Sunday, February 25, 2024

COMMENT: Two hands better than one

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All Black Rieko Ioane had a fantastic try disallowed after failing to ground it properly. Photo Fox Sports

It’s a shame Rieko Ioane was too young to receive a lesson from Kiwis rugby league coach Graham Lowe on the safest way to score a try.

Lowe preached that the player had to dive or fall over the line, dotting the ball down with two hands.

One hand tries look flashier but are also riskier as Ioane and the All Blacks learned to their cost when the centre’s disallowed effort denied them a victory they really didn’t deserve at Wellington’s Sky Stadium on Sunday.

Instead, it was a hard-fought 16-all draw after Reece Hodge’s late 53m penalty attempt bounced back off the posts.

With the Wallabies restricting the All Blacks to 36 per cent territory and 37 per cent possession, it was a wonderful introduction for new coach Dave Rennie who has quickly gained the respect of his players. Nor will the prospect of playing the next game at fortress Eden Park on Sunday daunt him.

In fact, it was only a gritty defensive effort led by captain Sam Cane’s 24 tackles that allowed the All Blacks to escape with a draw.

Hitting hard in the tackle and winning turnover ball, the gutsy Cane was an inspirational leader who hung tough when the need was greatest.

However Australia played the more enterprising rugby with halfback Nic White a constant menace in setting his forwards alight and young Tongan prop Taniela Tupou a pile-driving juggernaut whose future looks bright.

Despite his failure to score a try with his failed grounding of the ball, Rieko Ioane remains a bright centre prospect who should be retained there.

He and Anton Lienert-Brown combined beautifully in the midfield during the North versus South match whereas the solid Jack Goodhue added nothing to a stilted attack in the Wellington test.

While Jordie Barrett did perform well on the right wing at Wellington and scored the opening try, his best position remains at fullback.

Particularly pleasing was the strong impact made by left wing Caleb Clarke when he came off the bench late to make his test debut. He’s another who has all the weapons required to make a champion centre.

Another test rookie who confirmed he has what he takes despite limited game time was Hoskins Sotutu who deserves a start alongside fellow loosies Ardie Savea and Cane.

French Open tennis
In equalling Roger Federer’s men’s grand slam record of 20 titles, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal scored his fourth consecutive French Open title at Roland Garros and 13th overall on Sunday.

What made the latest so remarkable was that he thrashed world No 1 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-2, 7-5.

Certainly the tough five setter he had against Greek Stefanos Tsitsipa would have tired Djokovic. But he had nothing but admiration for 34-year-old Nadal.

“What you are doing on this court is unbelievable. Not just this court but throughout your entire career, you’ve been a great champion,” said Djokovich.

“Today you showed why you are the King of Clay.”

Just as amazing was 19-year-old Iga Swiatek’s 6-4, 6-1 women’s final win against Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin to give Poland its first Grand Slam tennis title, men or woman.

Having earlier thrashed gritty Simona Halep and 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-2, this tall young lady has the athleticism and temperament to be a leading light in women’s tennis for many years to come.

  • Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author

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