ACT Brumbies

10 Things We Learned From Round 1

10 Things We Learned From Round 1

Crusaders and Blues - miles above the rest

The opening round threw up plenty of talking points, as scratchy rugby dominated with only a few moments of brilliance. It’s time to look at what we have learned from the weekend:

1. It is going to be tight for finals spots. The Blues, Crusaders and Waratahs were easily the best looking sides, but after that you would say it all looks pretty even. Of the other pre-tournament hopes the Bulls only just pipped the Lions, the Sharks were unspectacular, the Reds were scrappy and the Canes were downright awful.  After watching the first round you would only suggest the Rebels and possibly Cheetahs as teams that look incapable of securing a finals berth, and even the Cheetahs have a few big names yet to return.  It looks like the six team finals series will throw up a bolter or two, which is just what the competition needs.

2. The refs have their shit together. While a lot of the players looked scratchy, the same could not be said for the men with the whistle. They were all clearly singing from the same song sheet in regards to both game management (set the standard in the first 15 and let the game open up from there), and more importantly the scrum. We saw a clear, loud, slow and most importantly regular call of ‘crouch, touch, pause, engage’, which was a pleasant change from the garble seen on the Spring Tour. The result? Very few collapsed scrums, and few penalties. Of course there were mistakes, but overall a good start to the year from the officials.

3. Turnovers will be hard to come by. Maybe it was the tactics employed, maybe it was a lack of fitness, maybe it was the law interpretations, but there were barely any ruck turnovers last weekend. Traditional fetchers like Pocock and Braid were fairly ineffective at the breakdown, and the team with the ball secured possession with relative ease at every ruck. Will be interesting to see if this changes in coming weeks as teams get their act together.

4. Public interest is building. After the success of the end of year tour, which saw the win in Honkers and the drubbing of the French, we thought that interest in Rugby was starting to pick up as the World Cup loomed. We had some genuinely marketable figures, plus a new Super side and a revamped competition. However we didn’t have quantitative proof that the interest was there- until last weekend. TV viewing figures smashed the all-time Super Rugby record, with total viewers almost double that of last year. With another two derbies this weekend the numbers should stay high or even rise. So far the new comp structure is paying big dividends.

5. The Rebels were as bad as we feared. You looked at their squad and thought ‘this is just a ragtag mob of Super Rugby misfits and international castaways, with a couple of promising youngsters thrown in’. But most of us ignored that because we really hoped Rod Macqueen and Stirling Mortlock would perform some incredible pre-season surgery, and turn this unlikely bunch into champions. After promising trial form it looked like they could get close. But after 80 minutes it looks like our initial fears were right, and a few key injuries will now make things worse. It could be a long season.

Reds i'n trouble?

6. The Reds may be struggling with the weight of expectation. Note that I said ‘may’. But on Sunday they were well off their game. I know it was bloody hot but certainly questions need to be asked. For the first time in donkey’s years there has been buzz around the Reds pre-season, and there is an expectation up north that they will give the comp a good shake this year. For a young side this is unchartered waters, and fears that they will struggle to navigate through them were not dispelled by their first round effort. With an away game to the Tahs on Friday it is only going to get harder.

7. Richard Graham can coach. After his hotly debated role as the Wallaby attack coach, Graham showed he has the chops to get the job done at the helm of the Force. The boys in blue looked well-drilled and focussed, and were unlucky to lose a tight match. Having said that his coaching skill will undoubtedly be tested after a few injuries, as the Force depth is average to say the least.

8. Bigger is better for Mowen. There was a lot of talk in the lead-up to the season about the weights regime of the Tahs in the off-season, with Ben Mowen stacking on the kgs big time. The question on everyone’s lips though was ‘will it help?’. After one game I would certainly answer in the affirmative, as he made a huge impact in both attack and defence. It was only the Rebels though, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against some of the larger, grumpier Saffa sides.

9. Fantasy rugby rocks. This has been widely known for many years, but in the haze of the international season and then the off-season I had forgotten its true awesomeness. The guys at Foxsports have put together another great comp, which means that I am a keen viewer of even the dullest game. And it should be mentioned that our very own Moses got within a bee’s proverbial of taking out the weekly prize, and the G&GR league is ranked 1 out of 2,171.

10. Most importantly, Rugby is back. I am now craving the weekend yet again, and I have Super Rugby to thank. Bring on the rest of the season, baby.

Have I missed anything? What else did we learn from the first round?

ACT Brumbies

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