You
see a lot of odd things at a Rugby 7s
tournament, but I’ve never seen a game of eight against five like the England v Australia pool match last
night.

England’s extra man
was the Kiwi ref assisted by sideline officials who can’t read a clock,
resulting in Australia being
reduced to five players at one stage. The ref seemed extraordinarily quick to
flash his yellow card against Australia. (For the
benefit of those who think they know some of the rules, I reckon his second
victim, Damon Murphy, was the tackler and therefore allowed to get to his feet
and play at the ball without retiring to come through the gates. For everyone
else, just boo when the rest of the crowd does.)

The yellow card in 7s is supposed to mean two
minutes in the bin, but the ARU’s match report shows Brendan Williams was off
for an extraordinary three-and-a-half.

The
yellow card stayed in the ref’s pocket when England was
professionally fouling late in the game but enough whinging – it all gave the
crowd a bit of excitement and losing 14-12 was an extraordinarily good effort
by Australia in the
circumstances. Roll on tonight’s finals with Fiji still
looking the best.

Bigger
news yesterday was the forced retirement of the excellent Elton Flatley after 38 Tests and more than
100 games for Queensland after being
chosen for his state straight from the Nudgee College rugby
nursery without playing a club game.

His
most remembered performance for many fans will be his fantastic World Cup final
in 2003, but I’d nominate a 1996 Super 12 match as demonstrating Flats’
essence. This was after the 95 World Cup when Jonah Lomu had single-handedly
steamrolled England and teams
around the world were developing gang tackle tactics to try to stop him.

Fairly
early in the match, Lomu (four or five metres tall, weighing a couple of
tonnes) charged front-on full-pelt at Flatley (178 cms when standing on his
toes in platform shoes). Flats dropped to his knees and wrapped himself around
one of Lomu’s massive shins, bringing him down unaided. And then he did it again
a bit later in case nobody believed it the first time.

Thanks
for the pleasure of seeing it.

Peter Fray

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