With all Aussie teams playing for a return of two wins and two close losses, let’s take a look at the meaningful stuff that happened up front.
REDS V SUNWOLVES
The Reds played the Sunwolves at Suncorp Stadium with the Reds getting away with the win 32-26 with Red and Yellow cards handed out like confetti. The Reds opting to start with Harry Hoopert, Alex Mafi and Taniela Tupou against the Sunwolves Masataka Mikami, Shota Horie and Hiroshi Yamashita.
It was evident throughout this game that the Sunwolves were eager to win the set call in the scrum, winning the race to the middle and or get across it. This occurred in a number of scrums that saw the Sunwolves get themselves into better position than the Reds upon the initial hit. The Reds handled this throughout the game OK but there was one instance where the pressure re-applied by Tupou after the set call see’s Pauliasi Manus knees hitting the ground under pressure and the Reds winning the penalty. What I’m not a fan off is Angus Scott-Young driving up and falling into Manu after the scrum has collapsed. There is a huge amount of pressure on these guys and driving through and falling onto the front row will cause an unnecessary injury and should be stamped out of the game. We see this in another game where it does get called up.
A scrum of note was on the 36 minute mark where again the Sunwolves engage and drive through after the set call with the Reds not meeting the hit and retreating. This is called up and re-set. Upon the next scrum as Tupou is now getting primed for the engagement, leans too far into the bind and gets penalised for early engagement. This was a slight lack of concentration on the Reds not expecting the hit from the initial scrum and needs to be identified earlier in future games to prevent the over eagerness of meeting the engagement.
The Reds also had a situation in the 1st half with an attacking scrum around 10 meters out with the Reds locking down the scrum. McDermott leaves the ball at Higginbothams feet in the scrum and the Sunwolves start to apply pressure. Ever so slowly the Sunwolves inch forward step by step and end up with Izack Rodda losing his shape and standing up. This gives the momentum to the Sunwolves who drive through and earn a penalty with a well-defended scrum. This shows the importance to keep your body shape low and connected to your front rower as any variance in shape can release the pressure or change angles and cause the situation that occurred.
I like how around the 58 minute mark the Reds chose to lock down a scrum with the Sunwolves 5 meters out from their own line trying to exit. Instead of trying to push through the scrum which most often not ends up collapsing or turning around the corner they held it square to allow the Sunwolves to run it out. This allows Liam Wright clear vision to defend getting over the ball and a resulting turn over. Excellent discipline from the Reds and well executed defensive scrum in which we see too many teams try too much and get penalised.
Tupou had another good game and again feel he is just being contained by the defence when he carries the ball. He did score a good try with a pick and drive, good leg drive and sliding the ball across the line for the try. Tupou held his side of the scrum up well but needs to improve on winning the collision at the set call. Better aggression from the pack can turn this around in a week but this is one area the Sunwolves won on the night.
With the Smith coming onto replace Hoopert and BPA also replacing Mafi, my outstanding scrum was the Reds driving through and dismantling the Sunwolves however they manage to scoop the ball out before it was called up.
BRUMBIES V BLUES
The Blues travelled to Gio Stadium in Canberra to take on the Brumbies with the Brumbies starting line-up of James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a and Alan Alaalatoa against the Blues starting Front Row of Alex Hodgman, Leni Apisai and Ofa Tuungafasi. An excellent game up front for the Brumbies resulted in a win at home with the final score being 26-21.
An impressive game for the Brumbies in the front row and the scrum as a whole with the Brumbies earning relentless penalties or free kicks throughout the game for scrum dominance. It was positive to see the Brumbies driving straight through the scrum of the Blues which was no easy feat including they included two All Blacks in the Front Row of Ofa Tuungafasi and Karl Tu’inukuafe who played the majority of the game ticking over 56 minutes.
James Slipper was excellent managing Tuungafasi when on the field in the scrum. Slipper didn’t get through his normal workload only playing 29 minutes with 3 runs and 4 tackles for the game but scoring a great opportunistic try with one of those runs bouncing up to him on the wrap around after the getting up from a scrum. Folau Fainga’a was excellent tonight all across the park with 10 runs, 9 tackles, 13 line outs won and 3 try’s to his name off the back of a strong rolling maul. Folau stands head and shoulders above any other hooker currently in the Australian conference for that starting spot and the fact he is currently the leading try scorer in Super Rugby is a huge achievement. I understand a lot are of the back of the maul but he drives the maul patiently and finds the line more often than not. Alan Alaalatoa also did a fantastic job on his side of the scrum with one scrum showing how uncomfortable he made Tu’inukuafe, driving straight through his opposite and dismantling the Blues scrum. Alaalatoa managed 5 runs in the game with a huge 14 tackles but his scrumming prowess tonight puts his name right up the front for tightheads in the Wallabies. Scott Sio also contributed with 56 minutes of play making 4 runs for 31 meters and 8 tackles but didn’t miss a beat when coming into the Brumbies scrum.
I think tonight performance from the Brumbies scrum was exceptional and what a decision Dan Mckellar has each week to select between Slipper and Sio with the form both of these players are bringing to the team. I don’t think the Brumbies have been shown up by any teams yet and look forward to seeing how the rest of the season plays out and if they can maintain this form.
The Blues made the Brumbies earn this win tonight and find the Blues were very good in defence fighting for everything on their own line with aggression which makes scoring the try’s from the rolling maul the more rewarding. The Brumbies have been coached very well in changing angles slightly in the maul to get the right momentum shift and thought Carter and Swain did an excellent job of directing this in the thick of it.
The Brumbies feed the ball in and drive straight through the Blues pack. You can see how uncomfortable Alaalatoa makes Tu’inukuafe with the pressure mounted through the Brumbies.
REBELS V HURRICANES
The Rebels travelled to the Cake Tin to play the Hurricanes in expected windy conditions with the win going to the Hurricanes 29 to 19. The rebels starting the game with Tetera Faulkner, Anaru Rangi and Jermaine Ainsley against the Hurricanes Fraser Armstrong, Asafo Aumua and Jeff Toomaga-Allen.
This was clearly a game of two halves with the Rebels being put to the sword immediately facing a 26-0 score line by the 22 minute mark leaving the Rebels to do some soul searching and get back into the game. How good was the scrum of the Rebels throughout this game which applied excellent pressure to prevent the flood of attack from the Hurricanes and allowed the Rebels to get back into it.
Not a huge amount of support and discussion has been given to Faulkner and Ainsley this year considering these two are Wallabies but in this game they stood up and completely dominated Armstrong and Toomaga-Allen. The Rebels scrum earned a number of penalties for pressure at scrum time and is excellent to see a couple of extra front rowers putting their hands up to be counted. The commentators commented that the scrums were boring and sucking up too much time. I saw the Rebels using it as a weapon and there was nothing boring about it. The Hurricanes were dominating across the field in attack and the Rebels responded where their strength was evident earning penalties for their team to gain ground and sucking the life out of the Hurricanes scrum.
One area of note was the Rebels had trouble getting their rolling maul moving forward. After earning well-earned penalties from scrum time the Rebels would opt for a line out, go for the rolling maul which was defended well by the Hurricanes resulting in another penalty for various indiscretions. The Rebels continued to kick for touch when after 3 ineffective lineouts; I thought they would change tact opting for a scrum considering the night they were having. Surely this option is preferable as opposed to another lineout especially when you have the ability to walk them across the try line, maybe earn a penalty try.
The Rebels didn’t miss a beat when Matt Gibbon, Hugh Roach & Sam Talakai come on continuing the scrum dominance we had seen throughout the game. The rampaging Pone Fa’amausili also made a huge impact coming off the bench with his impact running the ball up of a lineout popping the ball to Naisarini with eventual try scorer Billy Meakes. Fa’amausili playing in the front row earlier in the season showed his ability in attack and would like to see more of him in the coming weeks.
With the Rebels well behind on the score board the Forwards were putting everything into their scrums to secure some possession. Here are 3 scrums showing Tetera Faulkner applying pressure against Toomaga-Allen and reaping the rewards.
BULLS V WARATAHS
The Waratahs faced the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in a close game but coming up short 28-21. The Waratahs continuing with their starting line-up of Harry Johnson-Holmes, Damien Fitzpatrick and Sekopu Kepu against the Bulls Lizo Gqoboka, Jaco Visagie and Trevor Nyakane.
Up front the Waratahs were dominated in the scrums and made for a very tough day for the front row. The 1st scrum of the day had the Bulls Gqoboka drive straight through Kepu but it was the blindside flanker Marco van Staden who slides up and drives through Michael Hooper that I noticed was not picked up by the referee. The camera shoots around to Johnson-Holmes side and he had dropped his bind under pressure also setting the scene for the remainder of the game.
After the 35 minute mark and another scrum being dominated by the Bulls, Phipps identifies the struggle in the front and starts to feed in immediately and scoop the ball as soon as it hits the number 8’s feet. I think he is to be given credit as this situation to often occurs with the half back slow to sweep the ball out under pressure.
Tuala replaces Fitzpatrick at the 50 minute mark and I was interested to see if he could contribute to getting the scrum stabilised but the Bulls monstered this scrum and Sinclair manages to get the ball out with a resulting try to Beale cutting a nice line in attack.
As the game progresses the Bulls continue to dismantle the Waratahs scrum and this is evident in winning the hit upon the set call. You can see the power from the Bulls back five and were lucky not to be penalised for the early push. It was clear that the Bulls were intent on upsetting every Waratahs feed. What was confusing for me was when the Waratahs fed in and played the ball, the AR made a call about the flanker (Hooper) sliding up onto the Prop and was penalised. Upon replay Hooper hardly applies any pressure as opposes to the one identified earlier in the game, more does a pirouette. I disagree with this call when the balls in play that didn’t affect the scrum in the slightest. There’s more talk this week about scrums slowing up the game, well this call is what is slowing up the game when there was no reason to call this from the touch line.
The Bulls continue to bully the Waratahs scrum for the remainder of the game and was looking forward to Robertson return into the Waratahs and was hoping he could assist in holding up the scrum but this was not to be with the Bulls continuing to demolish the scrum right across the park. Unfortunately I can’t see a technique issue from the Waratahs but were simply outmuscled from the very heavy Bulls pack. HJH, Fitzpatrick and Kepu need to recover and forget this game in the front but were promising throughout the 1st half in attack with a couple of nice turnovers from Fitzpatrick and HJH. They also contributed to a fantastic try with flick passes and the ability to keep the ball alive however over the course of the game the offloads started to become predictable and the Bulls picked them off resulting in a number of dropped balls. Back to the scrum machine this week boys.
Have a look at the outstanding scrum for the week and see how van Staden slides up the side and drives in on Kepu. I’ve noticed this becoming a trend in the game and if the penalty later in the game was anything to go off then this should have been called. The attached Gif shows the comparison between the two.
PROPS TO YOU
Scoring 3 tries is massive on the back of a very good game in the scrum and around the ground. Props to Folau Fainga’a for becoming the leading try scorer currently in Super Rugby with 10 tries.