Finding Front Rowers: Super Rugby Scrum Scrutiny 13 - Green and Gold Rugby

Finding Front Rowers: Super Rugby Scrum Scrutiny 13

Finding Front Rowers: Super Rugby Scrum Scrutiny 13

Big games call for big moments, and a lot of those big moments this week came from big scrums. Let’s get stuck in.


What an excellent contest the 2nd Rebels v Reds Derby this year was at Aami Park Melbourne. Another local derby for players to stamp their authority over their opposition and help their teams make another step towards the finals. The Rebels again coming away with the win 30 to 24 with the Reds getting the late penalty kick to give them that bonus point. The starting front rows were Tetera Faulkner, Anaru Rangi and Jermaine Ainsley for the Rebels with JP Smith, Alex Mafi and Taniela Tupou starting for the Reds.

It was positive from the outset with the attitude and physicality the players brought to the game made for entertaining viewing.  I noticed Rangi throwing himself into a number of tackles in the first 10 minutes trying to cut down whomever carried the ball and then Mafi launched at Rangi with the two hookers standing up and carrying on after the tackle. There was the Tupou tackle on Naisarini driving him into touch from the 5 meter line. The silky hands of our front row brethren making the extra crucial pass to assist in scoring tries. The run by Tupou in support flicking the ball to Lucas after contact with Lucas running in a try. There was the Faulkner pass when he observed the overlap assisting in a try. JP Smith picking and going from a ruck expecting the ball to get called up looking for Naivalu to finish the try but Naivalu looked like he expected Smith to score. The front rowers were everywhere in this game and this didn’t cover the scrums.

The 1st scrum of the game was always going to be interesting after the Rebels dismantled the Blues scrum last week. But it was the Reds who struck the first blow with JP Smith driving through Ainsley resulting in a penalty to the Reds and didn’t Smith let them know about it. JP Smith managed Ainsley well tonight but after re-watching the scrums it became evident that the Reds were targeting the TH side of the Rebels Scrum. I may be wrong but the way I saw the scrum in a number of instances was Tupou slightly angling in upon set up, Mafi and Smith tight on Ainsley and once set, the back five would slightly shift their weight onto Ainsely’s side. Throughout the game you could see where at times the method didn’t work resulting in the Reds wheeling around the corner but Genia had pulled the ball out before a reset was called. This also plays a part in the battle between Tupou and Faulkner. I found Faulkner collapsing under pressure but Tupou does have a slight angle he uses to drive through Faulkner and onto Rangi and as the Reds push forward Faulkner goes under trying to maintain his shape.  Around the 24 minute mark there was a Reds feed and you notice immediately Faulkner binding very low on Tupou, Elbow pointing to the ground where you expect the inevitable collapse from Faulkner. You could see  Faulkner fighting to correct his body position before the ball was fed in.

With a Rebels set move, Genia identifies that scrums were a battle and around the 44 minute mark Genia fed the ball in with the Rebels holding the scrum square and sweeps it out as soon as available. Genia hits Cooper, Cooper hits Hodge, with Hodge running a fantastic line getting tackled from Jock Campbell scrambling to save the try. Cottrell picks the ball up and finds Genia who running blind finds Faulkner after coming up from a scrum, running in support down the touch and scores a fantastic try. Faulkner has down very well to get up and isn’t it common for Props to stand and watch when you see a break expecting the try to be scored but to be down the touch line is simply incredible.

The replacements all contributed with Harry Hoopert coming on a scoring a try from a rolling maul but the big discussion point must be the 67 minute scrum after Tupou has been held up for a try. I’ve watched this scrum over 20 times trying to dissect what happened as it doesn’t look as clear as what I originally thought which was Matt Gibbon demolishing Tupou. It was clearly a scrum win to the Rebels but upon set call, the movement from Tupou seems like he is not set or Rodda is not connected well. You can see Tupous body come up and down in waves and at the top of that wave Gibbon drives through under Tupou. In this instance, Rodda stands up giving no support to Tupou. I don’t know why he has stood up but you can see Lukhan Salakaia-Loto maintain his body height and connection to Hoopert with the full 8 from the Rebels driving through and the connection between Rangi and Gibbon drive through Tupous side without any resistance. Higginbotham has gone in looking for the ball so also offers no push. It looked to me the Reds were concentrating on the next job and unfortunately paid the consequences.



My outstanding scrum goes to the scrum discussed above. This scrum was an attacking opportunity to the Reds and Gibbon has gone right through Tupou turning the ball over in a very important play. Let me know what you think? Do you agree or am I seeing things?


The Waratahs had to play their second South African game away in Emirates Airlines Park in Johannesburg and were looking to bounce back from the previous week’s loss to the Bulls. This was not how the story played out with the Lions getting the win 29 to 28. The Waratahs front row consisted of Harry Johnson-Holmes, Damien Fitzpatrick and Sekopu Kepu with the Lions starting with Sithembiso Sithole, Malcolm Marx and Carlu Sadie.

There’s only a hand full of scrums to discuss in this game with the Waratahs winning 6 scrums to the Lions 4 but it was evident there was some angles being used to great effect from the Lions. Around the 32 minute mark the Lions drive through the Waratahs scrum earning themselves a penalty however how does Kepu in the camera angle pop up on the right hand side of Malcolm Marx the Hooker. Either he has been driven through and has his body turned in with the front row being completely dismantled or the angles from Sithole have pushed him to that side of the scrum.

Tahs scum 3

A second example is a scrum with 5 minutes left on the clock with the Waratahs defending their try line with an exit play in call. The vision I have captured is Dylan Smith angling in before the ball is fed near 90 degrees to Kepu with the resulting scrum driving through the Waratahs and the Lions earning a penalty. This occurring right in front of the referee is disgraceful. There is no scrum dominance in play here and has set himself up to drive through Kepu at an angle not only getting away with it but earning the ball back for his team. This is a clear penalty to the Waratahs and should have been rewarded with a long arm. With all the technicalities that the referees try to pull up and correct, this was missed before the ball was fed in. I also don’t necessarily agree with neutral referees fixing this, I think it this is as black and white as it comes.

Tahs Scrum 1

Tahs scrum 2


My outstanding scrum for the game was around the 26 minute mark when the scrum was set and held square for a good settling 1st phase hit up. Phipps finds Rob Simmons in a giant hole and Simmons gallops in for a try. Amazing what occurs when the scrum is held straight and square.



After spending the week in the Goldcoast, the Sunwolves made the trip to Canberra to play the Brumbies at Gio Stadium for Mothers Day. The Brumbies sealed 5 in a row at GIO winning 33 to 0. The Brumbies started with Scott Sio, Folau Fainga’a and Alan Alaalatoa with the Sunwolves starting with Masataka Mikami, Shota Horie and Hiroshi Yamashita.

Laurie Fisher responded early in the week to shut down comments made about the Brumbies style of scoring try’s as boring. Fishers comments were to the effect of go and get stuffed and I for one completely agree. The Brumbies ability to lock down or apply pressure on a scrum is growing week to week and everyone knows their rolling maul is a threat. So how do you prevent getting a penalty within your own 50 meters and how do you defend against the rolling maul? These questions must be getting analysed every week by the Brumbies opposition and any team would love to have the abilities that the Brumbies currently possess. So, it was great to see the Brumbies respond to these ridiculous comments by scoring 5 tries to nil in space, with good support in an entertaining game.

The Brumbies won 5 scrums to 2 but earned numerous scrum penalties by trusting in the scrum to hold the ball in and wait for the Sunwolves to bleed pressure. The Sunwolves could meet the challenge or they could buckle under the mounted pressure which is what occurred the majority of the game. Mikami struggled trying to drop his body height to get under 7A’s resulting in collapsing the scrum. This is where the Brumbies have the ability to kick for the corner and if they are within that 22, you know what they’re going to do.

Without a doubt Slipper came off the bench to give the Sunwolves more of the same but it was good to see Les Leulua’iali’i-Makin improving his scrumming abilities. It would be hard not to in this set up but in previous seasons he has collapsed under pressure and I thought his body height was excellent also earning a penalty for the Brumbies around the 60 minute mark. LLM also made 10 tackles in his 20 minutes on the field which is an impressive contribution to his time on the field with Slipper making 14 tackles from his 30 minutes on the ground not getting the opportunity to run as much as he does.

I must give credit to the Sunwolves for their defence on a rolling maul that didn’t make it across the line. It doesn’t seem right when Fainga’a doesn’t score but they did a good job of staying in the fight and prevented a further try. The Brumbies won 16 lineouts to the Sunwolves 10 with the Brumbies throwing in 2 not straight throws which is unusual but put this down to defensive pressure from the Sunwolves.



At the 51 minute mark the Brumbies score a fantastic 1st phase try to Tom Banks. The scrum is locked down and I mention regularly the need to bring your elbow height up which is the first thing I noticed about 7A’s in the scrum. Strong body position, elbow high, you can see his opposite trying to work him over but he’s locked down resulting in a great try.


Again, this week Props go to Alan Alaalatoa for his scrumming prowess. The ability to lock down his side of the scrum and slowly bleed the life out of his opposition is promising coming into the Rugby Championships. Taniela Tupou was close with 8 tackles, 7 runs for 23 metres, 3 defenders beaten, 2 clean breaks, 1 try assist but I feel needs to refine his scrummaging regardless of the uge workload he got through.

  • idiot savant

    As an old prop I love this series Christian.

    I have a theory on the outstanding scrum from the Rebels Reds game. Theres a lot of movement on the Rebels side before and after ‘set’. I think this is a tactic that can be used to unbalance the opposition. Usually the point of it is to pull down your opponent prop and get a penalty from them collapsing but Tupou rarely goes to ground from the hips up. He’s too strong. Its possible though the movement unbalanced him enough for Gibbon to get underneath him.

    I recall a scrum from the Crusaders Brumbies game which was 5 metres out from the Brumbies line. On the Brumbies defensive feed, the Crusaders scrum never stopped moving. The front row went down and the ref penalised the Brumbies. The Crusaders opted for a scrum and hey presto no Crusader moved a muscle. The scrum was rock steady and the ball was cleared by them. It looked for all the world like the ref was completely conned by the crafty Crusaders pack. I think something similar occurred with the Rebels.

    • T.edge

      Thanks IS. It is hard to determine from one scrum to the next. The amount of pressure applied can be destabilised with the slightest of movement or angle and it looked like something was going on but I’m going to give credit to Gibbon for such a massive scrum. So important to have your back 5 locked down and they weren’t.

      • Howard

        Thanks again Christian, always a good read. As an ex hooker I agree that the front row can often be let down not just by the locks, but the ornaments if they aren’t putting in

    • John Tynan

      I think they lost the hit, and I think Thor first loses contact with his hooker and THEN Rodda.
      Perhaps the downside to being young and extremely strong? A prop with more experience in the dark arts may have chosen to go down and look for a reset – the young buck tries to fight his way out of it?

  • Who?

    It was interesting to see the front row selection for the Rebels. I feel there’s not much between Gibbon and Faulkner at LHP (impressive for Gibbon, given Tets is capped), but Talakai is clearly still a stronger scrummager than Ainsley. So starting Ainsley against the Reds was a big call.
    On your outstanding scrum in that game, I think you’re right about Rodda, but it’s also worth noting that by that point in the game, Tupou was the only remaining starting prop. Everyone else had been subbed, and he was subbed immediately afterwards. Yes, he offers heaps around the field, but when was the last time we saw a starting THP make it to 67 minutes in a match? Let alone when the coach has quality like Ruan Smith sitting on the bench. So it was all kind of set up for a loss for Tupou.
    Still stoked to see such quality in our scrums – it’s been building to this for a while, but even the scrums we were concerned before the season might be penalty magnets are going well. Our weakest scrum is one that’s destabilized by not having depth in the back five, and still has our most capped Wallaby prop in the front row. It’s a good position heading into the RWC.

    • Brumby Runner

      I reckon Who that Allan Ala’alatoa plays 67 minutes or more in just about every game he starts. But I do understand your point re Tupou.

      • Who?

        True, but 7A’s has LLM behind him on the bench. And while T.Edgey’s saying that he’s improving, he’s still not close to (former Brumby?) Ruan Smith’s level, and so it means that 7A’s has effectively needed to shield LLM by playing longer.

        • Brumby Runner

          Yes, I agree but my main point is that Allan’s performances don’t taper off at the end of his shifts. You are also correct in saying that Ruan Smith is a former Brumby, as is JP too. They both always showed a lot of promise when here. Indeed, I thought Ruan was the better player, but JP seems to get more starting game time at the Reds.

        • Who?

          I’d guess JP gets more game time because there’s more depth at THP than LHP at the Reds. The other props they’re currently playing are Tupou and Hoopert – one’s a Wallaby, one’s a kid.


Western Sydney born, raised in South Australia, now residing in Western Australia clinging to the hopes of Australian Rugby clawing its way back to bring home Bill or at least dominate in the scrums!

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