The Tuesday Top 5 - Green and Gold Rugby
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The Tuesday Top 5

The Tuesday Top 5

Welcome back to another edition of the Tuesday Top 5. This week we hit you with the staples of the Top 5. The Good, Bad and Ugly, Report Card, stats and our oddly popular feature on the Wallabies RDO’s. Then we look fearfully at the Wallabies selection panel and wonder what could possibly go wrong!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Good – Two out of three Aussie teams put in a very good performance this week. Both against New Zealand teams.

Bad – The Waratahs scraping home against an understrength Sunwolves who were missing all their internationals. They looked beyond ordinary and were getting absolutely hammered up front with the Sunwolves walking all over their scrum a couple of times. Add this to the defeat last week and it could be a painful season for the Tahs.

Ugly – I actually can’t think of anything too ugly this week in Super Rugby. There were some great games (Tahs aside). That makes a nice change for the beginning of the season, especially after we had two teams face Kiwi opposition. So let’s jump over to the 6 Nations for a minute. If you’re an English fan (which I know none of you are!) then the loss to Wales would be ugly. But for others it would be Scotland going down to France and failing to break a 20-year losing streak in Paris.

Samu Kerevi Reds v Chiefs trial 2019 (photo credit: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel)

Report Card

Reds A-: The Reds looked very good in their opening game for the season. They made the Highlanders really work for it and there were a lot of players who put their hand up to be taken notice of. If there was one aspect of their game that let them down it was the lineout, they lost 3 of their 8 lineouts which put them under extra pressure. As it was only their first game of the season, they could still have been shaking the cobwebs off, which bodes well for the rest of the season.

Waratahs D: They got the win, they scored 5 tries, but it was about as convincing as Obama’s smile when he handed the White House keys over to Trump. They were playing a team with all their internationals out, while the Tahs played all of their Wallabies that were available. Their scrum got absolutely humiliated twice and their defence was, at times, optional. The Sunwolves helped them out with some very dodgy defence of their own. On a positive note for the Tahs, Dempsey continued to show good form and Hunt put in another strong match.

Brumbies A: This match left everyone asking “Where did they pull that performance out of?” It was a completely different side to the one that showed up last week, with nearly everything they touched coming off. I said last week that we saw glimpses of what they could do, well this week we saw a full-length feature movie of what they could do. Admittedly, the Chiefs didn’t play well. But the Brumbies still had to make the passes stick, chase the loose ball and make the tackles. And they did. Their re-starts let them down and gave the Chiefs some easy possession, as did some of their exits from the 22m. Fix those things and it would be an A+. The problem now for the Brumbies? We have seen what they can do and it is up to them to prove to us all that it wasn’t a fluke.

KMP-G&G-SR-Waratahs-Brumbies-3277

Stats and Stuff

   Reds Waratahs Brumbies
Tries 4 5 8
Metres 455 640 463
Carries 101 160 95
Passes 132 227 129
Offloads 9 22 13
Defenders beaten 26 26 23
Clean breaks 10 23 15
Kicks in play 30 25 18
Turnovers conceded 9 18 7
Tackles made 119 66 71
Missed tackles 26 24 12
Missed tackle % 21.8% 36.3% 16.9%
Rucks won 69 (97%) 96 (96%) 57 (97%)
Turnovers won 3 6 5
Penalties 8 8 10
Lineout success rate 63% 100% 82%
Scrum success rate 100% 67% 100%
Possession 42% 63% 52%

 

Into the second week and we now we have seen all the Aussie teams play.

Starting with the Reds, they were a real surprise packet scoring 4 tries breaking their scoring shackles from last season. The run metres were good and so was there use of the ball. An interesting stat is the low number of offloads. I would attribute this to Thornes desire to retain possession and reload. The defenders beaten is an impressive number and shows some real threat. I am surprised by the amount of kicks in play. For an opening season game against a Kiwi team the defence was not too bad. All over the stats are pretty good and indicate to me they have a good platform to build on.

Now I am thinking that the Tahs are channelling Forrest Gump playing keepings-off based on the number of metres they ran and passes they made. It looks like every kid got a touch but someone needs to stop the sharing and just run with the ball! High number of defenders beaten and line breaks make impressive reading until you hit the turnovers conceded numbers. Giving the Sunwolves only 37% possession to make the least amount of tackles of all the Aussie teams is really offset when you miss a massive 36% of your tackles. The other headache is the scrum success rate. Remember, this is against the Sunwolves. Regardless of the stats the Tahs ground out an ugly win and it got them the points. Much improvement required is an understatement.

The Brumbies. Did the stars align, are they going to be a Jekyll and Hyde prospect this season, something in the water? Good run metres, the stats suggest efficient use of the ball and a balanced mix of run, pass and kick. Line breaks and defenders beaten were pretty good and they finished the opportunities. The defence was much improved compared to last week. As good as it is, it’s a double-edged sword reading these stats as I can’t help but wonder if they can replicate them week to week. Out of all of the Brumbies stats there is one set of stats that is mixed in to the above and when looked at in isolation really provides some clarity around the performance. 60 Meters ran, 4 carries, 2 clean breaks, 3 defenders beaten and only one kick in play. Christian Lealiifano change in approach from his traditional kicking game really caught the Chiefs off guard and finally allowed the Brumbies to play the game they can and the fans have been longing for; ball in hand.

Overall there are some really positive stats by the Aussie teams but can we maintain the standard?

The other question is can we keep the try scoring going and maintain our 4 try or more per game scoring rate? So far, only the Tahs have let us down with their solitary try in the first round.

Christian Lealiifano clears the ball from his own in-goal

Christian Lealiifano clears the ball from his own in-goal

WALLABY RDO’S

It’s only round 2, so I don’t really want to read too much into the minutes played just yet – but having said that it looks clear so far that one team is using their Wallaby players more than the others. Nearly every Waratahs Wallaby played the full 80 minutes. Maybe Gibson has a different approach in mind on resting players or it could have come down to best laid plans and simply underestimation of the Sunwolves.

In previous years players like Folau, Beale, Foley and Hooper have played close to every minute of the season so it will be interesting to see how they will be managed going forward. The Sunwolves game is a good indication that it could be hard to rest players without risking ladder points.

Who stood out: Rodda – In what had to be a very emotional game for him, he played hard and had a massive impact.

Most of the Brumbies and Reds Wallabies front row looked good. Tupou, AAA, Fainga’a and Sio all put in good games and give a good core group to work with.

Raised questions: Now this is where it’s getting interesting. Finally with some competition players who we would usually consider as safe might now be starting to look over their shoulder. If you have a look at the analysis here http://www.greenandgoldrugby.com/just-run-in-straight-waratahs/ and look at the form of Banks and DHP the conversation around Izzy might just have him switch to playing on the wing. But then again, looking at some of the wing options the conversations could get really interesting. No doubt Izzy offers a lot but will it be enough?

Folau in flight.

Folau in flight.

Blotted his copy book: Latu. What can I say other than he is was actually a pretty good player? It’s just a shame his level of stupidity exceeds his abilities. What he could bring to the Wallabies is offset by the fact he could single handedly cost you a RWC. At the time of publishing we haven’t heard the outcome of his citing, but is it worth the risk taking him?

General observations:

Kerevi – made some good, strong runs in attack.

Samu – again looked very strong coming off the bench.

Banks – showed pure speed and the ability to be in the right place to get the quick passes from Lilo. Avoided and broke tackles, he made it look easy.

Now let’s return to the broader “informal” conversation.

Last week I said “I think if QC keep improving, Lilo’s RWC chances will be over by mid-season.” Well if CL continues to play the way he did last night, and QC keeps on improving then maybe it will be Foley’s chances that are over by mid-season. This is contingent on Lilo putting in some consistent performances like last night, making sure it wasn’t just a one off. Hopefully he can, it would be great to finally have some competition in the 10 spot.

McCaffery’s performance on the weekend should have him on the Wallabies radar if they need cover or a different option. He worked well with Samu and has been a consistent performer when he has been given the opportunity.

Karmichael Hunt. He did the job again for the Tahs and has slotted in their backline nicely regardless of the combination.  He runs, tackles and has a high work rate on and off the ball. His chase and resulting pressure might have been the difference between Parker making and missing the field goal attempt. His from is bring him in to the conversation as an option in the centres. I would suggest he would be a great back up for Kuridrani at outside centre.

James Slipper. Another player making the most of his opportunity. His destiny lays in his ability to keep fit and allow him to perform week in week out. If he can he will certainly be hard to overlook after working with all the front rowers mentioned above and brings experienced.

Selection Woes

So this year we have a team of 3. Cheika, Michael O’Connor and new Director of Rugby (who Cheika will apparently report to) Scott Johnston for a selection panel. How on Earth will that play out? Will they be looking at players on form? Will the incumbents still be incumbent regardless of how they play? Will they turn on each other, 2 against one in a battle of wills? Will Cheika piss the other two off enough that they just go “F*** it, have it your way!”

Michael Cheika and David Pocock post match press conference

Michael Cheika and David Pocock post match press conference

This quote from new Independent Selector Michael O’Connor may give us some faint insight into what could eventuate.

“I’m a great believer in the more eyes the better, but ultimately I believe that the coach has to have the team he wants. But I know as a coach, I could be influenced by other people’s opinions and it was always good to have that discussion with my staff about players. I think the more information the better and ultimately you’re responsible for the team if you’re the coach, you can take on the information or not. But it’s always good to have the discussion and play devil’s advocate about players and challenge the coach. I love being challenged on selection and why, and then I found that I had more clarity when I had the discussion if you were in 50/50 selection. I’m a great believer in it, but not all coaches are.”

We have all heard stories about Cheika’s willingness to make changes to selections based on the opinions of others, so will having O’Connor and Johnston in there actually change anything? It worries me when I read that part where he says that the coach has to have the team he wants. A little pit in my gut opens up and I start wondering if we are all filled with a false hope that this year, the World Cup year, will be different. It will be interesting to see who really holds the power in this little trio, does Johnston have the ability to go over Cheika’s head? Just what does his position entail? I guess time will tell.

Tell you what though, if RA really want to make some quick cash they should sell the broadcast rights to those selection meetings. It would be a thrilling and entertaining reality show! Or at least sell tickets so people can sit behind a two-way mirror and see what goes on. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall during those discussions?

  • Huw Tindall

    Cheers again MST! Great review of the Aussie weekend. Also, I can’t remember the last time you gave an Aussie team a A!? Maybe when the Tahs got up over the Highlanders to break the hoodoo last year or their quarter final game where they repeated the job?

    The stats really don’t tell the tale. On paper the Tahs should have run in 10 tries until you get to unforced errors of 18! Coughing up the ball like that is not compatible with winning. Scrum definitely week but that can be a lottery from week to week anyway. Hope Gibson is giving them a blst this bye round.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks MST. Love reading your posts and the analysis you provide. I’m still not sold on the statistics as they show a poor team performing well and I wonder at their utility at times.
    I’d have the Reds at a B+ as they did do some poor kicks that took the pressure off the Highlanders. No issues with the other stats.
    That Brumbies game was fantastic – even against one of my NZ teams, and I too hope it continues.
    I’m not sold on Hunt yet. I think he looks good in a poor team and there are others around who are better. That article on running straight that you mentioned was really telling and outlines a big issue with the Tahs. No wonder Hunt looks good as he’s the only one in the 15 who can run straight. I think his positioning is poor at times and put it down to a lack of instincts for the game.

    • AllyOz

      Tend to agree on the Reds, I think you have to win to record an A, even an A- .

      The thing to me that stood out in the stats that MST list was the number of passes by the Tahs to achieved to beat roughly the same amount of defenders as the Brumbies and the Reds (26 vs 23 & 26). That suggests a wasteful, unfocussed style of play.

      They made a lot more metres than the Brumbies (640 vs 450) but won by a point and had substantially more possession than either of the other Aussie sides. That suggests a team that wastes its opportunities.

    • Happyman

      Mate a bit harsh on my Reds. If they had won four key points in that game they would have won it. I will not make any bold statements until after the Crusaders and the Tahs.

      Watch this space fairly soon the narrative on the Tahs will be “The backs aren’t getting enough quality ball and would be playing a lot better with clean pill so therefore we should pick the entirety of the Tahs backline.

      Hunt is the best player in that backline at the moment in a team with no punch. Foley is standing too deep and that just makes it easy for rush defences.

    • laurence king

      I take great umbrage my friend about your comments concerning the Tahs not running ‘straight’. Take Kurtley for example, he always runs straight. Now, if you happen to mean forward, towards the opposition try line that is another matter.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Gold mate

        • laurence king

          Look, honestly. He came back from Europe last year in great form and brimming with confidence and he played that way right up to when the ABs hit him and the rest of the Wallabies with the kitchen sink, twice. Thereon he just got worse and worse and he hasn’t got over it yet, like a golfer with the yips.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31ZjnrHR8EA

  • David Creagh

    On selections, with Samu, Valentini, McCaffery, Timu and Dempsey do we still really need to give Ned Hannigan an armchair ride to 50 test caps?

    • Parker

      Even with last year’s available talent we didn’t need Ned.

    • Mica

      Ned just needs time to mature and serve an apprenticeship.
      As you point out there are plenty of options that are preferable here and now.

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    What does a team have to do to get an A+? It was probably the Brumbies’ best win since the 2004 final.

    • laurence king

      Something to aspire to, beat the Crusaders. Like to see that!

      • Mica

        In Christchurch, by the same margin…… :)

  • Mart

    The Reds really seem to have rebuilt the right way. First get the defence on track. Now the attack. Wished the Wallabies did it this way

    • Who?

      Have the Reds gotten their defence on track yet? They still conceded 5 tries……

      • Mart

        mainly referring to last year but good point

        • Who?

          Not so certain it was significantly better last year, either… After all, they’ve drafted in Peter Ryan to fix it for this year. Hopefully it’s all improving, but we’ve only seen one game so far. We’ve had a lot of false dawns, we’ll see.

  • Brumby Runner

    Another good read MST. Thanks again.

    I thought Kerevi had an excellent game on Friday and showed good off-loading ability to go with his line busting ability. For me, he was the pick of the No 12s this week followed by Simone who is proving to be very influential in the Brumbies’ back line attack.

    My TOTW is :

    Slipper, Fainga’a, Ala’alatoa, Arnold, Rodda, Valetini, Cusack, McCaffery, Powell, Lealiifano, Peni, Kerevi, Petaia, Muirhead, Banks.

    I thought the debutante LHP for the Reds had a particularly strong game but misses out to the combination of the Brumbies’ front row. Sorovi also had a strong game for the Reds but edged out by Powell’s effort against the Chiefs.

    Dempsey and Folau were the only Tahs to come under consideration but the team effort was just so far below the efforts of the Brumbies and Reds that neither could win a spot.

  • IIPA

    Just to try and sugar coat the Tahs performance because let’s face it no one else wants too.

    * Sunwolves hammered the Reds by 50 something wasn’t it in their previous home match ( last game of 2018 season).

    * They are way better at home in the cold in front of a big crowd than the empty, humid, soul-less Singapore Nat Stadium.

    * They weren’t without all their internationals. Shigeno, Tui and Helu all played. As did the 50cap Japanese prop and the Georgian hooker who combined to ruin our scrum.

    * Parker, Little, Quirk and Vosayoco were some of their best players last year they all played Saturday.

    So let’s not make out this was the Sunnies 3rd XV. I full accept Tahs were still piss-poor in many aspects.

  • Patrick

    I am nearly certain that those comments of O’Connor’s are just sugar-coating. I can’t see how Raelene Castle would give a rat’s about Cheika’s feelings, her overriding goals have to be 1. to quell the negativity, 2. results.

    I know exactly what you mean about a little pit in your gut but I have to believe that O’Connor and Johnstone are there mainly to tell Cheika how it is.

    But it would be totally counterproductive to say as much in public or even in private.

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Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

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