Monday’s rugby news sinks its teeth into Seven’s results, trial results, 6 Nations results and a bit of promotion-relegation action in the capital.
For the fourth time in as many rounds, the USA have secured second spot in the HSBC 7’s.
The perennial Garfunkel/Oates/Messina/Lisa of the Olympic version of our sport have done it again, this time coming up against a red-hot Kiwi outfit in the final, going down 21-5 at Spotless Stadium.
The win for our neighbours and the silver for our, err, allies? Leaves them tied on 76 points with Fiji slipping to third on 72 points. Australia slipped farther adrift from the coveted top 4.
Across the other matches, England took bronze ahead of Fiji, Zoot Africa blitzed Australia for 5th, while Argentina “won” 9th place in the challenge final.
While not quite as impressive as four out of four, the Black Ferns are approaching the standard set by the USA by replicating their result in all three rounds of the women’s sevens so far.
(Mind, you could argue that by virtue of last week’s Fast Four result is sort of is four out of four)
(Mind again, you could argue that by virtue of WINNING all these tournaments that the Black Ferns are absolutely on fire at the moment)
With a 34-10 victory at the expense of the hosts, the Ferns’ unbeaten run now stretches to 48 matches.
USA held out Ireland for 3rd place, Canada just edged France for 5th and Russia got the nod over Spain for 7th.
The Aussies remain in the hunt for direct Olympic qualification, they sit inside the top 4 at the half-way point of the season.
Speaking of Sevens, this instalment marked the last round in Sydney under the current agreement.
While an official announcement is still some time away, (read: months) the good word is that Sydney will continue to welcome the show to town for the next four years.
Raelene Castle is quoted as saying, “World Rugby will make that announcement over the next couple of weeks. I can’t give away too much but we are having good discussions.”
To go with not giving away too much on the future of the fixture, the location was similarly hinted at without being outright confirmed, the keen mind may just figure out that the sevens are heading west while Allianz is a construction site.
“But obviously the new western Sydney stadium is exciting because it will be bright and shiny and new and it’s a rectangle and all those things.”
I’m not sure what the criteria is but it sounds promising.
Brad Thorn has left an indelible mark on things at Ballymore already.
Unless the team starts to turn heads this year with their tough, no-nonsense approach and some long-awaited WINS, the thing he’ll be remembered most for will probably be his recruitment/retention policies.
Former Wallabies James Slipper, Karmichael Hunt and Quade Cooper are some of the biggest names to have been shown the door and none of them played any Super Rugby last year. Over the summer break, all three penned deals with new clubs and with the second “round” of trials done and dusted they’ve each had game time with their 2019 family.
Hunt, already on the outer with Queensland for his defection from league (and subsequently, the Maroons) to AFL, added further to the misery by not only being booted from the Reds’ but then signing with much-maligned Waratahs. The boys in blue travelled to Alexandra to take on Otago’s Highlanders and had a strong lead in the second chukka* before falling away 59-38.
While not the result he was after, Hunt’s new coach Daryl Gibson did praise his new recruit.
“Karmichael was excellent. He carried the ball strongly, was very strong on defence. It was his first game for a while so it was good for him to get those minutes and rugby into his legs.”
Where Hunt will slot into the Waratah’s Wallaby-rich backline wasn’t clear though, Gibson again- “We were looking for our combinations, particularly in the backline, to try to work those out.”
Meanwhile, in country Victoria, The Rebels, replete with former Red Quade Cooper, welcomed the men from XXXXLand for a friendly hit-out.
After a season of premier rugby and NRC, Cooper looks like he’ll finally get back to top-flight games this year with the southerners.
He spoke to rugby.com.au after the match,
“It felt great, it was a great opportunity to put the jumper on and play some football,
“For me it was just about getting out there and getting to know my teammates and trying to put some of the things we’ve been working on in training into practice.”
The fine print: The Rebels won the match 29-26, sorry Reds fans.
It kicked off intelligently with round 1 this weekend and the results didn’t quite go to plan.
Friday night saw France lay out the welcome mat for the Welsh and things were looking peachy for the home side as they got away to a 16-point lead when the teams headed for oranges.
Up 16-0, but having sprayed their kicks at goal almost everywhere but through the posts, Les Bleus would live to rue their missed chances as Wales, led by 2 tries to George North, came storming home to win 24-19.
The first of Saturday’s matches had Italy travelling to Murrayfield. The locals lived up to the pre-match odds, dispatching the visitors 33-20, snagging a bonus point in the process.
Our resident Italian sprinkled some parmesan on the match and cooked up this report for you.
Over to Aviva stadium, the All Black-conquering Irish met the “almost-All Black-conquering” English. Taking less than 90 seconds to score, the Poms took the early advantage into the half, with a 17 point to 10 advantage.
Things got even better for the all whites in the second half. They piled both on the points leading 32-13 with minutes to go before a late try to the Irish closed the gap to 32-20 but it was too little, too late.
Round 2 sees Scotland host Ireland, Italy welcome Wales, and England are at home to France.
Brumbies Captain Announced
The Brumbies have announced Christian Lealiifano (or Leali’ifano, if you will) as their sole captain for the 2019 season.
After a tumultuous few years for Lealiifano his presence around the club didn’t go unnoticed by coach Dan McKeller,
“Christian is our natural leader and has been for a number of years now,” he said.
“He has been a part of this club for a long time and leads through his actions … it was an easy choice for me for 2019”.
The newly-appointed skipper shared his thoughts on the year ahead saying, “This season promises to be an entertaining one with the side committed to playing a fast, attacking brand of rugby.
“We have an excellent squad with some exciting youngsters ready to shine alongside the more experienced players.”
The announcement is tempered somewhat by the news former international Sam Carter is leaving the ACT to join Ulster come the end of the year.
Carter joins an ever-growing list of fringe international players who are packing up and shipping out with Nick Phipps and Curtis Rona the latest to confirm their departures.