Howdy. Welcome to this, the school holidays edition of the Top 5. It isn’t really much different from every other addition, just means I am slightly more likely to have made mistakes due to the rugrats bashing the keyboard while I am trying to type. But anyway … This week we search out some good, bad and ugly things in Rugby from the weekend, grade our teams, look at the stats for the season so far, check out what is in store next for our teams and take a quick dash over to the UK to see whats going on in the Pro 14.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Good – The Aussie 7’s women at the Commonwealth Games. They didn’t walk away with the gold, but they still won the silver medal. It seems silly doesn’t, to win a medal after losing a match but they did win the silver. They played their guts out and looked to have left absolutely everything out on the field. These ladies should be extremely proud of themselves and they way they played, I know the fans are.
Bad – I have to question the decision making of the Rebels in the last play of their match against the Jaguares. I now many here will disagree and believe they did the right thing going for the win. After all, they were already going to get a bonus point if they lost, a penalty goal would have only given them one more, where if they scored a try they walk away with 4 points, we play the game to win, right? So what’s one little point? Well as a long time, die hard Brumbies fan I can tell you that every point is vital and one point can mean the difference between making the finals and watching the finals on TV. I think the Waratahs may have that sort of experience too. It can also mean the difference between home and away games should you make the finals. 1 point is important. And the Rebels threw it away.
Ugly – 687 Days. 34 Matches. That’s how long it has been since an Aussie Super Rugby side has beaten a Kiwi Super Rugby side. During those matches, our teams have managed 7 bonus points for losing by 7 or less (with an added 6-point loss to the Highlanders by the Brumbies in a QF where there were no bonus points), while the New Zealand teams have got 18 bonus points for scoring 3+ tries more than their opposition. What can we glean from this? Well for starters, in those 34 matches the Kiwis have scored AT LEAST 54 more tries than us, based on the number of bonus points. Hopefully things will change for us this year, we still have plenty of opportunities coming up.
Rebels C+ In the first half it looked like they had the game under control, but poor discipline and some silly errors again saw them lose it in the second half. It was far from an 80 minute performance, and the way they stumbled once Genia went off could prove an issue for them (we saw similar against the Hurricanes when Mafi left the field).
Brumbies D- Typical, like the Rebels the previous week, the Brumbies gave us some hope that we might break the Kiwi drought. But no. They fell apart in the second half, poor handling and poor kicking really let them down. Despite holding on to the ball for long periods of time close to the line, they lacked the composure needed to actually score.
Waratahs A- They are really starting to look the goods. Even when they make some errors, they manage to keep calm and get on with it. The bonus point try at the end could prove vital towards the point end of the competition. I hate to say it, but I am kind of enjoying watching the Waratahs at the moment (excuse me while I go wash my mouth out with soap).
Reds C- They never really looked in this match. Silly errors at the lineout, poor tackling, they just didn’t look to have a way to match the Waratahs. They didn’t play poorly exactly, just not well. Thorne needs to start looking at his personnel, I think it’s time there were a few changes.
Stats and Stuff
With all the Aussie teams having had their first bye we thought we’d take a look at the stats again, for the season so far. Now we know not all teams are on an equal playing field at this point, the Tahs and Reds have yet to play a team from New Zealand while the Rebels and Brumbies are yet to travel to South Africa. But I think we can start to see some interesting numbers appearing.
So what numbers stand out? Well the number of tries scored, 32 for the Rebels with the Waratahs following closely on 30. It’s no real surprise that the Brumbies aren’t at the top, they haven’t been prolific try scorers for a while now, but the Reds with only 13 tries from their 7 matches is pretty low. Which is interesting because the Reds have beaten the most defenders. Does that mean that while they are breaking tackles they just aren’t doing anything with the ball? They have run the fewest metres so I’m guessing most of the breaks aren’t making it very far.
Meanwhile, the Waratahs have the highest number of turnovers, but are still scoring lots of tries. Are they throwing the ball around more, Kiwi style? With risk comes errors, but also the possibility of reward. The Tahs (on paper) look like they are doing a lot right.
Let’s look at run metres. The Waratahs have run the most, thanks in part to some massive runs from Taqele Naiyaravoro, who has run 562 of his teams 3600 metres. That’s a fair whack, right? Yes, but then we look at the Rebels 3343 metres, 574 of which have been run by Amanaki Mafi, with another 500m from Jack Maddocks. Two players from the Rebels have produced nearly one third of their teams total run metres. Mafi also has close to 15% of his team’s total carries for the season so far. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Rebels could be in trouble if Mafi goes down (look at what happened against the hurricanes when he went off at half time). The other teams look to be spreading the work around more between their players.
There is one other number that I think Rebels fans could find a bit worrying. 81. They have given away 81 penalties in their 7 matches. Compared to the other 3 teams, that’s basically a full match worth of penalties more than anyone else. The Reds, after a shaky start to the season, have shown the best discipline and surprisingly the Brumbies number is also low.
And finally, the number which came as the biggest surprise to me was the Reds scrum win rate. In the early weeks of the comp teams were worried about the Reds scrum, it was basically the reason they defeated the Brumbies early in the season, off the back of penalties due to a totally dominant scrum. So what happened? They have the lowest percentage of all the Aussie teams, even the Tahs who were getting crucified for their scrum earlier in the season, have a better rate than them.
We’ll revisit the stats again in a few weeks and see if things change up as we play more games against our friends over the ditch.
**Stats courtesy of sanzarrugby.com
So What Happens Next?
Well by that, I mean what lies in store for our teams. We are just about at the half way mark of the competition at week 9 out of 19. I know, right? How quickly has that gone by! What do we, know? What have we learnt?
The Brumbies had what many considered to be an easier start to the season, but didn’t manage to convert. With 3 matches against Kiwi teams and a difficult trip to South Africa coming up, they have a tough run home. Plus they have been hit by a few injuries, their incredible list of players to choose from to cover the back row has dwindled with injuries to Valetini, McCaffrey and possibly Naisarani (at least short term if he doesn’t recover from concussion for the weekend). They were bolstered with the timely return of Pocock, who was back in top form in the loss against the Highlanders. If they are to be real competitors they will need all players firing, sadly some of their big names have done anything but so far.
The Rebels got off to a flyer, but there are signs that they may come unstuck. Like the Brumbies, they had a pretty easy start to the season, with a run of home games. That means they have the majority of their games away in the second half of the season, which will definitely add to the challenge for them to make the finals. The upcoming trip to South Africa will be a real telling point for them. It is pretty clear that they have firepower, and plenty of it, but some second half capitulations have left people wondering if there may be issues. I’m sure their fans will be watching with great interest (trepidation) to see how the team performs without Genia in their match against the Bulls.
The Reds have a pretty good run home with the majority of their games being played at Suncorp. They had a semi-successful trip to South Africa and the real test for them will come this weekend when they face the Chiefs, the first of their Kiwi opposition. Their form has been a little more hit than miss in the past few rounds, and they have been hit a bit by injury. They have plenty of young talent (Some of which is not even making the match day 23, is Duncan P injured?) and their scrum was a weapon early in the season. They need to get that back and start scoring tries.
The Waratahs, in my opinion, are looking most likely to finish top of the Aussie Conference. They aren’t playing perfect rugby, but they are chancing their hand and starting to get it together. They have a pretty tough run home and the test window comes at a timely point of the season for them given they have their second bye in round 11. Their run of matches between the bye and the test window will be their make or break, 4 Kiwi teams in 4 weeks is a very tough ask.
As it inevitably does, the June Test break could impact the final three rounds, whether it be through injuries sustained, lack of time together for teams with a large Wallaby contingent or just a big break in the season. It will be interesting to see which teams are able to make the most of the break and which teams struggle to get it back together.
The run home
|Jaguares (Home)||Bulls (Away)||Chiefs (Home)||Lions (Home)|
|Crusaders (Home)||Stormers (Away)||Lions (Home)||BYE|
|BYE||Crusaders (Home)||BYE||Blues (Home)|
|Rebels (Home)||Brumbies (Away)||Sunwolves (Away)||Crusaders (Away)|
|Lions (Away)||BYE||Hurricanes (Away)||Highlanders (Home)|
|Bulls (Away)||Sunwolves (Home)||Highlanders (Home)||Chiefs (Away)|
|Sunwolves (Home)||Blues (Away)||Waratahs (Home)||Reds (Away)|
|TEST WINDOW||TEST WINDOW||TEST WINDOW||TEST WINDOW|
|Hurricanes (Home)||Waratahs (Home)||Blues (Away)||Rebels (Away)|
|Chiefs (Away)||Reds (Away)||Rebels (Home)||Sunwolves (Home)|
|Waratahs (Away)||Highlanders (Away)||Sunwolves (Home)||Brumbies (Home)|
Updates from OS
With the Pro 14 coming up to finals, I thought we’d do a quick check in on where the teams are and how the two South African teams have fared in the competition.
The Cheetahs are third in their conference, with 11 wins from their 20 matches and look like they should make the finals in their first year (the top three teams from each conference make the finals). So far Glasgow and Munster (first and second in Conference A) look guaranteed to be in the finals. Over in Conference B, Leinster (Scott Fardy’s team – have we mentioned that he has ben killing it over there?) are on top of the table, 5 points clear of Scarlets, with Edinburgh in third. They should be the three teams to make the finals, though there may be some movement after the final round on April 29th.
It would be impressive for the Cheetahs to make the finals in their first year, and perhaps justify their moving to the competition. However, winning just over half of their matches still isn’t a great result, and they are only ahead of Cardiff due to having more bonus points.
The Kings meanwhile, have really struggled in the competition, winning just one of their 20 matches. With poor crowds and poor performances, it seems logical to question how much value there is in them being part of the competition.
Meanwhile, the semi finals of the Champions Cup are on this weekend. Leinster will take on Scarlets while Racing 92 play Munster. If you want to see the games (I’ll try and check out Leinster, hopefully Fards will be playing) Racing 92 v Munster is being shown live at 00:10am Monday April 23rd on BeIN Sports 3 (channel 282/515) and Leinster v Scarlets will be shown on replay at 4:50 am Tuesday 24th April, same channel.