This week in the Top 5 we go through the good, bad and ugly from the weekend, give our teams their grades (then call them to come in for parent teacher interviews … after the weekend we aren’t angry, just disappointed), scour through the stats, review the Rebels and re-live the torture that was the Brumbies/Waratahs match.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Good – The return of David Pocock is good news for Australian rugby. He was missed last year and while Cheika tried different combinations, the Wallabies never look quite as good when Poey is not on the field. Sadly it didn’t do the Brumbies much good, but he played pretty well given his long stint out of Australian rugby. The fact that he made it through the whole game incident and injury free is definitely a good thing.
Bad – The performances of the three Australian teams this weekend was pretty poor. The Tahs got the win and did it without Folau which is a positive sign, but they looked far from convincing against an incredibly poor opposition. The Brumbies were that incredibly poor opposition and just looked clueless. Meanwhile the Rebels were thumped with no answer at all to the Hurricanes in the second half. None of what we saw from these three teams should inspire us with confidence on the Wallabies front. Unfortunately these poor performances were not one-off’s either. We do know they can play better than they did, but it also shows just how poor we can be.
Ugly – 42 unanswered points. 38 was bad enough, but the Rebels managed to surpass it on Friday night.
Rebels D- The Rebels were competitive for most of the first half, keeping the Hurricanes at bay. But it appears that one misjudged bounce of the ball changed all of that. When the ball didn’t go out as Debreczeni assumed it would and bounced up for the Canes to score a runaway try not long before half time, the game changed for the Rebels. They were unable to get back into the match and began making the same sort of silly errors we saw them make against the Waratahs. Only the fact that they matched it with the Canes early on stops me from giving them an E and is not enough for me to lift the grade higher … they bled 42 unanswered points! Their tackling was a mess again and they were unable to break the Canes defence. They clearly learnt nothing from their similar thumping at the hands of the Waratahs and all signs point to some serious issues that need to be worked on, otherwise we could be seeing more capitulations in the coming weeks.
Waratahs C+ They got the win but didn’t play well. In fact, if they had been playing a stronger opposition (which is pretty much any team other than the Brumbies at the moment) they would probably have been soundly beaten. They gave away 19 turnovers, Foley was missing kicks at goal left, right and centre (just a saying, I think he got the ones that were right in front) and they just didn’t look to have much in attack outside of a few good runs.
Brumbies D The Brumbies were pretty terrible. While they looked ok in attack for the first 20 minutes or so, when they were throwing the ball around and their backs had a bit of run in them, once they started kicking the game was pretty much over. Doesn’t the saying go something like “you can’t score tries if you don’t have the ball”? Well I don’t know how the Brumbies thought they were going to win if they repeatedly handed the ball back to the Waratahs through poor kicking. But they still stuck with the Tahs and even had a chance to scrounge a draw at the end.
Stats and Stuff
Lets take a look at how the three Aussie teams fared in the stats department this week.
Firstly, none of those stats look particularly impressive. Too many turnovers, poor tackling, lots of kicking … none of it really stands out. I find it a little odd that the team with the least run metres has the most offloads, the Brumbies were getting rid of the ball but not taking it anywhere it seems.
I said last week that if the Rebels stick with their tackle rate of less than 75% the good teams will make them pay. And the Hurricanes certainly made them pay. Tackling seems to be a serious weakness of the Rebels, so far they have averaged 73% tackle success across their 6 games.
Of the Rebels 351 run metres, Mafi ran 107 of them. And he was only on the field for 40 minutes. Are the Rebels relying on him too much? Compare this to Koroibete who had 0 run metres (yes, ZERO! Not a single one!), and English who had just 5 metres. Even Hodge (19m) and Meakes (12m) only ran a fraction of what Mafi did. In fact the entire starting backline, from 10-15 combined only ran 25 metres more than Mafi.
On paper the Brumbies should have beaten the Waratahs. As I said in the report card, if they had been playing anyone other than the Brumbies chances are they would have been pretty soundly beaten. 19 turnovers is usually enough to be punished by the opposition.
From the 10 penalties conceded by the Brumbies, the Waratahs had 7 shots at goal. So the Brumbies were committing penalties in exactly the wrong part of the field. However Foley kicked just 4 of the 7 attempts. When combined with the 1 out of 2 successful conversions, that is a kicking percentage of just 55%. Pretty poor for the man who will (we assume) be taking up the kicking duties v Ireland.
There was a heck of a lot of kicking in the Brumbies/Tahs match, and most of it was useless kicking that served only to frustrate and annoy the fans. At least the Waratahs added some running in with their kicking. The Brumbies simply kicked the ball back to them.
Rebels v Hurricanes – What did we learn?
I thought we would go through the Rebels v Hurricanes match and pick out a number of incidents that highlight the Rebels downfall.
Out of the 12 penalties that the Rebels gave away, all but 3 came in the second half. This could be because they spent more time in defence, or it could be out of frustration/trying too hard.
In the match against the Hurricanes we see examples of the Rebels lack of composure when things get tough. Poor decision making, such as the quick tap from Genia when they won a scrum penalty (and with a player in the bin – personally I would have slowed the game down not tried to speed it up) led to a Hurricanes try. Panicky offloads to no one (Maddocks), silly penalties (Rangi right after half time) and rushed kicks all came into the Rebels game once they fell behind on the scoreboard.
We saw similar against the Waratahs. Silly penalties (Genia picking up the knocked-on ball while offside), mistakes trying to play on too quickly (English incorrect tap). In both games their poor tackling made it easy for the opposition to score tries.
One thing that is very interesting to note is how tired the Rebels players looked. As early as the 27 minute mark, Mafi looked done. He was doing a lot of the running for the Rebels, but how useful is that in the long run if he runs himself ragged? Cottrell looked absolutely buggered yet was on for the whole game. At the 75 minute mark, as Genia is getting ready to play the ball we see Hodge with his hands on his knees looking anything but ready to run. Perhaps this contributed to the number of penalties they gave away in the second half.
In putting this piece together, we went back and looked at the Tahs’ game looking for common factors to compare performances. It wasn’t until we were part way through we realised that what was dismissed as “just” the heat during that game slowing players appears to have masked what appears to be a fitness issue with the Rebels.
In the match against the Hurricanes we can see their line speed drop drastically and a lot of players just looked exhausted from about the 50th minute onward. These were the same elements that existed in the Tahs game, except that the temperature on Friday night was a lot milder, around the 20 degree mark. A fitness issue at this point of the season could be a big hurdle for the Rebels to overcome going forwards.
Brumbies v Waratahs – It really ain’t Super is it?
We all had pretty low expectations of this one being an entertaining game full of attack and tries. In the end it was a simple game of rugby full of errors with very little sophistication except for one of the Tahs tries which was superb.
It is interesting to see who each of the Aussie teams is looking to attack. As expected you can see some kiwi elements in the Tahs attack and although the execution is lacking and possibly some better cattle it looks ok at times but is still not fully functional.
If you have a look at this screen shot you can see the Tahs usually work from a fairly basic flat structure. It provides the same look to the opposition and you can play close to the gain line putting pressure on the defence. The inside runners with the half back coming around the corner was used on a few occasions from this exact setup but the try came from the slight variation of the ball being immediately passed and you can see the rest unfold in the highlights video below. It was a really sublime try off a set piece and one of the best I have seen in a while.
A pretty much similar set up was used on a few occasions for what I like to call the Tahs “whip around” to the side line going through the hands looking for the winger out wide one on one.
On the whole the Tahs used a few different set ups and the majority of the time were going straight at the opposition line. They have good structures that make sure there is plenty of support. For some reason it seems that all the attacks are somewhat short lived and they get very little yield from the good initial work. For mine, I say it’s a case of a man with a good plan but not the players with the skillset to make it work.
Looking at the Brumbies, this screen shot is it. No, really this is it. This formation seemed to be the one for all occasions. If you have a look you can see the blue for the forwards “pod” and then the red lines for the backs “pod”. Also notice the two lines and depth of this set up. Oh, the bloke in the head gear with the pink line; for some reason he appears directly behind the halfback a lot(?).
The Brumbies have adopted an old-style forwards and backs type approach where one has a go, the other takes a turn. First up the depth of the players is an issue and also is the reason that they struggle to get the support to the breakdowns as it’s a single player running the ball. If you look at Lilo’s try, he was lucky as the support was late but there was no pressure at the breakdown and it allows Hawera to play the ball quickly. Fortuitously, the time it took the runners to catch up with the play provided them the perfect run on to the ball.
The depth is really taking the pressure of the defence. The two-line set up is really emphasising the depth issue and you could see early on with such a simple set up and time to read what’s happening good defenders like Hooper were already reading that it was either going to the “three amigos” in line one (Lilo, Kuridrani, Speight) or out to Muirhead (or second last player in line two). Thus why he could rush out and nail Muirhead early on in the game.
The other issue is most of the time this formation was drifting across field and with the lack of pressure on the defence due to the depth it’s simple for defenders just to slide with it and is why many times it just amounted to very little. Looking at it it’s really simple stuff better suited to club land. The alternation between the forwards then the backs telegraphs what happens next.
One thing that the Brumbies set up tells us is how far behind our coaching and game plans are compared to our Kiwi counterparts. It highlights how engrained our thinking and ways really are. A simple look at the stats reveal that most Aussie coaches are yet to work out forwards can run, and pass; and even attack!
As the Brumbies silo their forwards into a pod to hit up ready for the backs to get quick ball and attack, the Kiwis intermix their players so that the defence is never sure who will run at them so it always maintains pressure on the defence. If that’s not bad enough all but one of the starting Kiwi locks ran for over 20 metres this weekend. Only one Aussie lock managed to run over 20 meters in comparison. They are using their whole team to attack while we are still splitting our teams into forwards and backs with only one group really considered when it comes to attack.
And as a bonus …
Apparently Eden Park is being turned into something a little less rugby related …. Read the story here.