The fastest man in world rugby was on the field as Wales played the All Blacks on Saturday. He just wasn’t where you’d expect.
It all happened in 15 seconds. Ryan Crotty, a bank teller moonlighting as an All Black, was tackled. The ball burst free. A Welshman kicked it upfield, sending a stampede of professional sportsmen in its wake. The camera zoomed out to follow the chase, and there he was.
Will Houston was barely visible at first, lagging far behind a pack of muscle-encrusted largebodies. The 28-year-old touch judge is a novice in the world of reffing, barely known before this test. But this was his moment. As the players gave chase, he turned to keep up.
As he ran, something strange happened. Houston transformed into a rocket. So-called professional athletes faded into a mist behind him, barely visible in his slipstream. “Speedster” Hallam Amos, burned into dust. Dane Coles, more like Lame Moles. Houston was a cheetah running down an arthritic house cat. Usain Bolt racing a sack of old bones.
Sky Sport commentator Grant Nisbett excitedly exclaimed “Who’s got the pace?”. He wasn’t looking in the right place. The answer was hidden in plain sight. It was Houston, The Flash of the sidelines; a human comet bursting across the Auckland night; the fastest man in world rugby.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.