The stadium announcer didn’t waste any time getting in on the act.
“And the Man Of The Match is…. Daniel Cartair.” The French like to
stretch things a bit, even the surname of the world’s greatest fly half.
But to name Carter the best player on the pitch after this, his first
game in Perpignan colours, really was pulling the proverbial plonker.
Don’t get me wrong. Carter’s début was a million miles from a
disaster. Indeed, the Golden Boy had a steady game. He was solid in
just about everything that he did, bar a couple of wayward penalty
kicks. And one break, which was called back by referee Alan Lewis,
showed all of the All Black’s staggeringly elusive gain-line breaking
That said, however, I could easily name three or four other players in
the Perpignan line-up who shone more brightly in this Heineken Cup
tie against a resilient Leicester Tigers side than Mr. Carter. But
marketing plays a bigger part in the game of rugby with each passing
day and Carter is big box office down on the south coast of France;
ergo he’s the man who gets the plaudits.
What South African flanker Gerrie Britz would have made of the award
is anyone’s guess, because his shift at the Perpignan coalface was way
more impressive than Carter’s. Maybe the merchandising whiz kids
should have done a Perpignan scarf in green and gold, rather than the
black and white affair that seemed to be wrapped around every other
neck at the Stade Aimé Giral. But like I said, Carter is box office and
the local kids weren’t going to scrawl ‘Britz’ on their face when they
could pay homage to their new New Zealand idol. Whisper it, but on
balance I’d say that the Tigers’ Toby Flood probably just edged the fly
half honours in an entertaining game that saw the home side
deservedly come home ahead by a whisker.
Carter was his usual amiable self, smiling and giggling his way through
the post-match interview on French telly that I watched in one of the
stadium’s bars while trying to warm up after a nippy old afternoon sat
on the terraces. The sound was turned down, so I can only guess at
what he was saying, presumably in English and then translated. But no
doubt Danny Boy was satisfied with his day’s work. Rightly so. It takes
time to adapt to a new country, a new culture and a new club.
He admitted that getting to grips with Perpignan’s calls during the week
was a wee bit tricky, especially because there’s the added complication
of the Catalan language as well as French to cope with. Apparently
both languages are used within the team. But that’s just teething
troubles. Once Carter’s found his sea legs the world’s best Number 10
will shine and will prove to be a diamond asset for Perpignan. With the
talent he’s got it couldn’t be any other way. But on yesterday’s
performance alone I for one will remember Britz’ display much longer
than Dan Carter’s. Now where’s that crayon? I think I’m going to paint
Gerrie on my face in a show of solidarity!