Julian Savea on the right-wing. A great conversion by Jordie Barret saw the score proceed to 28 – 13 for the Hurricanes. In the 69th minute a kickable penalty was disregarded, and a quick tap taken by the Melbourne side and that hard-tackling tough winger, Marika Korabeti was stopped inches from the line by the Wellington defence. Two minutes later Wellington repeated the quick tap, and this time Laumape again scorched his way over 70 meters or so and passed to Asafu Omona who had come in off the bench to replace his skipper Dan Coles at hooker. Tackling this burly young hooker has been compared to “trying to tackle a cannonball” and so it was with the third try being scored and a bonus point achieved for the Hurricanes. Oban Ledger who had taken over the kicking duties now that Jordie Barret had completed his stint of duty was able to add the extra points and the full-time score read 35 – 13 to the hosts the Wellington Hurricanes.
Friday’s second game was in Perth with the Western Force who had lost by just one point due to a missed kick at goal to the Waikato Chiefs last week, hosting the Otago Highlanders. The experts were calling a win for the Force and the possibility of the first win for an Australian side in the tournament. Aaron Smith the captain of the Highlanders and the incumbent All Black halfback, was playing his 160th Super rugby game.
The Western Force kicked off and the opening lasted for almost five minutes and ended with the first scrum. Billy Harmon won a turnover penalty for the Highlanders and in the 11th minute, Aaron Smith jinked his way through a few defenders and found that great finisher Jonah Nareki waiting to support him and score under the posts. 7 – 0 to the ‘Landers. A basic mistake from Domingo Miotti the Argentinian international playing for the Western Force shortly thereafter, saw the ball being kicked out to touch after it had been carried back into the 22. The Highlanders regained the territory and in the 21st minute won themselves a kickable penalty off a scrum. The possible three points were disregarded, and loosehead prop Aden Johnston powered his way over the line scoring far left. Mitch Hunt playing at no10 for the Highlanders missed the kick and the score progressed to 12 – 0. The Force earned themselves a scrum penalty in the 27th minute and Miotti made short work of it taking the score to 12 – 3. In the 30th minute, the ‘Landers regained the three points with the Force conceding a defensive penalty right in front of their posts, 15 – 3. We were into the phase of play when an interesting statistic showed that the Highlanders had scored 11 tries; that was between the 20th minute and half time of a game. Aaron Smith decided to oblige, initiating a break away from a maul with perfect timing and sending Scott Gregory (ponytail and all) over the line scoring mid-right. Smith called for the ball when he spotted a gap in front of Gregory and passed directly to him making the job easy. Hunt missed the kick rather uncharacteristically and the score read 20 – 3. Two minutes from halftime Kubelli playing on the wing for the Western Force scored under the posts and after checking for an earlier knock-on the try was awarded. Seven points were not a problem and the halftime score read 20 – 10.
The second half began with both teams disregarding kickable penalties for territory and the plan to go for tries pretty evident. The Highlanders defended grimly and determinedly as is the penchant of hardworking Kiwi sides and managed to keep their line uncrossed. Shannon Frazelle ,who is always at the forefront in the no seven jersey won a defensive penalty for his team and saved the day. In the 59th minute, Greg Holmes of the Western Force was yellow-carded for a high tackle and one minute later the Highlanders scored. It was Aaron Smith again who passed perfectly to his outside backs and enable Scott Gregory to go over for his second try in the extreme left corner. The kick proved too hard for Mitch Hunt who was looking a bit shaky having made some rather basic and unforced errors earlier in the game. 25 – 10 to the Highlanders and a Bonus point insight. It was not to be, however, with the Force managing to score another try through their substitute prop Wagner who went over mid-right after a series of penalties conceded by the Highlanders. The conversion was missed but the Bonus point was forfeited and the final score read 25 – 15 to the Otago Highlanders.
ICC names all-woman panel of match officials for 2023 Women’s T20 World Cup
The upcoming women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa will have an all-woman line-up of match officials, in what will be a landmark first in the game.On Friday, the ICC announced the panel of three match referees and ten umpires, featuring officials from seven countries. The match referees are GS Lakshmi (India), Shandre Fritz (South Africa) and Michell Pereira (Sri Lanka). The on-field and TV umpires will be Sue Redfern (England), Eloise Sheridan (Australia), Claire Polosak (Australia), Jacqueline Williams (West Indies), Kim Cotton (new Zealand), Lauren Agenbag (South Africa), Anna Harris (England), Vrinda Rathi (India), N Janani (India) and Nimali Perera (Sri Lanka).
Selecting this panel was part of the governing body’s “strategic ambition of advancing the involvement and visibility of women in cricket,” an ICC statement said.
The panel will also have the most number of women umpires and match referees in a global ICC tournament, four more than the nine who are at the ongoing women’s Under-19 T20 World Cup.
“Women’s cricket has been growing rapidly in recent years and as part of that, we have been building the pathways to ensure more women have the opportunity to officiate at the highest level,” Wasim Khan, ICC’s general manager of cricket, said. “This announcement is a reflection of our intent in this space and just the start of our journey where men and women enjoy the same opportunities across our sport.
“We are committed to continuing to support our female match officials and provide opportunities to showcase their talents on the global stage. I wish them all the best for the tournament.”
The eighth edition of the women’s T20 World Cup begins with hosts South Africa facing Sri Lanka on February 10. Defending champions Australia are in Group A with Bangladesh, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Arica. Group B has England, India, Ireland, Pakistan and West Indies. The top two teams from each group will move into the semi-finals.The matches will be played in Cape Town, Gqeberha and Paarl with the final scheduled for February 26 at Newlands.
ACC to meet in Bahrain on Feb 4, call on Asia Cup expected
The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) will meet in Bahrain on February 4. A decision on the Asia Cup is expected at the much-awaited meeting where the representatives of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will be present. It could be a stormy affair in the Persian Gulf city of Bahrain, with the two boards having been at loggerheads.
The hosting right of the upcoming Asia Cup, which will be an ODI championship among the continental sides, has been a bone of contention, with the BCCI and the PCB being at odds over the venue. The August-September championship was allotted to the PCB but in view of political tension between India and Pakistan, the BCCI had declared that the Indian team will not be in a position to travel to Pakistan.
The BCCI’s refusal was initially escalated by former PCB chairman Ramiz Raja who threatened to boycott the World Cup in India later in the year. A similar stand seems to have also been taken by Najam Sethi, who succeeded Raja, but there seems little support from other ACC members to the PCB position.
The BCCI and the PCB sparred recently after Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary and ACC president, announced the schedule of the council. It was responded with sarcasm by Sethi who said in a social media post, “Thank you @JayShah for unilaterally presenting @ACCMedia1 structure & calendars 2023-24 especially relating to Asia Cup 2023 for which Pakistan is the event host. While you are at it, you might as well present structure & calendar of our PSL 2023! A swift response will be appreciated (sic).”
The PCB chairman’s comments were rejected by ACC which declared that Shah’s post was not unilateral. “It has come to our knowledge that PCB Chairman Mr Najam Sethi has made a comment on the ACC President unilaterally taking the decision on finalising the calendar and announcing the same. The ACC wants to clarify that it has followed well established and due process. The calendar was approved by its Development Committee and Finance & Marketing Committee in a meeting held on December 13th, 2022.
“The calendar was then communicated to all the participating members individually, including Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), via an email dated December 22nd, 2022. While responses were received from certain Member Boards, no comments or suggested modifications were received from PCB. In view of the above, Mr Sethi’s comments on a social media platform are baseless and are vehemently denied by the ACC,” the ACC said backing Shah’s position.
With the meeting in Bahrain happening in such a backdrop, it could be a stormy affair. A BCCI official, who was in Mumbai for the unveiling of Women’s Premier League teams, confirmed a final decision on the Asia Cup will be taken in Bahrain on February 4.
Brian Lara joins West Indies management as ‘performance mentor’
Cricket West Indies have roped in legendary batter Brian Lara as a ‘performance mentor’, who will work across formats with the international teams as well as with the academy. Lara will assist the various coaches with regard to “providing players with tactical advice and improving their game sense”. He will also work with Jimmy Adams, the Director of Cricket, on ICC World Cup tournament strategic planning.
“Having spent time with the players and coaches in Australia and in discussions with CWI, I really believe that I can help the players with their mental approach to the game and with their tactics to be more successful,” Lara said.
The 53-year-old Lara’s first assignment in the new role will be with the Test side on the tour of Zimbwbwe, where he has already joined the squad ahead of the first Test in Bulawayo on February 4. Lara will take a short break in the middle to discharge his duties as the head coach of the Sunrisers Hyderabad during IPL 2023.
Lara was recently appointed on a CWI review panel following their early exit at the 2022 T20 World Cup. They were subsequently swept 2-0 by Australia in a Test series and now seek a course-correction as they build towards this year’s 50-over World Cup in India.
“I am really looking forward to Brian making a significant contribution to our cricket system by providing invaluable guidance and advice to our players and coaches,” Adams said. “We are confident that Brian will help to improve our high-performance mindset and strategic culture that will bring us more success on the field across all formats. Everyone is excited to have Brian involved in supporting our players.”
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