Amateur ethos alive and well
February 17, 2010
Wales' Andy Powell has endeared himself to fans around the world with his amateur antics © Getty Images
I had my old mate, Mervyn Davies, on the phone first thing Monday morning roaring with laughter, celebrating the fact that, in Wales at least, rugby had obviously reverted to the amateur era with daft goings on dominating the weekend on and off the field.
It had started with a young Scot dropping his kilt and exposing everything right next to the weather presenter as the BBC ill-advisedly tried to capture the atmosphere and get in the mood by presenting their Wales Today programme live from Glynneath Rugby Club.
Sadly, I missed it and by the time I got to YouTube the clip had been removed because of 'misuse.' The game was also a throwback - errors galore but thrills and spills right up to the final whistle when Wales stole a match they should never have won.
Then, finally, proof that even now when the international game is so professional it is unrecognisable to the hundreds of thousands who play and love coarse rugby week in week out, celebrations can still scramble the brain and switch off the stop button. Deep down boyos will always be boyos.
Andy Powell's early morning jaunt on a golf buggy was lunacy, of course, but it has made him a hero to thousands world-wide who love a bit of anarchy. They are reassured that the homogenised, stereotypical, professional rugby player does occasionally do things without first consulting the coach.
It showed a singular determination to get a proper greasy spoon breakfast and knowing the lanes around the Vale of Glamorgan resort it was no mean feat to get to the M4 let alone travel down the hard shoulder to the services at the next junction.
There were echoes of Dean Richards and John Jeffrey kicking the Calcutta Cup around Edinburgh. I just hope the judge has a sense of humour when Powell appears in court on March 2.
Scottish brains were obviously scrambled on the field in those chaotic last minutes as well. Mike Blair did not expect to be taking restarts so he had probably not checked on the finer points of the law and must surely have believed a kick direct to touch would have resulted in a free-kick and not the end of the game.
Despite brave claims that 'we still believed we could win' I'm sure the Scottish coaches were screaming for the ball to go into touch - they had to feel they deserved at least a draw - but the IRB laws group should look at changing the law in any case.
During the endless trials of the Experimental Law Variations commentators in the Southern Hemisphere in particular took to calling free-kicks 'short-arm' penalties. An illegality has still been committed but it does not warrant a kick at goal.
There is a logic to that and I think it makes sense that the ball is not considered dead - just as with a full penalty - and therefore the final whistle cannot be blown.
In any case it made for a thrilling climax and all credit to Wales for being able to put together that final passage of play without making a mistake. With what had gone before you thought it was just not going to be Wales' day but when Stephen Jones' kick stood on end and they retained possession you knew their luck had turned.
For the first time in many years I have watched all the Six Nations games so far on television and I am not impressed. Brian Moore was very quick to blame the Italian director at the Italy v England game last Sunday but the BBC's own coverage left a lot to be desired.
They missed Max Evans' touchdown completely because the director got too clever and there have been several instances where we have had to wait until the replays to see the full pattern of the play.
Don't blame the camera man. There are 20 plus cameras covering every game these days and they rarely miss a thing (as you discover when you eventually get the right replay) but it is the man who has to choose which one to go to who determines the quality of the coverage.
There used to be a golden rule - 'never cross the line' - which meant that you never cut in cameras on the other side of the pitch except for replays. The logic was simple - all the live coverage must be from the same side or the team which was playing left to right is suddenly going right to left which confuses the viewer no end.
Modern directors put huge store on getting in close at every opportunity but that is a dangerous game with rugby union because the pattern of play is so variable and unpredictable and many of the people I was watching with complained constantly about the scrambled cuts as the director desperately tried to get back to a camera that showed what was unfolding.
We all love the new gizmos - 'spider cam' is flavour of the month - but the basic tenets of good coverage still apply and the BBC, which used to be the barometer for sport, has struggled so far, perhaps because it simply does not do as much rugby as in the old days.
When we were all amateurs they could be relied upon for their professionalism.
John Taylor is a former Wales and British & Irish Lions international and a regular contributor to ESPNscrum.com