The Brumbies may remain on top of the conference ladder, but their bye last weekend means they missed the ultimate opportunity – analysis of their work up front. So let’s look at the other Aussie teams instead.
REBELS V BULLS
The Rebels coming off the back of a good win against the Reds had the opportunity to see if they could back it up against the men in Blue (green this week) from Pretoria, The Bulls at Aami Park in Melbourne. The Bulls getting the win 32 to 17 in a physical game.
The Rebels opting for consistency in their front row of Tetera Faulkner, Anaru Rangi and Jermaine Ainsley packing down against Lizo Gqoboka, Schalk Brits and Trevor Nyakane. I was looking forward to see how the Rebels would fair against the Bulls considering how they troubled the Waratahs a couple of weeks prior but we had to wait 35 minutes to get our first taste.
A couple of areas that stood out prior to the first scrum was the defence from the Bulls. The line speed was excellent and physicality was unmatched by the Rebels in getting over the gain line. An example of this in defence occurred when the Rebels had a lineout around the 19 minute mark and opted for a maul. You can see two Bulls player preventing any movement in the maul from the Rebels and then add players one by one slowly pushing the Rebels backwards. How do the Rebels not take advantage of this mismatch?
The scrums were set square and contested well throughout with the Rebels winning 5 scrums to the Bulls 4 with no team getting over the other in this set piece. When the scrum collapsed the referee would ask for the ball to be played, however a scrum in the 2nd half had the Bulls inching forward, the Rebels were holding their shape but also retreating backwards with the referee Ansini yelling to use it. 3 times he yells use it but the Bulls don’t have to use it as the Bulls scrum is moving forward. The Rebels haven’t collapsed or stood up so why is he yelling to use it eventually blowing the whistle and giving the Bulls another feed in of the ball. If he yells use it 3 times and blows the whistle this is a Rebels scrum and think he has got this call wrong. The Bulls didn’t have to use it moving forward in a dominant scrum and they don’t get the ball back if the referee blows the whistle up.
The Rebels after looking promising earlier in the year with a solid roster can’t seem to win games against international visitors and were outmuscled up front and beaten with speed around the fringes. Pushing the pace didn’t tire the Bulls out considering they did twice the amount of tackles the Rebels did but with 62% possession and 65% territory it was a disappointing result.
Hugh Roach was a positive out of this game making 7 runs for 21 metres and 5 out of 7 tackles within his 33 minutes. Roach also contributed to the lineouts with the Rebels winning 15 with 1 against the throw against the Bulls 13 lineouts with 1 also against the throw. It’s also interesting that Jordan Uelese has been added to the extended Wallabies camp considering playing no games this year. I for one am looking forward to his return from injury and understand he is a quality young player but is this a wise decision considering the competition we’ve had this year with Hookers that have played throughout the year and have match fitness under their belts?
The outstanding scrum comes from the above discussed situation of the referee yelling to use it. The Bulls are inching forward, the Rebels are have not collapsed or stood up so I believe this should be a hand over to the Rebels. Do you agree?
REDS V WARATAHS
The Reds played the Waratahs in their 2nd game of 2019 at Suncorp Stadium with the Waratahs securing another win 40 to 32. The Reds starting with a front row of JP Smith, Alex Mafi and Taniela Tupou and the Waratahs making a change to start with Tom Robertson, Damien Fitzpatrick and Sekopu Kepu.
It was interesting to see Robertson thrown straight into the mix with the season Harry Johnson-Holmes has had up to this point after only returning the previous week. It was a good test to see how Robertson would fair against Taniela Tupou and after the anticipation of the first scrum of the game both teams end up holding square. This is where it gets interesting for Robertson as he initially wins the bind using a long bind on Tupous back but upon the set call Tupous shirt stretches with Robertson bind now going towards the ground resulting in him fighting to get it back up to the body. This occurs again in the second scrum of the game but this time it looks like Robertson is trying to pull Tupou in towards himself collapsing the scrum. The scrum is reset with Tupou in good body position resulting in Jock Campbell getting a ball out wide from a rampaging Kerevi and finishing off a nice 1st phase try. The 1st half had Tupou in better body position than Robertson with Robertson collapsing a number of times throughout the game but is promising to see him back in the mix for that loosehead position in the Wallabies.
Another excellent 1st phase try came of the back of another Reds scrum with Alex Mafi being held up by Cam Clark after running it in from the 22 metre line resulting in a 5 metre scrum. Harry Hoopert had replaced JP Smith earlier in the 1st half and noticed that once the set call was made, I thought Kepu looked like he was in very good shape to have a crack and upset the scrum but a second look shows he had overextended his legs preventing him from getting any more shove without compromising his body shape. The ball is fed out to Hegarty stepping back inside twice to score under the posts.
I like the intent from the Waratahs scrum on the 58 minute mark when the front row off HJH, Fitzpatrick and Kepu take the opportunity to catch the Reds napping and a resulting penalty was awarded to the Waratahs for this. Looking at the attached Gif, it’s clear that HJH has folded under the scrum with Hoopert keeping Kepu at Bay on the opposite side with the referee giving the penalty to the Waratahs. I think the Waratahs were lucky to be awarded the penalty but at the 74 minute mark with Talakai replacing Kepu the Waratahs earned another penalty with HJH and Latu driving through Ruan Smith. This was a dominant scrum and well-earned but don’t the Waratahs like to embrace the Props when they come up with a penalty.
Alex Mafi has been rewarded with being an addition to the Wallabies Camp held over the weekend and hasn’t he flown under the radar. I always thought he played well when he started or came off the bench but over the last couple of weeks he has stood out with his carries of the ball and his solid defence. Mafi had an excellent game against the Waratahs with the superb try out wide covering the cross field kick with safe hands and another potential try run in from the 22 that was held up by Cam Clark.
I also think Tupou outplayed his opposite in Roberson in the scrum and around the ground noticing a couple of moments that impressed me away from the ball. An example was the Waratahs first try of the day when Tupou makes a hit on Hooper, picks himself up and sprints across the field getting in front of 3 other Reds players to miss the tackle on Foley who ends up slipping through the defence for a try. The other Reds defenders were slow to react and should have covered it before he sprinted back into the line but watching the game is evident of how dynamic he is in getting around the ground.
Outstanding scrum for the game is HJH and Latu driving through Smith and slowly bleeding the Reds dry as the game ticked down to the end of the game. With the Reds having the feed in the turnover was critical to the Waratahs.
PROPS TO YOU
Props to Alex Mafi for sea gulling out on the wing for the left foot cross field kick, a step inside and a great try after being held up earlier in the game. Mafi does have potential and is evident when starting for the Reds ahead of BPA. Love the competition for this position.