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Suncorp Hoodoo!



by Rajitha Ratwatte

The Bledisloe dead rubber but a game with points for the tri-nations rugby tournament played at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. The Wallabies had lost only once at this venue and is there something in a venue that has an outcome on the result?

All blacks had rung in some changes and so had the Wallabies. A humid day in Brisbane and a rather hurried transit to the ground for the Blacks and Nick Berry refereeing a game expected to be an easy win for the NZ team. The Wallaby no1 James Slipper led the team out in his 100th appearance for Australia.

Within two minutes of the kick-off, a nice little chip kick from Reece Hodge playing at no10, combined with a favourable bounce of that ever so fickle rugby ball saw the Wallabies score the first try mid-left. A relatively easy kick was missed by the Aussie no10 and the Wallabies were off to a 5 – 0 lead.

Eight minutes into the game, a desperate attack by the All Blacks with equally resolute defence from the Yellow Jerseys culminated in Ricco Ioane getting over the line from his left-wing. The kick from the extreme left of the posts saw Jordan Barret, who had the kicking duties for the game hit the upright. The kick missed score 5 – 5.

Scott Barret the third of the Barret boys showed great skills in loose play and won the ball and his big brother Beauden made a great touch kick in the 13th minute. However poor positional play by the All Blacks no1 Karl Tu’inukuafe gave away a defensive penalty deep in Wallaby territory.

Around the 20th minute Seevu Reece who was playing on the right-wing and from whom great things were expected, seemed to be trying too hard and got pinged twice in succession for playing the ball when on the ground and gave away penalties, the second of which was mid-left and around 30 meters from the posts. Easily kickable for Hodge and over it went. Wallabies lead 5 – 8.

Then the card game began! Yet another microscopic analysis by the TV ref of a tackle reached a conclusion that the All Black no3 Ofa Tuungafasi while tackling had struck his Wallaby opponent on the point of his jaw with his shoulder. This was simply due to the different heights of the players and obviously had no malicious intent at all. There was plenty of malicious play going on from the Aussies as is their style but the Referees’ got it completely wrong and what should have been a simple penalty or even a yellow card at worst was declared a red card offence! In the 23rd minute of the game, the All Blacks were reduced to 14 players for the rest of the game. A vital lifter in the line out had been summarily dispatched from the game.

A scrum came up in the 28th minute and there was a problem as the no3 had been red-carded! Akira Ioane the elder brother of Ricco ( we had two sets of brother representing NZ in this game – 3 Barrets’ and 2 Ioannes’) who had a strong game had to be benched to get another prop on the field and midfielder Lennert- Brown had to bind at no6 in the scrum. Sam Cane who had been targeted for some foul play by the Aussies, unseen by all the referees, of course, intercepted an Aussie pass from the scrum with great skill that led to a kickable penalty in the 32nd minute. It was around 36 meters out but in front and Jodie Barret was not going to miss that. 8 – 8 scores level.

An almost identical situation that had led to the first red card of the game happened but was totally ignored by the on-field ref. However, the pedantic eye of the TV camera spotted it and the cards that seemed to be burning a hole in the referee’s pocket came out again. Red it was against Australia this time, establishing consistency according to the pundits! Both sides down to 14 players for the rest of the game.

The Customary and obligatory Aboriginal welcome speech at the start of the game saw an Aboriginal elder describe the game as a game of rugby league by mistake. Maybe the Ref was under the impression that there were too many players on the field!

The All Blacks attacked relentlessly and Aussie defence held up. But four penalties in a row inside the 22-meter line saw the card pack being shuffled again and out came a Yellow against the Aussie no11. Seven in a row on another occasion only resulted in penalties. Surely the option of a penalty try is available for so many professional fouls from inside the 22-meter line? The half-time score remained tied at 8 – 8. There were certain commentators describing the game as entertaining but only if you thought it was a brawl of some sort, not a game of Rugby Union!

The referee started the second half by missing a blatant forward pass that had to be pointed out to him by his touch judge. Aussies now had 13 players against the All Blacks 14. Four minutes into this half the Aussies were awarded a kickable penalty, exactly what they wanted with two players short and Reece Hodge made no mistake 8-11 Aussies in front. The 51st minute saw a forwards try off a line out for the All blacks with no2 Codie Taylor managing to ground the ball extreme right. A great conversion by Jodie Barret saw the All Blacks back in the lead 15 -11. In the 54th minutes, the Aussies were looking very threatening, getting the better of the Scrums and of course, engaging in what is now called gamesmanship – taking every opportunity to rough up their opponents and put extreme pressure on the referee. A blatant hand in the scrum was not seen by the referees and the All Blacks thought they got out of jail but it was not to be. A scrum penalty was to follow soon enough, it was around 40 meters out but straight in front and was duly knocked over by Reece Hodge who specializes in this sort of kick. 15 – 14 All Blacks just in front.

Ardie Savea made a few strong runs but the All Blacks forwards were feeling the humidity and showed it by not getting to rucks and mauls in time. Maybe the bench should have been used a little earlier due to the weather? The Linesman or the assistant referee as he is known these days spotted Scott Barret doing what was deemed playing the ball of the ground. What it looked like was a feeble wave of his hand at the Aussie no 9 who then dropped the ball while making a pass.

When the whistle went we all thought it was for a knock-on but lo and behold it was another time to shuffle the cards and a yellow to the youngest of the Barret brothers. So we had two red cards and two yellow cards during this brawl that has been described elsewhere as an “entertaining game of Rugby football”, which it wasn’t!

In the 74th minute, the Wallabies scored mid-left through their substitute prop wearing the no18 jersey. A veritable tank of a man who was totally unstoppable from five meters out. The goal was completed and the score read 15 – 24 All Blacks behind. AB’s were not giving up and in the 78th minute Tupou Vaa’I scored for them under the posts and the resulting kick saw the score move to 22 – 24. Brilliant and desperate defence from Korobiete on the wing for Australia resulted in the All Blacks being unable to score further and the match ended with a 2 point win for the Wallabies who had been trashed just a week ago in Sydney by 37 points.

All in all, it was a tight game but lacked any brilliant passages of play and the antics of the referee left one wondering if we were watching a game of cards or a game of rugby. However, the Aussies played to their strengths, they don’t have the three quarters to match the Kiwis and can not play the open running rugby that we saw in the past two games. However, the Aussies know how to spoil and how to stretch the rules and play the referee. They did this to perfection and got the better of a much superior side. This win will do a lot for Aussie rugby and probably teach the All Blacks never to get complacent against the Aussie battlers.

It is true that the Aussies won the game and it will probably result in some added interest from spectators who were getting tired of watching the Wallabies lose time after time. It may also allow the Wallabies to try and contrive a situation when they can secure the tri-nations trophy, or whatever this latest money-making scheme for the TV networks is called! Whoever won and whoever stands to benefit, it wasn’t the great game of Rugby union!

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Will Smeed hits the Hundred’s first hundred to get Birmingham Phoenix off the mark



Will Smeed hit the first hundred in the Hundred as Birmingham Phoenix thrashed reigning champions Southern Brave by 53 runs in a sun-soaked Second City.On NHS Heroes Night at Edgbaston, with NHS workers and support staff invited along as a thank you for their brilliant work, a 14,000 crowd was royally entertained as Smeed socked an unbeaten 101 off 50 balls to lift his side to 176 for 4.Brave replied with a paltry 123 all out as Henry Brookes enjoyed a dream debut on the ground he has always called home. The Edgbaston product took 5 for 25 and two excellent catches in the outfield as Phoenix banked their first victory of the campaign and handed James Vince’s side their first defeat in nine matches.

After Phoenix were put in, they leaned heavily on Smeed after Chris Benjamin, promoted to open, and Moeen Ali each raced to 17 but then perished. Benjamin sent up a skier off Marcus Stoinis before Moeen, having lifted George Garton deep into the crowd at midwicket, chopped James Fuller’s first ball on to his stumps.Smeed galloped to a 25-ball half-century, reached with six over long off off Jake Lintott in a stand of 80 in 44 balls with Liam Livingstone. Livingstone was the top six-hitter in last year’s Hundred, but this time never really hit his stride, scoring just two from his first seven balls and 21 from 20 before lifting Lintott to extra cover.

Into the last ten balls, the big question was whether Smeed could complete his first professional hundred. He needed five runs from the last three, and a four and a two took him to the landmark from 49 balls.Phoenix set about defending their total with an increasingly depleted seam attack, Adam Milne (Achilles) having joined Matt Fisher, Chris Woakes and Olly Stone on the absentee list. But Kane Richardson soon stepped up, bowling Vince with his first ball after the Brave captain had smote Moeen for 16 in three balls in the first set.

Richardson conceded just a single from his first five balls and Phoenix struck again when Stoinis was brilliantly caught by Brookes at short fine leg off Tom Helm.Brookes followed that up in sensational style by striking with his second, tenth, 13th, 15th and 17th balls. Quinton de Kock sent back a return catch, Tim David lifted to deep square leg, Alex Davies was bowled through an attempted scoop and Fuller and Garton were pinned lbw. Who needs Milne, Fisher, Woakes and Stone?

Brookes hadn’t quite finished. At 108 for 7, Brave’s one sliver of remaining hope lay in some pyrotechnics from the big-hitting Ross Whiteley, but when he hoiked Benny Howell to long leg who was waiting underneath the ball? Brookes made no mistake and Phoenix closed out a victory which owed everything to the precocious talent of two young Englishmen.Birmingham Phoenix 176 for 4 (Will Smeed 101*) beat Southern Brave 123 (Alex Davies 33, Henry Brookes 5-25, Kane Richardson 3-19) by 53 runs

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Niroshan Dickwella stars in Greens 8-run win over Reds



Opening batsman Niroshan Dickwella hammered an unbeaten 76 off 56 balls packed with 8 boundaries as Team Greens defeated Team Reds by 8 runs to register back to back wins in the SLC Skyexchange Invitational T20 League 2022 at the R. Premadasa International Stadium yesterday. Batting first the Greens ran up 161 for 6 off 20 overs with Dickwella dominating the innings. Skipper Dasun Shanaka struck 21 off 12 hitting 3 boundaries before getting run out followed by Dhananjaya de Silva 19 off 12 with 3 boundaries and Ramesh Mendis 11 off 8 (1×4).

The Reds did make a match out of it making 153 for 5 but lacked the final charge to make it despite having enough wickets in hand. Bhanuka Rajapaksa top scored with 34 off 28 with 2 boundaries while skipper Kusal Mendis made 30 off 28 with 3 boundaries and Kamindu Mendis 24 off 22 hitting a six.Upfront opening batsman Lasith Croospulle struck 31 off 24 inclusive of 3 boundaries for the Reds. Dickwella was adjudged Player of the Match.


Team Greens 161/6 (20 Overs) (Niroshan Dickwella n.o. 76, Dasun Shanaka 21, Dhananjaya de Silva 19,.Dinesh Chandimal 15, Ramesh Mendis 11, Asitha Fernando 2/32, Sahan Arachchige 1/13, Matheesha Pathirana 1/25, Wanindu Hasaranga 1/30).

Team Reds

153/5 (20 Overs) (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 34, Lasith Croospulle 31, Kusal Mendis 30, Kamindu Mendis 24, Sahan Arachchige n.o. 19, Ramesh Mendis 1/22, Nimesh Vimukthi 1/23, Nuwan Thushara 1/32, Dhananjaya Lakshan 1/39).


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New Zealand juggernaut rolls on with another all-round win



Odean Smith’s all-round show went in vain as West Indies’ batting once again did not manage to come to the party. Chasing 186, West Indies fell 13 runs short in the opening T20I in Jamaica as New Zealand’s juggernaut rolled on.

New Zealand had their returning skipper Kane Williamson put up a solid 47 off 33, and with Devon Conway’s 29-ball 43, the pair gave New Zealand a solid foundation to pile on the runs. There was a rain interruption in the 12th over for almost two hours, and although New Zealand lost momentum, briefly then, they recovered pretty quickly. Glenn Phillips and Daryl Mitchell got starts but couldn’t convert them. It was, however, Jimmy Neesham’s 15-ball 33 in the end that propelled New Zealand towards the finish they wanted. Odean Smith finished with a career-best 3-32, striking at vital junctures to dismiss New Zealand’s top three; else the West Indies could’ve been chasing a lot more.

Tim Southee struck in the second over to dismiss Kyle Mayers, but West Indies would take heart from Shamarh Brooks’s fighting 42 off 43 while wickets fell at the other end as all of New Zealand’s bowlers cashed in. West Indies were reduced to 114/7 with the inevitable end drawing closer, but resistance came, albeit late, of 50 off 23 balls from the eighth-wicket stand Smith and Romario Shepherd.

Smith smashed four boundaries and a six in his unbeaten 27 off 12, while Shepherd struck three sixes and a four in his 31 not out off 16 balls. New Zealand’s spinners shone through once again on a wicket that assisted them, returning four wickets. Santner was the pick with 3-19 in his four leading New Zealand’s defence, making the most of the knowledge gained from his CPL experience.

Brief scores:New Zealand 185/5 in 20 overs (Kane Williamson 47, Devon Conway 43; Odean Smith 3-32) beat West Indies 172/7 in 20 overs (Shamarh Brooks 42; Mitchell Santner 3-19) by 13 runs.


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