We’re back again, and it’s like we never left. Here are five servings of rugby wisdom for your consideration:
5. Do we have to talk about the Tahs?
Yes, yes we do. As much as Tahs fans (such as myself) would probably prefer to shy away from the events of Saturday night, I feel like I need to now show a degree of maturity that has previously eluded me. And I also need to break my rule about not discussing Waratah conquerors, only two weeks after I created it.
You can moan about lack of Tah creativity or skill all you like, but that was not why we lost on Saturday. It wasn’t the dropped balls, static attack or stunted execution that did us in. We were just beaten by a bigger, stronger opposition. It was physical dominance on a level I have not seen since the RWC semi-final (although it reminded me a bit of watching Sydney Uni in the Shute Shield). And when you are faced with such a dominant opponent, all the slick moves in the world aren’t going to save you. Tah forwards charged at the line, but were knocked back by bigger and bigger tackles. This was exhilarating to watch as a rugby fan, having sat through 80 minutes of Leaguies droning on about the ‘physicality’ of their game compared to Rugby on Thursday night (I don’t understand their need to constantly tout the superiority of their game over others. We have a convert in Folau playing and they have barely mentioned his AFL/League past in commentary, or how much ‘tougher’ rugby is).
This is a worrying sign for the Tahs as it used to be us that was the dominant side. And it’s great for the Brumbies who can now stand a chance of beating the Saffers at their own game and strangling the better Kiwi sides. They say defence wins championships, and theirs is pretty fucking good.
4. Wallaby Watch #54029
It seems that every minute of every game is now viewed through the prism of Wallaby selections. I think everybody needs to chill out a little bit and allow for patterns to emerge before screaming for player X to be picked. And there is one thing everybody needs to consider when discussing potential debutants- they are going to need to put forward a consistent 8-10 weeks of great form to even be considered for selection. This is the Lions, and when it comes down to it debutants are going to have to be absolutely belting down the door to get a jersey. Jesse Mogg and Hugh Pyle are playing well now, but they will need to keep that form going. They can’t rely on performances in the first three rounds- they mean very little when push comes to shove. I am not for one second saying they can’t keep this form going though, and I very much hope they do.
One thing we can now identify is established players who are well and truly off the boil. Dave Dennis, Sekope Kepu and Nick Cummins are three that immediately spring to mind. Each have been rather anonymous in losing sides. They have time to find the form that won them Wallaby selection, and let’s hope they do.
3. Kings are killing it… sort of
Far from being the embarrassing easybeats everyone thought they would be, the Kings are actually doing pretty well. And to prove I am not just some skylarking 7s fan who hates Saffa derbies, I found the tryless game between the Kings and Sharks a really absorbing contest. The Sharks threw everything they had at the Kings (and were far more enterprising than last week), but the home side’s defence was just too good. According to one report the Kings attempted 108 tackles and completed 107. They don’t have that much to offer in attack, but if you can tackle like that then you don’t really need to. And they are playing to crowds of 40,000+. So you would have to call the new side a big success so far, although it is a long season and a lot can change in that time.
2. Reds vs Rebels? Meh…
I thought the Reds/Rebels game was fairly unremarkable. Not a bad game, not a particularly good one either. As expected the Rebels flew out of the gates but were mown down in the finishing straight by a fitter, stronger, better Reds outfit. To my eye the Rebels are playing a style of rugby that resembles rugby league- forward runners coming onto the ball from depth with little subtlety, before the ball is given to backs who either spread the ball acrossfield or put in an attacking kick. Now that is a little bit simplistic but you get the picture. No deception, no need for defenders to make decisions.
The guys who I will give a rap to are the Rebels front row. In pre-season we identified the front 3 as a major weakness for the Rebels, but they have held up well under stern examination from the other Aussie sides. Laurie Weekes is regaining some of his old spark, while Nic Henderson has to be the most underrated player in Australian rugby.
As for the Reds, well they plough on mercilessly. If they beat the Force this week they will be 4-1, which will be as good as they could have hoped for I reckon. They will obviously face sterner tests later in the season, but as they say- winners are grinners. Look at the scoreboard. Numbers don’t lie. Don’t fear the reaper. The first cut is the deepest. You get the picture.
1. Closest season ever?
Maybe. The Chiefs are the front-runners at the moment you would say, but they aren’t too far ahead of a bunch of sides. The Blues were looking red hot in the opening rounds but were bested by a good-looking Bulls side at home (although they were undermanned). The Stormers lost to the Sharks but then came out and beat the aforementioned Chiefs. The Brumbies look good but will suffer during the Lions period and have also yet to face foreign opposition. The Reds, Sharks and Highlanders have all looked good in parts and poor in others. Then you have the Cheetahs, Crusaders, Waratahs, Hurricanes and Rebels who will be stern opposition for any team, and the Kings and Force who are both no easybeats by any means. This promises to be a great season.
For me? I’m tipping a Chiefs/Brumbies final in New Zealand. Who will win? Well you will just have to tune in next week, for yet another exhilarating journey through the land of the Tuesday Top 5.
Load up your weapons, fools, and hit me with your best shot…