Welcome to Monday’s Rugby News, GAGRs! Well, what a weekend that was… I’m still riding the high of the Wallabies win, especially so after being placed in mandatory isolation due to ‘The Fucking Rona’ (addendum… Negative!). Well, all the more time to re-watch the match! I have some extra thoughts after Sully’s post-game wrap on both games, where the four sides go to in the last two games and my perspective of the refereeing. I won’t get to it in the articles, but the Ranfurly Shield match for the Log ‘o’ Wood over the Ditch was a cracker, too. Perhaps some sneaky Stan-watching whilst pretending to work is in order? Happy Monday, all!
Wallabies v DDFs
Now that the Dutch dirt has settled, so to speak, let’s think with slightly less emotion and with a blood alcohol level closer to the legal limit… even if it is a Monday!
Firstly, lets consider the positives:
- We fucking won! Again! Hooray!
- It was a convincing win. Despite the statistic of 41% possession to the Wallabies according to ESPN and a territory split of 40% to 60% to the DDFs, the Wallabies were able to outscore the Bokke four tries to one. Indeed, what is more incredible is that the Wallabies surrendered 69% territory in the second half and conceded zero tries. On top of this, we turned over possession 9 times to the Bokke’s 12 times. A tackle completion rate of 94% (95/101 against 50/69 for 72%) and a forward pack securing 12/14 lineouts and 3/4 scrums. Hats off to the defensive work from the coaching staff, but a standing ovation to the players for actually doing the hard yards. Other key stats include 19 to 9 defenders beaten, 9 to 1 clean breaks and 7 to 2 offloads. Well done, attack coach! What really stood out though was that things were going right. There was barely even a hint of an intercept pass…. Hallelujah!
- Some players really standing up. The ‘Pick ‘n’ Stick’ approach employed for the match by Rennie, et al. (much to my dismay for LS and FF) demonstrated faith in the side selected. Whilst the whole team was, in their own way, mostly excellent, some players genuinely stood out: Nela with a 78 min shift, two line breaks and one filthy pass that will surely see him given a written warning from the Front Rowers’ Club, Ikitau with three line breaks, solid defensive reads and two well deserved tries, Quade muscling up in D with 100% tackle completion amongst others. The key facet though… every player stood up and did their CORE ROLE.
- Players then stood up in massive moments. Think Hooper, then Kerevi stealing the pill in the dying minutes; Philip chasing Samu down in support; Ikitau’s perfect drift defence when overlapped. Well done, lads!
The not so good:
- Losing Banks was actually a bad thing. I am a champion of Banks, and I was very happy to see him given a consistent run. Well, we certainly missed him at the back after his broken arm. Not only could poor Reece Hodge not catch a cold, but there was clearly some disjoint with the wingers. Credit to Hodge though in effecting some excellent kick chase and heavy defensive work, including a tackle forcing a turnover, and a turnover that lead to a try. That said, his core role is to catch the pill, which he did not do. He may well pay the price for this at the selection table.
- Lachie Swinton. I called for his proverbial head last week, preferably so he wouldn’t take another opposition player’s head off. Well, he came within a bee’s dick of copping a second vino in six matches. Irrespective of the laws, irrespective of the TMO and referee discussion, etc., he simply is not learning. He is running a 50% strike rate for cards in his Wallaby career, which is beyond unacceptable. Rennie was quite right post-match in laying the blame firmly at Swinton’s feet. Although not expecting mass changes this coming weekend, I daresay we will see Mad Dog McMahon swapping places whilst Swinton does some remedial coaching with Dan McKellar. Whilst it would gall this fanatical Ponies’ fan to help a Tah in need, a few sessions with Lord Laurie Fisher for this errant Horrortah could well sort him out…. for Australia’s sake!
- Our restarts. We give away too many penalties too soon after restarts, or lose possession. This is the next area that will be critical to sort out prior to the Pumas. That said… the plan for the kick-off ought to be kick it to Matera then bosh him for the third week in a row.
- Our inability to close out the last minutes. With a bonus point up for grabs for the Wallabies, and for the DDFs to deny, it was a critical passage of play. These are the moments that we must be better. Reds fans will know what can happen when discipline is not maintained (right, Fraser…) until the very end. A poor penalty of sealing off, which has become a focus point for WR and teams knew about it, could have been the difference, especially in a future RWC game. I’m sure Rennie and co will note this.
Kiwis v Pumas
Not really a huge amount to write about this game. The Kiwis were running riot from the get go and the Pumas, despite avoiding a third straight nude run for scoring a globe, were never in the hunt. Indeed, it seemed like the TMO didn’t realise that Koroibete had stopped playing in the match earlier, such was the intervention to deny tries! Ha! Even with a relatively different side from the previous match (some 11 changes), the Kiwis looked firmly in control.
One player who seems to be really making a statement is young Ethan Blackadder. I heard/read somewhere that his almost old-school style of play allows the more flashy backrowers to really shine. This spells trouble for the DDFs who have looked completely off the pace in their matches against Australia. I suspect trouble is coming for the Bokke…. though I do wonder if there will be some sort of emotional reaction, more out of embarrassment, this coming week.
Where to Next for the Four Sides?
Wallabies: Have two games up their sleeves to really set themselves up for the Japan and Autumn European Tour against some tough opponents. This isn’t taking anything away from the Pumas who, in fairness, did look better than they have. Their combinations are really starting to gel and, pending injury, etc., I don’t see the side changing all that much. Perhaps, in the final test against Los Pumas, there may be a chance to blood some young’uns who have been stuck holding tackling bags for the past month. Winning on the oft occasion hasn’t been the problem; it has been stringing consecutive wins together. Granted, over the last two years, we have disproportionately played against the ABs, so that was always going to be a tough ask. More importantly, two good wins here really sets up the Wallabies to be the team Australia wants to back. I think many comments on social media are complete shit, so comments along the lines of, ‘rugby is dead in this country’ are total bollocks. I digress that our administrators haven’t helped out (until VERY recently), but there remains a massive population ready and willing to really get behind a team that represents the nation with pride and passion. Winning helps, too!
Kiwis: Similar to the Wallabies, they have two tests to really mark themselves as the #1 side in the world. They haven’t had the opportunity to test themselves up against the Bokke in almost two years, so I daresay there will be plenty of focus on this match from the side Foster selects. Comments over the last two seasons from fair weather Bokke supporters and their arrogant ‘journalists’ will definitely have a bonfire lit.
DDFs: I suspect they’re in deep ‘Bokke kak’ (thank you, Google Translate for that one…). There was a certain undercurrent of panic stations and a disregard, almost arrogance, from the Boks prior to playing Australia. It’s almost as though they thought they’d have it easy and were duly shocked the Wallabies didn’t roll over. I must say, the Wallabies have definitely benefitted from SR TT, French series and Bledisloe games, even if the experience was partly painful. Well, the Bokke’s task is all that much harder with a team reeling in confidence and coaching staff who are shitting bricks without their perpetual defender, Rassie. This could be a defining moment for Nienaber and his staff. One thing is for certain… the fans, true or fair weather, and ‘journos’ will not tolerate four straight losses to their Southern Hemisphere
comrades opponents. Indeed, I’m not even sure what game plan they will attempt to use, let alone if they can match the Kiwis across the park. Personally, I hope the Kiwis stuff them. It might then be the catalyst that the Bokke need to sort their miserable ‘skop en jaag’ out once and for all.
Pumas: They have absolutely nothing to lose now. Comprehensively beaten and outplayed in their previous four matches, they can go for it. This is danger for Australia, who must be wary of not losing their momentum. The Pumas did look a lot better than they had done in their previous matches. Spending more time together after an incredibly short preparation time in RSA then pulling up stumps to travel to Queensland is no easy task and we both sympathise and congratulate them on even being where they are now. Even with the Clown in the coaching box, expect our Spanish-speaking friends to not hold anything back.
Addendum: if ever there was a case study to keeping your players playing locally and with each other, not scattered around the world, this is it. The loss of the Jaguares has set Los Pumas back an entire cycle, which will be difficult to come back from.
Perspective on Refereeing
I stated a number of weeks ago that it would be interesting to see, in particular, the English match officials in action over the course of the Championship. Whilst I will stick to my usual script of not going into particular decisions nor criticising my fellow referees, I do have some thoughts:
- The RFU referees take no shit when it comes to slowing the game down. This, for me, is crucial. For too long, we have players tactically going down and then medics coming on and fucking around. Whilst it is difficult to deny proper medical attention, I was pleased that both Pearce and Carley (and even Jaco Peyper from RSA) getting the game going as quickly as possible.
- The Faf yellow card was an outstanding piece of refereeing. Not only was the play stupid, it was as cynical as it can get. Whilst many will consider a cheese to be a negative, I see it as positive refereeing. It shows that stupidity will be punished and that the referee is in firm control of the game. Generally speaking, referees can be gun-shy with the cheese card in this circumstance (for many reasons, but they do). Personally, this is the type of card we ought to see more of.
- The communication, love it or hate it, from the RFU referees in particular is getting the thumbs up. Curiously, the penalty count has increased with it. Whilst I have refereeing colleagues who are not quite fans of the almost friendly authoritarian style of the RFU referees, the plaudits of ‘clear and consistent’ are ringing. Perhaps it’s because we’re winning ;)
In the Wallabies v South Africa game, Matthew Carley awarded 27 penalties (17-10 against Australia). To put this into perspective, there were 28 penalties in the match a week earlier, 27 penalties in the 3rd Lions Test, 25 in the 2nd and a mere 22 in the 1st test (Rassie-gate). Looking even deeper, Peyper blew 18 penalties in the Pumas v ABs this weekend gone, versus 29 the week before under Nic Berry (the referee who only found fault 22 times in the first test of the BIL tour). In the Perth test, Damon Murphy ‘only’ blew 22 penalties; the second Eden Park test was a mere 20 (Pickerill) and the first test was, again, 27 (Williams).
It’s interesting that some of the ‘better games’ had higher penalty counts. For me, a high penalty count isn’t always a bad thing. I recall a certain Super Rugby final (admittedly played under ELVs) where the final score was 61-17. The penalty count was well into the 30s! That all being said, what I, and referee coaches, would be looking for with a high(er) penalty count is appropriate sanctions i.e. yellow cards. A low (particularly an extremely low) penalty count isn’t always a good thing, either (think Bryce Lawrence 2011 semi-final as an example, where he admitted post-tournament that he got it wrong by allowing too much go). It is correct that the rough guide to a penalty count in a match is 20. That certainly doesn’t mean referees aim for that amount, nor do they stop at that mark (think Egon Seconds 20-1 against the Reds as an example of what, well, not to do… I think I’ll allow myself to say that just for you, KARL!) or get gun shy approaching that amount. It is important for a referee to be aware of the penalty count, and, more crucially, trends in the game which can then lead to ‘giving the cheese!!’ A trend is either repeated infringements of the same type (e.g. ‘tackler not rolling’) OR infringements (not necessarily of the same kind… a variety of penalties in certain areas of the field is a trend in itself) in the same area of the field OR a combination of the two (e.g. “every time we’re down here, it’s the same penalty).
Personally, I quite like the approach the RFU referees are taking (some more examples of the pace the referees are moving the game along in the Premiership which kicked off this weekend, too. Stan have all the games) though I don’t always like the chummy nature of the chat, e.g. the captain’s name is ‘Captain’ and everyone else is whatever number they are! Each to their own though.