The Tuesday Top 5 - formerly known as the TT5 AU - Green and Gold Rugby
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The Tuesday Top 5 – formerly known as the TT5 AU

The Tuesday Top 5 – formerly known as the TT5 AU

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?

Sam Carter with a lineout win.

Sam Carter with a lineout win.

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).

Duncan Paia'aua scoring the first try of the game.

Duncan Paia’aua scoring the first try of the game.

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.

Rams v Vikings NRC 2017

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.

Perth Spirit celebrate

Perth Spirit celebrate

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.

Michael Gunn capitalises on a scrappy NSW Country lineout

Michael Gunn capitalises on a scrappy NSW Country lineout

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.

Currie Cup

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.

NRC Highlights

  • RugbyReg

    Thanks mate.

    I have heard that comment about Banks being overlooked so he could play NRC and it just doesn’t wash for me.

    If so then why is Liam Wright touring rather than playing for QLD Country? Particularly as there has been talk that Tupou will join the squad after the NRC finishes.

    The question has to be asked as to whether there is more value for a young player to learn the game by playing NRC back here or touring with the Wallabies (where he won’t play but will be with the elite surroundings).

    I’d probably prefer he play and have a big off-season with Brad Thorn.

    • MST

      I saw 1st mention of it here. Also a few others said similar in response to why banks not included. Said if he wasn’t going to have a starting or bench spot then would be best served in NRC. I don’t know about Wright.

      October 29, 2017

    • idiot savant

      Cheka said in the post Babas press conference that he thinks players who ‘probably won’t play’ on the spring tour will get more benefit out of playing the NRC finals. Doesn’t explain all of the choices. Although, Wright maybe explained by being the only specialist number 7 in the touring side….

      • Brumby Runner

        “players who probably won’t play” – sounds like an echo of the non-selection of Fardy because he probably wouldn’t start. Instead we got Hanigan, who isn’t a shadow, until Dempsey came good. Don’t know how anyone can have any confidence in what Cheika has to say – particularly the players concerned.

  • Bay35Pablo

    Sorry, Nick but you just roused the dragon with ….
    “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”
    This true belief seems to be based on either complete blind faith, or without really thinking about the issues involved.
    1. Run the NRC at the same time as SR and you immediately lose all your SR players with a consequent drop in quality. 23 players per team at least. So there’s your bench and some of the others over a long season.
    2. Your top talent is thus EPS, U20s and fringe players. Presumably they are getting paid at least a base wage and are thus full time, but that is your professional base. Are U20s pro? Full side? 4 SR professional franchises with Force gone (subject to Twiggy Warbucks). Assuming 7-10 pros per team, that’s maybe 40 pro players between 8 Aussie sides.
    3. The rest of your talent comes from the club comps. So straight away you devastate those comps be taking their best players. They’ll really love that, and Shute Shield clubs alone hate the NRC already for this reason. Plus these blokes are all amateur. You will be asking them to play a much longer season involving a travel and presumably more training for no extra coin, but presumably the chance to maybe just maybe get a spot with an SR (or more likely get poached by French D2, or Japan).
    4. NRC runs on the sniff of an oily rag. Fox covers TV coverage and travel. The rest is covered by the SR teams, state RUs or in Sydney clubs that are involved. Running a longer season would cost more, and the extra revenue would need to come from somewhere just to maintain the status quo. Properly you need a lot more cash to make the teams semi/just pro like the NPC, and I cannot see where that is coming from. Contract this with the A League where the AAPC is looking at trying to get a 2nd division going with 16-20 teams each with a salary cap of $1.5m and minimum 3K capacity stadiums. That would be a wet dream for Aussie rugby.

    That’s even before we add in the complicating factor of Twiggy’s IPRC.

    Not going to happen, and frankly suggestions like that distract from having meaningful discussions about how we develop this sport in this country.

    The current set up will stay in place for the current SR and TV deal, being 2-18, 2019 and 2020. We need to start planning (as I said in my article on GAGR a while back) for what we do then. Probably a combined comp with NZ and PI, but then what rveenue do we have and how does the NRC (and IPRC) and club rugby fit into that?

    The NRC does provide a nuclear option, in that if we cannot cut a deal with NZ we can threaten to go it alone with the NRC. But I suspect a 2021 go it alone NRC comp would look quite different to the 2017 version.

    • MST

      Mate, I am with you, it’s all Nicks fault! He is mad as a hatter I tell’s ya.

      What sort of idiot would suggest using the 17 remaining SR squad members who are sitting around doing nothing, the EPS guys who are sitting around behind the full squad members doing nothing and the fringe guys that they invite to the training they can’t contract due to the limitations who are sitting around doing nothing. Let alone the idiotic suggestion of using the SR clubs u20’s players! The fact that some are already being paid we would want to make them play for their money right? It might stop the Kiwis or NRL poaching our talent as we have nothing to offer them and we wouldn’t want to stop that now would we?

      As for the TV, gee Nick, even though Foxtel has public on numerous occasions says it wants more Rugby content we don’t want that to happen. Nick must be insane thinking that stripping out zero SR players from a match day squad won’t weaken the SR team on the day. Incredible, just when you think Nick cant suggest anything more insane, he seems to have overlooked that giving players pathways will have the unintended consequence of wanting to use club rugby players stripping out there talent. FFS, Nick. You could accidently keep players in the country, expand the game and give it more exposure and it could grow. Nobody wants that.

      Get with the programme Nick. You should know by now that we cut it or we just keep going down the same old path that takes us nowhere! Learn to stay the course until 2020 and we can do some other deal that leave us with the all same issues including being unable to retain players s we have no options or opportunities for them. Really disappointed in you Nick. You are starting to sound as irrational and deluded as Mst! FFS, optimism, dreams, hopes, innovation and taking risks – just not the Aussies rugby way!

      • Bay35Pablo

        I’m not saying we cannot use those players better, or improve what we have. I’m saying we cannot run a viable NRc at the same time as SR. Look at SAF and NZ, they run Currie Cup and NPC after SR. For a reason.

        • MST

          One is a very small market and economy and operates within its means successfully, the other has other has very well established rugby activities during that period like the Varsity comps etc. Both operate under different models and provide more player options and growth to the sport.

          Is the Australian economy and markets comparable to SA and NZ? IIRC,even the NRL have expressed concern that if rugby can get over itself and actual enter the domestic sporting market it could cause them issue. Fortunately rugby’s biggest issue is itself. While the non-viable mantra continues sports like netball, baseball and basket ball have set up shop and are growing in the supposedly tapped out market.

          It funny when you think one of the oldest rugby competitions in the world, the Currie cup is thinking about chaining to include Brasil knowing the rugby environment is changing and yet Aussie rugby desperately and unyielding coveting things like the Shute and other club rugby.

    • Patrick

      Don’t be silly, surely we are the only major country whose top tier has no genuine seconds to drop players into and pick players out of. At the moment there is a delusional belief that the Shute Shield is this.

      A season-long NRC (perhaps a bit shorter than Super rugby to rest players more) might not be as good as the NRC we know and love and it might not be fully professional and it might not be lots of things but it just might be better than Shute Shield/etc.

      I can see lots of for and against but there are certainly a lot of good “fors” in there.

      • idiot savant

        The Shute Shield and the Brisbane Premier league have been going great guns for a long time while our national side slipped to number 6 in the world and no SR side could beat a NZ side. The clubs will always capture school leavers, most of them aren’t in danger of losing their viability. But its clear that the standard of club rugby is struggling to consistently produce a cohort ready to take the next step and dominate SR. The NRC is the best thing to happen to our structure for a long time. We need to be careful about what to do with it, but gee its delivering progress and opportunity and growing crowds.

        • Bay35Pablo

          Agreed. The step up from club to SR has become so big, because going from committed amateur to full pro is huge. For both players and coaches. The clubs cannot get around that.
          The NRC is a halfway house that seems to be working. But we still need club rugby as well.
          The problem is there is only so much sponsorship and resources available, and stretching it between SR, NRC and club rugby (not that they get much any more cash wise from Fort Fumble) is making it all a bit thin causing angst.

      • Braveheart81

        How is our current setup that different from NZ? They have regional club rugby running at the same time as Super Rugby and then the NPC running at the same time as our NRC.

  • Brumby Runner

    I, too, am very appreciative of the work Reg and his team have put into the NRC coverage. Missing some games, I have often been totally reliant on Reg’s reviews and comments.

    Pat on the back Reg.

    • Nick

      Agreed. Great stuff on the coverage to all who have helped out.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Absolutely

  • paul

    The issue I see with the NRC and the games direction is a lack of clarity from the ARU of where or how they see the game moving forward.

    If genuine change is to happen then the people running the game need the passion, determination & vision to change it, i just don’t see that from the current ARU.

    They have always been comfortable with a Wallaby focus & happy to cop whatever sacrifice that means to ensure the gravy train continues.

    So come 2020, they will accept whatever deal comes along to retain that status quo.

    Does anyone really think the ARU are prepared to do the hard yards for the benefit of the game, if that means sacrificing something.

  • I can’t understand anyone suggesting and justifying that Duncan Paia’aua played well at ten and to get a wallaby call up for that performance is ridiculous. Samu Kerevi? out of form? ahh… really? he’s hardly played, was forced into a early return only to fail and not had any great opportunities since. He will need time.

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Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

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