Tuesday's Rugby News - Green and Gold Rugby
Rugby

Tuesday’s Rugby News

Tuesday’s Rugby News

Tuesday’s Rugby News sees more fallout from the Reds loss, more fallout from the referees, Sio out at the Brumbies and Wessels demanding more.


Red Faced

Red Man

Last Friday was a tough night for Queensland fans, as the Reds were comprehensively outplayed by the Rebels down in Melbourne.

But, as many angry viewers took to social media, it could be widely agreed that it wasn’t just the Rebels that made the loss so convincing. There was also the problem of ill-discipline, which seem to go together with the Reds at the moment like bacon and eggs.

For the last few years, even since the days of Richard Graham, the Queenslanders have been unable to shake a problem with discipline, and Samu Kerevi admitted to rugby.com.au that this problem cannot continue for the team, and that enough is enough.

Ten minutes into their season, it was no less that who was skipper Scott Higginbotham who was sent off for a high tackle. He is now set to serve a three week suspension, which was halved from the standard six week suspension due to his guilty plea and his previously good record.

“With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of 6 weeks due to the Players direct contact by the Player’s shoulder to his opponents head,” said review committee chairman Nigel Hampton QC.

“However, taking into account mitigating factors including the Player’s good record over a long career, the lack of injury to the victim and his guilty plea at the earliest possible opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to 3 weeks.”

“The player is therefore suspended for 3 weeks, up to and including the Saturday 17 March 2018.”

Lukhan Tui could also be up for suspension too, which would be even worse for the Reds with upcoming matches against the Brumbies, Bulls and Jaguares around the corner.

“The discipline side – it wasn’t intentional for those guys to be carded like that and I know the refs do a great job,” Kerevi said of the decision.

“It’s something they didn’t intentionally do but it still hurt the team a bit.

“We are really trying to address that side (of their game) to make sure we don’t end up in that situation again.

“It was a funny game – everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. For us it was hard to get a gauge on both our attack and our defence.

“Having 14 players and then down to 13, it was really hard to see where we are at.

“Two cards, down to 13 men and we still managed to score a try so for us it’s just about building on that performance, taking any positive that we can out of it.”

Speaking of Referees…

Rob Simmons gets his first yellow card for the Waratahs.

Rob Simmons gets his first yellow card for the Waratahs.

The Referees’ performances over the weekend did raise plenty of eyebrows, with many players feeling the brunt of the disciplinary committee after there was a ‘zero tolerance’ for any contact with the head.

The Scotty Higginbotham red card was one of two major decisions that got people buzzing, with people both condemning and applauding the hardline approach that SANZAAR is taking in relation to contact with the head.

However, the Lachlan Boshier yellow card has also thrown a spanner in the works. With Ryan Crotty diving at the line, Boshier attempted to make a legitimate tackle, but due to the momentum inadvertently found his arm catching Crotty on the chops, which saw Crotty require treatment.

But even Crotty was surprised when a penalty try was awarded, on top of Boshier being sent to the sin bin for ten minutes for a dangerous tackle.

In the mind of Wallaby skills coach Mick Byrne, it is an apparent inconsistency that could affect the nature of the game, especially the usage of the red card.  

“The red carded player cannot return but he can be replaced which means there is still an extra punishment on the offending team because their bench is no longer a tactical bench with one player short,” Byrne said to the Courier Mail. 

“From there, sure, send the player to the judiciary process post-game.

“Once a red card is issued in rugby today, it’s the end of the contest because players are too good with fitness not to outflank a 14-man side.

“Consistency is the message that all players and coaches want … you don’t want to see a three or four-week focus on a certain facet of the game and a different judgement over the last month of the season.

“I’m all for the head being sacrosanct but also understand there are accidental contacts.

“There were a couple of things in play last weekend … it was the opening round for the Australian and Kiwi teams, teams were setting a physical standard and perhaps weren’t as accurate around everything first-up. And refs are not tolerating contact around the head.”

Super Sio persevering

Scott Sio warming up

Scott Sio warming up

It’s a side to rugby we don’t often see. The pains and struggles of recovering from injury. For Scott Sio, it has been a consistent case of so near, but so far.

On the eve of the Brumbies match against the Sunwolves, Sio was ruled out with a calf injury. After suffering hamstring and knee injuries in 2017, this was the last thing he needed.

He isn’t the only Brumby facing injury troubles, with fears that young gun Rob Valetini could be out for up to twelve weeks with medial ligament damage.

“We’re really devastated because he is a young kid on debut and he’s been fantastic in the last couple of years with us, so we really feel for the kid,” Christian Lealiifano said of Valetini.

However, when Sio spoke to the media yesterday, he admitted that when it comes to injuries, he was taking it day-by-day, and isn’t ruling out a potential return in Brisbane this Friday night.

“I think I’m always a chance to play but it’s more up to the medical staff and them having confidence in it,” Sio said to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“It wasn’t my year in Super Rugby last season and this is a new injury so I’m not putting any timelines on it.

“It was good to get through training today [Monday] but we’ll see how it progress and make a decision on Thursday.”

Despite not having a good season last year, Sio did manage to get thirteen matches under his belt, which proves that once he get’s back up again, he can stay fit.

“It’s not an ideal start but having had as many injuries as I’ve had, I just have to trust the rehab process.

“I need to make sure when I come back that I’m good to go rather than pushing it too early in the season.

“These injuries are unfortunate and I’d like it if they stopped but that’s the rub of the green sometimes.

“I came back this year ready to go and really excited to learn from this new group we’ve got and I just can’t wait to play some rugby again.”

The Brums will be looking to heap some revenge on the Reds, after their Queensland rivals beat them on the bell last year. Many big players being out the Reds squad bodes well for the away team, but then again, they were favourites last week and very nearly lost.

“Footy is fickle, one minute it goes well and the next it turns,” said Christian Lealiifano.

“You train for that at high intensity and pressure, being able to cope with those moments.

“Local derbies are always going to be tough, the Reds have probably had the wood on us and it will be hard up there. We’ll assess this one and prepare as best we can for what will be a massive challenge.”

Never Happy

Marika Koroibete

Just think, it’s Friday night in the Melbourne Rebels change rooms, and you’ve just scored the biggest win in the clubs history. Surely you’d be celebrating, right?

Nup. Even despite demolishing the Reds 45-19, coach Dave Wessels handed the team and fans a hard dose of reality that the season has barely begun, and he sees that the team needs A LOT of improvement.

So much improvement, in fact, that he had them immediately training back on Sunday. The Rebels are coming up against the Sunwolves this weekend, and Wessels is not taking anything lightly. If anything, he’s doubling down.

“I’m pleased that we won but we just have a lot of work to do,” Wessels said on Monday. 

“I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of winning for this group because they haven’t won for a very long time and obviously some of the off field circumstances that preceded the game put a bit of extra pressure on us.

“But if you look at a couple of key parts of our game I think we need a lot of work there to be genuinely consistent and competitive, there is a lot of work to go.

“Anyone that is surprised by the Sunwolves’ performance hasn’t been paying attention over the last couple of months.

“They’ve got a very good coaching staff, they’ve recruited a lot of experienced international players and they’re the national team.

“We think they’re going to be a huge test this week and they’re certainly much, much better than Sunwolves teams of the past.

“To beat the Sunwolves we have to play better than we did to beat the Reds.”

The scrum was a big issue for Wessels, with the Reds holding their own despite being a man down for most of the match.

“I don’t think technically we were very good and then, towards the back end of the game, we pushed them off the ball a couple of times.

“I think by that stage technically we were better and we were scrummaging as a pack rather than as individuals.”

However, Wessels did have a lot of praise for one aspect of the game, being the pairing of Will Genia with young gun Jack Debreczeni. Genia was all class in an awesome performance, but the sharp improvement of Debreczeni and it’s effect on the backline was what made Wessels happy.

“You could literally see the confidence and the relationship between them growing as the game went on.

“We are very happy with where Jack is at and I think he is happy, too.

“He’s enjoying his rugby again, which is great.”

The Rebels will be playing the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday.

  • Xaviera

    If Tui doesn’t get a longer suspension than Higgers, I’ll be very surprised. That was a red card every day of the week, and a bad one. A test for the judiciary too. The referee coaching report (both referee and TMO), should also be harsh – they talked each other out of Tui’s red.

    • Jason

      I think Tui’s is more nuanced because there was a Melbourne player also assisting in the lift/tip. But I anticipate he’ll likely get between two and six weeks. As Tui also has some form in this area (so far as montering people goes).

      • Xaviera

        Yes – there was certainly some assistance from others, but at the end of the day, a player has been dropped on his head. Someone will pay the price for that, and rightly so.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Yeah they will but when one of your own players contributes to the event you can’t put it all onto the opposition player involved.

        • Jason

          Plus big (well Tui is actually SUPER SIZED!) on small is always going to look way worse than it really is.

        • Jason

          I think the fundamental issue is that Rugby Union is confused with it’s approach. It wants punishment based on outcomes, however doesn’t want punishments based on tacke technique.

          If players attempt an unsafe tackle however don’t actually make contact with the head or neck (for example) than that’s fine. Similarly if a player uses safe tackle technique and due to unforeseeable circumstances (the attacking player tripping or doing something unexpected) they can end up with a red card.

          This duality makes it fucking hard to officiate. I think we need to strip it right back and come back to ‘safe tackle technique’ is fine regardless of the outcomes and unsafe tackle technique is not okay regardless of the outcome.

          A good example of this is in the Reds – Fiji trial game, where one of the Fiji players came in with a swinging arm tackle attempt at head height on Lance — had Lance not ducked under the attempted ‘tackle’ it would have been a red card and several months suspension — it was really a clothesline.

          Similarly we have all seen countless examples of times a player has gone in to make a textbook tackle, the attacking player has fallen (or perhaps worse dived into the tackle) and copped it in the face — these incidents are often a yellow card despite them not being due to some fault on the defender.

      • Bakkies

        Higgers also has form and prior suspensions however his good record got hi a reduction. In that case Tui might get off.

        • OnTheBurst

          Isn’t there an inherent contradiction between “he has form and prior suspensions” and “his good record got him a reduction”?

        • Bakkies

          Yes but this is Sanzaar we are referring too.

          They said the same thing when dealing with Lavanini last year.

      • Happyman

        Agree I thought so even at the time. If you are Genia and you are caught by a second rower you are first and foremost trying to find the ground in the knowledge that Tui is going to try and hold you up. Add to that the involvement of the Rebels player trying to do the same thing and that is what leads to Genia landing on his head. Not a great outcome but it is a dynamic game.

        The issue is for mine that the judiciary is starting off heavy handed and really have left themselves with a problem. What happens when it is a getting towards crunch time and they have say a big player from a club in contention or a test player who does something similar. It will lead to call of bias when a player from another country gets a lenient call or the media from that country will start bangning on about what a good bloke he is and it is out of character YADA YADA YADA.

        Watch this space.

        • Jason

          The other thing with the Judiciary is they tend to be much harsher on teams that aren’t doing so well.

          I really think they need to start building a ‘library’ of incidents so teams and players, and the judiciary can look to as ‘precedent’ so we don’t get these wild swings in incidents.

          Also they really need to set out some clear guidelines as to what a ‘good record’ is etc. because half the time I don’t buy it.

    • Xaviera

      UPDATE – Judiciary Juggle spits out….THREE WEEKS, just like his captain. Could have been better, could have been much worse. A clear message to all players, in case they missed it the first time.

  • Pedro

    I think Lealiifano talking about Valetini’s injury puts things in perspective. Twelve weeks? Pfft.

    • Pearcewreck

      Yep, Lealiifano is an inspiration.

    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      Different if you’re a 19 year old kid playing his first proper season of SR.

      Lealiifano is an inspiration, but I don’t think it diminishes how big of a blow this would be to Valetini (and to the Brumbies for that matter).

      Lealiifano’s comments are, as one would expect, perfect for the situation. Great captain.

  • Jason

    The really concerning thing for me is the level of inconsistency for cards and dangerous tackles between games. There were incidents in other games that were at least as bad as the Higginbotham incident that were only issued yellows and aren’t even being looked at by the judiciary.

    I would love to see someone put together a compilation of the replays ect of all the dangerous play incients over this weekend alone just to compare, because I think they’re wildly inconsistent.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      That’s always an issue and I’m not sure the best way around it. The trouble is that where you are on the field can determine so much and the best referees are those who get in the right position to make the best decision in relation to the game. Unfortunately those damn players chopping and changing really make that hard. I agree with a lot here that the TMO review needs to be changed. At the moment they have too much power and aren’t as into the nuances of the game like the referee on the field is.

      • Jason

        See I disagree, I have refereed State Basketball here in Australia, and there we are constantly — literally hundreds if not thousands of fouls a game, with two or three other referees; there we get way more consistency, even at a much lower level than Super Rugby. Sure, it’s a different kind of contact but the processes are similar; I think the problem with Rugby Union is two fold, 1) we have rules that are asking too much of our officials, putting too many variables on the referees; 2) we need a second referee so we can get the calls right at first instance.

        Then at the match review level we need to be developing a grading system where we review every foul play penalty to build up a video library of presidents, that way referees, TMO’s, players, coaches, other officials and the judiciary all have a point of reference, they can look at the footage and say ‘this is like that; that got a red card, so this should be a red card’.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          I certainly agree with the variables in the rules and I think it comes from maintaining contact and a fair contest as part of the rules. I think it’s a lot easier to manage when you remove contact as part of the variable. I’m not sure a second referee on the field would help, I see it being more of a hindrance and I think that’s why they went for the TMO. I agree a database of incidents would be useful. Almost weird if it isn’t there now

        • Xaviera

          Examples are used in referee training regularly. Each year’s Game Management Guidelines also have examples.

          The challenge is dealing with the nuances, and they’re even harder to address at community level, where we don’t have the benefit of a TMO, so everyone gets one look at it, and has to make a call.

          Genia landed on his head, and that’s a no-no. Guilty as charged, with the Melbourne playing contributing to the situation meaning the sentence will be reduced.

        • Jason

          I do really think one of the biggest issues is that our onfield referees are trying to do too much and so aren’t seeing everything, and accordingly can’t make all the calls. Having a second referee also gives you someone to reality check yourself with, I know when I’ve been refereeing it’s really good to be able to talk to my other official and say ‘Is this too harsh’ or to say ‘I think you are being too relaxed on that one’. The other thing it does is it prevents what I’ve noticed is really becoming more of a thing, that is referees picking up a bias during the game. Often when I’ve been reffing I’ve said to my partners ‘hey, you’re really hammering that number 6′ or have been told to ‘lighten up on blue’ I think often with one referee we kind of get into a feedback loop type situation (just look at the Jaguars twice now), I don’t think Peyper (or the TMO) made any ‘wrong calls’ but I wouldn’t say either of those games were fair, Jags clearly got the shit end of the pineapple. Having a second official helps reduce those kind of incidents.

          The other thing is the effects a card has on the game for something that is so inherently variable is far too much. If we can have some 10 odd cards in Super Rugby half could have easily been Reds, the other half could have easily been nothing, we really need to reconsider how much damage a card does to a team.
          I like what Mick Byrne (I think) was talking about in one article I read. He was calling for a Red to be say 10 or 20 min off but after that period a replacement could be brought on. It’s already a big deal, because they lose their starting player, plus they go down a player for a period of time, then they lose one of their substitutes so they don’t get to use it tactically.
          Plus you get the penalty.

    • Xaviera

      Higgers could do worse than have a chat with Sekope, who has only just finished serving his ban for a similar offence. Both resulted in a shoulder to the head, and HIggers then went even further with the arm. He’s lucky it’s only three weeks.

      • Who?

        Then we’ve gotta remember the quality of some of the high shots from last year… Quade copped four weeks for an arm to the jaw of a player diving into the in-goal (lesser impact), Luatua got four weeks for almost removing a player’s head.
        I think a lot of us have forgotten that this directive isn’t new…

    • Bakkies

      The suspensions are never consistent.

      Higginbotham received a one week suspension at the Rebels for receiving three yellow cards in a season yet Barrett didn’t get a ban as he was carded in the Waratahs, Blues and Lions games. The card against the Blues came one week after he faced the judiciary receiving a red due to picking up two yellows against the Tahs. I was fine for him not getting a ban however he went out and did it again in three other matches in a Sanzaar comp. The other match was against the Pumas.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Good to see Wessells approach to the team. Always somewhere to improve and no rose tinted glasses. I think he’s displaying a really good attitude that will help the Rebels to keep improving and that will be great.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Yeah I agree. I think the Rebels scrum was certainly one of their weaknesses. Even when the Reds were a player down, their scrum was holding. Where as you think that would be the point when the advantage would be driven home. Definitely something to improve on there.

    • Gareth

      My first question to the team would be, How did you let 13/14 men score that many points against us? Defensive wake up call that must be heard.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Absolutely

  • Bernie Chan

    Good luck trying to understand the minds of the Referees and the judiciary…bit like trying to work out Refs in football but with more ‘grey area’. Higgers got a reduced ‘sentence’ because of his good record…? As others have alluded to, the Rebels scrum needs to improve, but at least they won the game and Wessels seems to have the right approach. As far as the Reds go…SNAFU. Two first choice backrowers our for a few weeks and the ill discipline continues unabated….early days but it could be a long season of frustration…

  • Fatflanker

    Higginbotham out for nearly 4 games is a big loss. I fear Reds’ aspirations of a successful season may have ended 9 minutes into the first game.

    • Bernie Chan

      Mate you may be right…alas. Waiting to see how many weeks Tui gets…

Rugby
@Nick_Wasiliev

Die-hard Brumbies/Country Eagles fan now based in Sydney. Author, anthropologist, musician, second rower. Still trying to make sense of the 21st century. Dropped a debut novel last year...

More in Rugby