The last round of Super Rugby was basically a disaster for all Aussies except Brumby fans. So putting the results behind us, what happened up front?
WARATAHS V HIGHLANDERS
The Waratahs travelled to Invercargill to play the Highlanders in the last game of the 2019 season starting with Harry Johnson-Holmes, Damien Fitzpatrick and Tom Robertson. The Highlanders starting front row off Ayden Johnstone, Liam Coltman and Tyrel Lomax. The Highlanders winning convincingly 49 to 12.
I’m not going to delve too much into this game as the Highlanders were a better team across the paddock especially in the scrum. The Highlanders front row controlled the ball upon their feed in and demolished the Waratahs on theirs. This was a game I’m sure they would like to forget but with Robertson changing to tighthead and the changes throughout the starting team doesn’t bid well for cohesion and it showed throughout the night in the scrum.
The Highlanders drive straight through the Waratahs like they’re on ice skates and has earned the outstanding scrum of the game.
REBLES V CHIEFS
The second poor result of the Friday night clash was the Chiefs travelling to Melbourne to take on the Rebels winning easily 59 to 8. The Rebels starting front row of Tetera Faulkner, Anaru Rangi and Jermaine Ainsley against the Chiefs Atunaisa Moli, Nathan Harris and Angus Taavao-Matau.
I have a feeling that this game could have been similar as the above in the scenario that Chiefs could have dominated the scrums all night but were penalised due to early pushes before the ball was fed in resulting in the Rebels receiving a penalty. There was an instance when the Rebels had won clean ball, scrum was straight and Genia leaves the ball in. This allowed the Chiefs to have a second crack which put the Rebels under pressure leaving Naisarini to pick the ball and try to earn some metres. Naisarini carried well in this game and consistently carried the ball well especially when you think there’s no room or meters to be gained he makes it across the advantage line and gets his team going forward again. There was a moment or two within this game that I thought there was a communication breakdown with Naisarini unsure on whether to pick and go or whether he was picking and feeding the halfback.
Again the Rebels were outplayed in the last game of the season and will miss Sam Talakai who I think was extremely strong throughout the season at tighthead in a very competitive year. Onto 2020.
Outstanding scrum for the game was the Rebels locking down a scrum but for some reason the ball is left in to allow the Chiefs to mount a second attack. Naisarini and Genia have a mix up in communication and luckily a penalty is earned from Chiefs coming around off side. Up until this point the scrum was a solid platform to launch an attack.
BRUMBIES V REDS
With the first two Australia conference games being a disappointment there was hope for the Reds travelling to Canberra to take on the Australian Conference winners the Brumbies. The Brumbies starting line-up of Scott Sio (playing his 100th Super Rugby Cap), Folau Fainga’a and Alan Alaalatoa. The Reds starting front row of J.P Smith, Alex Mafi and Taniela Tupou.
First scrum of the game showed the intent of the Reds to take it to the inform Brumbies Pack. This Super Rugby season has seen nearly every game talking up the ability of the Brumbies scrum and specifically J.P Smith was eager to rip in. The Reds engaged well and you could see Smith working to get his body shape right to challenge Alaalatoa. The second scrum sees Smith doing the same, applying pressure and doing a great job of pushing 7A’s backwards but unfortunately a penalty kick was given away for Tupou angling in and collapsing the scrum. This continued throughout the first half with a scrum set around the 35 minute mark and the Reds primed for the push with Powell reluctant to feed the ball in as the Reds inched forward. The referee blows the scrum up and resets but with 7A’s in a stronger body position and locked down in the reset scrum, Powell feeds the ball with the Reds mounting pressure, Sio, Fainga’a shear straight through Tupou and the Brumbies go forwards towards the try line with Lachie McCaffrey maintaining control of the Ball, picking it up and placing it at the base of the posts.
With substitutions made for the Brumbies in the second half with James Slipper and Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin on a scrum is set at the 55 minute mark. Tupou and Smith do an excellent job of putting the Brumbies under pressure with Tupou turning Slipper inside out and Smith collapsing from LLM driving through, however the referee calls it up as the scrums have swung around in similar circumstances. The reset has Slipper ready for Tupou but LLM collapses with the Reds earning a penalty kick.
Slipper worked his way into the game by the 62nd mark and Tupou starting to tire. The Reds feed the ball in with Slipper driving straight through Tupou in a good battle but Tupous feet slip and collapses with the referee allowing the ball to be played. Smith has also got up on the loose head side preventing the Brumbies back row from defending and Malolua finds Jock Campbell in a nice channel next to the scrum finding Paia’aua to score the try.
A solid game of scrum battles with JP Smith applying a lot of pressure on 7A’s making him work for his body position. Smith was getting a strong engagement but his early push resulted in some penalties not the pressure he would have liked to have applied when the ball was live in the scrums. Sio also maintained his side with Tupou trying to muscle up but ended up being caught for angling in. Tupou did a good job on Slipper early on but Slipper found his rhythm as Tupou started to tire out later in the game. It wasn’t one of Slippers best games with 2 or 3 dropped balls due to the Canberra dew but scrummed well once he got warmed up. Fainga’a was unlucky not to add to his tally of try’s being brought down before the line twice preventing him reaching the most try’s scored in a Super Rugby Season leaving that accolade to Malcolm Marx.
Outstanding scrum for the game was the McCaffrey try with the Brumbies propelling through the pressure mounted by the Reds resulting in points under the posts.
PROPS TO YOU
Props to J.P Smith this week who I think took it to 7A’s who is considered the best tighthead in the country for the 2019 season. Smith really worked hard to drive him into uncomfortable positions and should be given props.