Play the advantage(s)
I’m not sure what the Portuguese for ‘Play the whistle’ is but I’d wager both Nani and Huerelho Gomes know. Yet, only one of them bothered to do just that at Old Trafford on Saturday when the latter decided to award his team a free-kick and take it 10 yards from where the ‘offence’ occurred.
The United winger, who undoubtedly handled the ball before Gomes gathered it off the floor, had the presence of mind to pick himself up and capitalise on the goalkeeper’s naivety by kicking the ball into the net.
Spurs were furious because the linesman flagged for the initial handball but, crucially, Mark Clattenburg never blew his whistle and was merely allowing play to continue. The injured party, so to speak, had the ball and was effectively being given the advantage.
Footage of Nani’s controversial goal against Spurs
Speaking of advantages, it has been argued in some quarters that Australia have the edge in the International Series because of the tackle rule, which allows the defending team to haul their opponent to the ground when the latter is in possession.
No doubt, the Irish players appeared to forget about this rule on numerous occasions over the course of the two coma-inducing Tests in Limerick and Dublin, both when in possession and when defending, but is this really more of an advantage than having to play with a completely different ball on a entirely different pitch?
The visitors regularly kicked the ball out play when going down the line, most probably because they usually play on an oval pitch, roughly the same shape as the ball they normally kick, catch and punch.
It also ignores the fact that scoring target at each end of the pitch is far bigger than it would usually be for the Irish players and is, in fact, not so much a barn door, but the entrance to an aircraft hangar.
Ireland repeatedly let themselves down in the kicking stakes despite having that massive advantage over Australia and, having roused the crowds into more than a barely audible murmur in just two quarters from eight, it would have been a travesty had the visitors left empty handed.