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

The Tuesday Top 5

Welcome back to another Tuesday. they’re rolling around pretty quickly now, aren’t they? Well what a weekend that was. Some big wins, a loss and the Waratahs didn’t lose! This week we look at some of the positives from the weekend, take a very brief trip to Europe to check out the Six Nations, talk superstars and expectation and give the refs another chance to explain. Or not.

Is this the (new) beginning?

This week saw some very good performances from half of our teams. The Reds absolutely thumped the Sunwolves, while the Brumbies surprised pretty much everyone and beat the Chiefs (and barely a rolling maul in sight). It was great to see. But what of the other half? Well the Tahs had the bye, so at least they didn’t lose. Then there’s the Rebels – what is going on with the Rebels? In round one they lost to the same team that the Reds just smashed (though to be fair 9 of the starting 15 for the Sunwolves were different from the team that played the Rebels, so I guess it wasn’t really the same team).

So, does this signal a new beginning for Aussie Rugby? The Brumbies held on with only 34% possession and 28% territory in the second half. They missed just 14 out of their 153 tackles and only turned the ball over 8 times. Those are some pretty impressive figures. Meanwhile the Reds looked exceptional – they scored 10 tries, only missed 9 of their 89 tackles and maintained 62% possession and 68% territory for the match, simply shutting the Sunwolves out and forcing them into 47 missed tackles. It will be very interesting to see how the next few rounds pan out. The Reds play the Sharks, who just beat the Rebels, then the Crusaders and the Brumbies have a bye then play the Sunwolves. On Saturday night’s performances the Brumbies should have no trouble with the Sunwolves, but as we know they are a different team at home (literally) so it’s anything but a given. The Sharks will give us a better gauge of where the Reds are at but it’s the match against the Crusaders that will really be the test.

Oh, and the Rebels play the Highlanders and the Lions, and the Waratahs play the Lions and the Chiefs. Being optimistic, the Lions aren’t playing that well at the moment and have lost 3 of their matches, so there’s some hope there.

Tate McDermott scores

Tate McDermott scores

Six Nations Wrap

The Six Nations was back again this week, and it saw Italy with their best chance to break their losing streak, taking on Scotland who have been somewhat disappointing so far. But it wasn’t to be, Scotland not only won, but kept Italy scoreless. Italy has failed to score in two of their three matches this year.

Back on the 4th of February I said that I thought Wales and France would be fighting it out to take the title this year. Well those two teams met on the weekend and it was a close one, with France taking the win by just 4 points, some may say controversially. The final match of this round saw England host Ireland and keep themselves in the fight by winning 24-12. That means we have France on 3 wins 0 losses, England and Ireland on 2-1, Wales and Scotland on 1-2 and Italy on 0-3. I think it’s safe to say that Italy are out of the running, as are Wales and Scotland. The next round sees both France and Ireland favourites to win, they are playing Scotland and Italy respectively. England play Wales next, so they may come away with the win, it’s still a bit of an unknown with Wales under the new coach. If England win it will likely all come down to the final round when England are almost guaranteed a win over Italy and France will host Ireland in the final match of the tournament. We would possibly see three teams finish on 4 wins and one loss, with it all coming down to bonus points and for/against.

 

RBS Six Nations tropy - Photo credit Inpho and RBS Six Nations

RBS Six Nations trophy – Photo credit Inpho and RBS Six Nations

The next big thing

One thing I have noticed a lot about Australian Rugby is that some people are always looking for the next big thing, the next Superstar. For the past two years we have heard about how outstanding Jordan Petaia is, despite him only playing a handful of games. And yes, he is very talented but that is a lot of pressure to heap on him. Now that he is injured, certain commentators are raving about his replacement, Hunter Paisami. Again, he looks good but after just a few games is it too early to be calling him the next big thing? Likewise Mark Nawaqanitawase, Fox Sports did a big intro about him and how good he was and there were headlines like this about him from January after trial matches:  “This teenage Tahs ‘gem’ could be the next Folau” (www.foxsports.com.au 19 Jan 2020) “Young talent time: The kids who could save Australian rugby” (The Sydney Morning Herald-24 Jan 2020). How is that for pressure? Without a Super rugby cap to his name he was being hailed as one of the Saviours of Australian Rugby. Yes, he can score spectacular tries but there are other elements of his game that may not be up to scratch yet he was touted as the next Folau after one trial match (whether you see that as a good or bad thing, it is a lot to live up to). All of these players are talented, there is no doubt about that. But I think people need to lay off a bit and let them grow before declaring them stars.

Mark Nawaqanitawase

Mark Nawaqanitawase

Managing Expectations

Speaking of the young guys, how about we just calm it all down and look at what is happening. We have two teams playing rookie 10’s. Are they going to make mistakes? Hell yes, they wouldn’t be human if they didn’t. But should they be crucified for those errors? Noah Lolesio had a poor game against the Highlanders. Some were saying that he just couldn’t cope against Kiwi opposition, that maybe the Brumbies need another option. But then look at his game against the Chiefs. He was composed, offloading, tackling … everything you expect from an experienced 10. Imagine if he had been dropped after his poor showing the previous week. Over at the Tahs we have Mack Mason. Last year he received very little game time, with Foley playing 80 minutes for the bulk of the season. When he did play, he didn’t do very well. But rather then be allowed to try again, grow and gain confidence, he was dropped from sight. What would that do to the mentality of a young player?

Will Harrison, the other rookie 10, was talked up preseason. He was on the list of young guys who could save Australian Rugby. But he has had a couple of games where he hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the media and fans, so should he be dropped? No, teams can’t stick with underperforming players for long periods, but remember that some of these guys have played just three or four games at the top level. Maybe if we all manage our expectations a little better then those “poor performances” may not to turn out as poor as we thought.

 

Photo Credit Brendan Hertel / QRU

Photo Credit Brendan Hertel / QRU

Oi ref, are we watching the same game?

Four rounds in to the season the standard of refereeing is already being heavily discussed. I have no issue when referees make a decision based on what they see or the available evidence. The refereeing decisions can have a direct impact on a game and really influence the watchability of a game.

Of course, there will be a tendency to referee games with what you’re familiar with and with Aussie, Kiwi and South African rugby all having different styles there will always be an element of unconscious bias in the way it is refereed. There will also be coaches and supporters who want to point the finger and lay the blame on referees. Sometimes this might be justified, but we all need to remember like when a player has a bad game our referees are also only human.

When it comes to decisions that could go either way and really put the referees under intense scrutiny; unfairly at times. Take this one for example on the weekend. It’s a tough one and I can see the argument from both sides but I believe it’s the right outcome.

But them there are decisions from referees, in some instances the whole refereeing team, that you just have to shake your head and ask WTF happened there?

Now for those that missed it there was a lifting tackle where a player landed on his shoulder that resulted in a yellow card.  Now I want to walk through this process as somewhere in this decision-making process I ended up in an alternate reality.

Breaking it down the referee spotted it. At least one of his assistance had a view. But, as we have the technology available to assist with decision making, they referred it to the TMO (the bloke who apparently can look at it from several angles, in slow motion).

Now I will give you the question from the ref directly to the TMO that was confirmed and lead to the decision to make this easier upfront:

REF: So, I’ve got White 2 pick him up, take him through the horizontal and makes contact with the shoulder and therefore it’s a yellow card for me, you happy with that?

Sounds straightforward right?

Now it is extremely rare that I will ever agree with Phil Kearns but he was spot on with the question around which player(s) lifted during the replays.

But what is very apparent is the landing part. The fact that it is very, very clear the player lands on his hands the elbows. His shoulder never touches the ground. How the f#$* is this detail overlooked? It’s a key element of this ruling and determining factor on severity. It usually is the part that is most heavily scrutinised.

Outcome aside, I have to ask how with at least 3 officials involved, very clear vision of the incident, can the description which is what the decision is based on be so off the mark and then the TMO fails to correct the errors or even attempt to interject? How can the process not be followed and key elements no correctly examined and determined?

Poor refereeing seems to be a feature creeping in to Super Rugby, as a supporter it is frustrating, but for a casual supporter, when their eyes are clearly telling a different story to what the referees are allegedly seeing it’s laughable, and not in a good way.

  • Who?

    Thanks MST’s. I’ve got a question… The reffing decisions – what were the alternative viewpoints in those two? I’m guessing the French tackle, you’re saying deliberate knock down? It certainly looks worse in slow motion, but everything does – I’m happy with the call.
    The lifting tackle on the Shorks player… It’s irrelevant whether he lands on hands, elbows or shoulders – you’re not allowed to tip someone through the horizontal, and if you do, you mustn’t let them land with any part of their body above the hips first. So landing on your elbows is still technically a tip tackle. Further, for mine, it’s exacerbated by the fact that they continued driving through, which increased the angular acceleration of the player towards the ground. Driving meant they were in no position to bring the player to ground carefully, as is their duty if they lift someone or tip them. It’s a soft YC by traditional standards, but it’s consistent with how things have been intended to be refereed since before Warburton’s RC in the 2011 RWC.
    .
    I’m always happy to pile on when a ref makes an error (because I don’t see that the game’s half as complicated as some make out), but I don’t see either of these as being terribly egregious.

    • Howard

      My understanding is that a lifting tackle is a penalty but the severity of the punishment is determined by what part of the body makes contact with the ground ie Yellow for Shoulder, Red if he lands on his head. That was the rule when I was coaching a couple of years ago and may have changed

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        Nope still the same mate, you are correct. I thought YC all the way so not surprised at all

        • Nutta

          So the lift past the horizontal in-itself is a penalty. Lift plus the shoulder contacting the ground (if) accumulates a yellow. Lift plus the head contacting ground (if) accumulates a red. Correct?

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          yep

        • Who?

          So you’re effectively reading, “If he doesn’t brace himself, he lands on his shoulders, and you can’t rely on the lifted player to brace themself.” YC.

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          Correct. The responsibility is with the tackler.

        • Mica

          Nice breakdown here – assuming this is all correct (the bit I’m not sure on is the bracing aspect).
          Now we just need another flow chart to help out the commentators and the various refs. :)

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          I think it’s pretty easy; you lift you’re being watched, over the horizontal you’re being watched hard, drop on back it’s a penalty, drop on or head/upper body it’s yellow, drive down into the ground and head or upper body makes contact with the ground it’s red.

  • I am happy to admit to bias, (I’m still a Wales fan) but for me that knock on is deliberate, and in the circumstances that makes it penalty try time and changes the outcome of the match.

    Blue 5 looks, smacks his hand down on the ball, then turns his head away and moves his hand in to pretend it’s part of the tackle and suckers the TMO and the referee.

    I will add that, by this point, I was swearing at the referee and the dog had left the room, because he’d missed about 5 penalties/free kicks against France in the previous 2 minutes from not allowing Wales to take a quick throw in to a high tackle and more. Ruling that was not a deliberate knock on if he hadn’t have that string of other dubious decisions in France’s favour – well even watching it today I think it’s the wrong call when I’m a lot calmer, but I today I can see it’s more of a judgement call and I think his judgement is wrong. On Saturday I was ready to lynch him.

    • Patrick

      So what did you think of Aldritt’s yellow card?

      • I think from what he said it’s just a penalty.

        However, I think looking at it a YC might be the right call, just not for the reasons given or given in shorthand. First, it looks like there’s a driving the player into the ground action, that would make it more than just a penalty. Second, although the laws don’t say it, and the ref definitely didn’t, current interpretation seems to be if the tackled player reaches out to defend themselves – which happened here, it wasn’t a landing on the back, it would have been landing on the shoulder/neck/head without that defensive action. So the referees are starting to award cards on what would happen if the player didn’t defend themselves.

        So, like quite often, I think what the ref says is a pile of horse poo. But actually they got to the right decision.

        Without the driving action, he’s so far past the horizontal that a YC wouldn’t surprise me but just a penalty wouldn’t either.

    • Keith Butler

      Bad call by the ref and a try would probably have been scored so it would have been a penalty try and 7 points. Whether it affected the outcome of the game is a moot point as it would have been a completely different game that either side could have won.

      • That’s the one that occurred with about 3 minutes to go and would have put Wales ahead… they still might not have one, but I think it’s fair to say it could well have had a major impact to change the lead that late in the game…

        • Keith Butler

          Just had another look. Nothing happened in the 77th minute apart from AWJ climbing all over his opposite number and giving away a line out penalty. What the hell is wrong with Dan Biggar. Very good 10 no doubt but he really needs to STFU at times. Take him back 10m for whinging and as for starting the brawl after the final whistle – enough said.

        • Ok, pedant, it was 15 minutes to go. A lot could have changed if Wales had been awarded the PT then, but it still puts Wales ahead and requires France to play catch up rather than the other way around.

        • Keith Butler

          As an Englishman with a few good Welsh friends, I have suffered their slings and arrows with a smile on my face. Being the Pedants Pedant, I couldn’t possibly comment that the score at the time of the incident was 27- 16 so PT given and it’s 27 -23 and it’s Wales playing catch up but still anyone’s game.

        • Just goes to show why I shouldn’t get angry at the bloody referee!

        • Keith Butler

          Yes, we all have those moments when rational thought exits stage left.

    • idiot savant

      I agree with you Eloise it looks deliberate to me. I wasn’t sure if the French player hit the ball with his hand or the Welsh hookers wrist. This is a tackle technique which is coached all over and we see quite a bit of it. I recall O’Keefe yellow carding a Reds winger in Argentina for almost exactly the same tackle.

    • Steve

      I guess it goes to show Eloise but for me it wasn’t super clear. I would say on balance of probability he probably meant to knock it on (based on the suspicious motion of his arm) but I couldn’t say for sure, and if the touchie said in real time that it was just a knock on then so be it.

      I normally refer back to the NZ idea of ‘if you play well enough then the ref can’t decide the game’ and Wales made some critical errors at times that could have won it.

      So yeah, some bad luck but such is life I guess

      • 50-odd hours later I can accept that point of view. On Saturday afternoon I would have been questioning your parentage, your sanity, your intelligence and your right to continue drawing breath…

        I don’t think you’re wrong about playing well enough to take the ref out of it. However, there when the referee makes a string of bad calls in a row it’s harder to keep your equanimity. Even for me.

        • Steve

          You wouldn’t be the first to question any of those things Eloise, so joke on you!

        • It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done about someone (including myself) either. But I try to stay calm and not do it…

    • KwAussie Rugby Lover

      And…………..Breathe
      Hahahahaha love the passion mate and I thought the whole referee display was pretty poo for both sides. People off their feet playing the ball, people coming in from the side, both French and Wales stopping quick throw ins unlawfully (don’t know why they just don’t thro it hard into the face of the blocker, standard tactic when I played). I’m no so sure on the deliberate knock down but more of a I hope I knock the ball out in this tackle, good tactic if you get it right and using your arm to wrap around and also knock the ball out of the hand of someone who isn’t practicing good ball security. I though Wales made some poor tactical decisions at times and that’s what really killed the game for them.

      • Yowie

        …people coming in from the side which I have started frowning on since I officially became an Aussie

        Subtext added above

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          Hahahahahaha Maaaate “Richie can do no wrong” is inserted into our brains at birth. Can’t change it unfortunately

        • Nutta

          Now that you have swapped sides and all… where do you stand on Steve Finnane, Michael Brial and Quade Cooper? After that I’ll ask about Frank Bunce’s shoulder, Owen Franks fingers and Richard Loe’s … existence.

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          We all have our good and bad one’s mate

        • Nutta

          Yes that we do. But that doesn’t answer for Loe. Nor have we discussed Pinetree Meads on Kenny Catchpole. And then we can have a wee chat about Michael Jones.

    • Mica

      Your biased. :) I don’t care who wins so I’m not :)
      Ok now some reasoning.
      It’s hard to tell if the ball has just left the Welsh hand or not even in the slow motion from both angles. I watched it in the YouTube clip a number of times pausing at the point of contact.
      A good tackler will try and tackle the arms in the motion of passing to stop the pass or make the attacking player lose control.
      Given that he is in the act of affecting the tackle during the act of passing or at worst a nanosecond after the pass has left the Welsh hands there’s no way a ref should call this a deliberate knockdown. Agree with Toms comment that he passed too late.

  • Steve

    Thanks MST as always!

    I like the point about loading pressure onto young players – I don’t know when we forgot that rugby is a team sport and nobody plays well or poorly in isolation.

    Of course Lolesio is incredibly talented but can be pressured into errors, he’s had all of 4 games. But having Simone next to him makes it that much harder for the opposition to unsettle him.

    Repeat for Will Harrison – of course a rookie can’t play amazing footy when the team around him is playing shite.

    I guess I’m really making two points here:

    1) I’m much more interested in improved team performances vs individual heroes
    2) The Wallabies selectors should heavily favour combinations when they find elements of a team that are working, at least for this year.

  • Nutta

    France v Wales – that was a knockdown and penalty try every day of the week. Plus it was high contact (contact with head).

    Shorks v Scum – that was not a yellow as the shoulder did not hit the ground.

    I like your point about not labelling folk as saviours when they are nowt but naughty little boys (now piss off). And yes, they should get more than 5min to prove they can play.

    Thanks MST. As thought provoking as ever.

    • Keith Butler

      Sneaky French person disguising a slap down as part of his attempted tackle. Have to disagree about the Sharks. Looked to me like a lift above the horizontal by both players and a bit of a drive as well. If Koribete hadn’t put his hands out as a defence it would have been head, neck and shoulder and a straight red for one of them at least. That’s rugby for you, always open to interpretation.

    • idiot savant

      I think thats Jim McKay who dresses like your dad.

      • Nutta

        I think I am now my dad.

      • Hoss

        or dresses like Brad Thorn, who in turn dresses as Nutta’s dad. Wait, who’s on first again ?

        • juswal

          Someone has to dress as Nutta’s mum. Bags not me.

        • Nutta

          Jussy my dad is dead. But he will haunt you I shit you not. Seriously man, if you pick on either him or his wife he will return from whatever sheep-shearing, cattle-droving, camp-oven cooking incarnation he currently resides in and will not stop until he scares the living beejeezus out of your soul with a mix of charcoaled chops, lambs tails in your lunchbox and fake snakes in your boots. If anything, reflect over the nature of my humour and outlook on life as articulated by my ramblings over the years and then times the “yeh Fk-em” nature of it by about 100. And that was whilst he was still alive. Now he’s dead and doesn’t have to answer to the wife for the trouble he causes. You have been warned.

        • juswal

          I’m in awe. Can’t wait to meet the man.

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks MST, Mate you do so well in bringing up so many great points I always look forward to your posts and you never disappoint.
    Not so sure that it’s a new beginning but it’s definitely an improvement on the last few years. It goes a long way to proving that the cattle has always has been here but that mismanagement, poor coaching and some incredibly dumb selection has been the real issue for some teams over the last 5 years. I’m a fan of both Harrison and Lolesio and see them as the future. I think Rennie could well be the right person to mentor them and bring them in with either JOC or Toomua (more and more JOC) as the stand-in player to guide them into it.
    Certainly a lot more to look forward to this year and the RC are looking very very interesting.
    6N has been great. I hope the French pull it off as I think they provide such a good spectacle and are able to cover both the flair out the back and the tough forwards. Reminds me a bit of the 94 team that screwed us at Eden Park so well.

  • idiot savant

    I agree with you MST that the standard of refereeing appears to be deteriorating in super rugby. A fish rots from the head as they say – the proper standards are not being driven from the top. When I played rugby during the last ice age I was dropped after a poor performance. The whole team knew it so there was some public shaming and I knew I had to lift my game to get back into the team. The point was that it wasn’t enough just to know Id played poorly. There was an element of suffering to it. Thats how standards were driven for the team. The same is the case for all players today.

    Are we seeing the same approach to standards for referees? I dont know who appoints them or who chooses the games they get appointed to. I dont know how they are remunerated. Do they get a match fee or are they salaried for the season? After Ergon Seconds biased performance last year was he reprimanded? Dropped? Shamed? Financially penalised? I notice Anselmi was not chosen for a game the week after his Reds performance. Was he dropped and did he suffer? Or was he just rostered off? He probably got a case of Malbec from the Jaguares and spent the weekend washing down a hot coal rib on the bone. There appears to have been no public shaming. Does that mean the refs bosses think that was a good performance? I guess what I’m asking is there a review and penalty process that is working to drive standards in refereeing? On the evidence of the last two years, it doesn’t appear to be working.

    On the Wednesday after Anselmi’s performance Super Rugby refs boss Lyndon Bray and Super rugby CEO Andy Marinos were reported in the Australian as blaming the game appointment process for poor refereeing. Which is utterly bizarre. Surely its about standards? This had to have been a press release from these two guys. It was a wonderfully Freudian moment. Yes we know we are guilty but we are going to blame someone else. I rarely comment on referees because they have such a hard job and have to make decisions literally on the run and under pressure and its a bloody complicated game and those pesky kiwis are going to test your knowledge and patience every microsecond. But Im wondering if Lyndon Bray is setting appropriate standards.

    • Nutta

      Look, I’ve said before and I’ll say again that general societal behavioural standards started to slip as of June of 1879 when the Imperial Parliament, in a fit of yellow-livered snowflake coward-noncism, passed a bill outlawing the flogging of sailors in the Royal Navy. It was obviously a conspiracy as it was a dastardly Fenian Irishman who drafted the Bill in the first place (bloody Republicanism if ever I saw an example! Bloody weakening the Empire by stealth!). It’s all been down hill from there. So bring back the Cat with 9 Tails and make those Referee bastards aim up with a good old-fashioned flogging of drunken Christian Brothers proportions. That’ll do ‘em. I mean was such fundamentals not the very essence of the whole British Empire’s bureaucratic foundation? Huzzah! Problem fixed.

      • idiot savant

        Some of them might enjoy that.

        • Yowie

          Are many refs mates with Max Mosley?

  • Tomthusiasm

    Fair play to the French defender, old mate should’ve passed sooner or not at all.

    • Mica

      Yep – plus it’s all replayed in slow motion. A tenth of a second earlier and it’s a great ball and all tackle that results in a ruck. If the ball is knocked in the action of wrapping the arms around the player I don’t think it should ever be a penalty and YC.

  • Hoss

    NIce read as usual MST.

    I am sure i read in a book somewhere about ‘false prophets’. I think the prudent course is as you say, pair them with JOC / Toomua and let them learn their craft a bit more, gain some life skills and go from there. At this stage there talented kids, still pissing in their nappy – give them time, nurture them and ye shall be rewarded. For love of Jehovah we only have to look at JOC for an example and see what thrusting a talented kid, before their time can do to them as a footballer & a more importantly as a hominid.

Rugby

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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