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

The Tuesday Top 5

Gee Tuesday rolls around quickly, doesn’t it? This week in the Top 5 we look at the good, bad and ugly from the world of Super Rugby (trying to steer clear of the obvious bad and ugly that everyone is talking about at the moment), give the teams some arbitrary grades based on my opinion of their performances, look at what’s going on with our Wallaby players, duck over to Europe and show you our picks of some of the best/most interesting/od plays of the week.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Good – The derby between NSW and the Reds had the potential to be a dull, error ridden match. Afterall, in the recent past that is what Aussie derbies have mostly been. But this one proved to be a tight, entertaining match. Yes, there were errors, but they weren’t the focus of the match. It made a nice change.

Bad – For me, the inability of the Rebels to capitalise on the backline full of Wallabies they have is a concern. Genia, Maddocks, Hodge, DHP and now Toomua and probably Cooper – that’s a hefty list of National players. But they are not tearing through the opposition the way fans expected them to. Is it that Wessels doesn’t know what to do with them? We have seen before that the Rebels didn’t have much of a Plan B when things weren’t going their way.

Ugly Following on from my rant last week about the refereeing over in South Africa, I would like to bring up the idea of consistency. It’s a novel notion, I know, but this week we again saw some controversy surrounding the matches played in South Africa, with the South African team coincidentally coming out on top in both of them.

Let’s start with the Lions v Highlanders. Now I’m not going to go into the penalty count for the Highlanders, they gave away 12 penalties which isn’t unusually high. The Lions, however, have become the most disciplined rugby team on the planet. They gave away 3 penalties in the match. Yep, just 3. But that is more than they gave away last week against the Waratahs (2) and it’s three times as many as they gave away against the Rebels (1). 6 penalties in three matches (and 43 to the visiting teams). Amazing discipline! But then again, when they played the Brumbies, Chiefs and Crusaders away from South Africa they gave away 7, 11 and 11 penalties. So maybe they leave their discipline in at home when they travel (none of those penalty counts are really that high, but 6 penalties in 3 matches at home compared to 29 away?)

Then I the other match we had our friend Marius Jonker call the on-field ref to have a try disallowed for a forward pass. A try that would have had the Crusaders winning the match. Again, I’m not going to go into whether the pass really was forward or not, you can judge that for yourselves. Opinions on this one are definitely divided.

My issue with it is the TMO over-ruling the referee because he deemed it forward, after the referee had already awarded the try. Compare that to this pass during the Lions v Waratahs match which was not looked at by the TMO or on-field ref. Even the SA commentators commented that they thought it was forward.

via GIPHY

The question I have is why did the TMO interfere in one of these but not the other. It was a different TMO, but I would have thought they all at least had the same protocols to follow.

Report Card

Reds C-: The Reds didn’t really play that badly. There were some defensive lapses and a few poor options in kicking at times, but they nearly did enough to win. I won’t say they could have if not for the missed kicks, because they could also have won if their defence had been stronger or if they had not given away kickable penalties. On paper this looked to be a game the Waratahs should have won in a canter, but the young Reds team is really looking dangerous.

Rebels D: The Rebels were close at times, but after half time they never really looked like they would win. A give away for me is when Genia gets desperate and starts running himself or taking quick taps from penalties. It almost feels as though he thinks he needs to take control himself. In the past that has worked, but teams are wise to it now and are all over him. Once again the Rebels had the majority of possession (62%) and territory (64%) but yet again failed to take advantage of it.

Will Genia snipes Waratahs v Rebels 2019 (Credit Keith McInnes)

Waratahs B-: It was far from a complete performance from the Waratahs, but they did enough to win. I have said before that their backs look best when they are in open play, lots of runners and offloading. Once the defence tightened up, they struggled slightly. I don’t think the gap between the Waratahs and Reds was that great, which is why I haven’t marked them higher.

Wallaby RDO’s

Well now, it’s getting to the pointy end of the season and it looks as though our Wallabies are definitely putting in the minutes. It is going to be very interesting to see not only who is required to have a rest week in the coming weeks, but when the teams chose to take them.

   

Who still needs to have a week off? Kerevi is the obvious one. He has played all bar 15 minutes of the season. The problem is, he is such a crucial player for the Reds, and with every game basically being a must win from here on in (and all of their matches are quite winnable for them), when does Thorne rest him? Banks and Powell for the Brumbies haven’t had a week off, and because the guidelines around who needs to be rested are as clear as mud, does anyone know if they are required to be?  Perhaps now that Folau is seemingly out of the picture, Banks has a bigger shot at making it than he did at the start of the season, but assuming teams plan out when rest weeks will be well in advance, should RA tell the Brumbies more than half way through the season that they need to rest him? As for Powell, is he high enough up in the pecking order? I doubt it.

Simmons and Kepu are both still required to have a week off, but like the Reds dilemma, when will that be? Gordon is in the same situation as Powell, not rested but unlikely to be required to.

Minutes played after round 14

As you can see by the combined minutes graph, there are a lot of players playing near full matches each week. The maximum minutes possible to play so far this season is 960. For those who have sat out a game it is 880. Kerevi (no rest) is currently sitting on 945, Banks on 916 and Simmons on 898. Then there are Hooper and Kuridrani who have played the maximum minutes possible given they have sat a week out, 880. Foley is close behind on 870 and Rodda on 861. The interesting thing to me is that there are three forwards listed there. Considering Hooper is pretty much assured to be starting all Wallabies matches, that is still going to be a heck of a lot of minutes he is racking up, especially given how much he throws himself into the game.

Who stood out: It really pains me to say this, but I’m putting Nick Phipps in this category. He didn’t have the perfect game, but he played a lot better than I have seen from him this year. Rodda and Kerevi both had strong games again, which is becoming the norm really!

Raised questions: I have to ask about Hodge. He had 6 carries for 0 metres and turned the ball over twice. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what position he actually plays. But this game showed that it probably shouldn’t be 13. The problem is, with no set position, while other players are starting to shine in theirs where does that leave him for the Wallabies? A utility back for the bench with a big boot? I’m starting to think that’s about the best he will be.

Blotted his copy book: I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say he blotted his copy book, but DHP didn’t have the best of nights. On paper his stats read well, but with Beale and Banks now pushing for the fullback position he needs to show more than he did in this match. 

General observations: In the race for the number 10 position, Cooper fell back a smidge this week. Not because I thought Foley was outstanding, he had a solid enough game, but Cooper had a low tackle rate (made 3, missed three), turned the ball over 4 times and didn’t have the impact he was having in the first half of the season. Remember a few weeks ago he said how tiring Super Rugby was after being away from it? I wonder if it is beginning to take a toll, or if this was simply a blip and he will bounce back next week.

Over in Europe

This coming weekend sees the PRO14 draw to a finish with Glasgow hosting Leinster in the final. These two teams finished top of their conferences, Glasgow thumped Ulster 50-20 in their semi, while Leinster beat Munster 24-9.

Across to the Premiership Rugby, and they are about to go into the finals after the final round of the regular season on the weekend. The semi finals will see Saracens take on Gloucester and Exeter play Northampton. Exeter and Saracens are the favourites to make the final, having been two of the top teams all season.

Should Saracens win I can’t wait to see Alex Goode’s celebration given his recent form after they won the Champions cup. If you haven’t followed the story, the 31-year-old went on a three-day celebration after the final, celebrating in full kit. Boots included. He even still had his mouth guard tucked into his sock. I think the best way to follow the story is by reading the timeline here 

Our Picks

It’s Yours!! – Phipps threw a perfectly reasonable pass, but no one really wanted to catch it.

via GIPHY

 

Unexpected play of the week – Phipps conversion charge down

via GIPHY

 

Forwards being backs – Mafi from the Reds on the receiving end of a good cross-field kick goes in to score the try.

Offload of the year – Yep, that’s a big call given some of the amazing offloads we have seen, but in my opinion this one tops them all. From Nemani Nadolo over in France. 

  • Who?

    Thanks MST’s. :-)
    .
    Who’d have thought that Simmons would’ve played more minutes than Hooper at this time of year? I mean, Simmons is the most valuable lock in the entire Super rugby comp (because every other club has more than one lock, unlike the Tahs. Some even have four in their clubs!), but Hooper’s an 80 minutes player every week, and I thought that both would’ve had their Wallaby rest periods by now. I thought the nominated Wallabies – based on caps last year as much as anything – were required to have two games off. If that’s the case, that means that, in the last four matches, desperately needing to win every game to have even a small chance at finals, the Tahs will be without Hooper for one of those games, Beale for another, Foley for another, and both Kepu and Simmons have to miss two!
    .
    If it’s two games to be missed, then the Brums need to give another week off to Sio, Fainga’a and TK. I’m guessing 7A’s time off injured counts (same for Hanigan for the Tahs).
    .
    The Rebels look like they’re mostly there (big names missing games through injury), bar maybe Koroibete (if he’s going to be rested), and Genia (which will be a huge miss).
    .
    The Reds have managed their rest games even more poorly than the Tahs, when you consider how few players they have to rest, and the fact they actually have (or had) options in those positions. Kerevi’s not missed, but Rodda and Tupou have only missed one each…
    .
    In terms of Cooper, without having seen the game, I wonder if he might’ve still been a little off after the head knock the week before? I know, he passed the protocols, but time off when he’s been tired AND he’s copped a head knock might be a good thing. But that loss makes it way harder to be able to take that time off, given the need to qualify for finals.

    • Geoffro

      Quade showed glimpses of what he’s about but got let down a bit by the guys around him.His defence remains a liability and surprised he hasn’t copped more injuries,his technique (not when he just throws an arm out) is awful.Cant buy into the theory that resting the guys for on or two matches months previously is going to make them fresher come WC time.Kerevi looked full of running on sat night to me , not fatigued at all from his full season thus far.Horses for courses for me.Quade had already hinted he’s feeling the pinch maybe he does need some time off.

    • Nutta

      I’ve never really been a Simmons fan. But that said he has certainly played some more prominent and better footy in the last few outings. And his team mates have always spoken highly of him.

      • Who?

        Honestly, you could stick almost any (set piece – scrummaging and lineout calling) lock in the Tahs in place of Simmons at the moment and they’d be the most valuable lock in the comp (valuable to their team). Whilst he’s gotten some raps lately, reality is that even if Simmons weren’t playing well, he’s their only proper lock (with Holloway being a converted 8, and Gibson trusting a converted 8 over his other options).

  • Under the current laws, or what they’re supposed to implement, that Crusaders pass is clearly not forwards. The player passing the ball keeps running and stays in front of the ball, it travels forward relative to the line because of his momentum, but leaves his hands backwards… that’s the whole point of the law as currently interpreted.

    On the Lions penalty counts. It could be happenstance, but it seems unlikely. I watched Exeter v Northampton on Saturday. I didn’t get the final penalty count, but with about 25 to go it was 11-3. I thought of the Lions at that point, but I also thought back and, having no skin in the game, I thought the ref had done an excellent job. I’m sure there were one or two dodgy decisions, there are always are, but there were no howlers and basically Exeter had Northampton under the pump in defence and at scrum time and the referee penalised them for being totally dominated and offside, going up, going down, going backwards and splintering and so on. It can happen. But… three times, and not repeating it away from home, that just seems unlikely.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      I agree Eloise, that was never a forward pass and I hope SANZAAR start doing something about this

      • I’ve been advocating, for some time, for the feedback on referees that is provided to the teams already, to be made public. I started it after Joubert was, in my opinion, hung out to dry by the IRB as they were then, after Scotland v Australia in the quarter-finals in the last RWC.

        They never comment, but did on him – already bad. Said he fucked up, in the nicest possible way, but that’s what they said – even worse. If we had a ref’s report after every game, you and I and the other rugby nerds (I don’t think that will offend you) will read it avidly. They rest of the world will ignore it. When there is a controversy, whether it’s something like this, the Lions, or Joubert at the RWC last time, the media will all pile in. But the report will be common, well formatted and structured, and it won’t be a big deal by then.

        And rugby doesn’t exist in its own little Platonic bubble. It relies on us, as amateur players and as watchers, supporters and so on to continue. Anything that helps highlight how the powers that be are addressing our concerns about improving the way the game is played and officiated helps. Feeling that the Rebels were robbed, the Tahs were robbed and the Crusaders were robbed, all in South Africa – doesn’t do much to make me think “Oh, I’ll cough up £32/month to watch a competition where the visitors to SA have to compete against the refs too.”

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Absolutely spot on mate. I brought this up in NZ. The counter issue they raised was trolls causing real issues to the referee and not the same standard given to players. Fair in some respects and if you read the Roar, then you can understand their fears

        • I guess that’s a fair thought and we have to see how it’s done.

          One obvious solution: you don’t release a decision by decision breakdown, you release an overall score for the match, or a series of them. Something like:

          Referee X performed with 97% correct decisions overall. They were 99% at 30 line outs, 96% right at 100 rucks, 97% at 15 mauls, 100% at 4 dangerous play incidents, 100% right at 28 other tackle situations, 93% right at 14 knocks on, blah, blah, blah. 17 incidents were referred to the TMO during the match, post-match review suggests this was the correct decision in 13 of these incidents, the referee and ARs should have made a decision on-field in the other 4 cases. No decisions that were made on-field should have been referred for TMO review.

          We have identified offside at the breakdown as an area that X tends to get adjudicate incorrectly over the last several matches and have identified this as an area for improvement with X. As part of the on-going initiative to reduce reliance on the TMO, we have highlighted those incidents where we feel TMO review was not required.

          Now… I’m sure you can troll that if you try. But, in essence, it will still highlight the bad referees, it will let us see if action is taken and if they improve or not. And it doesn’t give the trolls information like “you got that call wrong that cost my team a try, you suck, I’m gonna kill you!” because there’s little or nothing about a specific call in there.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          It would make sense but require more resources than are available at the moment and funding it would be an issue. I’m also not convinced it can be country based and an independent group would be very expensive and hard to maintain

        • I’ve never seen the reports they return to the clubs/international sides but I’ve heard them being discussed. I’m not sure how detailed they are but I’m of the impression that they’re similar to this. Maybe I’ve gone into more detail, and I’d be fine with less – Referee X got 98% of decisions correct – but I think they do give more of a breakdown, by areas, which I’d like to see too.

          So it shouldn’t be that resource heavy, since they’re already doing it. It’s just a case of publishing what they’re sending out already, and publishing a document to a web-archive is a push of a button these days.

    • Happyman

      Mate I watched the Rebels v lions game and it was clear that the Ref just decided to officiate one team only. The Rebels had about a 20 point lead and got run down.

      • I didn’t see it but I’ve read plenty of reports that said that’s what happened. I’m not trying to suggest otherwise. I’m just pointing out that you can get extreme penalty counts without the ref being biased too, although it’s rare.

        The fact it’s happened three times for the same team at home suggests something is up – in fact I said as much.

  • Geoffro

    The call on the crusaders pass for the try is clearly wrong and cost them the match.Jonker needs to spend some time in the bin with that other s.african nitwit.

    • Happyman

      The pass in the crusaders game was backwards but it is hard to feel sorry for them given how many games they have won with truly shitty calls over the past quite a few years.

      • Geoffro

        And they lost a final with a shitty call against them.Maybe it does level out in the long run but in the short term the reffing in the republic has been questionable this year.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks MST’s,

    Interesting call by Gibbons on resting key players, or not resting them as the case may be, I wonder if he’s just going to ignore the “request” by the Wallabies coach. I think with the players they have needing a rest they will struggle and to be fair if he gets up into the finals, he’ll have satisfied his employer so why should he care?

    I think your scoring is again very good. The Rebels really need something, interesting that the one player everyone is saying they wouldn’t have in the wallabies is scoring the tries. TBF I think Koribete is pretty crap at everything else except powering over for tries when he’s given the ball in the right place with weak defenders and to me that’s all Cheika wants with him so I think he’ll be part of the team regardless of being a one trick pony. Let’s face it Folau is a 2 trick pony at best he and he was always a first pick.

    I agree on Hodge, I don’t get all this call for him at inside centre or even worse at 12. I think he struggles for time and that his best position is fullback, but he’s not the best person for that at the moment. I actually think he doesn’t make the team, or certainly not the match day 23.

    That call for the forward pass was blatantly incorrect and I’m going to put my head on the block by levelling a charge of cheating against the SA referees. Despite incurring the wrath of my fellow referees who seem to think that this call is a no no, there is no way that those incompetent idiots can make those calls without a clear intent to cheat. SANZAAR needs to step up here, completely unlikely, and sack both of the referees involved. I get that referees make mistakes in the heat of the moment, I also get that you referee on what you see depending on where you are on the ground and there is always room for debate from other people who see a different picture because they are in a different position, however this is clear cheating and needs to be stomped on.

    • Gun

      KRL the basis for any quality comp of this nature must have neutral refs. They’ve had them before and should still have them. It is one of the many reasons this has become a dog of a competition.
      It is going down the gurgler and unless a very wealthy media organisation buys it, it must be restructured.
      It might be poor local umps but the fix might also be in.

  • Brumby Runner

    I think there are a couple of reasons for Quade’s apparent loss of form.

    First, he is playing too flat in attack. Against rush defenses, he needs to sit back a bit further to give him time to do his thing without a simultaneous hit from the tackler. It seems to me that his four turnovers probably all occurred when he was under immediate pressure from a tackle as the ball arrived with him.

    In recent games, this issue has been exacerbated by slower than usual service from Genia. I think it is just as much, perhaps more, that Genia is a bit out of form than Cooper.

    On the forward pass, the clear and indisputable evidence that it was a legitimate pass is the fact that the passer has continued his run and is well in front of where the ball was taken by the support player.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      I think he’s just tired mate. Big jump from club to Super and he’s feeling it

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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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