Welcome to Monday’s Rugby News, G&GRs!
Well, fuck me, what a weekend that was. It’s going to be a bitch to unpack all of it… but I’ll give it a fair shake of the sauce bottle so to speak. We’ll go through Super Rugby, Super W, Super Aupiki and the 6 Nations. If you’re still conscious at the end of the articles… well done! If not… enjoy your well earned slumber, especially if you’re in a state/territory that has a long weekend!
SUPER RUGBY – ROUND FOUR
Blues v Highlanders – Despite some late withdrawals due to Covid, the Blues were able to secure victory over the Highlanders. With a shabby first half, the Highlanders earned a 13-3 half time lead. Unfortunately for them, they were not able to keep pace with their northern rivals. Taine Plumtree, in his second start, blitzed through for two tries of his own to rally the Blues. If anything, the Highlanders were guilty of not being able to maintain possession thus allowing their opponents to capitalise ruthlessly. This was ominous for the rest of the round, as was the chaos of the extra ten minutes of play with both teams searching for a last-gasp try. Blues 32 – Highlanders 20
Rebels v Brumbies – I had the pleasure of attending the match at AAMI Park with my students, most of whom had never been to a rugby match. Unfortunately, the first 20 minutes of the match left them all searching for their phones and for doughnuts. It was bloody dreadful. All of a sudden, the match screamed to life (with all 20 or so fans there cheering) with the Brumbies and Rebels almost going tit for tat in the try scoring department. With this were some mesmerising runs from Bobby Valetini, whom the students audibly gasped at when he made a few shuddering hits in defence, and some slick handling skills from the Brumbies who were able to use their common sense with a man overlap on the wing. Somehow, the Brumbies scored six tries in what seemed next to no time, which was probably due to not having Nic White fucking around on the field (best cheese of the week for sure!). The match finished in strange scenes as the Brumbies did absolutely anything they could legally (and even more illegally) to prevent the Rebels from crossing. In a no-win situation for the Brumbies, who could only have their for and against slightly ruined, the Rebels who could only do the opposite, and poor referee Graham Cooper who was caught in the middle of a lot of shitfuckery with next to no options apart from starting the ‘weekend of cheese and wine’ off nicely. Indeed, after a Brums replacement prop got the cheese, to which stand-in captain James Slipper replied to Cooper, “yeah, that was fair enough’ along with a warning about repeat infringements, it was ironic to see Slipper receive the cheese himself pretty much at the next ruck! Incredibly, the Rebels were unable to capitalise on a two-man overlap and failed to score. I have serious questions about the Rebels, especially around game smarts. Two Brumbies props off and you go for a quick tap?! Oh my days… Brumbies 36 – Rebels 17
Crusaders v Chiefs – Well, this was not the result I tipped! And what a match this was, too. Setting the Saturday evening off in stunning fashion saw the Chiefs take the spoils in ChCh. A strong start by the Saders saw them lead at half-time and stretch this advantage to 21-10 with a try to Ennor in the 46th minute. This is about when I stopped watching as I actually had to supervise at school. As the Kiwis say, ‘Nek Minnut’ I looked at the scores to see the Chiefs had won in the 83rd minute! Whaaat!? Not only was this the Chiefs’ first win in ChCh in six seasons, but the first Crusaders loss in 11 matches over two seasons (according to ESPN… I didn’t have time to fact check this). Both the Reds and Brumbies will be thanking the Chiefs for that one. Chiefs 24 – Crusaders 21
Reds v Drua – This is the match where I expect a lot of the comments to be about. Casting aside the cheese smorgasbord for a moment, how bloody good was the last 20 or so minutes of this match?! Of course, there were a lot of circumstances to lead to this point, but the Drua still had to go out there and perform. I said it last week and I’ll say it again… I’m bloody glad my Brums have their match against the Drua out of the way as they are learning and improving each week. Indeed, their style of play is almost forcing the hand of the remaining Australian sides which is no bad thing. That all being said, the Drua’s Achilles heel came back to get them with a dysfunctional lineout robbing them of an opportunity to press for a win at the death. These small areas are where they are not quite hitting their straps. These take time; however, I would suggest that they have a pass mark for the season already as they are both competitive and have won a game! Reds 33 – Drua 28
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I present the cheese smorgasbord:
- Nasser (R) – no arms tackle. Tough (maybe even harsh) but, to the letter of the law, justified. Once the TMO gets involved then it’s bloody hard to go to PK only*
- Hoopert (R) – late, no arms. Pretty silly really and probably deserved a cheese purely for that reason alone. Unfortunately for Hoopert, once Nasser got his cheese then it was always going to end with some cheese for Hoopert, too.
- Tawake (D) – lifting clean out with mitigating factors. Yellow fair enough. There is argument for a second cheese here to the Drua as well.
*Now, as a referee, I’m absolutely no fan of the TMO interjections. I’m firmly in the Nigel Owens camp (no, not that one!) of the TMO only interjecting for serious foul play i.e. an action that would meet the red card threshold. Unfortunately, Tim Horan nailed it on air when he described ‘the elephant in the room, which is pending litigation against World Rugby for failure to reasonably protect players. Fucking lawyers (bar those present on G&GR of course…).
In a unique turn of events, even some of the commentary were in support (well, kinda) of the referees (no, not you Mehrts). Drew Mitchell said, “I’m empathetic to the referees because, by the letter of the law, by process, they’ve got it right,” Mitchell said. My frustration is more with World Rugby. It takes the pulse out of the game and is having too much of an impact.” and… “Former Wallaby Morgan Turinui quipped the officials were “still working out the mathematics of who goes where”, but he had some sympathy for their position. Over-arching all of this is they are World Rugby laws and directives that they are obliged to put in place,” Turinui commented.
A first half that went for almost an hour is ridiculous. While the outcomes are correct, the spectacle and entertainment factor is diminishing. Indeed, a crowd of sweet fuck all at many of the games demonstrates this. SANZAAR have a dilly of a pickle on their hands which they’ll have to be brave to rectify.
An extra explanation here about the final ruck movements prior to Uru scoring:
The GMG (Game Management Guidelines) clarification from (I think) 2019 about what constitutes ‘side entry’ is that a player who comes across on an angle, then, from the hindmost point (NOT foot anymore), proceeds to clean out in a straight line is acceptable. I digress in that #4 Red was exceptionally borderline and it definitely looked a lot worse than what it actually was; however, if applying the GMG principles, it would have been quite a tough penalty. Indeed, based on this understanding, and having myself watched the replay at least ten times, it is not clear and obvious based on the current interpretation. In previous seasons, this may well have been a different picture; however, this is the guideline that match officials are progressing under at present. Added to this was that ‘the gate’ was quite wide with McReight falling across the pitch (i.e. east to west rather than north to south) which widened the hindmost point. If you watch closely, it is almost impossible to tell for certain (sans getting drone footage or similar) whether #4 Red was ‘in from the side’.
Waratahs v Force – The Tahs have won another match! I hope Hoss is alive… and for the second week in a row, the Force have let me down in the tipping stakes. Booo! Despite a hectic injury list in the lead up to the game, the Tahs were able to contain the Force men, who were unable to capitalise on many of the opportunities presented to them. A cheese to Feleti Kaitu’u, who continued the streak of captains sitting on the naughty seat, cost the Force severely. Somehow, after an annus horribilis in 2021, the Tahs are sitting well within the reach of the finals (for now). Tahs 22 – Force 17
Hurricanes v Moana Pasifika – Postponed. Moana are cursed! I don’t think they’ll have the depth to challenge teams with the schedule they have coming up either.
Rebels v Brumbies – In a match that went down the wire, the Rebels and Brumbies split the points at AMMI Park with a 17 all draw. The atmosphere at the game, dare I say it, was better than the men’s match later in the evening. Well done, yet commiserations, to both sides.
Reds v Fijiana – The Fijiana have cemented themselves as a team to challenge the Waratah women’s dominance in the competition with a resounding victory over the Reds. Scoring 12 points in the first half and 17 in the second, the Fiji side kept the scoreboard pressure on their opposition despite the Reds having significantly more possession and territory. It’s amazing what happens when you take the chances you’re offered! Indeed, Reds captain Shannon Parry said, “You give them an extra possession and they kill you.” Preach! Fijiana 27 – Reds 12
Pleasingly, at least one person at Nine/Stan/RA read my article last week as there is actually some coverage in the media about the Womens’ matches. About fucking time.
Waratahs v Force – The Tahs continue their unbeaten streak in the Super W competition with a 31 – 14 victory over the Force. What was even better was seeing many of the crowd at Leichhardt Oval sticking around to watch after the men’s match. As Justin Harrison said, ‘there’s still plenty of beers and pies’. Hear hear, Goog! The match showed the defensive prowess of each side. With scores level and both sides in a desperate arm wrestle for ascendancy, the Tahs introduced flanker Ella Koster. At 16 years and 7 months, Koster became the youngest Waratah in history and was incredibly impressive in her debut performance. On the back of 65% of possession, the Tahs women finally cracked the Force defence and an amazing individual effort from Bridie O’Gorman saw the NSW lead race to 24-14. O’Gorman’s try was easily the highlight of the match and characteristic of the props relentless best-on-ground performance.
Chiefs Manawa v Matutū – In the first professional women’s rugby game in New Zealand, the Chiefs Manawa (meaning ‘heart’) came up against the Matutū who represent the combined South Island teams of the Crusaders and Highlanders with the Manawa side leaving with a 17 – 15 victory. In an entertaining game despite the Covid crisis enveloping New Zealand at present, the teams gave it their all and the result, setting the trend for the rest of the weekend, went down to the final play. A missed conversion was all that separated the teams from golden point. After years of fucking about at an organisational level, it’s fantastic to see a proper Women’s professional game happening.
6 NATIONS – ROUND FOUR
England v Ireland – By Robert Kitson (The Guardian). It’s far better than what I could have written!
It is not every day that England lose a massive home game by a record margin and still feel a quiet pride at the final whistle. If the scoreboard looks lopsided it did not reflect a contest which, in its way, will give the hosts more satisfaction than their victory over Wales last month. Ireland’s 6 Nations title hopes remain alive but playing with an extra man for 78 minutes proved significantly less comfortable than they might have expected. Not until their replacements Jack Conan and Finlay Bealham put an emerald gloss on the margin in the last six minutes did the visitors manage to pull away and secure their four-try bonus point. What might have unfolded had the Bath lock Charlie Ewels not been shown a red card after just 82 seconds is a legitimate debate but there were also moments when a raucous home crowd dared to believe a rugby miracle might just be possible. It did not pan out that way, leaving England to head to Paris to try to deny France a grand chelem and avoid suffering a second consecutive bottom-half finish. There was more than enough defiance, though, shown by Maro Itoje, Ellis Genge, Sam Simmonds and a number of their teammates to hint at a more hopeful medium term future. Top-level sport is about retaining composure and Ewels, on this occasion, conspicuously failed the test when he clattered James Ryan with the game barely begun. As red cards go it was absolutely nailed on, and precisely the kind of upright tackle the sport is trying to eradicate. If the crowd should have been sorry for anyone it was Ryan, led groggily away with his own eagerly-awaited afternoon prematurely ended.
My favourite part – The subsequent boos aimed at the referee Mathieu Raynal, sadly, further underlined how many casual rugby fans still need educating on head injury avoidance and the manner in which the laws have now been tightened to assist that aim. Either way, it was the quickest sending-off in championship history and England’s quickest since Mike Burton was dismissed against Australia in 1975 in the infamous Battle of Ballymore.
Addenda – an article from the SMH (sigh) about a tragic incident a few years ago that is relevant to the concussion protocol.
I do wonder how long it’ll take both for the RFU to demand the red card replacement laws be introduced in the North…. I daresay it’ll be as long as it takes for Eddie to realise that Maro Itoje is their best lock! Ireland 32 – England 15
Wales v France – In a tough match between bitter foes, the French have kept their grand slam hopes alive after defeating Wales in Cardiff. Raphaël Ibañez, the French manager, summed up the match perfectly: “It was a tense battle with many mistakes, but winning the game [gives us] a great opportunity next week. Sometimes, you play outstanding rugby… sometimes you have to have discipline, do well in the set piece.” It might not look it by the scorecard, but this was definitely a match that lived up to the hype of the 6N and could well be the type of match that France needed before a ‘Le Crunch’ game against the English in Paris next weekend. France 13 – Wales 8
Italy v Scotland – In all but a dead rubber with the Scots aiming to avoid fifth place, the opening quarter of the match was a dour affair littered with errors from both sides. Fortunately, each side were able to sharpen their respective skills and enlivened the 50% capacity crowd with eight tries between them; however, Scotland (like the Wallabies it seems) always have that little bit extra that separates them from the best teams in the world. A match up next week with Ireland, where they’ll be aiming to spoil the chances of the Irish claiming the crown, looms. The Italians have a dead rubber against the Welsh to finish their campaign.
RWC 2023 News
The Georgians have benefited from the CUNTry who shall not be named (spelling intended) with qualification for the RWC in France next year. Congratulations! See below from World Rugby:
Four days after Georgia became the 15th nation to confirm their presence at Rugby World Cup 2023, Spain could add their name to the list of participants in France next year.
Much depends on what happens in Bucharest the day before but if Romania lose or fail to get a bonus-point draw at home to Georgia Los Leones will go into their derby match with Portugal on Sunday knowing that any form of win will be enough for them to qualify as Europe 2.
Victory at the Estadio Central de la Universidad Complutense would ensure Spain finish second in the combined Rugby Europe Championship 2021 and 2022 standings no matter the result of their final match against Georgia next Sunday when the destiny of the 2022 title could be on the line.
Spain currently lead the 2022 Championship standings with 13 points, two more than Georgia and Portugal – both awarded four competition points against Russia – with Romania fourth on eight points. The Netherlands are fifth with four points and Russia bottom with one
A first-ever Rugby Europe Championship title would be a tangible reward for the progress Spain have made in the last 12 months but, for now, all that matters is securing their place at a second Rugby World Cup.
Georgia top the RWC 2023 qualification table on 35 points – 10 clear of Spain who also have two games left to play. Portugal are level on 25 points with Spain but only have one game remaining. Romania, who are fourth on 22 points, are the only other team in the running for either Europe 2 or a place in the Final Qualification Tournament.
Funnies from the Weekend
From Jarvo69 finally getting belted by security to Wayne Barnes stitching up his own assistant referee, here are some amusing memes and anecdotes from the weekend: