Adding insult to injury, the All Blacks send Grosso to hospital

12:01 pm on 10 June 2018

On Friday I said that the All Blacks would beat the French on Saturday night at Eden Park. I also said they'd have a scratchy game, with moments of trademark All Black brilliance that would seal the win over an underdone opposition - but that the test would leave us plenty to mull over for the following week.

France's Remy Grosso (L) lays on the ground after running into All Blacks Ofa Tu'ungafasi (R  during the Steinlager Series rugby match between the All Blacks and France at the Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday the 9th of June 2018. Copyright Photo by Marty Melville /

Photo: Photosport

It's nice to be proven right, even if it was one of the most predictable storylines in rugby.

The whole first half was one to forget for the home side, who struggled to get anything cohesive going.

The second, in comparison, was a cavalcade of scoring that even the stodgiest of supporters couldn't help but admire - that's not what the commentary will be about for the next few days, though.

It's not a great feeling knowing that the prediction came at the cost of the health of one of the French players.

Winger Rémy Grosso, who had opportunistically opened the scoring with a swift intercept off Ben Smith, literally had his face broken by the combination of Sam Cane and Ofa Tu'ungafasi.

A missed high shot is somewhat forgivable in this day and age of haphazard refereeing standards, but the Grosso incident was adding injury to insult as far as the French were concerned.

Not long before, lock Paul Gabrillagues had been binned by English ref Luke Pearce for what could be described as pretty marginal contact with Ryan Crotty's head in a tackle.

The All Blacks used the Gabrillagues binning to significant effect. When he went in, the score was 11-all. When he returned, it was 30-11 and the result was in the books.

That's an absolutely punishing use of the one-man advantage, for which the All Blacks should be commended.

Two of the tries, to Codie Taylor and Rieko Ioane, were in the same spot in one corner, while Ben Smith's was in the other. Perfect use of the extra space, which was combined with the skill and timing of a team that had suddenly clicked into gear.

But only two minutes after Gabrillagues sat down, the Cane/Tu'ungafasi/Grosso incident happened. Even the most one-eyed All Black fans could immediately realise a massive inconsistency had just taken place, and the evidence of that was provided from the Eden Park crowd itself.

There's always an audible 'ohhhh' when a big hit is replayed on the big screen. It's probably the most primal of states the crowd gets itself into, save for when some guy decides to take off his clothes and run on the field (which also happened last night). But the reaction when that head clash took place had enough of a nuance to know that it wasn't fueled by the usual combination of bloodlust and alcohol.

France's Remy Grosso (L) walks from the field after running into All Blacks Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Sam Cane during the Steinlager Series rugby match between the All Blacks and France at the Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday the 9th of June 2018. Copyright Photo by Marty Melville /

Photo: Photosport

It was that noise you make when a friend tells you they've done something bad, like cheating on their partner, and you don't really want to commit to fully supporting them. That kind of surprised but definitely concerned 'ohhhh' that lets them know that you don't particularly approve, but multiplied by over 46,000 voices of those in attendance at Eden Park.

Grosso eventually got to visit Auckland Hospital, which definitely would not have been on his list of sights to see on his first tour of New Zealand. The fractures he suffered in his skull courtesy of Cane's arm and Tu'ungafasi's shoulder will rule him out of playing any more games.

It's highly likely that in the aftermath of this, Cane and Tu'ungafasi will be getting suspended, but that's not going to wind back the criticism about Pearce's decision-making.

Did the All Blacks intentionally hurt Grosso? No, but that's not the point.

Gabrillagues didn't set out to hurt Crotty either, but paid the price for carelessness under what's supposed to be a rigorous interpretation of the law to protect players from concussion and other head injuries.

It's also missing the point to say that the yellow card decided the game. The French attitude after going a man down was so lacklustre they may as well have just sat down and folded their arms, and they only have themselves to blame for that.

If neither of those incidents had occurred, it's highly unlikely the result would've been different save for a slightly closer scoreline. France did offer a bit of attacking nous, but it was always going to be a matter of time before the All Blacks flicked the kill switch and starting scoring tries. But we all knew that, and the Grosso high shot does give us something else to focus on.

The All Blacks, whether we like it or not, have a reputation overseas for getting away with a lot on the rugby field. A great deal of what critics say is rubbish, but this glaring double standard that they benefited from last night can't be ignored.