Monday’s Rugby News looks at the results from Super Rugby Australia and Aotearoa, the potential for a code switch for rugby’s sevens superstar and Dan Carter’s unique return to New Zealand rugby
How good is it having Australia rugby back on our televisions!
Round one of Super Rugby Australia kicked off with a thriller as the Reds broke a seven-year drought with a 32-26 win over the Waratahs.
The Reds looked set to blow away the struggling Waratahs after racing out to a 19-7 lead after 30 minutes.
However, the influence on Junior Wallabies coach and new assistant Jason Gilmore seemed to rub off in the second half, with a blue wall emerging as the Tahs turned around the contest with a series of penalties to Will Harrison and a Jack Maddocks try levelling the score with ten minutes remaining.
Eventually, the experience of James O’Connor would shine through, showing that his ‘unique’ training methods has paid off as he nailed two penalties to secure the win.
Reds captain Liam Wright likened the intensity to a State of Origin clash post-match, believing that it was a great advertisement for the game.
“It was a bit of a grind, first game back for both teams and figuring things out but there was no love lost out there and at the end, everyone shook hands and be done with it,” he said.
“I really appreciate the way they play the game and I think that was a great showing for rugby because it was just a tough slog and at the end of the day, you’re smiling at each other.”
This was followed by the Brumbies maintaining their status as the favourites with a
31-23 win over the Rebels.
The Brumbies strolled away with the contest during the opening half, running in four tries in 45 minutes.
Whilst the Rebels would mount a late contest to make it interesting, a late try to Will Miller sealed the bonus-point victory.
Coach Dan McKellar was willing to forgive the mini-collapse after the long layoff, pleased to have secured the maximum points.
When we’re up there by 18 points could we have put it to bed? possibly, (but) we haven’t played in four months,” he said.
“If you had have said to me, turn up and you’ll get five points three hours ago, I would’ve taken it for sure.
“Can we get better? Of course we can but was there a lot of good things out there? Yep.”
Whilst the attention of the Australian rugby fan was primarily on our competition, our NZ neighbours were going full Shannon Noll, asking “What about me” as they played out round four of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
The Crusaders continued their unbeaten start to the season on Saturday, recording a 40-20 victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin.
The Highlanders maintained pace with the defending champions in the first half, taking a shock 17-14 lead into the break thanks to tries to Shannon Frizell and winger Ngane Punivai.
However, winger Will Jordan continued his incredible string of performances, setting up loose forward Tom Christie’s second try of the match before crossing for his own double to seal the result.
Supercoach Scott Robertson had nothing but praise for the Highlanders after the gruelling encounter, praising their fitness and expansive nature of play.
“They’re a different team,” Robertson said.
“They’re a lot fitter, they play a little bit more, there’s a lot more passing to their game, there’s a lot more variation off No 9 plays, probably a little bit more expansive.”
On Sunday, the Hurricanes effectively ended the Super Rugby dreams of the Chiefs with a 25-18 victory in Hamilton.
The Hurricanes looked a completely different team from their opening games, racing out to a 20-3 lead at halftime thanks to tries to Cobus Van Wyk and Du’Plessis Kirifi whilst Jordie Barrett nailed a monster 60-metre penalty just before the break.
Whilst they would be hampered by a second yellow card to Scott Scrafton and a penalty try, the Wellington side would hold off waves of attacks from the home side to secure a much-needed win.
Chiefs coach Warren Gatland was less than impressed after the match, particularly with Barrett’s ‘monster’ penalty, accusing them of moving the play forward 10 metres.
“I think in that situation we just need to make sure that we get some clarity, and it’s an easy one to say ‘sorry, that’s not the mark, the mark is 10 metres back’,” he said.
“We saw a situation last night [in Saturday night’s game between the Highlanders and Crusaders] where the try was scored from a forward pass, and I thought it was an easy one to just go back and have a look that’s forward from the lineout.”
Rugby raids continue (sort of)
Having plodded and pillaged some of rugby’s biggest and brightest male talent, rugby league looks set to recruit Australia’s golden sevens girls for the upcoming NRLW season.
With the Sevens season officially over for the year, it has been reported that Charlotte Caslick and Ellia Green are amongst a group of sevens players that have sounded out the possibility of playing the 13-a-side sport.
The majority of the squad’s big names are off-contract as of August 31, with the SMH reporting that Caslick has already been spotted talking with Sydney Roosters officials.
Fortunately, the transition is only expected to be short-term, with head coach John Manenti sending them his blessings to make the short term switch, believing that it shapes as a ‘perfect opportunity’ for his side to refine their skills whilst maintaining their match fitness in a competitive environment.
“As players, it’s really important that they’re playing competitive and playing games,” he said.
“We’re talking about what I certainly think are some of the best football athletes in the world, I have no doubt that they’re capable of going to the NRLW and doing well, doing really well, and standing out.
“It’s also challenging themselves to a different game, to more players on the field with less pace, improving their collision skills.
“There’s a lot to gain out of it for these girls and it’s a rare opportunity given that our circumstances here at RA – things aren’t great financially and the girls have obviously taken a fair hit in the pay packet.
“It’s a good opportunity to let them go and cash in on their hard work and in most cases, these girls that are looking, they have been going for five or six years of professional sport and being able to roll into trying something different could be a good opportunity.”
Carter’s club comeback
Imagine rocking up to play suburban rugby and coming out of the opposition dressing room to see Dan Carter, one of the finest fly-halves to ever play the game.
That the reality that faced West Melton as the legendary Kiwi made his return to rugby in NZ after turning out for club side Southbridge in Canterbury’s Ellesmere competition
In true club rugby style, Carter’s arrival to the ground was via the original team bus: his dad Neville, who dropped him off in his family car before he pulled on the blue and white.
In his first game in New Zealand since 2015, Carter played 80 minutes and contributing 12 points off the boot as they cruised to a 54-14 thumping victory.
After the match, Carter was quick to reflect on the unique experience for the 38-year-old to head back to the club that he played with as a five-year-old.
“Just coming back seeing familiar faces, familiar surroundings. Obviously a lot of childhood memories playing here at the club,” Carter said.
“I don’t get out here that often, so when I do it is always pretty special. The rugby is good fun as well. That is why it is so enjoyable.”
Even more thrilled was his father, who is a Southbridge life member and played 300 games for the club, who believed that his return captured the essence of what rugby was about.
“I think he went out there and had some fun and that’s what it’s about,” Neville said.
“He’s always enjoyed his rugby and to get out there with the local boys and just throw the ball around and have some fun and get back into it, I think he loved it.”