Monday’s Rugby News wraps up the Super Rugby semi-finals along with the various club competitions across Australia, provides an update on the fitness of David Pocock (along with the potential return of a former Wallaby) and outlines the new laws set for trial in the NRC
The semi-finals of the Super Rugby have thrown up some thrilling displays of rugby across the weekend as we get set to crown the champions for 2019.
The first semi-final witnessed the Jaguares attempt to make their first Super Rugby grand final as they hosted a Brumbies side hellbent on sending off five of their key players, most notably captain Christian Lealiifano, with the side’s first title in 15 years.
The Jaguares would dominate the early contests of the match, racing out to a 20-0 lead in the first twenty minuttes thanks to tries to former Brumby Tomas Cubelli and Tomas Lavanini.
The Brumbies would strike back right before half time through Folau Fainga’a, reducing the margin to 20-7 before half time to give Australian fans some hope of an almighty comeback.
However, it would ultimately fail to inspire a fightback with a double to Matias Orlando’s and a late try to Emiliano Boffelli sealing the 39-7 win to the Jaguares and their place in the grand final for the first time in the club’s short history.
Their opponent would be determined later on Saturday evening with a rematch of the 2018 semi-final where the defending champions Crusaders hosted a Hurricanes team hungry for revenge.
The home side would control the first half, with the Crusaders cruising to a 13-7 lead thanks to the boot of Richie Mo’unga, who kicked two penalty goals and put in a perfect cross-field kick for Sevu Reece to score.
The Hurricanes refused to give in, constantly pressuring the Crusaders goal-line, eventually finding success through Ben Lam and Ngani Laumape to reduce the margin back to a point to set up a thrilling contest.
In the end, the defending champions were too strong with a second try to Reece giving them much needed breathing space to hold off the fast-finishing Hurricanes to secure the 30-26 win and their opportunity for a three-peat.
However, their quest to go back-to-back-to-back has been hampered with suspected injuries to All Blacks Ryan Crotty and Scott Barrett.
Crotty (thumb) and Barrett (finger) are set to learn the extent of their injuries when x-ray results return on Monday, with fractures rulling them out of the grand final along with hampering their availability for the All Blacks World Cup preparations.
The adventures around Australian club rugby starts in NSW where round 13 of the Shute Shield has thrown up some incredible results.
The highlight of club rugby this week was up at Pittwater Park, where top placed Warringah managed to hold off defending champions Sydney Uni 22-21 after Uni winger James Kane missed a penalty with two minutes to go, handing the Rats revenge after their crushing defeat in the 2018 grand final (click the link for a full recap of this thrilling contest)
Other results in the competition saw Easts break Manly’s five-game winning streak with a 34-19 win, Eastwood dominated Randwick 47-31, Norths held off a valiant Western Sydney 31-18 and Gordon maintained touch with the top 6 with a comeback 24-21 win over Southern Districts.
Round 14 of the Hospital Challenge Cup saw Queensland Uni pull off a last gasp victory over Norths 40-39, Brothers outgun Sunnybank 34-25, GPS dent Wests finals aspirations with a 29-22 victory and in a huge boilover, Easts managed to holt their slump with a 30-17 win over third-placed Souths.
Round 9 of the Dewar Shield in Victoria witnessed Harlequins outclass Power House 46-7, Melbourne Uni defeat Endeavour Hills 41-10, Moorabbin managing to upset second-placed Box Hill 31-17 and finally, Melbourne pulled off a statement performance with a 103-0 victory over Footscray.
The John I Dent Cup in Canberra threw up incredible results for round 13 where Norths held off a gutsy Easts 40-36, Queanbeyan dominate fellow dwellers Wests 50-14 and Gungahlin and Vikings played out one of the best games of the season, with the top of the table clash failing to find a winner, with both sides deadlocked at 33-all after 80 minutes.
In South Australia, round 9 of the Coopers Premier had Onkaparinga outclass Woodville 40-7, Port Adelaide were too strong for Barossa winning 36-17, Old Collegians mollywhopped Adelaide Uni 93-0, Souths held off Burnside 14-7 in a final-like contest and Brighton compounded Elizabeth’s misery with a 126-0 win.
Finally, in Perth, round 13 of the Fortescue Premier saw UWA trample Joondalup 61-12, ARKs defeated Palmyra 36-35 in a thriller, Kalamunda dominated Bayswater 58-20, Nedlands held off a valiant Coastal Cavaliers 19-13, Wests crushed Curtin 106-3, Cottesloe was too strong for Wanneroo 18-10 and finally Associates cruised to a 91-17 win over Southern Lions.
Wallabies flanker and future Australian of the Year David Pocock is set to miss out on the side’s opening Rugby Championship game against South Africa.
Coach Michael Cheika and the selection panel will name a 31-man squad that will travel to Africa for the side’s opening match with South Africa on July 21, where Pocock is set to be omitted as he continues his return from injury.
Pocock has not played since March 8, with the flanker forced to withdraw from the Brumbies Super Rugby season to concentrate on his recovery from a calf injury in order to be fit for the World Cup in September.
He has been working with leading AIS physio Craig Purdam to get back to full fitness, where there is the real possibility that he will not feature in a competitive match before the commencement of the World Cup.
Despite this, Pocock was confident that he would be fit for the tournament when he spoke with the media last week, stating that he is ticking off the necessary goals to be fit in time for September’s showpiece.
Someone who may be named in the 31-man squad is James O’Connor, who is expected to join the Wallabies camp in Brisbane if he can finalise a deal with a Super Rugby club before its mid-week annoucement, which is expected to be Queensland.
Sources have told the Herald that talks between the two parties were progressing nicely, although they’ve stated that any deal would not be finalised until after Monday.
He hasn’t featured in the Wallabies set-up for six years, where he was unceremoniously dumped after a drunken incident at Perth Airport along with a failed campaign in 2015 to make the Wallabies Rugby World Cup squad.
However, O’Connor is a reformed man according to his coaches at Sale, with head coach Steve Diamond labelling him a “little pearl” who is better equipt to deal with the fame and pressure of being an international player.
N(ew) R(ule) C(hanges)
The NRC is set to be the testing grounds for two new rules that are set to be introduced into the game.
This comes after a meeting of World Rugby’s Law Review Group (LRG), who reviewed a number of potential law changes to be introduced over the next four years along with the recommendation of competitions to trial them in.
LRG chairman James Jeffery stated that the meeting was crucial in identifying future improvements that will help encourage attacking rugby along with reducing the risk of injury for future generations.
“This meeting is another important step on the road to further law improvement within the next four-year Rugby World Cup cycle,” he said in a statement.
“There is no doubt that the sport is committed in its collaborative effort to reduce injuries, particularly head injuries, and the outcomes from this productive meeting certainly underscored that approach.”
“The members of the LRG clearly want what’s best for the game and are determined to make the sport as safe, simple and enjoyable to play as it can be at all levels. I look forward to considering the LRG recommendations with my colleagues from the Rugby Committee next month.”
The NRC will be used to trial two new laws, including setting a limit on the amount of repeated infringements that a team can make before a player is yellow carded.
Currently, referees will yellow card players based on their personal assessment on what is deemed to be excessive amounts of recurring penalties, with this law attempting to provide consistency across the grade regarding the acceptable limit.
The other law set to be introduced is the trial of goal-line drop-outs for defending teams when an attacking player is held up over the line.
Further laws that will be introduced in closed trials will be a 50:22 kicking law, which will be similar to rugby league’s 40-20 along with a review system for yellow cards that allows the TMO to upgrade the sanction to a red card if deemed necessary.