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

The Tuesday Top 5

Round two of Super Rugby and we finally saw our teams in action. What were the good, bad and ugly parts of the round? Did our guys make the grade? What would we like to see more of in the future? What did we make of what we saw over the weekend? And what went on over at Murrayfield?

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Good – It was good to see the Sunwolves playing well. They really came out and surprised the Brumbies, with the result in doubt until close to the end. For the past two seasons we have seen them get torn apart, but to see them not only competitive, but very much a chance of winning, was a  good thing.

Bad – I know that cards are a part of Rugby. I agree that there are laws that need to be enforced for player safety, but this weekend a number of cards (both deserved and possibly not so much) impacted on games. I don’t know the answer, just hate to see games effectively decided 9 minutes in because of one players stupidity.

Ugly – The Highlanders v Blues match was a thing of beauty. Fast, skilful, innovative and downright entertaining. By contrast, the match following it was ugly. Really ugly (more so if you happen to be a Red’s supporter). Yes, there were tries aplenty, but there were errors, poor kicks, missed chances etc. I remember looking at the clock at one point and thinking “Geez, is there still 20 minutes to go?” I’m sure Rebels fans may have a different opinion, but much of it was a pretty ugly display of rugby.

Rob Simmons gets his first yellow card for the Waratahs.

Rob Simmons gets his first yellow card for the Waratahs.

Report Card

So, it was our first real look at the teams in the Aussie Conference in competition. Were we surprised? Who stood up and who fell short?

Reds D- It would have been an E except for the fact that for the first 30 or so minutes they really pushed the Rebels, even managing to score a try with 2 less players on the field. But poor discipline (meaning the cards, otherwise they actually gave away 3 fewer penalties than the Rebels), poor decision making and poor execution sorely let them down. Still, they did manage 2 more clean breaks than the Rebels.

Rebels B They scored plenty of tries and after around 30 minutes really weren’t pushed much. Some defensive issues popped up (a tackle rate of 58% is downright poor), especially the few times the Reds strung some passes together, but they looked good when they threw the ball around in attack and really opened up the Red’s defence. It was a dominant performance and the pick of the Aussie Conference this week.

Embed from Getty Images

Brumbies C- Poor defence very nearly cost them, as did their handling. Even their set piece, an area where they are usually so dominant, struggled. They looked to have trouble stringing phases together and were playing a lot of one up running at the defence, coming undone repeatedly as the Sunwolves consistently held up players forcing a turnover. They got lucky with the goal post assisting with a try, which was a bit of a turning point in the match.

Sunwolves C They were a vastly improved outfit to the one we have seen previously, even more impressive given the number of usual starters who were out of the match. They played better than the Brumbies for much of the match playing an innovative, running style of Rugby and were beasts at the breakdown. If not for a poor pass into the goal post the result may have been different. Will they really be the easy beats of the competition as predicted a month ago?

Waratahs C+ When they run with the ball, gee they can look dangerous. But too many times the run ended with a turnover. It wasn’t until after the final lineout throw that they looked like they could win, until then it was anyone’s game. They did a lot right, but I had to mark them down for the errors (23 turnovers conceded was the most in the conference) and the scrum. Their scrum was not good and is something they will really need to work on.  

All we want is …

Well there are a lot of things we want, isn’t there. But let’s get more specific. For starters I’d like some consistency. Yes, I’m talking about the refereeing. I’m not going to go into a big whinge, rather point out some things I (and I’m sure others) noticed during the weekend’s matches. Firstly, let’s look at these two images.

Crotty try

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embed from Getty Images

So what was called for each one? Well one was a yellow card and penalty try, and one – well I don’t know what (if anything) was called, but I know it wasn’t anything severe, ie a yellow card.

Take the Crotty penalty try. Crotty was around a foot off the ground, diving towards the line. Even after the other player made contact, he kept forcing his way towards the line, influencing the grip of the tackler in doing so. The result? The tackler was shown yellow for a dangerous tackle and a penalty try awarded. My question is how could he have safely made that tackle given his and Crotty’s position. I’m not saying he should attack the head, I honestly don’t know if he could have made a legal tackle in that position, but in hindsight the better option would have been to let him score the try. At least then the conversion wouldn’t have been a given and the Chiefs wouldn’t have gone a man down. Are we going to see a spate of players pick and driving low to the ground so they are impossible to tackle without the risk of yellow? I hope not!

The second photo shows a tackle made on Michael Alaalatoa. I can’t recall if there was a penalty awarded, but I am certain there was no card shown. If the referees are serious about going tough on high tackles, shouldn’t this one also have been punished? It looks pretty dangerous if you ask me.

These are just 2 examples, from the same game with the same referee. If you do a search on Getty Images for photos from each of the games on the weekend, you will undoubtedly find some more.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe firmly that the safety of the player should come first. The head needs to be protected, but at what point are we going to see referees making consistent rulings on this? In nearly every match there were tackles that could have been deemed high ie a tackle above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders, yet many seem to go unnoticed by the referee.

Consistency. If you are going to come down hard on something and enforce it, then do it across the board.

What did we learn?

First round in for the Aussie conference, and what did we learn? What can we take away from it?

Which Aussie team looks the goods? Honestly? I don’t think we can answer this after this round. It’s easy to go the obvious one – The Rebels, they had a big win and scored heaps of tries. Against a 14 (13 for 10 minutes) man team for 90% of the match. We would certainly have had more questions if the HADN’T won big. The Brumbies and Waratahs won, but neither of them looked all that convincing. I won’t even mention the Reds.  

Embed from Getty Images

What on earth happened to the Sunwolves in the off season? They looked really good, certainly not the easy beats I think many were expecting. Did the Brumbies take it too easy or were the Sunwolves actually that good? The coming weeks will tell. Is there actually a chance, no matter how slight, that the Sunwolves could top the Aussie conference?

What happened to the form we saw from some of the teams in the trial matches? I know that trials don’t mean anything come the regular season, but if you can offload, hold onto the ball and make tackles in a trial match, surely you cane still do all of those things come the actual competition.

There are signs. There are definitely positive signs for the Australian teams. Three out of four teams won (yes, I know that four out of four was an impossible ask), the Rebels broke all sorts of records with their win and there were some impressive displays from a number of individual players (Genia and Beale for example). All of the Aussie teams had moments of good play, even the Reds. But it also looked like all of the teams were shaking off the off-season cobwebs.

The worrying thing? Hands up who watched the Highlanders v Blues. There was no sign of cobwebs in that match.

Braveheart vs The Chariot

If you haven’t yet caught the Six nations Scotland v England match from the weekend, do yourself a favour and watch it. In case you have been living in a cave and not heard the news, Scotland beat England! That’s right, Eddie Jones’ men lost.

Just to give that a little more meaning – Since October 10th 2015 England have lost just one other match, to Ireland in last year’s Six Nations. This is the first win for Scotland over England since 2008 (there was one draw in 2010), handing the Scots the Calcutta Cup for the first time in 10 years.

Scotland win Calcutta cup 2018

So, I hear you ask, just how poorly did England play? Well they didn’t. They actually played pretty well. But Scotland were outstanding. They monstered England at the breakdown, forcing turnovers and denying England clean ball, and they repeatedly broke England’s line in attack. They looked smarter, and there was some excellent kicking in play that really put a lot of pressure on England.

Interestingly, before the match even began there was an incident between the two teams. They were leaving the field after the warm up when there appears to have been an “altercation” in the tunnel involving Owen Farrell. It can be seen (sort of) in the following videos.


Did this have an impact on the players psychologically? It’s hard to say, but a few English fans may be looking for any reason to excuse the loss.

  • Gareth

    Farrell should have saved it for the game. Wonder what he was thinking

    • Hoss

      To my eye mate he looks like he’s helping out a team mate getting a roasting from one of the Scots, McSomethingorother. To be fair the Scot is on the Pom side of the tunnell giving it to one of the Soap Dodgers – Farrell just helps out (he does have an angry streak like most Yorkshire men)

  • In the Crotty situation the yellow card was not given for the “dangerous tackle” it was in accordance with law 8.3:

    “A penalty try is awarded between the goal posts if foul play by the opposing team prevents a probable try from being scored, or scored in a more advantageous position. A player guilty of this must be cautioned and temporarily suspended or sent off.”

    If an offender can be identified a yellow card (at least) MUST be issued if a penalty try is awarded. So it was a penalty for a high tackle that probably prevented a try hence the penalty try and resulting YC.

    • Jason

      I don’t disagree with the rules you have put, they are correct as I am aware.

      However I do disagree that it was ‘probable’ that Crotty scores if it wasn’t a ‘dangerous tackle’ moreover I’m not even sure it was a dangerous tackle, the attacking player was literally diving head first towards the try line, a defender has to be allowed to defend otherwise what’s to prevent me from running head first towards any opposition screaming ‘you can’t touch my head’ running into people head first, that’s madness — yet that is what our game has become.

      • It’s really hard to tell from stills of course, but I watched the match. My instant reaction to the Crotty hit was dangerous tackle, penalty try. It’s over his shoulder, contact with his neck, down over his body, the classic look for a “seat belt tackle” and it’s one of the type that the rules clarification for dangerous tackles a few years ago specifically highlighted. As soon as you take that player out of the picture (think of SBW and the tap out of the ball in the November tests) then Crotty scores that try.

        Now, it’s fair to ask if the rules are well written – I don’t know how the hell you’re supposed to tackle Crotty in that body position. I guess as the defender you take a half step left and hit him in the back, wrapping your arm under his shoulder, rather than over the shoulder, which if you look at his hips and feet in the still and if you watch the video, he actually did, except the last bit. He needed to get lower and hit lower with his right arm. Does that warrant a penalty try… well yes, actually in this instance, according to the laws.

        The second one ought to be a penalty too. It didn’t meet the criteria to be more (it wasn’t hard or fast or anything else) but it is contact to the head or neck. but there we go… I’m not sure how the referee missed it, but every referee ignores things he (or she nowadays) things don’t have an impact on the game. It’s hard to see how a penalty for dangerous play doesn’t have an impact tbh, but he may have decided to just play on.

        • Sideshow

          I agree that there was plenty of opportunity to tackle without tackling high. If this tackle had occurred at the half way line, no one would be questioning if this was a high tackle or not. It is only because he is so close to the tryline that people are saying “well how else could he stop him”, and the answer is, well you can’t, it’s too late to stop a try when a player is in enough space, at full pace, 1m from the try line. The resulting attempt to stop him was illegal and dangerous. End of story.

        • Braveheart81

          Absolutely. I don’t really understand why some people are so convinced that there is the problem with the laws if the defender isn’t able to make a legal play to stop the try (or that it is very difficult for them to make a legal play). The reality here is that the only way Crotty wasn’t scoring a try was if Boshier made a miracle tackle and somehow got under the ball so it couldn’t be grounded immediately and managed to push him out or if he tried to take his head off (which is what happened).

          If Crotty was 5 metres out, Boshier can make a legal tackle round the waist or legs and drive him into touch before the line. When Crotty is 2m out the likelihood of stopping that try legally are slim to none.

      • Braveheart81

        The attacker is diving head first towards the line because he is trying to score a try. There was nothing unusual about what he was doing.

        If the attacker is further out or the defender is in a better position then he can make a legal tackle. The only reason this often ends up with the defender making a high tackle is because their only option to try and prevent a try is to go high and the risk of sliding up into their head rather than staying under their arms is very high.

        I don’t think there is anything wrong with the way this is ruled. The defender would be able to make a perfectly legal tackle if he was in a better position to stop the try. The relative positioning of the players meant that he couldn’t.

    • McWarren

      Good point Mr Cole. I’m amused that in this instance people are sympathetic to the tackler. I seem to recall some other player who shall remain nameless nearly decapitating an AB 9 to stop a try, the tackler in that instance being pilloried and accuse of a brain fart. Funny how similar acts invoke completely different reactions depending on who is involved. I know I’m guilty of it.

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    Thanks for the article, MST.

    I can agree that the Rebels were the best performing Australian side (although I think the cards must be taken into account), but the Waratahs being better than the Brumbies too?

    I think that could possibly have something to do with your Waratahs bias. I’m not saying the Brumbies were better either—I thought that both deserved C+.

    They were quite good in parts, shaky overall and quite poor in others (although not horrendous in anything). The Waratahs beat a team with the worst line out I have ever seen (due to the worst line out of all time at the death) and the Brumbies struggled against a team they were highly fancied to beat.

    But I didn’t think the Stormers were much better than the Sunwolves, and the Tahs only won at the death, which is why I would rate them as similarly performing.

  • Hoss

    Fair wrap MST.

    Good to see some ‘W’s” against Aussie sides.

    My Tahs were rusty, but at least they put themselves in a position to win at the death – some observations:

    – i was impressed with Hanigan, he was busy, industrious, got through a fair bit of work. To me he looks heavier (in a good way) – which i moaned about last year – he know looks the right size for an effective (Rocky Elsom type) 6
    – Our front row is in all sorts without Kepu. Robertson is an impostor (my two year old pushes harder during a bowel movement). Paddy Ryan is a journeyman and the bench has as march starch as a nuns underwear.
    – Burn me at the stake – but Simmons went alright early on. His renowned brain-fade happened, but he looks fit and did some good grunt work early on.
    – KB didn’t disappoint – the guys electric, but will we get parity in the engine room for a season – hmmmmmmmm ??
    – And Foley did his best Barnaby impression – by trying to fuck the help – poor passes, first penalty of the game made 12 metre with his kick and the ubiquitous charge down. His goal kicking was solid – but i note his technique hasnt changed and its that very same technique that sees him miss from in front on another night.
    – Look forward to Holloway getting some match time – i maintain injury robbed him of a Gold Jumper in 16

    A bit rusty, as expected, but a win first up and some things to build on – fair start – fair ranking of C+

    • Greg

      Best Barnaby impression….. oh dear….

    • Huw Tindall

      Add Dempsey to Holloway and there is a lot of mobility in the Tahs back row. Where do you fit them all? Sounds like Ned is going into the second row this week as Simmons is injured meaning a start for Holloway? Before the end of the season could we see a back 5 pack of:
      4 Simmons/Staniforth,
      5 Hanigan,
      6 Dempsey,
      7 Hooper,
      8 Holloway.

      Not bad that. If only we had a front row :(

      • Pedro

        I really rate Michael Wells, he’s very fast for his size (former sevens player I believe) which gives the tahs a lot of options in the back row and lineout.

        I don’t think it’s just the front row that’s lacking though, it’s the whole tight five. Staniforth could become a great player, Simmons is decent but probably past his prime and an injury to either leaves the locks looking like the the props without Kepu or hookers without Latu.

        • Huw Tindall

          Yeah Wells didn’t put a foot wrong last week and I think he may have even snaffled a turnover but I think a better balance for the Tahs backrow is a proper ball runner. Would give my left nut for Mafi or Naisarani but in their absence I feel Holloway is probably a better bet fit than Wells. Back row is all about balance so between Wells, Hooper, Holloway, Hanigan, and Dempsey we should be able to find it.

          Agree on the tight 5. Depth is sorely lacking. Second row was the biggest problem for the Tahs last year and their recruitment didn’t really fix that. I’d even like a fit Skelton back!!

        • Pedro

          Yeah wrecking ball ball-runners seem get rarer every year. Must be the greater expected fitness and leveling out of conditioning.

        • Sideshow

          Our best wrecking ball runner, Sean McMahon, somehow escaped the country!

        • Braveheart81

          Wells definitely made a few errors. I think he lost the ball three times. One of the kickoffs he took he contributed to us losing the ball by being indecisive rather than driving into contact (the support players should have got behind him faster and secured the breakdown but Wells didn’t help anything by staying behind them and getting driven back).

          I think there is a good chance Wells will move to 6 this weekend and Holloway 8 with Hanigan playing lock but until Demspey returns I can see why Wells starts and Holloway finishes. Holloway adds that punch to the bench that we need late in games that Wells won’t.

      • Hoss

        Dreamm loosies there mate and i did omit Dempsey who was a standout in his brief Wallaby stint (when is he due back ?) – but it starts with the caveman in the front row first and we have some issues i would suuggest. Kepu will help but his only one-third the equation. Latu must have screwed a board members daughter or cat (maybe both) – whats he done wrong – whats the word on him ?

    • Brisneyland Local

      OMG Hoss I have just sprayed my red out of my nose all over the dining room table reading that. Your turn of phrase is priceless. Especially the statement about your two year old. That bought back so many memories of my little one sneaking off behind the couch to patch one out! Hilarious. And yes you are right is a fraud and shouldnt be there!
      Am also amazed by Hannigan, looks like he has been eating big, lifting big and getting big over the holidays!
      Nuff said about Foley, you know where I stand on that one.
      Great to have you back!

      • Hoss

        Hey Briz – great to be back. Had self imposed exile. The old adage – if you cant contribute something positive then just fuck right off – so i did.

        I always sought your submissions out with eagerness to read with great laughter and deep consideration, i just couldnt find anything meanigful to contribute.

        I was slightly to the right of bitter and twisted at end of the Wallaby Northern Tour. Spent the off season meditating (tried to fall in love with the Australian Cricket Team – what a bunch of turds they are – they are just so unlikeable, not all, but most – i nearly cheered for England – nearly.)

        Now back, out of condition, optimism fully overloaded and ready to look at a half full glass again – for now. Ask me again in June after the Paddies visit.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Mate, well I for one am glad to have you back. You were one of the first to welcome me back after my self imposed exile. A break is sometimes what is required.
          I am still over the Wallabies tour, and will be for a long while. The NRC gave me some enjoyment, however the Reds offseason stupidity has seen me cancel my Reds membership after 15 years. It had also seen my almost come to lawyers guns and money to get my refund. I am so over the Reds back (QRU).
          I have decided to watch this year to just love the game again and try not to be caught up with the stupidty that can sometimes surround it.
          BTW, I must admit, i loved the BBL over the summer break. I went to two of the games. They were great. So was the corporate box there, and the smoked salmon and nibbly bits! ;-)

  • Jason

    I personally think you can’t give either the Reds nor the Rebels any grades because frankly they didn’t take any test, they had the test ripped off them 10 minutes into the exam.

    I actually think given the circumstances the Rebels were actually really bad, all things considered. Their scum was bullied (okay I am embellishing) by a 6 man Reds pack. The Reds put on points while being two men down, and for a while was leading.
    If Genia hadn’t stepped up playing 9 and 10 I genuinely wonder if the Rebels win that game.

    I would be worried if I were the Brumbies. The Reds will be out for blood… at Suncorp Stadium… their fans having just watched their capitan send off 10 minutes into the season, if the Brumbies somehow manage to weather that Queensland storm they’ve still got to face the actual team. (Plus the injuries the Brumbies suffered won’t help.)

  • Pedro

    Awesome sauce as always Mr MST ;)

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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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