CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: There can be joy in defence as well as attack
9:32am Thursday 10th October 2013 in Sport
THE tackle stats from South Africa's stunning clash with New Zealand would have made a defence coach weep.
The Springboks made 71 tackles and missed 31 while the All Blacks made 143 and missed 28. Teams usually aim for a success rate of 90 per cent but they managed 70 and 84 respectively.
It's joyless to pointing out such shortcomings, like lambasting Peter Reid's tracking on Maradona's 1986 wonder goal or the Australians' bowling against Botham in 1981.
The defensive deficiencies were down to both sides playing with ambition and refreshing attacking intent, perhaps aided by the South Africans needing a bonus point to stand any chance of winning the Rugby Championship.
It was one of the greatest games of rugby ever and some of the skills on display at Ellis Park highlighted the gap between the big two and the rest of the world.
More evidence followed less than 24 hours later.
Loose forwards in Johannesburg were offloading like backs whereas Gloucester's Billy Twelvetrees – pushed as the distributor supreme to add spark to England's midfield – managed to botch a four-on-one overlap against Exeter by opting for a long pass rather than putting it through the hands.
Mistakes happen but it was a moment of dunderheadedness that is hard to imagine an All Black making.
But rugby doesn't have to be all about glorious attack to be engrossing, as the Heineken Cup will no doubt show when it starts this weekend.
The top games are frequently cagey affairs of teams attempting to bludgeon each other into submission; the fear of making a mistake means that attacking risks are frowned upon.
It's about winning rugby and giving yourself the best chance of toasting a hard-earned success rather than plucky defeat.
Newport Gwent Dragons' attack may be spluttering this season but they have reaped the rewards of a summer of breakdown and defence work.
What did you prefer, the tryless 15-8 win against Ulster or the 46-19 defeat to the men from Belfast in 2012?
It's marvellous to see wonderful attack but shootouts are tedious while arm wrestles can be absorbing but they can also be downright dull. Finding the middle ground is key to joyful rugby.
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