Well, Super Rugby got off to a blistering start didn’t it?
I know you can’t tell much from the first weekend of a competition but the fact this year’s opening round delivered 53 tries, compared to last years 28 is hopefully a sign of things to come.
Of course there were two extra games this time around, but that’s an average of 5.8 tries a game, compared to 4 last year, so I think we have an early indication the trend of positive attacking Rugby continues.
With only the Brumbies facing foreign opponents we obviously still have much to learn about the Australian teams but I think we saw signs that both the Brumbies and Waratahs have kicked on, continuing to advance their game with ball in hand.
Both sides played exciting, intelligent rugby, looking to create better continuity by keeping the ball clean with offloads before contact and getting it into space early to create one on one or two on one opportunities, and while both sides benefited from some fortuitous bounces the fact is they had players in the right places at the right times who could exploit those bounces.
The Maul once again played a huge part in the Brumbies game, although with a bit of smoke and mirrors thrown in to good effect. First exploiting the Hurricanes Maul defence with the fake throw and set to the middle then going short to Alaalatoa (edit: it was actually Vaea) to exploit the short side for Pocock’s try on 38 minutes:
Then on 52 minutes they used the more traditional set and drive to create a score for Moore:
The pick of the bunch for me though was how they used it early in the second half to decimate the Hurricanes defence in the lead up to Scott Fardy’s try on 45 minutes by marching them back about 30 meters.
We can talk all day about the negativity behind the maul, and of course we all like to see the ball get some air, but when used like this it’s hard to argue that something that’s sucked in 12 players and shattered a defence so comprehensively is not positive Rugby.
When there is so much talk about changing the laws to create space and to break down defences it’s pretty enthralling to see that when traditional methods are exploited to good effect they can still create stacks of space to exploit and I think this try further illustrates that when used correctly the Mauls can be so much more than a 5 meter rumble over.
From a defensive point of view a Maul with this kind of momentum is pretty much impossible to stop legally. But that’s exactly what the Hurricanes should have done here, drop the maul illegally and kill it at source, conceeding the penalty if necessary. It’s unlikely they’d have received a yellow card, it was out of Lealiifano and chances are the Brumbies would have kicked for the line and they could have regathered and re-set set their defensive system.
Yeah the try is far from perfect, there are a couple of opportunities to finish it earlier but even then the speed and ferocity the Brumbies hit the subsequent breakdowns turn potential mistakes into positives – for example watch how Apisai is dealt with by Smiler when he sees him coming into kill the ball at the final ruck.
Great play, and a wonderful try.