Another mixed bag of scrummaging by the Aussie teams in Super Rugby this weekend. Let’s dig in and have a look at how it panned out.
BRUMBIES V HURRICANES
The Brumbies were coming off the back off a crushing Round 2 win against the Chiefs the week prior and the Australian rugby public were waxing lyrical about the Brumbies playing the best brand off football in years and certain players being in contention for starting Wallabies roles. The Hurricanes were heavily defeated by the consistent Crusaders and had a point to prove in Paly North and the Hurricanes proved that point demolishing the Brumbies 43 – 13.
Regardless of the score line, I thought the Brumbies front row played well early on with the first start for Scott Sio partnering Folau Fainga’a and Alan Alaalatoa. Strong carries of the ball and solid tackling across the board, but the absolute standout for me was the hooker Fainga’a. His lineout throwing was spot on hitting 13 throws to various receivers in Rory Arnold, Blake Enever & Lachlan McCaffrey. I thought the Brumbies lineout was extremely solid with the ability to hit their tall timber and launch their strong rolling maul and or give the back line the ball when the Hurricanes defense was retreating backwards. A good example was when Fainga’a threw to Arnold, mauled the lineout eventually being collapsed, Lealiifino played the advantage with a chip and chase being brought in by a Hurricanes player resulting in a penalty. Lealiifino kicked for touch, with the ball being thrown to Enever and mauled again resulting in a try Fainga’a.
It was a very uneventful night in the scrum with the Brumbies only winning 1 scrum on their feed in as opposed to the Hurricanes 5 scrum wins but there were a number of observations. In last week’s article I identified the referee allowing the ball to be played despite a collapsed front row. But the second scrum of this game saw the Hurricanes loosehead, Chris Eves collapse on his side preventing any opportunity for the Brumbies to compete for the ball and this is where the AR needs to radio in for a collapse with a penalty to the Brumbies. This didn’t occur allowing the Hurricanes to play it out of their half.
I also thought when the Brumbies front row reserves of James Slipper, Josh Mann-Rea and Leslie Leuluai’iali’i-Makin stepped in, they maintained the scrum well which resulted in 4 penalties for various reasons of collapsing and angling in. It was also very clear when Slipper came on, he straightened up the attack which gave Lealiifino room to move outside him and so this is a big tick for Slipper again, on the back of his 5 from 5 tackles.
The Brumbies set piece in the game was excellent with 18 lineouts won and Fainga’a really putting his hand up with accurate throwing, strong running and excellent control of the scrum, but were beaten by a rampaging Hurricanes that pounced on any mistake resulting from pushed passes and poor backline execution. Pete Samu and David Pocock were standouts in the loose with both getting 4 turnovers each in a very contestable game with Ardie Savea and Du’ Plessis Kirifi.
This is a scrum I would like the readers to give their opinions on. The Brumbies received a penalty for the Hurricanes standing up however the strong contest of both teams In my opinion had the Brumbies standing up first which I would think on the referee’s decision would be a scrum to the Hurricanes but what the Brumbies did well was the back 5 stayed connected and in the fight continuing to push resulting in a perception of forward momentum and the Penalty going the Brumbies way?
REBELS V HIGHLANDERS
The Rebels played the Highlanders at AAMI Park in Melbourne after their bye week resulting in another win to the Rebels with the final score 24 to 19. The Rebels have some serious depth with Sam Talakai getting his first start replacing Jermaine Ainsley and the return of Adam Coleman onto the bench replacing Luke Jones as the game progressed.
The Rebels had 5 successful scrums throughout the game as opposed to the Highlanders 8 scrum wins. Around the 8 minute mark the Highlanders had the feed in to their scrum and with the Rebels going forward, the Highlanders loosehead Siate Tokolahi collapsed his side of the scrum preventing any further forward momentum with the referee allowing the ball to be played. This is a penalty every day of the week and needs to be officiated better especially when there’s forward momentum from an eight man shove. This also occurred when Talakai collapsed a scrum in the same circumstances preventing a shove from the Highlanders. This should not be allowed to play on when deliberately collapsing a scrum.
Packing down in the scrum must have been frustrating for the forwards to deliver a solid platform for the backline to attack and look up to see Marika Koroibete running the ball into touch giving away possession. The forwards were rewarded for their work in the set piece around the 23 minute mark that saw the Rebels forwards push through the Highlanders scrum with the Highlanders halfback darting down the blindside, passing to Waisake Naholo who chips it over but is recovered by the Rebels and eventually Jack Maddocks runs in a great try. It was good to see the pressure built from the scrum resulted in a rushed miss kick from the Highlanders and the opportunity to counter attack from the Rebels rewarded the team with a try.
The Rebels scrum improved as the game moved into the 2nd half with a number of free kicks / penalties from early engagements, hinging, collapsing, etc. With the strong scrumming game of Faulkner, Rangi and Talakai the replacements of Ainsley, Abel and Gibbon as well as the return of Adam Coleman resulted in the Rebels scrum demolishing the Highlanders. How good was it to see Coleman back making crunching tackles on Naholo, Aiden Johnstone and Frizzell within his first 5 minutes back on the pitch, no easy feat, but it shows the aggression that he brings to the game.
Even with the first lineout being misfired from Rangi, the Rebels managed to secure 11 lineouts opting to try out various moves as opposed to bringing the ball down and driving the ball up the field. Rangi managed to throw the ball low on his first lineout resulting in a near try when Angus Cottrell kicked it through. Then there was one over throw that Brad Wilkin caught at the back of the lineout, but once again he had a strong game at set piece.
Sam Talakai at Tighthead was strong playing in his first start for the year in the scrum and causing a turnover at a critical time of the game. Also good was Tetera Faulkner at loosehead contributing a solid game at set piece which is the priority but I feel these two really need to standout around the ground with the strong running capabilities of front rowers in other teams.
My outstanding scrum of the game came in the 80th minute when after defending for over 5 minutes in their 22, a held up try resulted in a 5 meter scrum to the Rebels. Ainslie, Abel, Gibbons and back five all stood up taking the fight to the Highlanders securing an advantage which resulted in Copper kicking the ball into touch and ending the game. Well done Rebels!
REDS V CRUSADERS
The Reds were up against it at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane – a chance for their supporters the opportunity to see if they could knock off the Crusaders 17 match winning streak. The Reds retained the front row of Feao Fotuaika, Brandon Paenga-Amosa & Taniela Tupou against the experienced props of Owen Franks and Joe Moody with a combined 141 tests for the All Blacks with Andrew Makalio at Hooker. This was an excellent test for the Fotuaika playing his second game against one of the world’s best tightheads in Franks.
After the first scrum, which was held firm by the Reds, there was a scrum at the 4:00 minute mark that was a great contest and listening to Tim Horan’s (an expert in all things scrumming) commentary, Moody was using his experience, technique and footwork to earn a penalty. I think the collapse was caused by a build-up in pressure held by both teams with slight of movement resulting in Moody collapsing under the weight when sinking for a second push. The referee called the decision as collapsed elbow but it may have been against Fotuaika at loosehead, nothing to do with Moody and unfortunately the vision doesn’t support this theory. The remainder of the first half bar a free kick for early engagement showed a promising Reds Scrum hold up against the established Crusaders allowing the backs to launch of their strong set piece.
The second half was a mixed bag of penalties with what I thought was toss of the coin decision making resulting in various decisions and with Tim Horan’s commentary putting in his two cents, was for me, frustrating to watch. The replacements of JP and Ruan Smith and Alex Mafi held up very well to the Crusaders scrum also gaining some penalties for collapsing but stood firm to the task. Coach Brad Thorn would be pleased with how his scrum held up once the replacements were made.
The Scrum count was 6 scrums fed and won to the Reds to the Crusaders 4 scrum feeds however the Crusaders took 5 extra scrum free kicks or penalties from referee decision making. The lineouts stats were 9 won for the Reds to the Crusaders 19 as well as turning over 3 of the Reds throw in.
The lineouts, despite the first overthrow from Paenga-Amosa, were all successful until Mafi came on in the second half. The Crusaders began to mark up to compete for what were either over complicated moves or trying to outplay with a quick throw to Scott Higginbotham around the front that was misfired. Until they returned to short and fast throw in’s did they start to take control and get on the front foot.
I was impressed with Harry Hocking who I thought was excellent around the ground playing more as a 6 as opposed to a lock and you can see there has been an influence from Thorn on his play. Hocking has a really good partnership with Izack Rodda who has had a consistent start to the year.
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was also a standout with his carries getting over the advantage line and strong tackles but was unfairly yellow carded for running back to his defensive line with no intent on getting in the way of the ball. Another decision that could have kept 15 men on the field to defend a fierce Crusaders edging towards the line for further points.
At the 55:00 minute mark, the Reds had a feed in with a good stable scrum, until the replacement Crusaders loosehead prop Harry Allen wheeled the scrum around the side and was called for a reset. The reset scrum resulted with the same conclusion but this time with the referee making the call that the Reds had stood up. I’m unable to see how this decision is made considering the whistle was blown at the same time as Franks and Smith come up on the opposite side and the referee looks to be making the decision based on his side of the scrum. The Reds back 5 were not down and set and can see in the video the amount of movement before the set call. The Reds need to work on this at these important parts of the game to prevent giving the ball away as for the remainder of the match were very solid in the scrum.
PROPS (& HOOKERS) TO YOU
Folau Fainga’a was my pick for Round 3 who was busy around the ground getting through a tonne of work with strong carries, the ability to link up and hit tip on passes when the space allowed and hitting rucks with the aggression we expect of our forwards. Fainga’a’s 13 throws were a standout hitting with precision with the ability to drive the rolling maul or peel around the back and move the ball as required. This was a hard game to beat your opposite number when it consists of the Hurricanes Captain in Dane Coles but with one try to Fainga’a, he did a bloody good job.