Ok, so the TT5 re-branding didn’t really work for us, so its back to the plain old Tuesday Top 5. But still plenty of
good stuff to read though! This week we analyse the Good, Bad and Ugly events from the weekend, re-cap the Wallabies match against the Barbarians, round up the NRC and check in on the results from some of the other Provincial rugby Championships that were held over the weekend. Oh, and there’s plenty of video highlights for you to enjoy too.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Good – The last round of the NRC threw up some amazing games, full of unexpected results. This year’s comp has definitely been the best yet.
Bad – The disallowed try in the Baa Baa’s game. Yes, it was unconventional, up the jumper, but come on! The Harlem Globetrotters get away with it, so why shouldn’t the Barbarians?!
Ugly – The Barbarians match. It was a great idea in theory … I think … but between the injuries which ended the hopes of 2 Wallabies for the Spring Tour and the impact that it may have had on the NRC through the number of players missing for certain teams, was it worth it?
Wallabies v Barbarians
Speaking of the … I don’t know, would you call it an exhibition match? Anyway, there is a bit to talk about in the aftermath.
For the first three quarters it was a pretty entertaining affair. The crowd seemed to be having fun with it and throwing their support behind the Barbarians, and the Wallabies looked to be on the back foot for much of the time. Personally, I loved the ‘Up the Jumper’ play, seeing all the guys run out of the huddle pretending to have the ball was gold! Apparently, it was unsportsmanlike. Boooo!
The refereeing had a massive impact in the final 10 minutes, turning what was an entertaining match into a stop/start penalty and card fest. Two yellow cards sealed the fate of the Barbarians, who were leading when they went down to 13 men.
A huge downside to the match was the injury toll. Dempsey and Tui both out of the Spring Tour, with Dempsey looking at some major recovery time. This comes as a huge blow after his outstanding performance just a week earlier against the All Blacks.
So, I guess we have to now ask were there any players who stood out or played their way into a spot on the Spring Tour? Well given that the squad was out on Sunday I guess we can answer that question. From the Baa Baa’s only Matt Philip, who started the game on the bench, was deemed to have made a big enough impact to work his way into the Wallabies squad (according to those who named the squad – I know there are differing opinions about!). There were plenty of players who really stood out, Taqele Naiyaravoro played one of the better games I have seen and combined brilliantly with Tom Banks, Luke Jones (not eligible for the Wallabies anyway) had a fantastic game, and I’m sure you can all think of others.
Rumour has it that Banks was left out so he could play in the NRC finals, perhaps a late call up as injury cover? Duncan Paia’aua is another player that I thought might get a call up, he played well on the weekend at 10 considering he played all but one match this year at 12 (the other match he played fullback).
NRC – The Pointy End
Well know, how about that weekend in the NRC? It really did have it all – a draw, an upset, a predictable result and a come from behind, after the siren victory. Who would have predicted any of that when they woke up on Saturday morning? Well ok, so you might have been spot on with the Vikings win, but given the way this season has gone even that wasn’t a 100% sure thing.
The top 4 have been decided, with every match over the weekend having some impact on the end placings. The Brisbane City/Country Eagles draw meant that for 24 hours the Eagles looked like they were in the 4. But the draw left the door open for the Spirit to shove their way back in, which they did with a win over Queensland Country. Queensland Country got a bonus point, but it wasn’t enough to beat out the Vikings for top spot, after the Vikings beat the Rams. Fiji sealed third when they went down to the Rays in another really tight match for the Drua. It really is fitting, after the season we have had, that it wasn’t until the final game of the final round that we would know who the top four teams are, and what position they would be.
The final four – well they are the teams who lead the way through much of the season. The Vikings and Queensland Country have been more consistent, while the Drua have been through a rough patch, not helped by losing a number of their players to international duty. That could have a big impact on the rematch with Queensland Country this weekend, while Qld lose Perese and Wright to the Wallabies, but will likely welcome the return of Paia’aua, Tupou, Nabuli and Slipper.
Perth Spirit, who finished the season as holders of the Horan-Little Shield, ended the season strongly. They could be hampered by missing some of their stars who have been called into the Wallabies squad, but the Vikings are in a similar situation, losing Blake Enever and also Sam Carter who was named in the Barbarians side to face the All Blacks.
The Vikings will take on Perth Spirit on Saturday November 4th at 19:00. Queensland Country will host the Fijian Drua on Sunday November 5th at 15:00 (AEDT, 14:00 Local time). These are the times according to Rugby.com.au. Foxtel still has Semi Final 1 listed at 15:00 on Saturday – so best to keep an eye out to see if they change it in the guide or stream the Saturday match.
NRC – What a comp!
With the curtains closing on NRC 2017, what are the takeaways from this season? Looking at the ladder it’s really interesting to me that the top six out of the nine teams all had at least a 50% win loss ratio and all were within two games of each other. The two Sydney teams were remarkably similar in their results and ladder positions. The arguments around player equalisation (spread of Super Rugby players) is an interesting one, with the Rising’s access to players not providing any assistance and the final round results with teams like the Spirit winning without many of their Super Rugby players offsetting the arguments to a degree.
Many of the games played this season have been at a pretty decent standard. Sprinkled amongst that has been some individual brilliance providing some good highlights. After watching the games this year, I believe that again we have unearthed more talent that we need to keep an eye out for in the future. With such a short season and beyond the NRC such limited pathways and opportunities I can’t help but wonder if the NRC 2017 will be a double-edged sword; showing we do have plenty of depth and talent but with no real on-shore options or opportunities in professional rugby other than the limited Super Rugby spots and creating further issues by showcasing talent. I have mentioned it before, but I truly believe that the NRC could be run as a domestic competition alongside the Super Rugby season giving all the bench, EPS, U20’s and fringe players opportunities to keep developing while retaining the talent on-shore and providing us with more great Rugby (arguably better than a lot of the Super Rugby games!). But that’s a debate for another occasion.
How many of the NRC coaches and assistants can you name? It’s interesting to consider that many of the NRC coaches aren’t in the Super Rugby System and yet have got teams performing at a pretty high level. While the top tier of Aussie rugby collectively chases its own tail trying to find performance solutions its reassuring that there are club level coaches that are uncontaminated by the current system and again affirming the depth in Aussie rugby in the coaching ranks. I also admire that many of the teams are taking the opportunity to help develop coaches along the way.
For all its criticism, knockers and lack of resources it’s still producing really good rugby and has now etched it way on to the rugby landscape. The conversations around the NRC are positive and have already redefined the way rugby is viewed and discussed in Australia. Consciously many haven’t realised it, while many others are unaccepting of the reality. When you hear the conversations and podcasts, read the stories or comments about the next generation of stars, emerging talent, Wallabies in waiting you will hear the NRC now being the stage where these players are being both showcased and judged. It’s becoming the key pathway.
As we head in to the finals I can’t go without mentioning one particular team and the performance they have produced this year. Each week of the NRC we GAGR’s have been spoilt with a great team performance led by our own RugbyReg and his team of NRC reporters giving us here the best NRC coverage going around. I for one would like to thank Reg and his team for the fantastic coverage of the NRC and the other work that he does behind the scenes in support of the NRC.
Mitre 10 and Currie Cup
Over the weekend New Zealand and South Africa had their Provincial Championships finish up with some stellar matches.
Mitre 10 Cup.
The Championship final (the lower division) was an incredible match between Wellington and Bay of Plenty. Wellington got out to a lead at half time before Bay of Plenty came back at them, with both teams trading tries leaving the score tied up at 40-40 at the final siren. The match then went into extra time, with the Wellington Lions looking the fitter of the two, pulling away to a 59-45 victory. The win means that Wellington will be promoted back into the Premiership division next year.
The Premiership final between Canterbury and Tasman was a close match early, with Tasman taking a 10-0 lead, before Canterbury struck back through 2 great tries to Richie Mo’unga in a 5-minute period. From there it was mostly one-way traffic, with Canterbury going on to win their ninth title in ten years.
In the Currie Cup final between the Sharks and Western Province, a strong scrum and dominant forwards helped Western Province to their 34th title (the Currie Cup has been around since 1892 and is the oldest provincial competition in the world) beating the more favoured Sharks 34-27. The Sharks lead at 21-15 half time, but Western Province had the momentum with a try just before the break. After half time Western Province dominated, nerve really allowing the Sharks to get back into the game.