I cannot stand the cross-kick. I thought an overkill of rolling maul tries would be top of my list of plays that do not impress me but now I’m convinced it’s the cross-kick.
There was a time when the cross-kick was so new and so rare it was a thing of creative beauty? Out of the blue, a first receiver deep on front-foot attack would do the unexpected by diagonally flat kick passing the ball to an unmarked player out wide who would gather it and score. If it happened to be the team you supported, it was wow-moment worth applauding. If not, the TV replay could not come quick enough to prove your suspicion that the recipient had to have been in front of the kicker to get to that advanced position that quickly. Either way it produced the sort of try you’d remember for the whole of the next week.
A few years later and the sideline cameraman plus production editor were still bringing their A-game to live rugby if they captured footage of a wing who’d employed some sort of stealth technique to evade defensive attention but had given up on blending into the touchline crowd, as he was now baying for someone on the other side of the field to kick the freaking ball to him so that he could catch it and canter over for a five-pointer.
Come 2020 and it is now rugby defence 101 to post someone out wide in anticipation of a cross-kick. There is no element of surprise left except maybe in the minds of those dumbass commentators who keep referring to entry level rugby knowledge as “good appreciation of the laws”. FFS! You’ll now see more cross-kicks in one weekend of rugby than you would have in whole season a few years back. Novelty has long gone. Excessive is the right word to use. Kick and hope! No originality! Just about as one-dimensional as a rolling maul onslaught from a 5m attacking lineout.
When the forwards have done the hard work to secure quality ball in or around the 22, there is no better sight than watching the ball going through the hands in the hopes of seeing a battle with ingredients of skill, speed, power and genuine innovation unfold as the attackers try to outdo the defenders. That’s great rugby to watch!