Monday’s Rugby News looks at the results from the Super Rugby and Super W, the newest location for the Wallabies/Wallaroos and how the coronavirus has affected the gold medal defence of the women’s sevens side.
Round three of the Super Rugby separated the contenders from the pretenders, with some clear favourites rising to the top of the class.
One of these was the Crusaders, who dominated the Blues 25-8 in Auckland. The defending champions bounced back from their disappointing loss to the Chiefs, with tries to All Blacks trio George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue sealing the win.
This was followed by the Adam Freier/Tom Kingston classic, with the Rebels hosting the Waratahs in awful conditions. The action would match the weather, with neither side playing inspiring rugby. Despite this, former Waratah Andrew Kellaway starred in his revenge game, scoring a double to secure the 24-10 win for the Rebels.
To start Saturday, the Chiefs crushed the Sunwolves to claim a 43-17 win in Toyko. The unbeaten Chiefs would share the load around, with seven different try scorers crossing in the bonus-point victory that maintained their spot on the top of the ladder.
Following this, the Hurricanes would look to back up their impressive win against the Jaguares when they hosted the Sharks, who were eager to end their NZ tour unbeaten. Unfortunately for them, they ran into a truck named Ben Lam, who dominated the second half with a double to claim a 38-22 win.
To wrap up Saturday, the only unbeaten Australian side, the Brumbies, faced their first real test in the Highlanders (no offence, Rebels and Reds). The Brumbies rolling maul, led by hat-trick hero Folau Fainga’a, looked to have sealed the game for the ACT boys. However, a late penalty and an 84th minute try to Teariki Ben-Nicholas allowed the Dunedin dudes to claim a one-point victory.
This was followed by the match of the round, with the Stormers looking to maintain their unbeaten run when they hosted the Lions. In a tense encounter, Ruhan Nel scored a last-gasp try to ensure that the Stormers pipped the Lions 33-30 and continued their impressive start to the season.
To finish the Super Rugby round, we ask for anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Federico Anselmi and co if they could contact a Mr B Thorn, whose team were victims of an absolute robbery in Argentina. Despite a dominant first half, the Reds were eventually run down by Anselmi and the Jaguares, who claimed a 43-27 victory. Just another case of hometown refereeing.
Super W kicks off
The Super W has kicked off for another season, with the Waratahs showing their male counterparts up with a dominant 33-3 win over the Rebels.
Whilst the Rebels put up a strong fight against the defending champions, the class of the Waratahs shown through, notching five tries to get their title defence off to a strong start.
Despite the win, captain Grace Hamilton was still unhappy with the performance, believing that they should’ve been more clinical.
“We can obviously do better,” Hamilton said.
“It was quite dewy out on the field and we’ve just got to play to our strengths.
“We’ve got to recombine and do what works best for us, so if that ball’s not coming fast, we need to play to those conditions.
“We got up today but we’ve got a lot of learning to do and it’s a big road ahead.”
This was followed by a trip to Canberra, where the Brumbies showed that they will be a force to be reckoned with after cruising to a 29-10 win over Rugby WA.
The victory was set up by a strong start with the ACT girls scoring three tries in the first 20 minutes to set the tone and secure the victory.
“Coming out here tonight we knew how crucial a first-round win; it’s only going to get harder from here; all the teams are only going to get stronger,” Brumbies co-captain Michaela Leonard said.
“Good to get the confidence up after that first win, there’s always things to improve on so hopefully we can pool all that together and come out even stronger next week.”
With the Reds having a bye for the first week of the comp, they would take part in a much-needed tune-up game against Fijiana.
Unfortunately, the physical Fijians would overpower the grand finalists, riding a strong first half to a 29-10 win.
The loss was compounded by the injury to New Zealand recruit Hasting Leiataua, who limped off after going down awkwardly in a tackle in the first half.
Heading up north
Australian rugby is set for uncharted territory, with the Wallabies and Wallaroos set to play a double-header at the new Queensland Country Bank Stadium in North Queensland on July 18.
The Wallabies will face Fiji, who played in the old Dairy Farmers Stadium in 2003 whilst the Wallaroos will host 3rd ranked Canada.
It continues Rugby Australia quest to push the game outside of the usual 4-5 stadiums that host international fixtures, with the new stadium providing CEO Raelene Castle with the perfect opportunity to achieve this and grow the game in the rugby league heartland.
“We were hugely impressed by Queensland Country Bank Stadium and the offering it will provide for fans, both from the North Queensland region and for those travelling from interstate and abroad,” she said.
“It’s a world-class facility that the sports-loving people of North Queensland have been craving for many years and we look forward to being one of the first sports to experience the venue.
“Fiji have proven themselves to be well and truly on the rise, and I know Dave Rennie and the rest of the Wallabies coaches are preparing for another very tough contest.
“We’re also delighted that the Buildcorp Wallaroos will share the stage in Townsville and continue their growth ahead of their Rugby World Cup next year.”
Queensland Minister for Sport Mick de Brenni revealed that this will coincide with a series of community events and programs, designed to inspire the next generation.
“We committed and have now have delivered a world-class stadium in the heart of North Queensland meaning local rugby fans will have never been closer to the action,” he said.
“And it’s not just the Queensland Country Bank Stadium pitch that will be seeing some action, the Palaszczuk Government is working with Rugby Australia on a series of community events in the lead-up.
“There’s going to be a buzz around this event that we want to harness and convert to inspiring participation in grassroots rugby clubs like the Ross River Redskins and Brothers Rugby Union Club.”
Sevens schedule stress
The coronavirus has derailed Australia’s sevens schedule after the postponement of the Hong Kong and Singapore Sevens World Series legs.
This is particularly concerning as it leaves the real possibility of both the men’s and women’s sides heading into the Olympics underdone, particularly for the defending gold medalists, who will have a three-month gap between World Series tournaments.
However, RA performance manager Scott Bowen is looking to fill up that gap, revealing that they are looking to schedule friendly matches with the likes of Fiji and New Zealand.
“It’s early days at the moment, five and a bit months to the Olympics but we’d like to potentially find some competition in that space,” he said.
“All the women’s World Series teams are in the same position after that decision.
“We’ve had some dialogue with New Zealand and Fiji just to see what they’re planning on doing at that particular stage.
“In the big picture, we’ve still got two World Series to come, in Canada and Paris and we’ll have a final preparation camp that will provide us with some games.
“We’ll also have a final prep camp that will provide us with some games, but we’ll ideally look to fill the gap with competition.”
Whilst discussions are still in their infancy, Bowen is unconcerned if they aren’t able to come to an agreement, believing that the extra time will allow both sides to hone their skills at home.
“The first step is trying to work through our preferences and the ideal scenario and then proposing that to other teams and see what they’d like to do and hopefully coming up with a plan,” he believes.
‘If that doesn’t involve games because others don’t have a desire or logistically we can’t make it work, then it’s a good opportunity to continue to hone footy skills and continue improving.”
Australia’s men side will head to Los Angeles in the coming weeks with the LA Sevens kicking off on February 29, followed by the Canada Sevens in early March.