Monday’s Rugby News recaps a wild Super Rugby round, the results from clubland, Dave Rennie’s call for unity and James O’Connor describes his wild past
Super Rugby upsets
Well just when you think you know what’s going to happen, the Super Rugby Australia competition decides to flip the script for round six.
Starting in Leichhardt, the Brumbies were expected to cruise to victory against the Rebels.
However, the Melbourne side produced a near-perfect first half in soggy conditions, racing out to a 27-7 half-time lead.
They would control the second-half, giving coach Dave Wessels a record 20th victory for the club as the Melbourne side recorded a 30-12 victory.
“I think we’ve beaten the Brumbies more than they’ve beaten us and I don’t mean that in a bad way, we just feel confident to play them,” Wessels said post-match.
“We’ve been frustrated in the last couple of weeks that our game hasn’t quite been where we need it to be, but the group’s super engaged.
“Maybe I’ve been doing this too long, you can never get too up and never get too down; you’re never as good as you think you are and you’re never as bad as you think you are. It’s somewhere in the middle and every week’s a challenge.
With everyone only just recovering from the shock upset, the Waratahs then decided to pull out their best showing of the year, thumping the Reds 45-12 at the SCG.
Halfback Jake Gordon was electric during the contest, scoring a first-half hat-trick as they recorded their first win of the season.
“It’s a group of young men that are starting to find their place,” coach Rob Penney said.
“As a coaching group, we haven’t altered too much and just really wrapped that the players have taken a little step forward in terms of their belief and their confidence in what we’re trying to do.
“I think fundamentally right at the bottom line, that was it.”
Club rugby roundup
Starting with the Shute Shield and it was Gordon that showed their class to the rest of the comp as they dominated grand finalists Warringah 52-7, which left Rats captain Sam Ward less than happy with the result…
In other Results, Eastwood held off Easts 20-17, Souths overcame a scare with a narrow 37-25 win against Western Sydney, Sydney Uni dominated Penrith 41-3, Randwick blanked West Harbour 22-0 and Hunter managed to hold Manly to a 29-all draw.
In the nation’s capital for the John I Dent Cup, Royals returned back to form with a 23-5 win over Queanbeyan, Wests go back to back wins after they defeated Vikings 28-10 and the Owls win the Battle of the Birds to stay perfect as they held off Gungahlin 34-26
In the Premier Rugby, the main headline was the return of former Wallaby Will Genia, who came off the bench as GPS thumped Souths 59-14.
In other results, Brothers took out Norths 33-12, Bond Uni managed to outshoot Sunnybank 37-35 whilst Easts defatted Wests 32-17.
Heading to Perth, it was Wannaro that pulled off the shock draw against Nedlands, with both teams stuck at 24-all.
Across the comp, UWA overcame Bayswater 24-7, Palmyra pumped Coastal 73-0, Southern Lions blanked Curtin Uni 36-0, Associates cruised to a 24-12 victory over Kalamunda, Joondalup continued their strong start with a 47=14 victory over ARKs and Cottesloe outclassed Wests 21-8.
Finally in Adelaide for the Coopers Premier, Brighton maintained their unbeaten start after they defeated Barossa 28-0 whilst Burnside held off a spirited Onkaparinga 27-20.
In other results, Port Adelaide was impressive with a 35-9 win over Woodville, Old Collegians molly whopped Adelaide Uni 78-12 whilst Southern Suburbs pumped Elizabeth 69-5.
Rennie calls for unity
New Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is confident that both NZ and Australia will come together for a full-strength trans-Tasman domestic competition.
With NZR indicating that they want an eight-team competition, Rennie has called their bluff, believing that both sides will find a compromise to ensure that the majority of the current teams will be involved in the tournament.
“It’s just a little bit of debating going on, you’re going to finish somewhere in the middle,” he said.
“Certainly won’t be two – I think the trans-Tasman competition’s important, important for both countries.
“Obviously there’s talk about potential four sides or maybe five sides from here.”
Rennie backed the idea of having five Australian teams in the comp, suggesting that they need to offer further avenues for professional contracts with the looming threat of European/American rugby.
“The things I like about the five teams from an Aussie perspective is it’s a great opportunity for our young kids to get involved in professional footy and you get that experience and it’s one of those things he have is opportunities for those guys.
“You could argue Australia were really successful when they only had three sides and they had three really strong teams but I think if we’re looking long-term, there’s a lot of competition, the American leagues are starting up and a lot of players are being picked up to go there.
“We need to provide opportunities to stay here for their professional rugby.”
Whilst many critics over the ditch have laughed at this idea, citing the supposed difference in quality, the former Glasgow boss believes that a lot of this comes down to the different timelines of the two comps.
“I guess everyone’s comparing the two comps because they’re in isolation at the moment and there’s no doubt the New Zealand games are real high skill, high intensity and so the step up from that to Test rugby is probably not that massive,
“We’re starting to see shifts in the game now, we started three weeks after them.
“Thought the Brumbies-Reds game last week was excellent and there’s plenty of good kids coming through the system.”
O’Connor’s dangerous past
Reds flyhalf James O’Connor has described the dark moment in a Paris prison that convinced him to turn his life around.
Speaking with The Australian’s Jess Halloran, O’Connor described how the intense pressures and stardom of being a teenage sensation clouded his judgement and floated his ego throughout his mid-to late 20’s.
“I was always chasing pleasure,” O’Connor says.
“I had never seen money like it. Then every door started opening for me. I would go to a restaurant and there would be no bill. Your ego kicks in. You think you are untouchable.
“It became no longer about the rugby, or about the purity of the craft. It becomes about after the game. You play well, so afterwards you will get noticed … what drove me to play football as a young man, to simply be the best, started to dissipate. The lines got skewed.”
As he continued to go off the rails, it was his stint in a Paris prison thanks to being guilty by association with former All Black Ali Williams that scared him straight.
He reveals that he was put in a dark jail cell with two other guys, where one man smeared faeces across their cell wall and another scream in rage.
He then watched another inmate strike the screaming man in the back of the head and “drop him” to the floor.
“My time in there haunted me,” O’Connor said.
“It felt like a medieval dungeon. It was horrible.”
He would find salvation through men’s wellbeing organisation Saviour World, where they would ‘break’ him physically and mentally in order to curb his dangerous habits.
“He built his body up to be strong first, starting with intermittent fasting, a wholefoods diet and limiting his caffeine intake — alcohol was out,” he said.
“He broke me physically first, then we started again, and then he broke me mentally, to get rid of that sooky kid that would feel like everyone is against him.
“The process we went through was a completely different world, it blew me away, then I just felt so good.”