Welcome, G&GRs, to another week of rugby. Well, folks, the 6 Nations has certainly been a cracker thus far…hopefully this meme ages well… but all to be revealed while most of us will be tucked in bed as warm and cosy as cinnamon buns. In other news, I’ll have you up-to-date with the latest Super Rugby Pacific news, including the link for the G&GR Superbru tipping competition, some highlights from the weekend and a refereeing initiative.
Jocks v Taffs: Well, in true Jock fashion, they have lived up to expectation one week then embarrassed themselves (somewhat) the next. The parallels to being a Wallaby fan are eerily similar…
The game itself though was actually pretty decent viewing. Indeed, the opening five minute salvo was breathless… even Dan Biggar couldn’t whinge to Nic Berry! Whaat! Although the Jocks mostly played well, you’re only as good as the game in front of you. While the media are trouncing Finn Russell, perhaps with some justification, you do have to take these types of players with a grain of salt. Indeed, I doubt there’ve have been many Scottish players who would’ve had the time, space and vision for Darcy Graham’s first try (very impressive giving LRZ the old heave ho, too). In the end, for me, Stuart Hogg summed up his side’s performance well:
“Their captain, Stuart Hogg, told the BBC: “We’re bitterly disappointed. The stuff that we’re in control of, when we’re on the front foot, we’re really dangerous … We’re a lot better than what we showed…. You have to take your opportunities or you get on the wrong end of scorelines. We gave away penalties and Wales cheap field position, easy avenues into the game, and that’s the frustrating part. It’s a horrible feeling right now but that’s Test match rugby.” Well put. Although doubtless unintelligible with the Scottish accent, I wouldn’t want to be on the end of Gregor Townsend’s post-match spray.
Frogs v Irish: Golly goodness me! This was a match that will be remembered for quite some time with the French confirming their favouritism for a 6N crown with their defeat of the Men in Green. Another fast starting game with both sides crossing for tries. Whereas the French try were smart in building up and outstanding in execution, the Irish team’s first try was down to timing, hard work and a poor defensive read. This is the sort of training run try that has a 1/100 chance of working; however, credit to Hansen for being in the right place at the right time and with the right perseverance. When it works you sure do look good and make the opposition look foolish in equal measure! From there, the French took control of the game for a period of time through pressure on the field and the scoreboard. My good mate, Josh van der Flier, whom I had as one of my students on my Irish GAP year, and is one of the nicest blokes you’ll ever meet, scored a meat pie, as did Gibson-Park, and all of a sudden it was down to a one-point ball game. Alas, the Irish forgot about the 16th-50,00th players, the French crowd. With a rousing rendition of the bloodthirsty anthem, Les Marseilles, the French held off the Irish to come away with a 30-24 win.
Italy v Soap Dodgers: TBC…. But I know what most of us are hoping for. Indeed, a repeat of the U20s version… albeit with a rugby score, not a soccer score, would be nice!
Ominously, the competition’s first game has been postponed after a covid outbreak in the Moana Pasifika camp in Queenstown. While we hope this will be the only match thus affected, it would be folly to assume that this is the last we see of the havoc of previous seasons. From all us at G&GR, I wish the best for the recovering players. We look forward to seeing MP on-field soon!
The Drua played a scintillating trial game against the Rebels at the home of the Harlequins in Melbourne. On a bloody hot afternoon (I know this as I volunteered to referee the curtain raiser 🥵), the Drua scored first to put the pressure on the home side. From there, it was reasonably tit-for-tat, with the Drua scoring two typically Pasifika-style, long range, tries. My concern for the Drua would be their scrum which was easily dominated in the first third. They did regain some parity; however, this may be an Achilles heel in the season. Similarly to the Tahs v Reds match, which rugby.com.au tried to pass off as some sort of Championship winning victory (come on, lads…), it is still a trial match so only so much can be read into the results.
The Tahs v Reds match almost never started, with an 80 minute delay due to a power outage. From there, another game that I wish had been televised on Stan rather than a flaky stream via the Reds website. Again, in the knowledge that this was a trial, it was positive to see some improvement (well, they couldn’t get worse… surely?) from the Tahs. Some big hits and positivity from the young Blues put pressure on the Reds. For their part, the Reds took their opportunity to blood players, both on to the field and into various positions on the field. They will both be better for the run in the lead up to this weekend.
Super W: Pleasing to see some of the Super W trials starting to happen with the Ponies playing the Rebels in Albury, with the Ponies coming away with the win. Personally, I really feel like we have slipped WAYYYYY behind the 8 ball in the Women’s game. That some of our best players have gone to NZ for a season is a blight on our competition, particularly in the lead up to a W-RWC.
The link to the Superbru competition for 2022 is here:
Although, in modern parlance, “you’re all winners” (haha, get fuccckkeedd), the eventual winner will be provided an opportunity to brag for a year! Pretty damn good prize if you ask me!
Again the leaders of rugby innovation, NZR have developed a programme where the leading referees will be matched with a Super side for the season. This has a two-fold purpose:
- To allow the sides access to a top referee
- For the referee to have access to a training facility whereby they are not as isolated in their own development.
One referee has been assigned to each of the country’s five teams, with Brendon Pickerill joining the Blues, Mike Fraser the Chiefs, Ben O’Keeffe the Hurricanes, Paul Williams the Crusaders, and James Doleman the Highlanders (these are roughly geographic ties, too).
The five officials won’t referee any games involving the respective team they are assigned to, with Blues coach Leon MacDonald labelling the move by NZR as “fantastic”.
“I’m really excited by it. All the clubs have got a referee attached to them as part of the club, so Brendon’s part of the Blues team,” MacDonald told reporters earlier this week.
“His job’s to help us understand the laws and help us be better, and our job’s to help him train and be better. He won’t referee any of our games, but those refs, they have it difficult.
“They train by themselves, all their running and their fitness, their reviews, are all done at home by themselves, so he’ll get into the middle of our trainings and he looks at pictures and he can review trainings like we do as players.
“He’s got the same opportunity to prepare every week as a player does, which is just going to make him better. A great initiative and I think it’s smart by New Zealand Rugby and the referees to do so, so some positive stuff around the referees.”
MacDonald made note of the benefit the Blues will have by having Pickerill onboard when it comes to understanding the laws of the game.
“We want to know where the letter of the law is because we want to play up to it, but it’s good to have him here instead of us guessing to sometimes find out, so it’s definitely a positive move.”
SOME CRAZY HIGHLIGHTS
“Thanks” to that other sporting website that rhymes with ‘Da Poor’…
Quade being Quade here
Lukhanyo Am here
Mack Hansen here
Happy Monday, GAGRs! Here’s to a cracking Super Rugby Pacific 2022!