Finding Front Rowers: Super Rugby Scrum Scrutiny 3 - Green and Gold Rugby
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Finding Front Rowers: Super Rugby Scrum Scrutiny 3

Finding Front Rowers: Super Rugby Scrum Scrutiny 3

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.

via GIPHY

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.

STANDOUT SCRUM

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?

via GIPHY

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.

via GIPHY

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.

OUTSTANDING SCRUM

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!

via GIPHY

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.

via GIPHY

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.

OUTSTANDING SCRUM

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.

via GIPHY

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.

  • Twoilms

    “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.”

    Have to disagree with you there. Scrum penalties are terribly boring %90 of the time. Let the game flow if at all possible.

    • Brumby Runner

      Every week this season collapsed scrums have been allowed to continue for the ball to come out. It is wrong and encourages weaker scrums to deliberately go down once the ball has been fed. The Tahs have used that tactic for at least the past two Super seasons, and now others are doing the same.

    • T.edge

      I understand and last article I spoke about how good the referee was in managing this area but when there is contested ball (scrum) and a team is surging forward legally and the opposing team collapses, then the team should be awarded a penalty as its preventing the opportunity for a turnover. If on the other hand let’s say the Highlanders are pushing forward with the ball at the eights feet and there’s a collapse, the referee should ask for the ball to be played, not blown up for a collapse for the sake of it.

      • Huw Tindall

        This seems like the best balance and it does favour the team feeding the ball slightly which is probably fair. We don’t want endless resets but we also want the scrum to remain a unique and distinctive part of the game.

        Get the old spider cam thing back that sunk England with dirty tactics in RWC2015!

        • T.edge

          Need to come up with something similar to #scrumstraightjoe to get the english media to zero in on their team and apply some extra pressure!

        • Huw Tindall

          #crouchtouchpausepenalise

  • Who?

    Many times when you see a team penalized for standing up, the opposition is going forward and has stood up first. It’s really not uncommon. But I’m not a fan of Anselmi’s officiating at the scrum. You MUST have a square, steady scrum before allow the ball to be fed, and then the scrum must be fed without inordinate delay. Too often, weaker scrums are trying to push before the feed in order to have a drive when the ball is fed, ensuring possession. It’s an attempt to avoid a contest. The Canes did it against the Brumbies, and largely got away with it. The Rebels game had the same issue for the first 35 minutes this week, until the ref decided to FK then penalize the Rebels, without bothering to notice that Rebels-fed scrums were steady, and the Highlanders’ 9 was taking longer than proscribed (the laws say the ball must be fed without delay) trying to get that moving scrum. In the second half, he finally woke up to what was really happening.
    Square and steady was a cornerstone of the scrum engagement sequence that was introduced in 2013. To the extent that the ref was to prevent the half from feeding the ball until it was steady, then was to instruct the half to feed the scrum (a request, not a demand, to allow a little leeway to ‘fairly’ advantage the team feeding). This was never truly appreciated, understood or implemented accurately by referees, resulting in the removal of the ‘Yes 9′ call from the sequence, and the constant movement before the feed – which makes it an early shove, given the scrum doesn’t start until the ball is fed – is just a continuation of that issue.
    Talakai was massively undervalued by the Reds. They had a great scrum with him starting at THP through 2016, 17 and into 18. He may not be dynamic in general play, especially as a ball runner, but he did win a pretty crucial turnover around the 68th minute. He’s an excellent Super Rugby prop.
    In terms of the Reds/Crusaders game… I don’t see how that first gif you’ve linked isn’t a clear penalty against Moody for dropping his bind, his shoulder and then the scrum. The second one was pretty clear to me live that it was walking around. Both teams moved equally, and if you HAVE to penalize a team, you penalize the team whose feet are pointing sideways. That wasn’t the Reds. I’ve also seen accusations on here (I haven’t gone to check) of Moody grabbing Tupou’s legs rather than binding, and other nefarious scrum play.

    • Brumby Runner

      Who, my understanding is that this year it is entirely left to the No 9 to decide when to feed the ball. I could be wrong, but I think the Ref is now out of that part of the equation altogether.

      • Nutta

        It’s left to the 9 in that last year the Ref called when to feed (which was silly and bloody dangerous in my opinion). Now that has gone back to the players. It doesn’t mean a good/smart Hooker isn’t signalling to his 9 prior though. Old becomes new again…

      • Who?

        You’re right (that happened a few years ago now), but the law still states that the ball must be fed without delay. There should be some flexibility there, but if the ref’s providing a steady scrum, then the 9 shouldn’t be there 5 seconds later. To avoid a slow feed, the ref needs to enforce for a steady scrum (with warnings, FK’s and PK’s for notable movement). If the 9’s got a steady platform, then the ‘without delay’ clause of the law comes into play (i.e. the hooker needs to signal the feed within a short period of time, not wait ages). The advantage of the feed is knowing when to hook, not being able to wait until your scrum is already advancing before feeding.

    • Happyman

      IMHO Moody was refereed on reputation not what was happening at the game. There is quite a bit of positive reinforcement with the Saders and how stye scrum. One of the favourite things they do is the Flanker will often ride up on the Loosehead effectively creating a four man front row. Highly effective when you can get away with it.

      I agree with he number nine and in many cases the 9 is skirting the line of a dummy feed (Often aligned with the opposition scrum fading either on the hit of when the scrum half crouches to get an early shove from the opposition.

      • T.edge

        Yes it happens in most games when a prop gets a step forward or around and the flanker rides up pushing around the corner to give that perception of going forward and effectively adding the 4th man to the front row.

    • Nutta

      I agree with your point on the missed opportunity about what Refs were actually supposed to do re feeding.

    • Keith Butler

      In one of the penalties given against a Tupou, Moody loses his bind and then proceeds to bind onto Tupou’s leg just above the knee. That first penalty against T was just bad refereeing plain and simple.

    • T.edge

      And this is the challenge the referees face, when you have two packs over 800kg each primed ready for the ball to be fed and an opposing pack doesn’t take the hit or there’s movement in the 2nd row, it looks like there’s an early shove but the scrum is just unstable and managed appropriately . Its hard to balance but the laws are clear as you mentioned above re: square engagement ,etc.
      The crusaders game was actually a good contest in the scrum bar 2 or 3 scrums that wheeled around the corner or collapsed. To me the scrum above should have been reset again, both the Reds and Crusaders walked around the LH side for the 2nd time. Yes punters are sick of resetting scrums but there was no clear decision it was a toss of the coin.

      • Who?

        I agree the Reds/Saders games could’ve had a couple more resets. But if you’ve got scrummaging of the type we now regularly see – where packs are moving forwards and backwards, and there’s a contest – then I think punters should be more tolerant of resets. It’s not like what we saw before the change in sequence, where you’d regularly see consecutive dropped binds on the hit forcing slow resets. Scrums generally stay up on the hit, and if they stay up on the set, then there’s more successful scrums and fewer lucky dip penalties.
        I do get that refs can have issues with forcing square and steady, but that’s where they need to prevent the 9 from feeding. No feed until square and steady, and then don’t take too long. It’s really not hard, it’s just been badly managed by the top refereeing body, who have consistently undermined the sequence in this area since its introduction.

        • T.edge

          Agree. Wouldn’t it add another element if they actually made the no.9 feed the ball in straight down the middle line as opposed to offset and under their hooker?

        • Who?

          That was in the original requirements. Which is another reason why square and steady was required – without that, giving a little flexibility to the scrumhalf for timing the feed, it was unsafe for hookers to strike for the ball. Argentina never bothered with it – they consistently drove early and walked over their own ball rather than ever trying to hook. Refs regularly pinged halfbacks for it in the early days, but because they didn’t bother to enforce square and steady and failed to punish early shoves, it seemed untenable to them, and hence they significantly softened that requirement.

  • Nutta

    Morning

    Very much enjoy this.

    Donkeys v Canes standout scrum – Donkey’s executed a classic step-left and drove. This makes the Canes TH lift once he doesn’t move his feet. This lift and pressure to the left will actually make the Donkey TH come up first generally as he leaves the Canes LH behind and with much less force holding him down, up he comes.

    Rebels on the Skirt-Wearers – note how the Rebel LH inconspicuously grabs the Skirt on the left/inside shoulder as the scrum destabilises to stop him getting off and onto the Rebels 9? Lovely.

    Reds v Cru – I agree that Moody pops under. Regarding the Cru LH work, you can see by the way the Reds TH arse pops out that the pressure was across his line. I would also suggest the Cru breakaway was likely packing long and in as well (note how quick he comes up once it destabilises). The comment about hit & stick is relevant because much of it started with the initial instability. Hit & stick.

    I agree with your props to Faingaa and his skill-set however I also think that Rangi from the Scum is playing some very good footy at 2. Tough, abrasive, hits his marks and without the penalties of some others.

  • Huw Tindall

    Can you rename this series the trough as it’s compulsory reading for all us piggies.

    That Reds scrum @4 mins was atrocious decision. Moody looses his bind and eats dirt. Plane and simple. You can see his arm come off Tupou and end up under his chest essentially.

    • Nutta

      ‘The Trough’ does have a certain je ne sais quoi to it.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      I like that name. Great choice

    • Patrick

      Also seconding the name,

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    World Rugby have stated that if a scrum collapses and the ball is available then it can be played. This is to reduce her stop/start approach of more resets and wasted time. The only issue is if there is an injury. I think it’s a good idea as long as it still allows a fair contest.

    • T.edge

      Yes, I agree with the law to keep the game flowing but makes it hard when a team is surging forward to be prevented from driving over the ball because of a collapse from the pressure they are under.

Analysis

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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