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Craig Dowd

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Craig Dowd played 60 Tests for New Zealand between 1993 and 2000, including in two World Cups, and he was part of the All Blacks team that won their first series in South Africa in 1996. He played for the Blues and Auckland in New Zealand domestic rugby, and for Wasps in England from 2001 to 2005. In 2009, he coached North Harbour in the ITM Cup. More recently has been a SKY Television comments man.

Craig Dowd
Rugby needs a 30-second advantage clock
Craig Dowd
May 21, 2014
Nothing worse than seeing the referee drag play back for an infringement well after it happened © Getty Images

Watching some of the Super Rugby games over the weekend, and the varying applications of the advantage law, not to forget the greater powers of the television match official, I feel there needs to be some consistency applied.

Talking points: ESPNscrum's Super Rugby podcast

There's nothing worse than watching play go on for a minute and then see the referee drag play back for the original infringement well after it happened.

Something that might work, and it would have great appeal on television coverage, is the introduction of a 30-second advantage. Once a referee called "advantage" a countdown could start. The defending team would have to remain squeaky clean for 30 seconds while the attacking team had the ball and 30 seconds with which to gain an advantage.

If the attacking team makes a mistake within that time, they go back for the penalty; but if they can't do something with the ball in the 30 seconds available then the advantage should be over.

All the time, a countdown clock, like they use in basketball, could be counting down the 30 seconds. It could be quite exciting.

TJ Perenara applying heat on Aaron Smith

Speaking of excitement, the Highlanders-Hurricanes game had plenty at the weekend.

Hurricanes 16-18 Highlanders (Australia only)

While the Hurricanes lost the game, which was a good one played in great spirit, I thought TJ Perenara really put his hand up and out-played Aaron Smith. We don't have All Blacks trials anymore so that sort of game is as close to an All Blacks trial as we are ever going to get, and on that basis Perenara out-played the All Blacks incumbent.

To me they are the only two halfbacks pushing for the starting Test berth at the moment, and, after that game, Smith now knows he has someone biting at his heels. Perenara really put his hand up, playing within the laws and doing a great job.

It is always debateable if things will change in terms of selection, but Perenara certainly helped his cause. He is an explosive option, the sort of player who ensures the opposition don't know what they are going to get. That makes him extremely dangerous in, and around, the breakdown; and when he decides to go, he goes at 100 miles per hour, and just goes.

He has strength that Aaron Smith doesn't have. Smith is more of an elegant No.9 while Perenara can be more combative and very explosive. I was impressed with him.

Can the Highlanders kick on?

The Hurricanes-Highlanders game itself could have gone either way, and it came down to a couple of kicks; it was a really exciting finish and Hayden Parker showed great composure to kick what was the winning dropped goal near the end.

The Highlanders' achievements this year have ensured that no team can get complacent playing them, as might have happened last year. They have shown from the start of the competition they are a different unit, and they have been a very good side this year.

They are the sort of side who will not be your red-hot favourites going into the end of the competition but they are capable of beating anyone. It will be interesting to see where they go from here, and, if they make it, whether they can foot it in finals rugby because it is a different level.

Another feature of the competition, as we have mentioned before, is the way the New Zealand conference is so competitive that it might mean fewer New Zealand sides make the play-offs as a result. But on the other hand that isn't an issue for players who are trying to ensure they get another Super Rugby contract, or a place in the Test squad, and are wanting to play for a win. The competition rules are the rules, and there is nothing you can do about that. It's unfortunate the way things are stacked against New Zealand's sides but the hardness should provide an edge for the internationals.

Jordan Taufua should have been handed off-field yellow card

The Crusaders just didn't turn up against the Sharks. That was one of the poorer performances I've seen from a Crusaders side, after two weeks of good rugby. The Sharks when they went down to 14 men, each of whom grew an arm and a leg to make up for the player who was sent off. They did very well.

Crusaders 25-30 Sharks (Australia only)

And no excuse for what Jean Deysel did when standing on Jordan Taufua's head, but it is really annoying when a player is hanging onto your leg when you're on defence five metres out from your goal-line. Deysel deserved a couple of weeks for his stomping, but I would also like to have seen an off-field yellow card for Taufua because what he was doing was a professional foul.

There is nothing to stop the judiciary coming out with an opinion like that if there was a hearing. They should come down on the cause of the action and make a statement: if Taufua had held Deysel's leg, Deysel wouldn't have stomped on Taufua; everything has a knock-on effect.

It is easy to see why the Sharks are leading the competition. Their rugby is not exciting but defensively they are very good. They don't play a lot of rugby while relying on their kicking game, but they did put the Crusaders under a lot of pressure at times. Nemani Nadolo dropped a few howlers, but that possibly would not have happened had Israel Dagg started the game.

The Sharks force you into making mistakes. They like their set piece, they'll play territory and they will just arm-wrestle you. It is winning rugby for them, and it's working. Their strength is their forward pack and that is what they are using.

Where do we draw the line on transfer payments?

It has been interesting to hear John Kirwan's comments about the need for transfer payments. But where do you draw the line? You would have to have a lot of players on contracts if you were going to get a transfer fee.

It also is interesting when remembering the Blues have brought in Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu from outside the region. I don't think he has thought the issue through properly.

And another thing that has me confused: Weepu, and nothing against him, plays Super Rugby for the Blues, and ITM Cup for Auckland, but then goes and plays club rugby for Wainuiomata in Wellington. Surely if he is going to play ITM rugby in Auckland he needs to find a local club.

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