Finding Front Rowers: Super Rugby Scrum Scrutiny 15 - Green and Gold Rugby

Finding Front Rowers: Super Rugby Scrum Scrutiny 15

Finding Front Rowers: Super Rugby Scrum Scrutiny 15

More Aussie teams playing means more scrums to scrutinise! Here we go with Round 15’s big plays up front.


The Reds travelled to Hamilton to play the Chiefs at FMG Stadium in a tough game resulting in the Chiefs taking the win 19-13. The Reds starting with Harry Hoopert, Alex Mafi and Taniela Tupou against the Chiefs front row of Atunaisa Moli, Nathan Harris and Nepo Laulala.

The game was a grind for the Reds with 75% possession throughout the game but couldn’t fracture the defence of the Chiefs. The stats of the Chiefs front row is impressive with Moli making 13 tackles & 6 runs for 10 metres. Harris making 16 tackles with 5 runs for 10 metres and Lualala with 16 tackles, 7 runs for 3 metres. The Reds starting row also matched well with Hoopert 10 tackles, 6 runs for 8 metres, Mafi making 14 tackles with 8 runs for 5 metres and the workhorse Tupou with 2 tackles made with 10 runs and a total of 21 metres. These men are truly getting through the workload.

The scrums were contested well throughout the game with the Reds winning 6 scrums to the Chiefs 3. From the first scrum of the game again I noticed that when Hoopert got his bind on Lualala the jersey stretched to the ground making it hard for Hoopert to get into a strong body position. Is this a new material they’re using as this was never previously an issue even when they issued front rowers with 7XL jerseys?

A scrum that is questionable was around the 61 minute mark the Chiefs were penalised for pulling the scrum around the corner and its evident that this is occurring on both sides and should have been a reset but the Reds got the penalty in this instance with the opportunity to kick for the corner. Yes there is murmurs of the need to get the game flowing due to resets but a team cant be penalised for mirroring what the other is doing. This is a flip of the coin decision from the referee and is frustrating to see.

I also question why throughout the game the Reds persisted with going for the lineout when there is a clear opportunity to take the scrum and have the opportunity to attack. After continuous resistance from the Chiefs on the Reds rolling maul, I think they should have broadened the options and considered a scrum. When I see this in games it looks to me like the team doesn’t have faith in their back line to execute or concerned a flip of the coin decision could hand the ball back to the Chiefs. This was occurring regardless with the ball being handed back to the Chiefs with their defensive efforts but I would like to see some variation.

A special mention to Lukhan Salakaia-Loto who I thought had a great game except for a lack of any effort at making a tackle on Chiefs number 8 Pita Sowakula running in a try. Salakaia-Loto had 15 runs for 47 metres and made 8 out of 13 tackles which is a solid effort and can see him starting to find some form as there’s an opportunity for a no. 6 to put their hand up in the coming weeks.



The outstanding scrum for the Reds was the combination of Tupou, Mafi and Fotuaika with a strong engagement and chasing after the ball has been fed in earning a penalty after the scrum swings around.


The Bulls physicality in this game was a tough nut for the Brumbies to crack. The 1st half saw the Bulls bully the Brumbies around the field with strong tackles right across the ground and looked like a team with a defence that couldn’t be bent. It wasn’t until Cusack made his break and had the Bulls retreating did the Brumbies start to fracture their defence and the Brumbies capitalised on this. The excellent run from Cusack was followed up by a barn storming run from Alaalatoa running straight, hard and in to contact setting up the space out wide for Kuridrani to score after a slight hand from Tom Banks. So often players tend to do more than they need to when Alaalatoa made the correct decision in drawing in further defenders and let his back finish off the job.

The Bulls also turned up in the scrums running over the top of the Brumbies around the 15 minute mark which was impressive considering how strong the Brumbies have been this year. The Bulls have the experienced Schalk Brits at Hooker who had some words early on with Fainga’a which gave the game some spice but I think the Bulls were using some creative angles to smash through Sio’s side. Nothing wrong with that as the scrum stays straight but it’s the first time I’ve observed a team really targeting one side of the scrum and you can see the pressure from all eight point down that side.

This occurred again at the 51 minute mark. After resetting the scrum 3 times a huge scrum that resulted in the Brumbies with a penalty for Nyakane standing up under pressure. You notice that after the hit as the Bulls inch forward, Gqoboka starts to crab sideways instead applying all the pressure down Alaalatoas side. This allows Sio to drive through and under Nyakane popping him up and receiving the penalty. This was a big call from Jaco Peyper as a ref would normally side with the team inching forward but the correct decision was made.

The competition between Fainga’a and Brits was entertaining with Fainga’a running, passing and tackling continuing to impress with 3 tackles, 9 runs for 17 metres and 10 lineouts won. Brits is clearly all over the ground and at 38 is still impressive to watch with 8 tackles, 7 runs for 11 metres and 12 lineouts won.

Another great game from the front row and a special mention to Pete Samu who I thought was excellent in this game who made 9 tackles and 3 runs for 29 metres. He is always consistent and even though his numbers with ball in hand aren’t high, his contribution comes in when it counts and this game was a good example.



You can see as described above how the Bulls start to inch forward driving down 7A’s side but Sio drive up and under Nyakane and earns a penalty.


The Rebels did a job on the soon to be outgoing Sunwolves on Saturday winning comfortably 52 to 7. The Rebels starting the game with Matt Gibbon, Hugh Roach and Sam Talakai againt the Sunwolves Masataka Mikami, Nathan Vella and Hiroshi Yamashita.

Early on I observed that Talakai was getting a good bind on Mikami and after the set call was chasing his feet and getting into a strong body position. Throughout the game as the Rebels pushed forward, Talakai’s body position had him square and going through Mikami who due to the pressure was starting to turn inwards and be ineffective.

Matt Gibbon was unlucky on occasions as he is having the same issue a number of other props are having in getting a clean bind on his opposition. The shirt is either pulled up around their chest or too tight to get a grip and when a grip is established the jersey pulls towards the ground causing Gibbon to fight to get his elbow up after stretching to the ground and causing a collapse. Gibbon was penalised for collapsing once or twice in this instance but looking at the footage there’s not a great deal of real estate to get that bind hence why it’s important to fight to get in first. Other than this slight issue Gibbon had a good day in the scrum with Roach and Talakai keeping the scrum square throughout the game.

Around the 60 minute mark now with substitutions made, a front row of Jermaine Ainsley, Jordan Uelese and Tetera Faulkner had a fantastic scrum where the Rebels halfback Ruru feeds the ball in and allows the Rebels to hold and slowly start to apply the pressure to the Sunwolves hoping for a penalty. The body positions were excellent from the Rebels pack and after 10 seconds of pressure a resulting charge down to the Sunwolves ended up with their only try for the game. Can’t blame the scrum for this one!

The scrum in the 72 minute was an excellent scrum by the Rebels with Faulkner driving through his opposition and even though it swings around, the initial perception of the scrum going forward is everything to the referee and this was given advantage. Richard Hardwick picks it off the back and Ruru ends up scoring by placing the ball on the line.

Jordan Uelese made his long awaited return and I thought he had a positive game. There seems to be an air of confidence about the way he carried himself and I was looking forward to seeing what he was going to bring. For me it came in the 71 minute mark when a scrum was set with a feed in from the Sunwolves and it gets wheeled around with the ball spitting out the back. I notice Uelese and Ainsley break from the scrum and chase up immediately with Uelese making a 20 metre run to tackle the Sunwolves player in goal. Out of everyone on the field you have a player that has broken out of a scrum after driving through it and has enforced an important tackle in goal. I don’t know if I have seen this before but it shows the intent of Uelese and it impressed me. Scoring a try of the back of a maul is an added bonus and be interesting who gets to play in this Rebels team considering the Hooking depth in the coming weeks now Uelese is fit.



An excellent scrum by the Rebels has them steam over the top of the Sunwolves. The replacements came on and the intent to finish what had been started was evident.


The Waratahs needed a win to keep their finals hope alive but unfortunately the Jaguares put a stop to this with the Jaguares winning 23 to 15. The Waratahs starting front row of Tom Robertson, Damien Fitzpatrick and Sekopu Kepu with the Jaguares strating front row off, Mayco Vivas, Julian Montoya and Santigao Medrano.

I thought the Waratahs scrum was excellent throughout this game keeping excellent body shape throughout the game and the push and height from the back 5 was better than in previous weeks.

Tom Robertson getting his 2nd start for the season was excellent around the ground making 14 tackles and 6 runs for 9 metres. I did keep a close eye on him but Robertson seemed to pop up all over the ground whether carrying or making tackles. He did miss 4 tackles but they were trying to cover some distance and slipped out of the runners grasp. It was Robertson’s scrumming I thought was excellent with his full set up good to watch. Winning the race to get a good bind on his opposition, then fighting to get dominant head position with one clip showing him butting and grinding heads with Medrano to get best possible head position before the set call. After set, he is in great body shape holding square primed to inch forward.


I have been saying Fitzpatrick needs to bring another element to his game and he did this against the Jaguares. Running out wide Fitzpatrick gave a blind outside pass to Foketi which unluckily stepped into touch, had he not, an excellent try would have been scored. He backed this up with a lineout move that had him coming around the back and committing a defender, patiently holding it up perfectly to hit Hooper back inside him. There is a finesse and a rugby nous that Fitzpatrick has and needs to continue using to stand out from the rest as his lineout throwing and scrummaging are solid and his work rate was huge with 19 from 19 tackles and 7 runs for 9 metres.

The Waratahs consistently had good scrums throughout this game and one observation was the improvement of pushing as an eight. There is the threat of the Cubelli and Ortega Desio breaking off the back of the scrum and for the Waratahs back 3 to not push but this didn’t occur. It was good to see strong body position from the Waratahs scrum and even when the Jags applied some heat the body shape was low and tight resisting any movement.



In this scrum you can see the Jags feed the ball in and the Waratahs have a good crack at applying some pressure especially Harry Johnson-Holmes who is slightly angled in. The shape from the Tahs is excellent but just couldn’t nudge the jags off their mark.


Props this week go to Tom Robertson after only his 3rd game back I would say he has put himself back in the mix. Fighting every scrum for dominant head & body position, good work rate around the ground and excellent tackling. You have to expect a Waratah in the Front row somewhere so after 3 games Props to Robertson.

  • Steve

    “You have to expect a Waratah in the Front row somewhere”

    But whyyyyyy Christian?

    PS Great article + analysis, always a good read!

    • T.edge

      Sorry mate, Dont think Fitzpatrick will get a look in, just too much depth and bigger bodies doing more with their carries. Yes for Kepu but he needs to stop looking for the off load as this is becoming a liability.
      Just love the competetion!

      • Steve

        That wouldn’t bother me edge – I think FF + Uelese are most people’s first two hookers, after that you’re just looking to best of the rest to fill the backup role.

        At this stage I’d still be taking Kepu for the experience, Tupou hasn’t really shown consistent scrummaging form this year although he is clearly still a force around the park so he’d be my 3rd

      • Huw Tindall

        Do they usually take 6 or 5 props in the 31 man squad? If only 5 then Kepu could get the nod on experience and history of playing both sides of the scrum.

        • Steve

          Good question, in 2015 Wals squad started as below, 5 props universal amongst squads:
          2 Hookers (Dumb, James Hansen came in when Skelton/Palu injured)
          5 props
          4 locks
          4 flankers
          2 no 8s
          2 9s
          2 10s
          4 centres
          5 wings (dumb, none of which were a good 15)
          1 fullback

  • Pedro

    The only tah that should be in the front row is perhaps kepu as a last minute bench replacement, following at least two injuries.

  • HomerJ

    Uelese was good in his return and i thought Valentini was excellent. Not sure how many minutes he had but made two dominant tackles as soon as he came on and stopped a number of big Bulls. He hit rucks hard but didn’t get much chance with ball in hand.
    These two are potential 50 game wallabies and what we have missed, a big hard hitting ball running No.8 and a big mobile hooker with good hands.

  • Nutta

    Cheers Christian. Big effort as always.

    Reds – I concur they should use their scrum as a platform more. It’s a good scrum and it forces the field to open up which is particularly necessary when you only have one clear breaker in the Backs (K’evi) so take the space when on-offer. For me, Mafi would be the Wobbly No2 Hooker we have right now (behind Fingers from the Donkeys). But whilst SLS is a big hard running unit at 6 and as a guy with Lock experience can lend useful force to the scrum, his body-height with ball in hand makes him susceptible to holdups and strips which is great if you work at 7-11 but crap for rugby.

    Regarding the Tarts, it’s nice to see DrRob back and giving it a real shake and isn’t it funny what can happen when all 8 folk decide to push? What is it with Tarts No1’s and World Cup years for injuries (Fat Cat)?

    With the Scum it is great to see both Talakai and Ainsley stepping up. BigT always had it in him – we just hadn’t consistently seen it until now and I confess I had real doubts over Ainsley but he seems to get better and better at scrum time.

    For me the Donkeys game was the most intriguing for watching two quite handy scrums go at each other and Old Bull Shalk vs Young Bull Fingers was great to see.


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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