People said it couldn’t be done. That it was impossible for even the most loud-mouthed rugby player to achieve. Last night, Aaron Smith proved the doubters wrong.
Plaudits are flowing freely for Highlanders and All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith, who last night managed to pull off the most elusive feat in rugby union.
After exactly 83 minutes of play in his side’s clash against the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday night, Smith successfully convinced Australian referee Angus Gardner to change his mind on a decision, sparking jubilant scenes among halfbacks and other rugby motormouths everywhere.
Clinging to a six point lead, the Highlanders were being pressed hard when Brumbies flanker David Pocock attempted a pass that appeared to be knocked down by Patrick Osborne. After consultation with his assistant, Gardner ruled it was not an intentional knock on and should therefore lead to a scrum or line-out for the Brumbies. The quick-witted Smith then told Gardner the stoppage meant the end of the game – a call the whistleblower disagreed with at first.
Then, in a truly historic act of humility and self-awareness, Gardner uttered “oh yeah, it is!” and blew time off.
Smith immediately jumped for joy, as is his custom when he feels any emotion vaguely linked to happiness. He had more reason to celebrate than usual though. For one thing, this was redemption. Only moments before Smith had attempted one of the worst clearing kick attempts ever, handing the ball back to the Brumbies for one last assault on the Highlanders’ line.
Even more importantly, it was justification for a lifetime spent tirelessly haranguing the ref. In that one brief exchange, Smith finally proved that arguing, pleading and claiming ‘we’re not playing tiddlywinks’ can actually work.
The All Black has kept quiet on the issue so far, using his Twitter time to continue extolling his deep love of Pokemon Go. But it is safe to assume this incident will inspire him to go on and become the most persistent on-field talker in the history of rugby.
As for Gardner, even though he played his part in this monumental example of rugby reconciliation, he will not be able to look back on the game all that fondly. Earlier, he’d told Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore not to enter a “collapsed ruck”, which prompted the 100-test Wallaby to ask exactly what a collapsed ruck was.
However, given that the Brumbies were the only Australian team left in Super Rugby, their defeat now hands Gardner the opportunity to be the sole representative from his country involved in the competition from now on.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.