Hi all and welcome to Alternate Reality Top 5, where we are happy, winners and all is looking good with the Rugby World. Makes a nice change, doesn’t it? I won’t rain on the parade by getting all worried about the All Blacks bouncing back, that’s for weekend MST to worry about. Anyway, this week we talk Wallabies, only a little though, what is there left to say? We check in on the Pacific Nations Cup, wonder what on Earth is going on in the rugby world and share some of the ‘special’ things we found during the last two weeks.
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There are times I read the social media then head in to the GAGR forums and just think to myself that it’s got to be a piss take. It makes me wonder what the hell is up with you rugby supporters?
So, I am calling time-out! Now; the script said that rugby was on the decline, ratings and crowds are supposed to be poor and nobody cares about the Wallabies as they just keep racking up the losses. I am pretty sure it’s the script we all settled on?
Can someone explain what is going on? I swear I only had one beer before 7:45pm on Saturday.
There was a huge crowd, there was a group of blokes in Gold that looked and even acted like rugby players. Then there was the thing with the score board where we ended up with more and I think someone hacked the TV ratings websites as apparently lots of people were watching the game.
Optimism, balanced assessments, sensible logical comments in the GAGR forums………this is twilight zone stuff!
What is going on?
Now the Mst’s have been in a tail spin since Saturday. I actually think it’s a bit like RA are experiencing right now. We hoped for some positives; some improvements. We were even prepared for the possibility of the Wallabies to get away with a close upset. But we weren’t prepared for THAT! We only have a 4 positive item maximum for Aussie rugby at any one time!
We are Wallabies supporters and we don’t know how to do lots of positive!
I wonder how the mood is at RA headquarters? Is it the horrible realisation of that double edge sword? 60K+ crowd in the bad-lands. Good ratings off the back of average performances. A real shot at the Bledisloe and on the run in to the Rugby World Cup. It’s straight off the RA wish list.
But I can’t help but think that it would have also made RA nervous amid all of the excitement and even got some of the SANZAAR partners thinking. It might be a case of careful what you wish for.
What to do? There is a clearly a lot of life left in Rugby and plenty of support out there. The RA wish list has come to reality all at once. Good crowds, good ratings, improving performances, optimism and interest and support for the Wallabies.
For SANZAAR, the Boks have come good, the All Blacks are beatable; it’s all of a sudden become interesting.
RA’s wish list complete. The key element that broadcasters and advertisers seek have now been proven to exist.
Over to you RA.
TOLD YA YOU SUPPORTERS KNOW NOTHING!
Prodigal sons, the outcasts and shunned, selections based on form. What a radical mix. Who would have thought of that?
Keeping it simple, keeping possession and all of a sudden, the Wallabies accidently worked out how to play the Kiwis and beat them.
It was really interesting to look at some of the elements that were part of a really good Wallabies performance.
I had mentioned previously that Nic White may bring some of his northern hemisphere forwards centric play in to the game which might not befit the Wallabies. Well on Saturday night it worked and got our forward pack on the front foot putting a lot of pressure on the All Blacks. Come the RWC we will need to know we will be able to grind out games using the forwards if the conditions are poor or it’s a really tight affair. A big positive for me is with our forward pack on the front foot the pressure should be off our backline and I am hoping we will see more attacking rugby from them.
The locking combination of Arnold and Rodda looks like a really good combination. It’s the combination many have been calling for and I hope (barring injury) we stick to this combination.
6, 7 and 8: I am still not totally sold on Saturday nights combination. I would like to see it put under the acid for a full game but the Red card changed the breakdown competition so it was hard to get a judge its performance. The 6 is the key to this puzzle.
Simply put, White and Lilo work. I am not sure it’s based of the past time together, but the combination works well. Kerevi is also starting to work well with Lilo and you can see they already have some “chemistry”.
I stated last time out that the Kerevi / Kuridrani combination only worked on paper and called for change. I would have never thought to have put JOC at 13 but it worked. After watching it and pondering why it worked it occurred to that in reality it’s a case of simple reverse engineering. Kerevi is a natural 13 with his size and running ability with the skills to play 12. JOC is a fleet footed 12 playing at 13. The re positioning gives a different way for the backline to function and a different look for the defence to try and deal with.
Beauden Barrett was quoted during the week staying he believed Beale was more of an attacking threat than Folau was. Having Beale at full back has forced the Wallabies away from the aerial game. Competing in the air had yielded results in the past but was never a sure thing. Give the All Blacks an opportunity to counter attack is playing with fire. Beale showed his attacking flair with ball in hand but the by-product was far more inserting. With White resisting his instincts to kick, the Wallabies starved the All Blacks out of the game and kept the tackling pressure on. The poor ball handling skills of the past seems to be forgotten on Saturday night with the Wallabies hanging on to the pill for long periods and showing skills that we doubted they had. Go figure; more ball in hand, less kicking and more points.
If nothing else it should instil some confidence in the team and be a real eye opener about the possibilities and how simple changes can make such a difference. Better selections, the right combinations, synergy, a better game palm and keeping it simple.
Irrespective of the result next week, if we can see those elements again I believe that it puts us on a really good path heading into the RWC.
If only someone had suggested some of these radical ideas earlier!
Pacific Nations Cup
This weekend saw the final round of the Pacific Nations Cup played. Last weekend, USA beat Samoa 13-10, Fiji soundly beat Canada 38-13 and Japan thumped Tonga 41-7.
Going in to the third and final round, Japan were sitting clear on top of the table with 2 wins and 0 losses. But close behind them was the USA, also with 2 wins form 2 matches. It was fitting that these two teams faced each other in the final round, with the winner taking home the Cup.
The first match of the round saw Tonga defeat Canada 33-23, leaving Canada winless from the competition. The match of the round came next, with The USA taking on Japan. The USA were hoping to get their first championship in the Pacific Nations Cup, but it wasn’t to be. Japan opened the scoring in the 4th minute with a try to captain Michael Leitch and kept the lead the whole game, the final score 34-20.
In the final match of the round, Fiji defeated Samoa 10-3. Scoring their only try of the match, Fijian winger Vereniki Goneva became Fiji’s highest try scorer with 21 tries in test match rugby.
This is the third time the Brave Blossoms have taken out the Cup, having won the championship in 2014 (when the Cup was divided into conferences and Japan and Samoa won their respective conferences so are both listed at Champions) and 2011.
The Brave Blossoms have achieved the first of the two main goals that coach Jamie Joseph outlined earlier in the year. Winning the Pacific nations Cup was first on the list, followed by a top 8 finish at the Rugby World Cup. The Japanese are playing some pretty decent rugby at the moment, lots of running, fast in attack. Being in a pool with Ireland, Scotland, Samoa and Russia, there is a good chance they could knock off Scotland to take a top 8 spot. We all saw what happened at the last World Cup in their pool match against the Springboks …….
Speaking of the World Cup …
So where are we? Have our predictions changed after the weekend? The Wallabies have definitely given us hope, many had them written off in the pool stages, but beating the All Blacks on the weekend, and Fiji not taking out the Pacific Nations Cup for the first time in years and suddenly our chances are looking a lot brighter.
Adding to that, Wales played England in the early hours of Monday morning in a World Cup warm up match. We had all seen the tweets, all new the score. If Wales knocked off England they would go to the top of the World Rugby Rankings. It was looking pretty good too, they held a 14-match winning streak over England, England were fielding what some saw as an understrength side, some say “experimental”, while Wales looked to be at or near full strength.
But things didn’t go according to plan for the Welsh. They were down 21-7 at half time, and despite fielding a come back of sorts, still went down 33-19. To make matters worse, fly half Gareth Anscombe ended the night on crutches with a knee injury.
So does that make our road to the finals of the World Cup a little easier? I think we are all a little more confident that we will finish in the top 2 in our pool, but what about after that? And who else is in with a chance? Based on their past few performances, I’m not sure we will see Argentina repeat their finals run like 2015. Especially as the USA seem to be a bit of a wild card at the moment after their showing in the Pacific nations Cup. England will likely be there and France? Who knows.
The big ones to watch are the Springboks. Same pool as the All Blacks and on fire at the moment. Are they now favourites to take it out? Or will Ireland bounce back to their form of a couple of years ago?
The big question for me is will the World Cup be anything like this year’s Super Rugby season, where the results were so all over the place it made predicting results difficult. Personally, I can’t wait to find out.
Every so often news stories pop up that make you look twice, laugh or just shake your head in disbelief. Here are a few of those we have dug up from the past couple of weeks.
First off, we have Nigel Owens and the touchie causing confusion and possibly impacting the result of a match. During the Pacific Nations Cup match between USA and Samoa, Samoa looked set to score a try when Owens called the play back, believing he heard a call of ‘knock-on’ from his AR. But after talking his AR he realised he had made a mistake and awarded the scrum feed to Samoa. Unfortunately, it robbed them of a certain try and with the USA going on to win 13-10, could have cost Samoa the win. Next up we have a try celebration with great accidental aim. Fijian winger Josua Tuisova scored a fantastic try in Fiji’s 38-13 win over Canada in the Pacific nations Cup, matched only by his throw of the ball in celebration. The only way it could have been better is if it falconed the AR. How’s this for celebrating winning a scrum penalty in the 78th minute? In a Currie Cup match the referee puts his arm up to award the penalty, and is high fived by Lions number 8 Hacjivah Dayimani. The Lions were trailing the Cheetahs 22-21 when the penalty was awarded, flyhalf Shaun Reynolds kicked the aforementioned penalty to steal the win 24-22.
Ever been so happy to be awarded a 78th minute penalty to win the game that you decide to high five the referee? @LionsRugbyCo eighth man @Hacjivah gave us one of the #CurrieCup‘s funnier moments in their last-gasp win over the @CheetahsRugby pic.twitter.com/xbfpudW0Y3 — SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) August 3, 2019
And for the head shaker … I know that the Wallabies haven’t got a lot of positive press in recent times. But is that any excuse for this kind of reporting? One of the basics of journalism (I assume) is know who you are writing about. And caption photographs of players with their correct names, not who you think it might be. Courtesy of news.com.au