Monday’s Rugby News recaps two thrilling Super Rugby AU contests, a wild Six Nations and details on the next Wallabies camp
GOTY Nom #1
The Brumbies and Reds have probably played out the best game of 2021 so far as the Queenslanders gained revenge for their narrow grand final loss in a 40-38 classic.
The Brumbies looked to continue their dominance at GIO Stadium, racing out to a 17-0 lead in the first 15 minutes.
The ATM (anytime try money-maker) Folau Fainga’a and Pete Samu crossed for doubles as the home side looked to cruise home for their fourth straight win in Super Rugby AU.
However, the Reds refused to give up as prop Taniela Tupou led a second-half revival.
He would score a try in the 60th minute before overpowering the Brumbies scrum six minutes later, allowing Harry Wilson to cross.
With Isaak Fines finding the line late, the Reds would pull off an impossible comeback, with James O’Connor bringing the deficit within five with a penalty.
From here, the midfield combination of Hunter Paisami and Jordy Petaia would turn to a play that nearly worked at Wallaby level against Argentina in Newcastle.
In this instance, they would find success with Petaia slingshotting his way around the goalposts and the Brumby defenders, touching down for the win.
“We like to make it hard on ourselves,” delighted Reds coach Brad Thorn said after the match.
“Putting those plays together with the pressure of the game clock and the score, and then that final play … it was good in the end.
“We’re still a bit clunky, we’ve still got work to do.”
Reds captain James O’Connor summed it up best, stating “I thought that was a great showcase of Australian rugby.”
Rebels defy light
A light outage has marred what was an excellent win by the Melbourne Rebels, defeating the Force 10-7 at HBF Park in Perth.
Returning home after their first win in Super Rugby AU, the Force fell behind after tries to Lachie Anderson and Joe Powell, trailing 10-0 after 60 minutes.
However, they would find success as they spread the ball wide, with replacement back Jack McGregor finishing off a lovely backline move.
The Rebels’ woes would be compounded when the referee went upstairs for foul play, ruling that lock Ross Haylett-Petty had made contact with the head of flanker and Argentinian international Tomas Lezana, earning a straight red card.
With the Force on the attack with eight minutes to go, the game would be halted in incredible scenes as one of the main lightning towers went out.
Referee Graham Cooper was forced to get the rule book out as officials tried to determine whether the game could continue.
As the break entered ten minutes, the referees deemed that play could restart, with the Rebels holding on for a 10-7 win.
For the Rebels, the delay was par for the course given their wild season, forced to flee Victoria in February as the state entered lockdown.
They have not been home since, playing games in Queensland, ACT and Western Australia to avoid a mandatory 14-day stay in quarantine.
“I was racing to the border, the ACT, we had 65 people in cars,” coach Dave Wessels said on the experience.
“I wasn’t sure where we were going to stay. It was midnight. I was lining up a night of sleeping in my car. So that’s where we started a few weeks ago.
“The players have really handled that well, things have been thrown at us, and it’s been a blessing for the group because it’s made us more resilient.
“The connection the group has is pretty special. I think that’s what got us over the line.”
GOTY Nom #2
Having watched the Reds-Brumbies tear the house down, the French and England sides said: hold our beers/snails as they put on a thriller at Twickenham.
France looked to make a statement after their clash with Scotland was postponed due to a COVID outbreak, with halfback Antoine Dupont crossing inside two minutes.
Despite this, England would take a 13-7 lead after twenty minutes thanks to an Anthony Watson try and a pair of penalties to Owen Farrell.
Les Blues would strike back just before the break as Damian Penaud latched onto a looping ball from Matthieu Jalibert.
Jalibert and Farrell exchanged penalties early in the second half, with the French looking like they’d break a 16-year drought at Twickenham.
However, Mr England himself Maro Itoje once again stepped up when they needed him to, crossing the line with four minutes to go to claim a famous 20-16 victory.
“I just wish there were 82,000 fans here,” England coach Eddie Jones said.
“We thought France would come out hard early. They haven’t had a game for a while and they were fresh. We had to be with them at half-time — that was our big job.
“We thought we would get them in the second half and we did.”
In the other game of the round so far, Wales continued to show why there should be Pro/Rel in the Six Nations, dominating Italy 48-7 to keep their hopes of a Grand Slam alive.
With Scotland and Ireland happening overnight, I’ll go out on a limb and congratulate Scotland on an incredible win (this will likely blow up in my face). UPDATE: It did, cheers Johnny Sexton.
After what seemed like a Possible v Probables audition game on Saturday, Dave Rennie is preparing to meet with an extended PONI (Players of National Interest) squad in the Gold Coast over the next month.
Rennie was hampered by COVID restrictions in his first year in the job, forced to wait until September for their first meeting together – three weeks before a Bledisloe Cup opener in New Zealand.
This time, the Australian coaching staff have pencilled in April 11 to meet up with Wallaby hopefuls according to the Herald, the day after Reds-Brumbies II.
They will meet in the Gold Coast, with the Rebels and Force representatives flying to Queensland following their match on Friday, with the Tahs having the bye.
“We didn’t want to disturb the Super Rugby coaches too much but we wanted some clarity and to talk about where we are before a very big year,” RA Director of Rugby Scott Johnson told The Herald.
“We don’t want the first session to be at the business end of Super Rugby. We will spend three days together where the coaches can get some things out and provide some feedback.
“It’s a big year when you look at the calendar. It’s a lot of quality opposition and that’s what we want. It’s still a developing squad on a national level. A year further on, hopefully, [we can have] better on field performances.”
With the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman slowly creeping up, Johnson has set out an ambitious target, hoping to see two Australian teams in the final (let’s face it, it’d be likely Reds-Brumbies IV if it happens)
“We want to take on the Kiwis. I want one of our teams to win Super Rugby Trans-Tasman,” Johnson added.
“We want two Australian teams in the final. I want to be clear with that. That’s the ambition.”