Aug. 30th – An overzealous official working the Aug. 29 Samoa v. Barbarians match may have inadvertantly given the USA a World Cup boost. Barely 15 minutes into what was the inaugural rugby game at London’s Olympic Stadium, Sean Davey, the television match official, red carded Samoan lock Kane Thompson for punching BaBa hooker Sai Fainga’a, who was clearly obstructing the big second row at the time. The haymaker was deserving of 10 minutes in the bin. Nothing more. The fact that the call came several phases after the punch and deprived the 40K fans in attendance the opportunity to see the best possible match adds to the injustice.
I am not sure if the same rules apply to friendlys as international test matches, but Thompson could very well be suspended for multiple games. And who does the USA play in their first RWC tilt on Sept. 23 in Brighton? Bingo. The fact that the native New Zealander qualified to play for Samoa only because he has a grandmother from that country is another story altogether.
Thompson is a force. He could make a difference in what is expected to be a close game against a team that has won only three times while playing on the Heavenly Sport’s big stage. While being cheered on by the New Orleans Half Moons RFC and led by former LSU flanker Gary Lambert, The Eagles beat Japan 21-18 in their first-ever Rugby World Cup match back in 1987.
The USA beat Japan again in 2003 and, with Tom Crosby covering the event for DeepSouthRugby.net, edged Russia four years ago in an RWC that I will remember mostly for shoddy work from the whistle blowers in the knockout rounds. Would France have even played in the final if Welsh skipper Sam Warburton wasn’t wrongly tossed for a dangerous tackle early in the semi-final? Would the Kiwis have beat France in the final if Craig Joubert had not swallowed his whistle in reverence to all things Richie McCaw in the last 10 minutes.
My colleague Crosby will surely point to a missed forward pass on a game winning try in the second of the two RWC All-Black losses to Les Bleus. And just as they are in 2015, the Kiwis were the best rugby in that 2011 tourney. But the ABs were not the best team in the 2011 final. And the players, the sport and the fans deserve that. I already know the highlight of my 11 day RWC experience will be seeing the USA beat Samoa and/or Scotland. Hopefully, we won’t be talking about the officiating after either of those games.
by Fran Thompson
Kiwi couple support the Eagles.