Five talking points from Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, Round 5
And then there were two – and perhaps not the two we all expected. The final round of the trans-Tasman competition has been and gone, and the suffering of Aussie fans can finally stop – well until the Bledisloe at least. The results this weekend might have been expected – another clean sweep for the […]
And then there were two – and perhaps not the two we all expected. The final round of the trans-Tasman competition has been and gone, and the suffering of Aussie fans can finally stop – well until the Bledisloe at least.
The results this weekend might have been expected – another clean sweep for the Kiwi sides – but there’s plenty to talk about, so let’s get stuck in.
Brad Thorn will be ropeable
You wouldn’t want to be around Brad Thorn much this weekend after Friday night’s game. Take your pick of reasons why. My best guess is that while he might want to rip the referee a new one for the two yellow card decisions – more on them later – it’ll be his own players that he’s most frustrated by.
Forty-eight missed tackles – 48! Just think this through for a second – the Hurricanes had only 41 per cent of the possession. The ball is in play for roughly 35 minutes out of the game. The Canes therefore had the ball in hand for 15 minutes in the whole game. In those 15 minutes the Reds missed a tackle at a rate of one every 20 seconds.
A Brad Thorn-coached side that misses a tackle every 20 seconds is in for a brutal conversation on Monday morning.
How in the name of all that is good and pure was that a penalty try?
The Queensland players might be quite glad that their coach’s fury at them will be diluted thanks to some incredibly poor decisions from the referee.
The penalty try against Bryce Hegarty was absolutely bonkers. You can agree that the 28-year-old knocked the ball out of play deliberately, you can even agree that this behaviour deserved a yellow card, but you simply cannot be sure that Ngani Laumape was going to score.
It just doesn’t make sense. To award the penalty try the referee has to believe that if Hegarty had not committed the illegal act, then Laumape would have scored. But considering that the act was that Hegarty knocked the ball out deliberately, you are saying that the Reds player got to the ball and was able to touch it.
So if he got there, how can you say that Laumape would have scored? Surely you have to say that actually if Hegarty had chosen not to knock the ball out, then he still could have stopped Laumape from scoring and therefore no penalty try can be given.
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Will Rugby Australia feel the Force to changing their minds?
No Australian side has really covered themselves in glory over the past five weeks, but the Force should look at the trans-Tasman competition and take a lot from their progress. Just like in the Australian competition, they finished behind the Reds and Brumbies but ahead of the Rebels and the Waratahs. They had the least bad points difference of any of the Aussie sides and conceded the fewest points of all their domestic opponents, partly thanks to them also having the best tackle completion rate of any of them, at 85.8 per cent.
Their discipline was good and their set piece not too bad, and they managed to perform at roughly the same level whether home or away.
The area they struggled with was racking up points and really punching holes and gaining metres when they had the ball. They didn’t make too many errors, but they never really scared defences either in close or out wide.
But there is talent among the backline players and experience in key positions. If they can add some more effective ball carriers in the forwards, then the future will be looking good.
It’s worth remembering that the Force brought in a load of new players this season, and to see them perform in this way in their first campaign together should give hope to Force fans. They have shown that they can be difficult to beat. Next season they need to add in some more attacking threat – if they do, they will trouble the Brumbies and Reds again.
Meanwhile, over in Melbourne, the management must be a little bit worried about what’s happening. Not only have they had a shocking season – poor on the field in another season of no progress, and they’ve lost a coach and have had to be away from home far too often – but the powers that be must be looking at the structure of the competition again and wondering whether the Rebels really have a future at the top level of the domestic game.
The Waratahs have had an even worse season than the Rebels on the scoreboard, but they have the advantage over their Victorian cousins of being able to claim that they’re in a genuine rebuilding period and that they have a far more attractive market around them in New South Wales than the Rebels do in Victoria.
With two new Pacific sides joining the competition soon, the Rebels will know that they can’t afford another season at the bottom.
A Super Rugby final without the Crusaders
The Crusaders are without doubt an incredible side – they would run most international sides close and pick up a number of wins if they went on a world tour.
But having a Super Rugby final without them is actually pretty exciting – even for Australian fans. It’s not that the machine from Christchurch plays boring rugby – they have some wonderfully creative players throughout their ranks – but sometimes it just gets a bit boring to see the favourites play well and win over and over and over.
With the Blues and the Highlanders coming together in the final we’ve got a much more exciting story. The Blues haven’t won a title for 18 years and the Highlanders have so often been cast as the plucky underdogs who everyone likes but no-one bets on to get the win.
The Highlanders are more of a surprise presence in the final, with the Blues finally living up to expectations. But when you look at the stats, it really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.
They’ve scored 30 tries in the trans-Tasman competition and averaged almost one more try per game than the Blues backed by having two of the top four try scorers in the whole tournament.
They have a higher tackle completion rate, they’ve won the most lineouts in the competition and they have the best discipline out of any of the ten sides.
So the Blues might go into the final as favourites, but the combination of pressure and an in-form Highlanders side could well be their undoing at the final hurdle.
And the brain fade of the round goes to Lachie Swinton
Is Dave Rennie the only one who thinks that Swinton’s hit on Lachie Boshier didn’t deserve a red card? The Wallabies coach tried to justify the Waratahs backrower’s behaviour by saying, “He certainly didn’t have a big run-up in and he’s just trying to get in”.
Come on, Dave. It was a terrible hit. The guy had already hit the ruck and then reloaded and hit Boshier clear in the side of the head.
Now, of course we all know that one of Swinton’s plus points is the aggressive style he brings to the game, but his hit against the Chiefs wasn’t the aggression the Tahs or Wallabies need. It was a dog hit late in a game when the NSW side had already got the penalty and that the Tahs had already lost by miles. There was nothing to be gained other than hurting one of the opposition, and he must have known that there was a chance that he would make the final five minutes of the worst season in the club’s history that little bit harder for his teammates.
Opposition sides won’t have looked at that and thought, “Wow, I hope we don’t have to run out against him!”.
They’ll have seen it, smiled and started thinking about how quickly they can wind him up and get him off the pitch. Fortunately Rennie has other good options in the back row, but it’s such a shame to see the Tahs’ season end on such a sour note.