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

The Tuesday Top 5

Welcome to a weird feeling top 5 this week. A win for the Wallabies, but not the usual celebrations. We spend a bit of this week’s edition digging into why that is. We also choose our good, bad and ugly moments from the weekend for you, talk necks and watch highlights of the other test from the weekend.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Good – There has been some fantastic rugby being played in the NRC. I know I’ve said it before, but how awesome are Fiji to watch when they are in full flight? Not so much for Brisbane city fans, but for the rest of us – wow.

Bad – Some of the NRC scores have been blowouts – not enough time for teams to gel? It’s always going to be a risk when you mix a bunch of Super Rugby players with club players and give them just a few weeks to train.

Ugly – The site of a half empty Suncorp Stadium. I don’t know about live at the ground, but on TV it looked terrible. Getting such a small crowd to a Rugby Championship match shows that there is something seriously wrong. Are people fed up? Are tickets too expensive? A combination of both and more? Whatever the reason, something needs to be done.

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Protect the neck!

After the second Bledisloe Cup match there was an outcry over the referee (and World Rugby) not doing enough to protect the neck. Coaches, ex-players, current players and the press are screaming for something to be done to protect player’s necks, because neck issues could prematurely end a player’s career. The neck is just something you don’t mess with. I don’t think this is something that anyone disagrees with.

Three times in the first half of the match, David Pocock was treated by Wallabies medical personnel for neck problems. Yes, treatment for his neck three times. In the first 40 minutes.

Now this might not be a popular tack that I am going to take, but I am not going to get stuck into the block who grabbed him around the neck. I am not going to whinge that the referee should have done more to stop it. I just want to focus, for a minute, on the fact that Poey was treated for neck issues 3 times in 40 minutes, was in obvious pain, and yet remained on the field for the full 80 minutes.

Remember this, from April?

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How about this one, from July?

So this is a player who has been treated for neck issues on the field a number of times this season. Yet despite being treated three times on the field during this match, he played another 40 minutes. Apparently he was so stiff after the match that he had to turn his body as opposed to his head to speak with reporters. Now he could have serious issues, there is talk about his longevity as a player being threatened and everyone is up in arms about it.

My question is – if the neck is so precious and not to be messed with, to be protected like everyone is (rightly) screaming about, why didn’t they take him off the field rather than risk further injury? It might not have guaranteed he would have been right for the game against South Africa, but it sure has hell would have made sure his neck wouldn’t be at risk anymore in the All Blacks match.

Then again on Saturday night we saw a player being treated for neck/back injury. Taniela Tupou went down really awkwardly in a scrum and appeared to be in a hell of a lot of pain when he was in the hands of the trainer. Jackson stopped the game because he said he thought it looked serious. But again, the player, in obvious discomfort, played out the remainder of the match. A prop who goes into heavy contact and puts his neck under a lot of pressure in nearly every play. Now maybe it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Maybe, as someone actually suggested, being a younger guy he has a low pain threshold. Maybe it was just a stinger that he managed to shake off. I don’t know.

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But those of you who saw the footage after the game may remember the vision of Tupou actually wincing when a team mate tapped him on the head. It didn’t look like something he had shaken off, he was clearly in a lot of pain. In his neck. The same neck that coaches, ex and current players and the team captain say MUST BE PROTECTED.

The neck should most definitely be protected. Opposition players, the referee and team officials all have a part to play in doing so, and right now it looks as though not many are doing the job.

Just how bad was it?

Just for a moment, I’m going to focus on the Boks.

Hand’s up who enjoyed watching the game on Saturday. And I mean really enjoyed watching the rugby that was on display, regardless of the result. High quality, skilful, fast passed, entertaining?

Let’s have a look at a few things for the Boks.

17 turnovers conceded. Many of them were when they were in really good attacking opportunities. At least 3 were 15 metres out from the try line.

3 out of the first 4 attacking opportunities were screwed up – 1 knock on, one poor lineout throw and one really dumb penalty for tackling beyond the ruck.

Willie Le Roux – 15 possessions (9 passes, 6 runs for a total of 24 metres) and 4 turnovers conceded. That was just Willie Le Roux.

De Klerk –9 runs for 9 metres. 4 turnovers conceded. Made 2 tackles, missed 2 tackles. 3 penalties conceded, including really dumb ones like trying to kick the ball away from Genia as he picked it up from the scrum.

That’s just a few things, while it doesn’t sound great, there’s nothing really terrible there, right? Well it gets better.

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All The Dumb Things

In the 18th minute of the match the Boks went for a quick lineout, deep in their own half. Unfortunately there was no support for the player and he made it maybe 10 metres before being tackled into touch, handing possession back to the Wallabies.

At 32 minutes there was just about one of the most stupid line outs I have seen. Who goes for a long, over the top line out 5 metres from your own line? They practically hand wrote the invitation for the Wallabies to score!

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Not long after they were looking good, staring to get back on attack when Le Roux did a weird little chip kick that went to nobody except possibly the camera crew over the sideline.

Just before half time, they held out the Wallabies attack despite being under sustained pressure. The Boks got possession and with 12 seconds left on the clock before half time did the sensible thing, showed good awareness of the time and how to manage the game and just held on to the ball until half time so they could safely put it into touch. Well I bet that’s what their fans wished they did. But no. Instead they showed little to no awareness and put up a really stupid box kick, giving the Wallabies back possession, which led to a penalty that Hodge slotted with a mighty kick.

Not long after half time, after another sustained effort in defence, the Boks finally did really well to get possession, cleared it from the 22 and decided the best option was to put up a cross field kick, that was too long and went out.

Finally, at 61 minutes, and down by 2 points the Boks were again starting to look threatening. They were putting the Wallabies under pressure, driving towards the try line when Jantjies put through one of those little grubber kicks that everyone hates. It was overcooked, went out and gave the Wallabies an easy exit, taking all the pressure off.

Sadly, with all of those really poor options, the Boks still has a chance to win the game in the final minute.

Is there anyone who still wants to put their hand up and admit to enjoying the quality of rugby they watched?

 

For those who missed it

There was a cracker of a game before the Wallabies. The score blew out in the end, but the Pumas put up a lot more fight than I saw from our boys at times. Next week could be a real stumbling block for the Wallabies.

  • mikado

    Good stuff as usual MST(s).

    For the Toomua try, the long throw on the 5m lineout is a good enough option. Pieter-Stef DT or Kolisi should have won the ball easily, had it not been so badly overthrown. As Brian Smith has pointed out, the Saffa centres are standing very deep for the lineout and compound the error by reacting slowly to the overthrow. Kudos to Toomua for being the sharpest-witted player in the vicinity!

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Yep it can be a good move as if your guys are on the line they should win the ball. Just dumb rugbyball round from the Boks. They really didn’t seem to want to be there on Sat night.

    • David Creagh

      In theory it should be a no brainer. Your guys are five meters closer than their and should get to the ball first.

  • disqus_NMX

    How bad was it? Well, sadly, it was predictably bad. I live on the Gold Coast and didn’t bother going because I knew both the Wallabies and Boks are playing well below their best. We went to the Irish game because at least the Irish have been playing out of their skins and it would be fun to watch. And it sure was. We will also go to see the Argies, as again, they’ll be at their peak under Ledesma, so could be a good game, regardless of the well below par Wallabies. I’d rather go to a Souths game and watch QC throw the ball around with club players than pay to watch the Wallabies and Boks flounder around like idiots. RA, it’s time. Cheika has to go. If nothing else, because the crowd are voting with their feet, and you’re going broke.

    • disqus_NMX

      How delightful the timing… I just got an email from RA asking for feedback on why I didn’t attend the Boks test. Pretty much just copied and pasted my previous comment! Quite encouraging that they are asking such questions!

      • disqus_NMX

        Also gave them a serve about the decentralised, undemocratic, and unaccountable, private school boys club, hierarchy that is grinding Oz rugby into a minority sport.

      • Who?

        I’ve done my survey. Not had one of those before… Same deal as you in terms of the weekend’s Test – went to the Irish Test, didn’t go last weekend. Not going this weekend either, it’s further to drive…

        • disqus_NMX

          TBH, I wouldn’t be going to the Argies if I didn’t live 15 mins away from the ground. The tickets are also cheap as chips. Hopefully the Argies will turn up like they did against the Nearlies, and it will be fun to watch.

    • HK Red

      I found it a difficulty game to watch. People saying the Wobs “won ugly” really??? Not sure we did much to win that game, other than being less shit than the saffers, and they were really shit and even then, we only just beat them. That was a terrible effort and the win yet again masks a plethora of issues with this team.

  • Gun

    The crowds were better for the Irish tests because half of them were….Irish. Sama Sama for tests against Poms and NZ. There is a rusted on group of supporters for the Wobs that is probably decreasing with age and defeat (if not the attractiveness of the rugby they play or the dumbass selections).
    The Wobs unfortunately never get the home ground ad because of it.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      That’s actually pretty true. I was at the 3rd test and there was a huge Irish contingent there, probably at least a third.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks MST. Yet again a good write up. Your stats on the match were pretty damning but I’m not sure the Wallabies would have been that much better from what I saw. I agree with BL in that it was a race to see who played the worst and Boks won by a whisker.
    I think the NRC is working more for the Fijians than us but hopefully some of those teams will start gelling soon. I do like this comp and think it’ll start paying off for both Super and the Wallabies

  • Brisneyland Local

    MST, as always a great write up. Let me answer some of your questions for you:
    – The crowd was crap. They said 27k! I was there and am a regular attendee at SR and RC games at the beautiful Suncorp stadium. There is no way in gods green earth that there was more than 20k there. The numbers were fudged.
    – I didnt pay to go. I only went because I get complimentary corporate box tickets. I wouldnt have gone other wise.
    – The standard of rugby was the worst I have seen the Wallabies display in over a year. They put up more effort against the AB’s. The only won because they were slightly less shit than the Bokkies.
    – I thought the Tupou try incident was the worst incident this calendar year. Appalling. This shit wont stop until SANZAR and WR start holding the referee’s accountable. Particaularly the TMO’s who have every camera angle including the ones we never get to see. Stomp this shit out.
    – Cards ruin matches! Yep I a a big subscriber to that. But players in wheel chairs are a bigger turn off. And that is what is going to happen, unless they do something. I personally believe there will only be three cards, then this shit will stop. the players are smart enough to realise that once the gig is up, they will stop doing it. BUt they will keep doing if they arent even getting penalised for it. It has to stop.

    • Who?

      I think you’re right about protecting the neck. But I’m not sure it all has to be more pressure on the refs. It’s time to change things up. You can see cheese for throwing the ball away after going into touch (Hooper was lucky not to be penalized for that on the weekend), for kicking the ball away after a penalty (Faf tried to get DHP done for that on the weekend, Jackson chose not to do it because DHP was literally 70m away when he kicked the ball away). So if you can get cheese for that, why is the punishment the same for a dangerous action like a neckroll?
      I’m not suggesting a greater punishment in the game, or a lesser punishment for a professional foul like throwing the ball away. But an off field yellow is nothing. It’s an irrelevance. I’m advocating that actions that endanger safety – neck rolls, lifting tackles, high tackles, shoulder charges, etc – shouldn’t have to meet the RC threshold before their considered for further punishment.
      And I believe that punishment should be open to more discretion than ‘just’ missing games. Serena had her dummy spit this week and it cost her $24k of her $2.5M prize. Meanwhile, the bloke she abused was paid about $633 for the day’s work. Perhaps that fine should go to increasing the pay of the officials? And perhaps, if people are fined a percentage of their match payment for the infringement (as happens in cricket), then that money could go towards an injury/insurance fund..?

      • Brisneyland Local

        Totally agree n the funding. Straight into a trauma insurance scheme to protect players. But as far as stomping it out, has to happen on the field, and happen quickly. So either the referump or the TMO. And then the loss of the players needs to be ‘felt’ by the team whose player did it!
        I know the referumps get a raw deal for most things, but they know this is happening they can see it right in front of them and choose to do nothing. that choice needs to be taken away from them.
        Well that is BL’s view anyway!

        • The place I’d disagree is “they can see it happening right in front of them.”

          Neck rolls count as dangerous play, and referees have a selection of what they can do from a penalty right up to a straight red for dangerous play. There’s no option to ignore it. Now, refs can certainly have bad games. And, at full speed from one angle, a ref can see an incident judge it falls into one category (rightly or wrongly) while from a different angle in slow motion, armchair critics (especially those that don’t actually know the laws and the current standards of interpretation) can make a very different call.

          What I think I saw was a referee who saw, and blew, at least one hit to the neck. OK. Then I suspect he didn’t see others. Barnes tends to be a bit whistle-happy for my money, but when it’s player safety like that, I’m not going to complain.

          But I think we’re seeing the knock on of the mess in the summer. There was a meeting of referees about the interpretation and the role of the TMO after the red card that was rescinded and so on. TMOs intervene less and I don’t think as fans we quite know what the new guidelines are. It seems to me, from watching, that the TMO will only intervene if it’s a clear red card, or, obviously, if the on-field referee ask for help. That’s my best guess. Without going back and watching the match again for every time Pocock was hit in and around the neck, he could be hit several times for offences that should be penalties or yellow cards (hit on the back and slide up, first contact in a ruck that’s to the neck but no neck roll action and so on) and if the ref doesn’t notice – there’s always lots going on, he just might not see that one particular hit – and the TMO isn’t allowed to call out random foul play that isn’t a red card any more, the TMO won’t intervene.

          I think that the citing situation needs to be looked at. Perhaps the TMO interventions need to be looked at for dangerous play too. The sending off of Fail, and then having it rescinded was wrong. But continuously hitting Pocock in the neck (or any other player) is also wrong.

          MST has a point too though. If those were head knocks, Pocock would have been off the pitch for HIAs. Why because it’s “just” his neck is he allowed to keep on playing when he’s being treated so often?

        • Who?

          Completely agree. This is all off the panic about TMO’s being too interventionist. And I think Barnes actually refereed the game really well the other week (I strongly prefer his refereeing over Jaco and Jackson).
          Reality is that no ref is ever going to see every piece of foul play in a game, and if they did, we’d have nothing but non-stop whistling. Every breakdown has something to penalize, if we want to penalize it. So it’s better to look at alternatives, where players can be punished/corrected/disincentivized around safety-related issues by other means.
          My proposals aren’t fully formed ideas. They’re thought bubbles. There’s not much point in me going further than that, being some random keyboard warrior without any capacity to see the ideas implemented.
          And I completely agree with the MST’s, that if we’re going to look after people with HIA’s, then perhaps we shouldn’t be so reluctant to pull people for spinal concerns. In fact, perhaps – here’s another thought bubble – HIA’s could be expanded to include SIA’s – Spinal Injury Assessments. I honestly expected, after Beast’s decision to flip Thor, that we’d see Tupou coming off, and that it was a distinct possibility that we’d go to uncontested scrums and perhaps finish the game a player down. That wouldn’t have been unreasonable, for player safety’s sake.

        • I have to admit I was stunned to see Thor continuing to play. Neck injuries for any player are potentially serious, but for a prop… ugh. Perhaps my perceptions are coloured by my history. When I first started senior school there was a guy who was right at the top end of school in a wheelchair, he used to be a prop and he’d broken his neck in a scrum that collapsed (at the schoolboy level).

          The players generally try to look after each other, even if they’ve just tried to kill each other seconds before. I wasn’t surprised to see the Beast do something make sure Tupou was ok, the lack of care from the management was what shocked me.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Some really good points Eloise! I am probably conflating things from the last game I attended! (Wallas vs Saffas) where there were things happening in the ruck right in front of GJ and he did nothing.
          If the referumps dont see it, then it cant be called, but that being said, they know it is happening and need to look for it. Also the TMO’s need to be looking for it.
          Then and after match review and citing process needs to occur.
          To me it is like all these fuckwits that drive whilst using their phones. You want to stamp it out. Easy 6 licence points and a $5000 fine. It will stop over night.
          Same with this, suspend a few players, and it will stop.

        • I generally like Jackson as a referee. I’m not sure if he got dragged down to the standard of play or encouraged it but he had a shocker. Bad games from him are starting to become a bit too common for my taste sadly.

          The citing process, as is, says you can only cite players for an incident that meets the standard for a red card. You can’t cite them for two separate yellow card incidents (which would obviously lead to a red during the match), it’s each incident.

          It’s tricky to know what to do. One obvious one is to raise the penalty for targeting the neck to be the same as targeting the head. Another would be to tweak the citing process for dangerous play, so two yellow card incidents in the same game can be considered by the citing committee because they would draw a red. I don’t care about two other yellow cards that are missed, or a second yellow for lying on the ball or whatever that’s missed, the aim is stop dangerous play, promote player welfare, so you can make a special case for it.

          I don’t really follow cricket, but I’d support fining players a percentage of their match fee. 75% sounds good. And putting it into a trust fund/insurance fund or whatever for players inured playing rugby. It might help focus the mind on why they shouldn’t be doing it a bit more if they’re suddenly $50,000 lighter or whatever their match fee is.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Eloise, as usual your points are succinct and very pertinent. I like the idea of the match fee penalty, especially as a percentage.

  • IIPA

    You look at a backline containing Dyanti, Kriel, Faf, Le Roux with Cheslin to come on and think “this could be a bit of fun”.

    Instead Le Roux plays one of the worst games I’ve witnessed from a pro, Dyanti looked like he’d been forgotten by the rest of team, Kriel plays with zero confidence, Faf is a disaster and Kolbe gets no chances except in defence or scrambling back for loose pill. And handles neither with aplomb.

    I really feel the last few years that the ABs drag up their opposition and the Wallabies often drag theirs down.

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