MONDAY’S RUGBY NEWS
Monday’s rugby news does a lap ’round the grounds covering the weekend’s action and checks in on the injuries threatening the Brumbies’ season.
Super Rugby Round 10
Inexplicably, given the four-day weekend, the round 10 matches were condensed into two days of action. Personally, I do wonder if a better job could have been done of spreading out the weekend’s fixtures to take advantage of the extra time most folk had off.
McAnyway, to the results.
Friday night football’s triple header kicked things off with the Chiefs facing the Lions and one had to wonder exactly what was going to transpire. Both teams have been a bit hit and miss this season and the match duly followed the script.
It was 6-0 to the visitors after 35 minutes yet they went into the sheds up 20-0. The scoring baton was passed to the locals for the second as they piled on 3 tries in 15 minutes before Jantjies added a field goal in the dying stages to leave the final score 23-17 to the Lions. One (this time) had to wonder what effect successful conversions might have had as all else being equal, the Chiefs would have held the lead after their 75th minute try.
Next up was the Sunwolves (who knows what they’ll do) hosting the Hurricanes, whose only two losses this season have been to the Crusaders. For the first half an hour it looked like an upset was on the cards as the home side toyed with the visitors and ran in two tries while superboot Parker knocked over three penalties to leave the half-time score 23-10. The Sunwolves must have rued their mistakes and wasted opportunities in the second half as the ‘Canes ran in three unanswered tries while the ‘Wolves didn’t add any points. Final score, 29-23.
Durban, where the Reds haven’t won since forever things looked good from the outset with the underdogs up 14-0 early on. The Shorks repeatedly turned down shots at goal and eventually got a 7 of their own and when the ref called the end of the first 40 it was 14-7 to the away side. When teams took the field again, both fingernails and defensive lines were tested until the almost the hour when Tate McDermott was on the spot backing up, dotting down near the posts and an upset was on! Try as they might, the hosts couldn’t breach the Reds’ line until 65 seconds to go but it wasn’t until the 83rd minute and a forced turnover by Liam Wright and time was called. REDS WIN 21-14.
Saturday started in Dunedin with the ironically lowly Highlanders and surprising Blues duking it out.
From a meagre 7-5 halftime lead the ‘Landers kicked away to be well in control throughout much of the match. The guests clawed a converted try back late in the piece but to no avail as the lads from Otago walked away with it, 24-12.
Sydney was the venue for the match of the round-1 vs 2 in the Aussies conference and a mess of players vying for Wallabies’ selection. Initially, things looked good for Hodge, Meakes, Cooper and Co as the darker blue team controlled proceedings, strolling off for oranges with a healthy 20-7 lead. Two second-half tries by the ‘Tahs and a perfect night with the boot for Foley meant NSW won 23-20.
Finally, we had the dangerous, but stuttering Stormers up against the similarly-stuttering Brumbies. The opening exchanges belonged to the donkeys as they ran in two unanswered tries and held a 12-3 lead as half-time was blown. There was more to come in the first half though. The TMO called the ref’s attention to a high tackle by Toni Pulu which led to a yellow card and the Stormers being awarded a penalty try, cutting the Brumbies’ lead to 12-10. The locals put their advantage to use early in the second with another converted try pushing them out to a 17-12 lead until near the hour where Tom Banks got his team ahead again, 19-17 which ended up being the final score.
Brumby Injury Toll Mounts
The Brumbies have already had to manage the talismanic Pocock’s workload this year. After the GREATEST ASSET IN MODERN WALLABIES HISTORY picked up a calf strain at the Voldemort of training camps earlier this year the star openside has been struggling to get back to the level he’s capable of.
Coach Dan McKellar put his thoughts into words and (for mind) was brilliantly reserved in his assessment of the situation,
“It all started back in January at the Wallabies camp and hasn’t stopped really,” he said.
“If I had had been told, when I was originally told it was a calf strain in January, that it would be still dragging on in the back end of April, you’d certainly be frustrated.
“He’s been frustrated, as much as anyone. He works hard on his rehab and wants to contribute to the team. He still certainly had a really good contribution but he wants to be able to have a contribution on the field and hasn’t been able to do that this year.
“But there is still a long way to go and it’ll be nice to have him back for the second part of the season.
“We have to make sure if we throw him back into a game situation that he is prepared and ready to perform. And not just play, so the last thing we want him to do is have another setback.”
Now to add the ongoing calf strain saga the Brumbies might be looking for another forward with cult figure Josh Mann-Rea having to leave the field with a pronounced limp. One theory is the 38-year-old has torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL, if you will) and without a contract next season it might be curtains.
While realistically the biggest loser in this situation is Mann-Rea himself the Brumbies and RA look set to lose one of their best stories in recent years (and don’t they need them).
Mann-Rea went from working in a coal mine to playing for the Wallabies. A talented schoolboy who played an U/19 world cup he gave away rugby for a period in the early 200s, ‘I thought it was time to get a real job, earn some money and look after the family. I had an opportunity to work in the [Illawarra coal] mines and couldn’t say no’ before the most unusual pathway brought him back to Green and Gold contention. Through Japan, to the Waratahs and eventually the Brumbies he finally won his first cap in 2014.
In Mann-Rea’s absence Connal McInerney has flown to Argentina to join the team there.
Strangely, the Brumbies didn’t look down any mine shafts in the Illawarra to find a suitable replacement.
It’s finally happened.
After four rounds of the HSBC Women’s Sevens series, the Kiwis have finally been beaten.
Progressing through the first three rounds without dropping any matches the Kiwis were both held to a draw by Russia, 17-17 and defeated in their pool clash by long-time NZ bogey team, France, 29-7.
Things went from bad to worse for previously immovable objects as they then lost the Cup quarter final to the USA although made some amends by thumping Russia 36-0 to qualify for the 5th place play-off where they then overcame the Aussies, 26-24.
Elsewhere, the French, fresh of their Davidesque efforts against New Zealand then went down to England and to add insult to insult, lost the Bronze medal to the USA.
Quietly going about their business, Canada brushed aside their pool-mates, Spain, 26-17, China, 42-19 and Australia, 17-14 to qualify for the finals. Come the finals and they were faced with the giant-matching Russians and the giant-conquering USA but swept both aside before a solitary conversion separated them from the Poms in the final.
Our girls didn’t fare so well. A loss to Canada in their pool game meant a Cup quarter-final against England where our antipodean neighbours cantered into the semis, 21-7 however, a stronger showing against Ireland saw them qualify for the 5th place play-off against the *other* old enemy, NZ. New Zealand got away to a huge lead that even Ellia Green’s 100th career try wasn’t enough and the Aussies had to settle for 6th.
The win for the Canuks sees them leap-frog their continental buddies into second place on the standings, New Zealand still hold down top spot and our girls still hang on to fourth place.
It’s a shade under three weeks until the women hit the turf again in British Columbia.
Premier Grade Results
The Dewar Shield hasn’t started yet and two states known for their relaxed attitude took the weekend off with QLD and WA getting into the chocolate instead of each other.
Down in ol’ Sydney town the Shute Shield marched on as they forged ahead with round 3 action.
The first fixture was a 2018 grand final rematch as the Students played the Rats. One suspects the Rats came into it looking to make at least some amends for their 45-12 trashing in last year’s grandy but they instead decided to lose by even more as Uni raised the bat and Warringah managed a duck, final score 50-0, turning Good Friday into Great Friday for the blue and gold.
Eastwood fell to North Sydney at home, 44-14.
Gordon extended the Two Blue’s losing streak to 3/3 this year with their 43-10 trouncing.
The battle for eastern-Sydney supremacy proved a much tighter contest. Manly and Eastern Suburbs were both one from two for the season heading in to the Manly oval fixture and it was the locals just scraping home 22-18.
On paper, the final match of the round might have looked like a cake walk. Southern Districts were one of only two undefeated teams after two rounds meanwhile their opponents Randwick were coming off consecutive losses to start their year. Any hopes by Randwick for an easter-style risen from the dead miracle fell short, 24-17 as Southern Districts consolidated their position leading the comp and Randwick sit second last grasping at bonus points.
Normally programming returns next weekend with QLD, Vic and WA comps getting or getting back underway.