Hello Cobbers and welcome to episode 28 of the Chewsday Chew.
Today is the culmination of the past few months of endeavour – to select a Team of the Week from each round of the (Southern) Rugby Championship, based on a direct jersey versus jersey basis, and to then compile each week’s results to arrive at the “Southern Belles” Team of the Tourny for the 2022 edition.
Regarding a brief synopsis of this week’s games, firstly we saw the Wobblies capitulate against the Desperados (All Blacks) who were clearly in quite a mood for a game at their Mecca (Eden Park). After the Wobblies (finally) got off to a flying start, including with Jed Holloway landing what must be considered close to a lock’s wet dream of steaming deep into the Nearly All Blacks quarter with ball in hand, Jed then typified the rest of the Wobbly evening by failing to exploit the opportunity, then getting himself penalised and yellow carded shortly thereafter. As per script, the Nearlies responded by focusing on the weaknesses Oz created for ourselves (eg. going a man short in the scrum) and pretty much packed the Wobblies bags for them from that point. While the astute may say the Nearlies didn’t score during Jed’s absence, we didn’t ever get on the front foot again for the duration of the match. Essentially, the Wobblies compounded error on error, garnished it with emotional immaturity, seasoned it by aggravating the ref no end, and so served the Nearlies a dish they could devour with gusto – which they certainly did.
We can say what we like about AB indiscretions, ‘own’ tries, interpretations and refereeing inconsistencies between incidents, weeks and games (anyone pay attention to how long it took to play the other game?). But it was our Wobblies who missed 29 tackles, completed tackles at barely 80%, turned down points over points for nowt return and murdered at least 3 clear try-scoring opportunities against what is still a decidedly ordinary Desperados outfit (by their standards). That was all aside from the 16 penalties and 2 yellow cards we gave away. Thus we Aussies arguably deserved no better than to have our replacement no9 almost get himself binned for lip particularly when we had already seen how the ref responded to that tripe, and we deserved our loss when our play was as harebrained as typified by repeat-offender numbat Wright in taking a quick tap on his own, with zero support, to then kick it to the opponents and lie face-down on the turf while the ball went completely up the other end of the ground for the Darkness to score shortly thereafter. We dug our own hole. The Darkness just filled it with water.
And still our players felt entitled to whinge incessantly at the ref? Really?
Bugger me. That was hard to watch. I guess at least we did see one bit of consistency from the Wobbs – losing at Eden Park. Again.
All that said, Pistol Pete Samu continued to underline why he is possibly the greatest lost opportunity among Wobbly piggies since Scott Fardy. And captain Alaalatoa kept on plugging away bravely. And Fingers Folau, and to a lesser extent Hodge, both deserve something of a plug for surprisingly positive and energetic impacts off the bench. Alternatively, for me, the game is over for Jordan Petaia. The guy has had enough chances and produced little of real note. So let’s move on. Although at least he is still fit and at the moment that’s something.
Overall, the Wobblies have no excuses folks. They simply sucked. And so we deserve our WR ranking accordingly.
Conversely, congratulations New Zealand. You were opportunistic, ruthless and deserved your victory both on the night and overall. Particularly given the pressure piled on them in recent times, the ABs bonded, held faith with each other, rode the storm out and so took the Championship overall. No they aren’t the All Blacks of recent times. But they were good enough compared to the 2022 competition. I can’t help but thinking “Give me a champion team over a team of champions.” So full balls to them. Bastards.
Regarding the South African Catholics (because they generally hate the pill) and the Argentines (the Grandes Aterradores), there was a match that had aspirations of great things that then slowly strangled itself into oblivion. That game had all the ingredients to be truly magnificent – a pumped crowd, a Jaapie team that realised they could win the championship if they scored tries, an Argy team busting to beat the Wobblies ranking and two groups with the skills to play some electrifying footy. They had motive, means and opportunity to absolutely ‘turn one on’. But then all they gave us was a crime of a match. Seriously, I thought that was a diabolical spectacle, particularly the manner in which the 2nd half dragged out to what felt like a near millenia with stoppages. And once the Catholics realised they couldn’t score the points required to knock off the Nearlies from winning the Championship, they were quite happy to just settle in and kill the match with a sort of Chinese water torture in slow-play tactics.
I wonder how Australia’s Most Loved Mathieu Raynal would have handled that?
That said, in terms of the match itself, at the risk of attracting Rassie fan-mail, I felt the Saffas were a bit hard done by from ref Damon Murphy. Eben Etzy’s card was laughable and a clear example of someone blowing a whistle (or a TMO interrupting) and then looking for a reason to justify the stoppage. And while I am no fan of Faf Tyrian De Twerp, his card was given when he advanced in a straight line up field (so how is that entering the side of anything?) to tackle a guy who had no shoulder on the maul (so was disengaged). So that was just wrong.
Anyway, to the issue at hand…
Team Sheets for the last week:
Resulting Team of the Week:
Fronties – Simply put, I went for a Saffa front row again. They deserved it. While Cody Taylor was strong, his throwing was poor. And Mad Marx was a monster. Malherby wasn’t far behind Marx to edge out Lomax for the No3. So I then took Getcha Kitshoff for the combination effect. AB fans may feel aggrieved by the exclusion of Groot, but the Wobbs weren’t the opposition that the Argies were up-front, so Kitshoff earned his spot.
Locks – Despite his card, Etzy Etzebeth was a level above his rivals in the No4 in both set-piece and around the ground dominance. Likewise, the ageless Sam Whitelock took the No5 for the same reasons. Etzy’s closest rival was a strong performing Retallick and perhaps Sam Whitebeard may be considered a little lucky to edge out DJ Lood De Jager. But dems da breaks.
Loosies – It would be easy to just give the No6 to Siya Kolisi again. Few would likely disagree. But I felt Juan Martin Gonzalez edged Kolisi out this week. JMG’s effort and effectiveness was really something and his subtle footwork with the ball in hand (from a Cheika No6 no-less) was fantastic. Pete Samu was again the only true No7 and so nudged out Peiter SdT. And while Ardie was at his usual brutal beastliness, Jasper Wiese was a force of nature in No8, and in doing so also collected my extra point for a 6pt afternoon.
Halves – Jaden Hendrikse didn’t do much wrong but couldn’t connect with Franky Steyn, so neither was close to Aaron Smith in tandem with Richie Mo’unga who just ran amok against a fairly clueless Wobbs.
Centres – Jordie Barrett took the gong for No12 (and very nearly the extra point from Jasper) while Jesse Kriel marginally outplayed Matias Moroni for the No13 in my opinion. Len Sticky Ikitau certainly recovered from his poor showing last weekend, but Moroni and Kriel both proved themselves better options in No13 I felt. For clarity, Rieko Ioane ran powerfully most surely, but the other No13s played better No13 games in No13 jerseys.
Back3 – Caleb Clarke was just too destructive to ignore in No11 while Emiliano Boffelli’s kicking and positional play was too good to ignore for No14 even though Will Jordan is clearly scaling great heights. Beauden Barrett easily took the No15 jersey.
Reserves – Credit where it’s due with No16 going to Folau Faingaa for a real injection of energy in a lost cause. Ox Nche was clearly the most effective No17 (Bell still has much to re/learn) and Sclavi had a massive shift in No18 after coming on at the 29th minute. Nick Frost was the best of the No19s while Duane Vermeulen and Kwagga Smith had real impact in No20 & 21 alike. Hodge and Reece rounded out the 23 for mine.
My immediate reaction to that side is there are too few Nearlies for such a dominant performance especially in the forwards. And there is no reserve No9. I guess that’s a structural failing of the nature of a jersey versus jersey comparison rather than man versus man. But then again, Kwagga Smith has proven he can damn near do anything (including winning lineouts now) so with his fitness and skills background from 7s, he can cover No9 in a pinch I’m sure.
So turning to the “Southern Belles” Team of the Tourny, this has proved an interesting exercise as it developed each week. I’ve tried hard to be objective in a subjective space, and that has created some challenges especially as players were rotated (eg Marx especially). But at the end of the day, I don’t think there can be too many arguments with how the cream has floated to the top.
Firstly, I want to acknowledge the individual players who accumulated the most player points regardless of jersey or position:
So Marx is duly acknowledged as the Player of the Tourny in my opinion, although he did accumulate points in 2 different jerseys (No2 & 16). He was followed closely by Siya Kolisi with 23pts all in the No6 jersey. And I must say, it was surprising to see Hodge – the Wobbs 2nd most criticised player behind Foley – do so well overall. From that 17 players who reached double figures, not a bad squad arises in its own right.
When compiling the Team of the Tourny, I was also conscious of what a 2nd XV would look like. But to do that, I had to be mindful of physics; that a person cannot be in two places at once. As such, below I have listed the 1st XV based on points awarded in that jersey, and then who would be their ‘second’ but with the caveat that once a name was used in the 1st XV, it couldn’t be used in the 2nd XV and so the ‘3rd’ name was promoted up. Also, you will see I denoted captains, including a replacement captain, with the copyright symbol (blame auto-correct).
So with that in mind, the Southern Belles of the 2022 Rugby Championship are (in my opinion anyway):
Now a few names and positions jump up here;
Firstly, reserve halfback is interesting. Note that in the 1st XV there is no recognised reserve halfback whereas in the 2nds there are 2. Clearly this would be corrected by any coach and my guess would be that Faf De Twerp would simply swap with Kwagga Smith.
Secondly, there is a real argument that the 1st XV replacement front-row would rather be the 2nd XV starters (I would be anyway). But that’s how it went.
And lastly, there are some names that I would have thought would surface, but didn’t. I think Montoya, de Allande and Luke Am must all be considered quite unlucky, but none more so than Ardie Savea who was a destructive force to be reckoned with in all games. Ardie was consistently pipped by Big Bobby Valetini and then Jasper Wiese in the last outing, so he just didn’t accumulate the points in the No8 head to head contest. Dems da breaks.
To close it all out, I give you Nutta’s Selection based on anyone who played any match in this tournament, regardless of any jersey, just because I can…
Nothing in there is particularly surprising other than perhaps Jimmy Slipper missing out due to the penalties he conceded. So Groot took his place. I took Montoya because someone killed his father so they must prepare to die (luv that movie). And Ardie Savea missing out on the Southern Belles altogether was a crime that deserved rectification. And I put Rieko Ioane where he should be, although I confess to some second thoughts regarding including him at all based on some questionable exhibited behaviours.
Anyway, the job is done. I hope you all enjoyed the show and feel free to rip and tear below and tell me the sixty-two ways from last Sunday why my selections are completely wrong.
Peace. Out. Nutta.