National Rugby Championship

The Tuesday Top 5 (late edition)

The Tuesday Top 5 (late edition)

This week’s Tuesday Top 5 has a Wallaby win, asks if the glass is half full or half empty, and we have the Pumas getting even more dangerous and the weekends NRC.

The Wallabies win! Glass half full.

It has been a long time coming but the Wallabies finally got their act together to get the win. It was interesting to see the evolution of the game style and the correction of some of the ongoing issues that have plagued the Wallabies through the first 2 games.

Having a look at the stats there are some really interesting differences.

Stats RC first 3 weeks

The Wallabies backs finally started running with Kerevi leading the way with 115m of his own, beating 4 defenders and offloading twice. Cooper also proved to be fleet footed beating 5 defenders. It was good to also see Hodge working hard with 7 carries even though he didn’t get any space to run.

Finally they started throwing some offloads; almost 3 times as many in this week than the previous 2 weeks, while creating more clean breaks and beating more defenders. So clear proof that we are attacking the line but now with variety rather than the bashing through approach.

Kicking in play – smarter and a massive improvement. Cooper and Genia were the difference here with 18 kicks. It’s interesting that even with more kicks there were more run metres. This is a similar trait to the AB’s kick / run metre stats.

Quade Cooper clears the ball

Quade Cooper clears the ball

Defensively we improved our tackle effectiveness by more than 10%. It’s still not great but is a significant improvement.

Lineouts. Well this week we had one that actually looked like a line out and worked reasonably well. We have to give credit to Coleman calling the lineouts for the first time. The Springboks are one of the best in the business at the line out, especially with Etzebeth and De Jager in the line-up so 85% is actually pretty good.

Overall it was a much better display and showed that the team is capable of delivering wins.

The Wallabies win! Glass half empty

So a win is a win right? Well we will have to wait and see. We all want the Wallabies to turn the corner but I am not convinced they are there yet.

Being honest I don’t think any of us can look past the fact we won against a really poor Springbok team that’s in transition. We weren’t the worst team on the night.

But where does that put us. Next weekend could be end up being a real dose of reality. Can you imagine if the Pumas win, The Wallabies are confirmed as the 3rd best team behind the Pumas, and a Boks who can be excused somewhat with a fairly new coach and a player quota requirement.

So Cheika seems to be publicly defiant and staying the course; or is he? The 60 capper’s have gone due to injury and contract obligations so some fresh blood has been brought in. But also some other fresh blood has slowly been snuck in to the team and although the changes appear subtle they are making a difference. Take a good look at last week’s line -out with Coleman then Arnold.

Did the win do anything for us?

According to the ratings no. This is a really issue for our game right now and it might be time to put winning to one side and start think about the game more as an entrainment product and make the changes to sell the Wallabies. Yes, you will need to be careful about the integrity of the game, and its values but Rugby needs bums on seat at games and in front of TV’s and the current Wallabies are just not very attractive products.

I suppose we should also be honest and admit that although we won, it was against a really poor opposition. Really, if we had played All Blacks or even England would we have been in the game?

Next weekend is really the real litmus test if the Wallabies are for real or just riding whatever luck they get.

Go the Pumas!

For 50 minutes we were watching ready to believe that miracles can happen and the Pumas could write history. But as usual, the darkness descended and was unstoppable.

It was a fantastic game to watch to see the Pumas really worry the All Blacks and show how far they have evolved in the last few years. It was interesting hearing the Kiwi commentators saying that the key difference was just down to micro-skills; the Pumas ball handling just letting them down otherwise they were close to the same level as the All Blacks in many aspects of the game. It was a massive compliment and a real eye opener for many.

This was reinforced by the All Blacks coach post game comments;

“In international rugby especially, the skill set between each team at the top level I would say is one or two percent. But being able to make the right decisions under pressure in different moments of the game I think that’s where you can make the most growth and I think that’s where we can make the most growth for ourselves.

“It’s not about physical ability, it’s not too much about skills set, it’s about decision-making under pressure, reading cues and executing under that pressure,”

“It was a tough match, Argentina showed their flair and passion and why they are one of the best in the world. They definitely pushed us to the limit and [we were] pretty pleased with the way we finished.”

The game was a really entertaining affair with both teams showing flair in attack and really showed how good rugby can be when played with an attacking mindset.

It was also a clear warning to the Wallabies that the Pumas can’t be taken lightly and if they play like they did against the All Blacks we will need to play our best game of the year to beat them.

Check out the highlights here:

Brisbane City’s reign as holders of the Horan-Little Shield ends (by Nick Wasiliev)

While the Wallabies were enjoying success down the road at Lang Park, the same couldn’t be said for the two Queensland NRC teams, who endured a winless round of NRC. To be fair, both were coming up against tough opposition. QLD Country were out for their first ever win at Bond University (and their first ever win against the Sydney Rays). The Rays have been in flying form with coach Simon Cron, playing some of the most entertaining rugby in the competition, and have made a real habit of scoring very quickly to put pressure on the opposition. It was always going to be tough for QLD Country, but despite a second half fightback, it was too-little, too-late once again. The Rays now have a record three-on-the-trot, and are on the verge of a maiden semi-finals berth. Who saw that coming?

QLD Country vs Sydney Rays highlights

While the QLD Country score line was respectable, Brisbane City felt the brunt of a ruthless Vikings side, out to restore some pride following their humiliating home loss to the Eagles last week. A close first half was followed by a mauling, as Canberra stepped up a gear and took City to the cleaners in the last twenty minutes, eventually running out 52-20 winners. With that emphatic victory, Canberra claims the Horan-Little Shield for the first time, and sends a message to other teams that they are still a force to be reckoned with this year. Hopefully it will mean they will get a good crowd when they play the Rams back home. This will be a major blow for City, who had held the Shield since Round 2, 2015.

Brisbane City vs University of Canberra Vikings Highlights

For the first time in NRC history, there is no QLD team in the Top 4. Combined, they have amassed 1 win from 6 games. While I appreciate how open the competition is now, I do wish at least one of the QLD teams was still going strong. Both teams are playing away this coming round, and if neither can grab a win, they may be staring down the gauntlet of kissing their NRC seasons goodbye.

Get to Rat Park this weekend! (by Nick Wasiliev)

It was great to see such a fantastic game in Tamworth, but even better to see a good crowd! According to social media, the Fox broadcast, and the ‘Eagle Eye’ video drone, people from all over the country drove hours to watch the Eagles-Rising match. If anyone says rugby is struggling in Australia, no one has got the memo out to the country yet, because that level of commitment and support is great for the game. City folks, get your act together. And you can start this week.

Round 4 is set to be the round that will be make-or-break for many teams. The Rising will be desperate to get back to winning ways in Melbourne against Brisbane after losing at the death in Tamworth, The Vikings will be out to regain fan support against the Western Sydney Rams (who somehow, despite playing great rugby, have still have not managed to grab that elusive first win yet), and Perth Spirit, who dug deep to beat the Rams on Saturday at Concord Oval, can finally look forward being back home in the west again, and have the potential to consolidate a Top 4 position with a win over QLD Country.

Western Sydney Rams vs Perth Spirit Highlights

NSW Country Eagles vs Melbourne Rising Highlights

But, let’s face it. Those who are following the NRC know what’s at stake this weekend at Rat Park. Right now the Sydney Rays and the NSW Country Eagles are in in-form teams, both starting their seasons with three wins on the trot. Both teams are fighting for the top of the table. Both have great squads and great coaches. And (in case you didn’t get the hint) they are playing each other. At 1pm. This coming Saturday. At Rat Park. What I’m saying is, all rugby fans on the North Shore should get along to this game, because it is shaping up to be a cracker.

The Rays have never beaten the Eagles in NRC history, but this is a Rays team that has certainly been one for bucking history. This year alone, they have beat the Rams for the first time, have won consecutive victories for the first time, and found themselves on top of the table for the first time. The Country Eagles by comparison have the potential to break a club record and win four-in-a-row with a victory at the weekend. They also were the team to end Brisbane City’s 14 match winning streak and hand the Vikings their largest ever home defeat.

Get along to Rat Park for this one, as it will probably go a long way to deciding who gets ‘The Toaster.’ For those of you who still haven’t seen an NRC game yet, let this be the one to introduce you to the competition.

National Rugby Championship

Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

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