Monday’s Rugby News sees the results from the weekends, more excuses from the coaches, more on Moody and the ref incident, and the Leinster picking up honours.
You know, last week I asked myself: how much worse could it get? Well, this week we found out.
Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. No way were the Reds going to lose to the Sunwolves right? No way are we hitting that level of crap?
Well, the Moon Doggies showed up and played some outstanding footy, sending the Reds home with 63-28 smack in the face and their tail between their legs. That is the first ever victory the Sunwolves have had over Australian opposition, and they thoroughly deserved it.
As for the Reds, you know it says a lot when the commentators are saying the way you are playing is actually aiding the opposition in the game.
Next up, the Waratahs showed some fight and gave the Crusaders a fright in the first thirty minutes of their game, leading by 29 points at one stage.
While there were one or two moments of controversy around the refereeing (which we’ll get to in a bit), there is one stat that is undeniable: this was the largest ever comeback in Super Rugby history, and it was absolutely gutting to see us come out on the wrong side of it. Especially against a Kiwi side.
If there was any doubt that the mental block of not beating Kiwi teams is weighing on Aussie players, it was all but quashed as the home side scored 31 unanswered points to win the game. These matches actually hurt more than a flogging. The fact we could have won one this one is what really hurts.
And finally, if it wasn’t enough, my Brumbies disappointed me yet again, blowing a 14 point lead against the Rebels to lose 24-27 in front of just over 5,000 fans in Canberra. It’s the clubs second lowest ever attendance, after only 4,000 turned up in the 1999 against the Bulls. That is genuinely sad to see.
Full credit to the Rebels, they came back and did well to close out the game. The Ponies left so much out on the paddock, and deserved to lose.
If there was any indication that rugby fans are turning away from the game, it could not have been epitomised more than this round we just had.
But, to finish off a more positive note, the Western Force proved once again to be the highlight of the weekend. It wasn’t quite the sold out crowd of last week, but the Sea of Blue were in full voice at NIB Stadium, as the men from the West put the boot into Tonga, winning 47-17.
Watch the highlights from this game. For a moment, put Super Rugby out of your mind.
This is what happens when you build and include the community around the game. Rugby is not about the game. Rugby is about the community, about bringing people together. When you all work together and include everyone, this game can accomplish wonderful things.
Keep doing what you’re doing Force. You’re giving this bitter rugby fan something to be cheerful about.
Leinster take the chocs
The European Champions Cup finished up over the weekend, with the Irish continuing to have a golden year. Leinster picked up top honours, downing Racing 92 15-12 in Spain.
The win sees Leinster equal Toulouse‘s record of four championship titles. Of particular mention was the efforts of Scott Fardy, who played an instrumental role in knock the French team over.
Racing 92 were affected in the lead up to the game, with Dan Carter being ruled out due to injury an hour from kick-off, as well as losing first-choice playmaker Maxime Machenaud. They also lost Pat Lambie two minutes into the game.
However, despite those setbacks, the opportunities went begging and their lack of discipline proved to be their undoing.
“It was a real arm wrestle. So delighted to come out on the right side of the result,” Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster said post-match.
“I thought Racing were outstanding today, really put pressure on us at the breakdown.”
“We failed. They did what they had to do to win the game. They deserved to win,” said Racing coach Laurent Travers.
“We were very close. I think we could have won. At our level it is all about details and our discipline was poor in the first half,” flanker Yannick Nyanga added.
“We had a big heart today, but that’s not enough.”
In the end, no tries were scored and it turned into a battle of the boots. And it was a battle that Johnny Sexton ended up winning, which doesn’t bode well for the Wallabies in a months time.
Across the ditch
Now, we have to talk about some of the calls that took place during the Crusaders-Tahs match.
I honestly would ask how any rugby fan would look at the Joe Moody hit on Kurtley Beale and say that it was legal and that try should have been allowed.
Now, in a real case of cold comfort, SANZAAR has come out and judged the hit to fall within the red card threshold.
The Foul Play Review Committee considered it on Sunday afternoon, and handed Moody a two week ban. The strike was considered to be at least a four week ban, but Moody was hit with a reduced ban because of his previously clean record, ‘excellent character’ and early guilty plea.
Daryl Gibson expected that the incident would be handled by SANZAAR when he spoke on Saturday night.
“I thought the Joe Moody incident with the elbow, the referee’s missed (that),in my book it’s an elbow to the head, I’m sure the powers (that) be will be looking at that,” Daryl Gibson said.
By comparison, Saders coach Scott Robinson had nothing by praise for the prop.
This weekend has only added to the perceived belief that Kiwis are cheating more and more off the ball. Last year, there were a lot of claims of similar behaviour during the British and Irish Lions test series, which came to a head in an article written by Mark Reason.
Highlighting the Chiefs game last year, Reason claimed that this method was coached into players, and has apparently reached an epidemic level across the Tasman.
“The first time that the Lions put up a high kick against the Chiefs Johnny Fa’auli looked over his shoulder and ran straight across Elliot Daly. Fa’auli had absolutely no intention of trying to play the ball,” Reason wrote.
“The Lions are fed up with this sort of nonsense, as the whole of rugby should be, and have decided to make a concerted protest. Gatland said in the week, ‘The frustrating thing for us is the amount of blocking that’s going on.’
“‘The off-the-ball stuff, it makes it difficult to complete attacking opportunities and situations because there is so much happening off the ball in terms of holding players or subtly holding players. We’ve raised it with the ref already. It’s part of the game in New Zealand, all New Zealand teams at the moment are doing it.'”
“They are and, of course, the real name for it is cheating. This is the sort of thing that has New Zealand calling up the great Sir Colin Meads to defend the honour of the nation.
“Before the 2011 World Cup it was suggested that Sir Richie, the Crusaders and the All Blacks were repeatedly and deliberately holding players off the ball.
“It was coached cheating and it was subsequently confirmed that the head of World Rugby‘s referees had warned the ABs about the practice. Of course half of New Zealand still threw up their hands in horror at the suggestion, aghast that such things should be said. Pass the port to the left, said the lords of rugby, and don’t be so uncouth.
“Well, sorry to say, but New Zealand has been called out again. I do have some sympathy for the Chiefs, because they have taken the view, if you can’t beat em, join em. Back in 2012 they got so fed up with Crusaders blockers that they warned Craig Joubert before their Super semi that they would be taking them out.
“When the Chiefs started blasting through them, the likes of Sam Whitelock threw themselves to the ground as if they were re-enacting the death scene from Camille. Joubert took no notice. If you want to cheat, you can take the punishment, he seemed to imply.”
I keen to hear everyone’s thoughts on all this, especially our kiwi readers. Considering this seems to be coming up time-and-time again, do we think is it a case of coached cheating, ore are all international teams all just not good enough?
What’s your excuse this time?
The coaches responses to the results from the weekend were exactly what we’re used to: ‘yeah, this performance was awful, but we got to keep looking forward. We’ll review it on Monday, and go into it next game.’
Like the previous weeks worked.
Starting off, the only Super Rugby team that won, the Rebels, at least had something positive to talk about. Dave Wessels was glad to see some much needed fight from the boys, particularly after being down by two tries earlier in the game.
“The game, for me, was really won in that 15 minutes after half time where they never left our 22 and the boys just gutsed it out,” Wessels said in the post-match conference.
“It’s nice to see the fighting spirit never left us.
“That ultimately set up the platform for us to win, which was good.
“The last 30 minutes where we started to get our hands on the ball and started to play, I thought we were causing them real trouble.
“We will get some confidence out of that, as well.”
Wessels also had lots of praise for skipper Adam Coleman, who guided the team around well after Will Genia was injured last week.
By comparison, Brumbies coach Dan McKellar did a Brad Thorn and lashed his team for not taking their opportunities, saying that they ‘lost the unloseable.’ He also said the squad he’ll take to South Africa will look very different compared to the one from the weekend.
“You review it and you’ve got to start learning and some aren’t doing that, so I’ll have to make changes. It’s frustrating,” McKellar said to rugby.com.au.
“It’s about 2018 and not about 2019 or beyond that but we’ve got to start to learn from the mistakes that we’re making.”
“We spoke out there about momentum shifts and how we’re going to manage them and I just feel like we’re banging our heads up against a brick wall,” Christian Lealiifano added.
“We’ve got to do something. Whether it’s a big change or adjusting something, we’re sitting here really frustrated with just seeing the same stuff.”
Daryl Gibson‘s response was being proud that the Tahs turned up, despite the fact they were on the wrong end of the largest comeback in Super Rugby history.
“I’m incredibly proud of our team,” Gibson said post-match.
“At the end there, we had no locks, we had a prop in the front of the scrum. WE can go away and be proud of our effort and disappointed that we’ve let one slip.
“It’s important we frame that for ourselves and the fact that two weeks in a row, all the media saying Australian teams can’t compete with New Zealand teams, and we should’ve probably won.
“We’ve got another two to go, pick ourselves up and get back out there.”
And, as for the Reds, Brad Thorn did exactly what we’re used to, and lashed his team for being shit.
“For us, with a team where we are at – at the moment – I can tell usually pretty early where we are at,” Thorn said to rugby.com.au.
“You saw not being able to exit, battling away with pretty basic skills – it wasn’t looking sharp there.
“We got exactly what we deserved.
“There was a lot of basic footy out there, we got what we deserved and well done to the Sunwolves.”
“We just weren’t there mentally, in my opinion. We played the top team in the African conference two weeks ago and you saw the attitude and performance there.
“The performance you saw today was just worlds apart.
“The big thing with this club, this group, is that mental (part) – where we are, our mindset.
“It was a great day for footy out there so to dish that sort of performance up – it’s pretty darn frustrating.”