We all feeling better after your rugby fix? There has been plenty of rugby to go around over the weekend – Super Rugby, Six nations, Sydney 7’s … more rugby than you can poke a stick at! So here’s our take on the weekend. We round up the weekend’s action from Super Rugby, predict how unpredictable this competition is going to be, talk Six Nations and check out some highlights.
The enemy form guide
How did you go with your form guide? Were you on the money or way off what you thought? With round one in the books there were a few surprises and a few that showed the form we expected. To start with, let’s have a quick look at how the foreign teams went in round one.
The Blues showed some signs of improvement then seemed to fall back to the failure comfort zone of mediocrity. The injection of Beauden Barrett later in the season could help steady the ship and make them reasonably competitive if they can play out a full game. We were all wondering what the Chiefs under Gatland would be like and having Aaron Cruden back certainly would have helped the transition into Super Rugby. It took a while for the Chiefs to get it together but they showed some good form and look like they will be one of the form Kiwi teams. As for the Hurricanes, what a disaster. Ill-discipline, poor form and unable to get on the score board; all over a disastrous start to 2020. But as usual it looks like the Crusaders are the benchmark again this season.
The Sunwolves showed real form and class in beating the Rebels and reinforced the question of why they have been cut. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain the form and even improve? I am wishing for the fairy story of the Moondogs walking off with the trophy come seasons end. The Jaguares also showed some form getting a good win. The question, as usual, is which Jaguares team will turn up week to week. If they can maintain consistent form, they might go damn close this year.
The South African teams are again a mixed bag of form. The Lions have turned in to kittens, the Sharks and Bulls battled it out with neither looking really that convincing. That being said the Sharks did get over the line a few times and look like they have a decent platform to work from. The Stormers however looked the goods dismantling the Hurricanes in a good solid opening round performance. Early signs suggest it’s the Stormers and Sharks we need to keep an eye on.
On the home front
It was the (real) all Aussie coaching team that got the only win for the Aussie teams on the weekend. Last week we looked at the coaches, were any questions answered?
The Brumbies ran out winners over the Reds, but certainly didn’t have it all their own way. In fact, they were pushed around a lot in the scrum and lineout, two areas where the Brumbies were expected to dominate. Was that down to coaching or personnel? Given Lord Laurie is the forwards coach, I think the loss of some big names may have been a contributing factor. Or has Reds scrum coach, Cameron Lilicrap (whose past coaching credentials only mention physiotherapy on the Reds site), done a stellar job with the Reds pack?
Both teams have plenty of room to grow, which bodes well for the season if they do show improvement. McKellar looked to have the Brumbies stick to a familiar game plan when it came to kicking out of the oppositions end, while the Reds made effective use of the maul and their forwards. Special mention to Henry for becoming the first player to score a try against every other team. Before Friday night he was sitting level with another player who had scored against all bar one team, one Israel Folau. Unfortunately for Mr Folau it looks very unlikely that he will ever be in a position to score a try against the Waratahs now.
It’s hard to read too much into the Waratahs performance, given the quality of the opposition. The young guys looked good, Harrison had a solid game at 10 and people have been absolutely raving about Mark Nawaqanitawase, he is already being heralded as the next Folau. And there were definitely glimpses of what he could do – in attack. In defence he showed some weaknesses that the Crusaders had no trouble exploiting. The Waratahs definitely gave away too much ball and didn’t really threaten the Crusaders at any point.
The real disappointment of the round was the Rebels. They were playing against a side that had only been together for three weeks, yet the Sunwolves were the ones that played as a team. The Rebels looked to have one plan, to run hard into the opposition and basically bash their way through. They had their moments, but just didn’t look like they were on the same level as the Sunwolves. At one point, Lomani picked up the ball at the base of the ruck, looked to pass one way, then the other, then tried going on his own. He looked like he just didn’t know what to do.
If this down to the players, or the coach? I was a fan of Wessels when he was at the Force, but in reality he only coached the Force for 2 seasons. Out of 30 matches the Force won just 8 while he was the coach. Then he was given a team chock full of stars, but even with the likes of Genia, Coleman, DHP, Koroibete, Maddocks, Cooper, Toomua and Hodge, the Rebels still finished 11th last year and won just 7 matches in each of the past 2 seasons. Is it time to start questioning his ability as a coach?
To all those who take part in tipping comps, how did you go on the weekend? I can tell you that I would have bombed out. Well not totally, I would have got most of the results correct, but not the margins. How many would have picked the Hurricanes to be held to 0? Or the Lions to cop a flogging from the Jaguares? Or the Sunwolves to win? Is this a sign of things to come this season?
It is usually pretty difficult to tell how a team’s season is going to go based on the first round. Remember back in 2016 when the brumbies beat the Hurricanes 52-10 in the first round? Well the Canes went on to win the Championship that year. So as we know, anything can happen.
But this year feels a bit different. Being the year after a World Cup, a lot of players have moved on, leaving the spot to be filled by the next generation. Look at the number 10’s in Australia. Harrison, Lolesio, Lucas … the Kiwis are probably wondering who the hell these guys are (and so are lots of Australians). Some of the biggest names in New Zealand have left – SBW, Crotty, Read, Ben Smith, Franks, Squire, Luke Whitelock, Milner-Skudder and Taufua are just some. The same has happened in Australia and South Africa, meaning teams are harder to predict as we aren’t as familiar with the incoming players.
So how do we see this season going? If we were to take the weekend’s results as a good indicator we could have a Jaguares v Stormers final (based on biggest wins), with the Crusaders and Chiefs snapping at their heels.
As a final note – hands up if you thought you would be seeing an image like this at any point this season?
Six nations wrap
The first round of the Six Nations kicked off this weekend, and the first match has re-ignited a question that has been asked many times by rugby fans up North … Why is Italy part of the Six Nations? Their 42-0 defeat at the hands of Wales did nothing to firm their case for being part of the competition.
Here are some fun facts (well, fun if you aren’t Italian) about Italy and the Six Nations (source https://www.bbc.com/sport/rugby-union/47556126)
- Italy have lost their last 21 Six Nations matches. Their last win in this tournament came four years ago against Scotland.
- They have conceded 849 points at an average of 40.4 per game during that 21-match run.
- Italy have won just six games and lost 31 since the 2015 World Cup.
- Their overall record in the Six Nations stands at won 12, drawn one and lost 86.
- Italy’s overall points difference in the Six Nations is -1,828.
- Since 2000 Italy have been wooden spooners 14 out of 20 years.
SANZAAR have booted teams out of the competition for much less than that!
There were quite a few bombed tries and opportunities over the weekend (yes, I am looking at you Waratahs with 23 turnovers conceded). But nothing tops this one in the Ireland v Scotland match. Just about to score the easiest of tries, Stuart Hogg did the unthinkable and dropped the ball as he put it down. No pressure from the defence, he wasn’t being tackled or diving over the line, all he had to do was put the ball down. And he dropped it. Ireland went on to win the match 19-12.
In the week leading up to this match I read about Eddie Jones’ desire for England to get a Grand Slam in this tournament. There is even a super computer that has predicted the results of all the games, and it had predicted a grand slam for England. But I guess no one told France about that, did they. France well and truly spoiled England’s party, defeating them 24-17. The French styled their play based on the Springboks, and it looks to have had the desired effect.
This weekend, Ireland take on Wales, Scotland host England and France play Italy. I’m predicting Wales, England and France to take out the matches, with Wales and France fighting it out to be crowned champions this year.
Round 1 Top Tries
I have to be honest, between fires nearby, starting back at work/school after 6 weeks and just all around hectic times, I have been a little lazy here. Sure, I could have put together my own video of my own favourite trues from the weekend, but why go to all the effort when someone has done one for you? I agree with most of the tries chosen, but I don’t know that the number 1 try is the “best”. Most spectacular finish – maybe, but not what I would classify as the best try.