This week in the Top 5 we look at the good, bad and ugly, recap the Wallabies win over Wales and look at the Stats, say goodbye to the NRC and just throw in some stuff I thought was interesting.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Good – how good was the NRC final? A tough match fought out by the 2 best teams in the comp.
Bad – No more NRC. I really enjoyed it this year, I think it has been the best year yet.
Ugly – I was relying on the Senate report for something as it’s the gift that keeps giving but as usual the damn politicians are unreliable and it’s been delayed!
13 in a row
Yep, that’s 13 times in a row now we’ve beaten Wales. The last time they defeated us was November 29th 2008. But this game was a little different. Wales ran. Their traditional kicking game wasn’t as prevalent, they looked to be playing a new style of game for Wales. And it nearly worked too. They were sorely let down by their handling, I lost count of how many times they knocked the ball on at the end of a really good set of phases or a line break, a few times when they looked set to score. It was a bit reminiscent of the Wallabies we had been accustomed to watching … all promise only to be let down with sloppy handling.
The Wallabies played pretty well, but there are some individuals who will need to lift their game when they take on England (yes, the English weren’t exactly impressive against the Pumas but I wouldn’t take that too much into account). Hanigan really did little to impress, again, Kerevi was repeatedly caught high when running with the ball, showing he has a significant issue with his technique, which needs to be fixed. He was turned over in this way multiple times and lucky to get away with it at others. McMahon was very quiet and while Koroibete looked good in attack he also looked to be caught drifting in defence and having to rush to cover the side. This might account for Kuridrani’s high missed tackle count (5) if he was trying to cover various positions in defence. But the fact that despite those things we got the win is a really big plus. It shows that we can do it without all out guns firing. As a whole the team are getting it done and playing well.
On the positive side, Genia had another blinder. We can only hope that Phipps is studying him at training and learning how to pass. Beale had some moments of brilliance, he seemed to be involved in a lot of the attack. It’s awesome to have Hodge as an option for long distance goal kicking, but he still needs to be utilised more during play.
Stats and Stuff
So how did we fare on the stat sheet? Obviously stats don’t tell the whole story, we all know this is true, but they can allow us to make some comparisons that may not have been immediately obvious from watching the game. The new style of game Wales played is reflected in the stats, with more metres, more carries and more defenders beaten. It also appears that the Welsh were very tight in defence, their tackle percentage is phenomenal! The Wallabies tightened up on defence compared to their outing in Japan and had a pretty respectable tackle percentage themselves. In the set piece the teams were actually very evenly matched. After the game against Japan I compared the performance of the two back rows and suggested that the Australians might need to lift their defence against the Northern teams, and it looks like they did. They were far less attacking than they were against Japan, and a lot tighter in defence, their stats look pretty similar to those of the Welsh back row. * Stats courtesy of rugby.com.au
NRC – what a fitting finish
On Saturday night we saw Queensland Country take out this year’s NRC in an epic match which really wasn’t decided until the final couple of minutes. Country were deserved winners (and as a Vikings fan I find it hard to admit) they were the better of the two teams on the night. Their second half performance blew the Vikings away, with the home team starting to look a little fatigued towards the end of the match. Two quick tries to Country in the final 4 minutes took it from a tied game to a 14-point margin, with the Vikings just unable to sustain the defensive pressure on the line.
Last week I pondered whether the difference in the way the two semi-finals played out would have an impact on the final, and it could well have been that Queensland Country had more left in the tank after an easier semi. While many picked the Vikings pre-game, Country had been the form team for much of the competition. They spent most of the season on top of the ladder and had been playing some outstanding rugby. It was definitely a fitting finale for the competition this year, which has been the best one yet. After the match the player of the year was announced.
To the surprise of some (possibly including himself) Caleb Timu took out the award over some more highly fancied players like Tupou, Paia’Aua and Cusack. So Congratulations to Queensland Country and thanks to all the teams for a fantastic year. I can only hope that next year’s NRC is even half as entertaining!
Bits and Bobs
A few interesting tid bits from the world of Rugby over the weekend. In an historic match, the first ever women’s Barbarians side played Munster as the opening match to the Barbarians v Tonga at Thomond Park in Limerick. It’s a great initiative by Barbarians FC to introduce a women’s side. Nearly all of the players came from the Northern Hemisphere, where they have much more in the way of competitive women’s rugby than we do here, but hopefully it will grow to include players from New Zealand and Australia. In pretty atrocious conditions, the Barbarians ran out winners 19-0. You can read a report on the match here.
Still on the Baa Baa’s, the men’s side, led by the Melbourne Rebels recruit Geoff Parling, narrowly defeated Tonga 27-24 in what was a tight match for the whole 80 minutes. The weather was just as terrible for this match as it was for the ladies, with rain and swirling winds, but it didn’t stop an entertaining (by all accounts) match.
And yes, we are still on the Baa Baa’s, the effort of the night has to go to referee Frank Murphy who refereed BOTH the women’s and men’s matches in absolutely terrible conditions.
Speaking of referees, our very own Nic Berry took charge of his first tier one test match over the weekend when he refereed Scotland v Samoa. While I haven’t watched the game yet so can’t comment on his performance, I haven’t seen any negative comments. It’s good to see another Aussie ref making it to the big leagues.
And for those of you who weren’t aware of this, the Rebels played a trial match over the weekend in Japan against the Toyota Verblitz. The Japanese side took out the match 36-28 over a young Melbourne Rebels side, which featured 11 local players.