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Opinion

ANALYSIS: Give the ref a propeller hat, thank Kurtley for the memories and fix this blight on the game

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20th November, 2021
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The last sighting of Kurtley Beale as a Wallaby gave us the worthy appreciation of his mark on the game that his tepid display against England never did.

One last night as a matchwinning hero for Australia at 32 would have been the perfect script before riding off into the sunset after his 95th Test.

Setting up a superb Filipo Daugunu try and that sweet 45m penalty goal were a perfect snapshot of the best of his 12-year Test career.

This was a true heartbreaker for the Welsh to ruin the party 29-28 in Cardiff. The great fight, bravery and return of skill that the Wallabies displayed after Rob Valetini’s early send-off should have counted for a victory.

Centre Hunter Paisami had been pilloried for weeks. In this Test, we saw a different player. The grubber kick for the Kellaway try, a crisp, long cut-out pass, dangerous breaks and only one pushed pass. Ticks aplenty.

Likewise, hooker Folau Fainga’a. He played perhaps the best 10 minutes of his career as a Wallaby to close the Test with the final pass for the try and three terrific low tackles.

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Red and yellow cards are tossed around like confetti these days. If there were some fairness to judging all in the game by the same standards, Scottish referee Mike Adamson would be stood down for two games and forced to wear a propeller hat when he next controls a big match.

Australia full back Kurtley Beale makes a break to set up the second Wallabies try during the Autumn Nations Series match between Wales and Australia at Principality Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Rugby’s overcomplicated law book is strangling the game and the poor refs too. We all know it yet no one seems capable of doing anything about it.

When Welsh centre Nick Tompkins slapped down Tom Wright’s pass early in the second half, it was a clear knock-on.

How could I be so sure 16,000km away from Cardiff while spurting coffee into the air in a Brisbane lounge room with the sun still to rise outside?

You don’t reward a failed skill. It was a brick-handed grab, the ball went straight down at best and the tie-breaker, always, is commonsense. No skill, no benefit. Knock-on.

Fast forward a little in the Test. This deliberate knock-on business is a blight on the game because the punishment is way out of whack with the offence.

Beale tries to stifle a potential try-chance for the Welsh with a smother tackle. Yes, he succeeds in slapping at the ball too with outstretched fingertips. He saves a try because the Welshman couldn’t get away his pass in time yet gets a yellow card. A penalty fair enough.

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No argument on the Valetini red card for an accidental but preventable, high-velocity head clash. The bloke he tackled is 2.05m so there is no excuse for not getting your collision height down on Adam Beard.

The Beale haters were out in force after his error-prone game against England a week earlier.

Nine runs for 78m, a couple of line breaks, a key ball-strip, the expectation that he might create something when he touched the ball…this was more like it.

His step, ball-dangle and fend to shoot through the gap to set up the Daugunu try was vintage Beale.

There was a little redemption brewing too in that pure 45m strike at penalty goal to give the Wallabies the lead 28-26 with two minutes to play.

Most will recall his history-making penalty goal from even further back to beat the Springboks in Bloemfontein in 2010 to end the Wallabies’ 47-year hoodoo at high altitude in South Africa.

I was thinking more of the one he missed against red jerseys in 2013 when he had that long range penalty shot to beat the British and Irish Lions at Suncorp Stadium.

He slipped in his approach and the chance was ruined.

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The Lions’ fans were merciless and by the second Test in Melbourne they were full-on into the Australian fullback.

“He slipped, he missed, he’s always on the piss…Kurtley Beale, Kurtley Beale” went the ditty.

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Beale’s rollercoaster career in rugby has always stirred passions at both ends of the spectrum. He has had some desperate lows of his own making off the field but this night in Cardiff was a chance to applaud one last time.

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His moment in the final try was a chance to savour his jinking, this-way-and-that body shifts and timing because those skills made the best Beale such fun to watch.

However you regard Kurtley Beale at the end of the day, he has lived the great, the bad and the ugly in the cauldron 95 more times than most of us.

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