As a fun little intro – I just read this after I was finishing up. Ruan Smith is in Isolation awaiting results of a COVID-19 test. Given that he came off the bench against the brumbies, if he does happen to test positive (and I don’t know what the chances of that are, probably pretty small) it could have HUGE ramifications for both the Reds and Brumbies. Stay tuned to whatever rugby news you use (GAGR of course!) to keep up to date to see if they have more info!
Aaaannnnddd back to the Top 5. This week we talk final 3, look at the Good, Bad and Ugly from the weekend and take a few different trips overseas before viewinf some outstanding tries. Enjoy!
And on to the finals …
The top 3 are set, the match details are known and now it’s down to business for the final 3.
The Brumbies have the week off, and boy do they need it. Passing and catching drills a plenty at Brumbies HQ this week would be my guess. They sure didn’t look like they knew how to do either on the weekend.
On the weekend the Rebels will face an uphill battle against the Reds. The Rebels have had moments in this comp where they have looked good, but other moments when they have been far less than convincing. Two of their tightest games have been against the Force, with one going into Super time and the other being won at the death, either match could have gone the other way then I’d be talking about the Tahs right now. Then there was the draw against the Reds. They have had 2 big wins (19 points over the Waratahs and 18 points over the Brumbies) but the rest of their matches have been close.
The Reds look like they are finally putting it all together and it looks to be their game to lose on Saturday (though I am far from writing off the Rebels. I know that in this game anything can happen). They just look to be the stronger, more consistent outfit.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Good – I am pretty sure I have said this before, but my ‘good’ is having the Force back in Super Rugby. No, they weren’t as competitive as we would have liked (except against the Rebels, where they were in with every chance to win both of their games), but they also pushed the Reds. I would love to see them once they had a full pre-season, knew before the start of the season that they would be part of the competition and were not disadvantaged by being away from home for the whole competition. I think those three things could make a huge difference in how competitive they could be.
Bad – Decision making. There has been some dodgy decision making going on during matches throughout the season, I mentioned it before talking about how the Rebels managed the 10 minutes when an opposition player was in the bin, I’m going to only really mention 1 though. In the Waratahs v Rebels match in round 9, the Waratahs had to deny the Rebels a bonus point to have a better chance of making the final. They looked like they were going to win the game, were in possession of the ball, the siren had gone and the Rebels were only trailing by 6, giving them the bonus point. Michael Hooper had the ball near the sideline and rather than keep the ball in hands and try to push towards the line, he put a kick through that never looked even close to being regathered by anyone on his team. This gave the Rebels the ball, they kicked it out ending the game and finished with the bonus point they needed to knock the Tahs out. I wonder if Hooper had that time again he might re-think his kick?
Ugly – The only real ugly thing I can think of this week is the lack of basic skills from the Brumbies. 3 times close to or over the try line and 3 dropped balls. Passes behind the player or to no one, and more dropped ball than I have seen in a long time. How can they have had such poor handling in great condition when they threw the ball around so much and everything stuck against the Tahs in the rain? They conceded 28 turnovers! That is close to double their average number of turnovers conceded in their previous 7 matches.
North v South
Ok, I’ll admit it. I really enjoy watching New Zealanders play rugby. Just to be clear, I am not making any comparisons, just stating that I enjoy watching it. And on the weekend I was not let down. The North v South game was an absolute cracker, right from the opening kick-off. Caleb Clark is one of the players who stood out for me during Super Rugby Aotearoa and he was at it again in the opening seconds of the match with an incredible run after receiving the kick off. It was no surprise at all to see him in the All Blacks squad. Another player who impressed was Will Jordan, he was on the receiving end of some wonderful attacking kicks, including the last one to score what would be the winning try. The things that impressed me most was the speed. The game was so fast! There weren’t long moments at the breakdown where the 9 was waiting for the ball, it just kept moving, which made it very entertaining to watch. I hope it becomes a regular fixture in the future.
Embed from Getty Images
Across to Europe
Up in the Northern Hemisphere they are getting down to the business end of things too. In Ireland, the Guinness Pro 14 wraps up this weekend with the final between Leinster and Ulster. Leinster defeater Munster 13-3 in their Semi-final while ulster did it the hard way, coming from 19-7 down against Edinburgh, to win 22-19. If you manage to catch the game it could well be worth watching, even if only to see Former Brumbies and Wallaby players Sam Carter (Ulster) and Scott Fardy (Leinster) facing off against each other. While I’m on this game, check out here what the Pro 14 have done as a way of previewing the match up.
Meanwhile, in what I’m guessing is the longest break between rounds ever, the Champions League continues with the Quarter finals on September 19th. The last round to be played was all the way back on the 19th of January. In an all French match up, Clermont will play Racing 92 and Exeter Chiefs will play Northampton Saints. Leinster and Ulster again feature, though this time against different opposition. Ulster will be taking on Toulouse while Leinster will play Saracens. Though we don’t know yet if that will be Saracens minus one Owen Farrell.
On the weekend during the Gallagher Premiership between Saracens and Wasps, Farrell was sent off for a dangerous tackle on 18 year old Academy player Charlie Atkinson. Farrell has been criticised many times for his tackling technique and to be honest this was just plain stupid. Watch the video and judge for yourselves. Most reports are saying Farrell will most likely get a long ban which will wipe him out of the match against Leinster in just under a fortnight. Oh, and Saracens ended up losing the match too.