Hello again, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Top 5. This week we are on a bit of a high after the performances we saw from our teams on the weekend. As a result, we have gone into more depth with the report card. Instead of lumping all the teams together in one of the 5, each team gets their own Top 5 section! We have still stuck with the usual good, bad and ugly and are calling in on some old friends to see what they are up to on the weekend. Nothing too important I hear ……
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The Good: It’s such a weird and foreign feeling. Have you worked out what that odd sensation you are feeling is? Its optimism. It might not have been wins all round but the performances as a whole from the Aussie teams were in most parts pretty good. The Tahs were the better team on the night and the Reds certainly put a good performance and were in the fight right to the end. The Brumbies were competitive for the bulk of the game before letting themselves down late. Finally, a weekend where all the Aussie teams were actually competitive.
The Bad: Can anyone let me know if you have a copy of the Daily Rugby Laws manual? Or is than now superseded by the game specific versions? I am well aware Referees will never get it all right but just a little consistency would be fantastic. It is bringing a whole new dimension to the game we don’t want. We see the indiscretion, we hear the whistle but from that point on its pure speculation as to what the referees will decide. What’s even more difficult to comprehend is that even when the indiscretions look almost identical, trying to predict how the referee will rule is anyone’s guess.
The Ugly: They say a picture says a thousand words. There is just no place for this in Rugby at any level!
Report Card Reds A-
How good did they play! In what I believe was their best performance of the year they really came out to prove a point after the previous weeks loss. Their defensive organisation, intent and pressure was fantastic and they really made the Hurricanes have to work hard. There were a few defensive errors but the Reds were determined to show that they also could stand up in attack. Taking the points when on offer and with some really good enterprising play they made sure they kept pace with the Hurricanes which in tandem with the pressure from the defence was continuing to squeezing the Canes right to the end of the game. I was really impressed with their ball running and the way they managed to go both around and through the Canes to score showing that when they get it right they do have multiple attacking options. Their biggest challenge now is simply to repeat that performance at home on the weekend and be the second Aussie team to scalp the Highlanders.
Report Card Waratahs A
The Waratahs put in a great performance and were most definitely the better team on the night. They showed some variation in attack, not solely relying on the “give it to Izzy or Big T” moves (although giving it to Big T worked well for them). They were threatening the line pretty much from the outset and once the Highlanders went down to 14 men I was pretty confident they would go on to get the win. I don’t know that they took full advantage of the period of time when the Highlanders had 13 players on the field, opting to kick the ball to the Highlanders rather than run it on at least 2 occasions. They controlled the match, were disciplined, defensively strong and dominated both territory and possession. They still conceded 14 turnovers, which was better than the 20 conceded by the Highlanders. Hopefully they can keep the momentum going and get the win over a Chiefs side (which is just returning from South Africa), in New Zealand.
Report Card Brumbies C
It looked like a completely different Brumbies that turned out against the Lions compared to the game against the Rebels the previous week. They looked dangerous in attack, Banks cut through the defence for a couple of really well worked tries. Their defence, particularly in loose play where it has been a bit iffy recently, was holding strong and they looked more like a cohesive unit than we have seen in a long while. Even when they were down to 14 late in the first half they held their own and, despite letting in one try, didn’t let the Lions get much of an advantage. At the 55-minute mark I was quietly optimistic that getting up at 1:15am to watch the game might actually have been worth it. But then things changed. The red card to Rory Arnold led to the Brumbies being reduced to 14 for the remainder of the match. I still had some hope. Then about a minute later Sam Carter was binned for a pretty dumb penalty, immediately after he was told the team were on their last warning. 13 men and it proved too much and the Lions certainly made them pay. Without the cards I honestly think they were a real chance of getting the win, and a possible grade of A for the first time. As it is their first half performance lifted their grade from a D to a C, they finally gave us some hope that they can play.
European Finals Time!!
This coming weekend sees the finals of the Pro 14 and the Aviva Premiership.
This year we’ve had a little more interest in these comps, more so the Pro 14 because of the inclusion of the Cheetahs and Kings. The Cheetahs made the finals but were knocked out when they went down to Scarlets, 43-8. The Kings finished last with just one win from their 21 games. But that wasn’t the only reason we were more interested than in the past. One of our (and I don’t just mean Mr MST and I, but I think I speak for many Aussie rugby fans) favourite players joined the Pro 14 this year, and it has been pretty bittersweet hearing about how fantastically Mr Fardy has been playing over there. Well we get one more chance to see him in action this year as his Irish side Leinster take on Scarlets in the Pro 14 final. Scarlets have a host of Welsh stars in their lineup, including Hadleigh Parkes, Steffan Evans and Gareth Davies. Leigh Halfpenny is still in doubt after suffering a small hamstring tear in the match against the Cheetahs. It will also be a good chance for Wallaby fans to check out the current form of some possible Irish internationals with Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton all possibly lining up for Leinster.
You can catch the Pro 14 final on beIN Sports 3 on Sun 27 May 3:25am – 5:25am.
On the same weekend another few of ex-Wallabies will be pulling on the Exeter Chiefs jersey as they line up against Saracens (who also boast an ex-Wallaby in their ranks) at Twickenham. Lachie Turner, Nic White and Greg Holmes are all part of the Exeter line-up that has been tough to beat this year. The Chiefs lost just 5 out of their 22 matches all season and finished on top of the ladder, 8 points clear of Saracens in second place. Nic White, who most rugby fans over here either love or hate, scored a try in their semi final win and Chiefs fans are more than happy with his recruitment (though some not so much with his kicking!). While the Chiefs don’t have some of superstars like Saracens do (Owen Farrell, Mako Vunipola, Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Will Skelton) they are defending Champions and are determined to go back to back. This game will be worth watching purely to see how all the Aussies go!
The match is being played on Sunday 27 May, 12:00am (AST) but I cannot see if it is being televised live at this point. It looks like there is a replay on Fox Sports 501 at 9:30am Sunday 27 May.