Welcome to the Tuesday Top 5 — the weekly segment where we go in, all guns blazing, and hope not to emerge with our tails between our legs. Here are the five things I learnt from the weekend’s activities:
5. The Brumbies are the real deal
They put the Reds back under the bed on Saturday, and did so fairly comfortably. Their defence was rock solid, which is what you want to see from your team in the first week. Attack will come in the next few games, as confidence picks up and players get back in the swing of a season. But it’s bloody hard to rebuild a shattered defence after week one. The Brumbies showed no sign of second-year syndrome, and looked the goods both in the pigs and out with the girls. I could name a few standouts, but truth be told it was a great 15-man effort. If the injury gods are kind to them they will be right up there come the business end of the season.
4. This ain’t 2011 no more
I won’t write off the Reds completely after one patchy 80-minute performance, but I will go on the record and risk total humiliation by saying they won’t win the comp this year. As much as you can point to the lack of Horwill, Genia, Faingaa and Samo as excuses for their loss, I think there were a few worrying signs that that fact overlooks. The Reds never really looked like scoring — the backs were narrow and the forwards soft and ill-disciplined. The zest of 2011 wasn’t there, and I’m not sure they will get it back. They may do well in 2013; they have too much class not to. But I can’t see them going all the way.
3. Ben Mowen is a Super 8, but not a Test 8
His hard-man, grunting style may cut the mustard at Super level from the back of the scrum, but it doesn’t match what is required from an international 8. I want the Wallaby 8 to be a wrecking ball — breaking tackles, making big hits and generally hurting the poor humans who happen to be wearing a colour that isn’t Aussie Fucking Gold. At the moment that is Palu and Samo, but sadly not Ben Mowen. But fear not, Mowen-ites, as there is another position that his style suits well, and that is blindside breakaway. He has the lineout chops and the mobility to get it done on the side of the scrum. Would I pick him there tomorrow? No. He’s still behind Higgers and Dennis for mine. But that can change quickly, and he will have plenty of chances to prove his superiority in the weeks to come.
2. I’m not sure what to make of the Rebels–Force game
Was it a quality fixture played by two mid-to-high-table sides, or the dance of desperate cellar-dwellars-to-be? Only time will tell. Both sides showed enough to make you think that they won’t be the conference whipping boys, and will knock off enough teams to earn the respect of their fans. In the end it was the class of the Rebels’ Wallaby brigade (and soon-to-be Wallaby brigade) that won the day over the Force’s plucky 15-man effort. If only both sides had a touch of what the other offers — the Force could steal a pinch of the Rebels’ game-breaking class, and the Rebels some of the Force’s admirable consistency. Then we’d have a ball game on our hands. But I fear both teams will be stuck in double digits again in 2013.
1. Fear not the pedantic ref, as he will bring a rich harvest later in the season
The words of Confucius if I’m not mistaken, uttered during his stint at outside centre for the Shanghai Sledgehammers. And they are wise words too. Every season it goes the same way — outrage after the first round as referees get stuck into both sides for seemingly the smallest technical flaws. And if it were a Bledisloe, then the anger would be justified. But in round 1 I am happy to see it, as hopefully teams will quickly adapt and play to the fucking rules of the game without niggle or ruck penalties. By round 5 it should all be hunky-dory, and Alby Mathewson will be keeping his hands to himself in the red zone.
So there it is, a classic mix of half-baked analysis and fearless predictions that are bound to backfire. It’s going to be a good season.
What did you learn from the weekend’s games?