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Tuesday’s Rugby News

Tuesday’s Rugby News

Tuesday’s Rugby News has a confusing gander at how the World Cup and Super Rugby Finals qualifications are going, a squiz at the latest out of America and a bit of a Smith injury update.


Seattle Crowned “World Champions”

It's been a big year for the Yanks.

It’s been a big year for the Yanks.

While not yet producing or attracting the big names, big salaries, big egos and big crowds of some of the other northern hemisphere competitions, the current professional rugby competition in the USandA has at least crowned its inaugural champion over the weekend.

The Seattle Seawolves will go down in rugby history (and forever be a go-to quiz question) as the first winners of Major League Rugby after they downed the Denver-ish Glendale Raptors.  (Glendale in an enclave of Denver)

The match, oddly, was played at the home ground of the San Diego Legion who were finalists but soundly defeated by Seawolves in last week’s semi.

Despite the Raptors twice defeating the Seawolves during the home and away season, the team from the north-west proved too strong on the day.  Raptor head coach David Williams didn’t mince words, coming and out a praising the victors on their comprehensive performance across the pitch, “Seattle was better today on both sides of the ball.  They won the physicality on attack and spread well on defence shutting down our options,” while also pointing out his own team’s shortcomings, “We gave away too many penalties and didn’t convert when we needed to”.

On the other side of the ledger, the Seawolves’ player-coach (no, really) Phil Mack trod dangerously close to the post-match cliché playbook in assessing his side’s performance,

“We are really proud to have fronted up and play a full 80 minutes against them. That’s the recipe to beat Glendale, you can’t take any breaks”.

And added what could almost be construed as a ‘full credit to the boys’, “This group has been so much this year that when our backs have been against the wall, the cohesiveness of the team really showed in the comeback”.

The competition will get harder from next year with the addition of teams from (definitely) New York and potentially Dallas and Chicago.  Both of whom were slated to form part of the first season of MLR but withdrew before the competition got geared up.  There are also talks of teams from Canada joining the fray.

Whether Major League Rugby thrives or even just survives is yet to be seen, one hopes that the lessons learned from the failed PRO series might make MLR a more viable competition now and in years to come.

After an international season that saw the Eagles go undefeated and by all reports an excellent first season let’s hope the USA can build on that as they look towards the 2019 World Cup and beyond.

Finalists Still to be Decided

CHAAAAARRRRRGGGGEEE another finals series awaits the Crusaders

CHAAAAARRRRRGGGGEEE another finals series awaits the Crusaders

As the Super Rugby home and away season enters its final week, who exactly will be playing finals and where is still to be determined, although the picture is becoming slightly clearer.

In top spot, the Crusaders hold an unassailable lead.  With 58 points and only a match against the hapless Blues left, they will finish the regular season in top spot and will host whoever is lucky (or unlucky) enough to finish eighth.

Currently in second place are the Australian conference leaders the Waratahs. While nine points clear of the next ranked conference team they are only three points ahead of the combined-ladder-third-placed Lions and they face a fired-up Brumbies who, with a win and a bit (lot) of luck, can scrape into the finals.

The Lions are to a large degree, the masters of their own destiny.  Beat the Bulls this weekend and they top the African conference and guarantee themselves hosting duties for a quarter-final. If they lose to the Bulls however, and the Jaguares get up over the Sharks, they could slip as low as sixth.

And now it gets tricky.

Currently in “fourth” place (by virtue of being the highest ranked non-conference leader, they actually have the second highest number of competition points) are the Hurricanes. They travel to Waikato this weekend and if they get routed by 44 points or more, will cede that position to the Chiefs although regardless of what happens the two teams will play again a week later in the 4th quarter final.  (confused yet?  Don’t worry, I am)

Safely in sixth place are the Highlanders, a win over the Rebels will almost certainly keep them there and even a loss (combined with a win to the Jags) would still only see them fall to eighth and hence remain in the finals.

Suitably in seventh are the Jaguares.  It seems appropriate for enigmatic team from South America to be in this predicament, because if they win, and the Lions lose, they will top the African conference and host a quarter final, whereas if they lose, and the Rebels win, they drop to eighth and will have to travel to Canterbury to take on the might of the ‘Saders. (what about now? Now are you confused?)

And the last team hanging onto a finals berth, is the Rebels. A bonus point win over the ‘Landers could see them move as high as sixth, but a loss could see them fall out of the finals race all together.

Just outside the eight, but a mathematical chance are the Brumbies and the Sharks, who need both wins and other results to make the cut.

Smith Not Risking Injury

Still at it, still a freak.

Still at it, still a freak.

After having been injured against the Auckland Blues a fortnight ago, Reds flanker George Smith was forced to miss more game time being a late withdrawal before the match against the Rebels last Friday.

While the former Predator impersonator, at 37 years of age, is seemingly unstoppable and also not one to stay down when injured (need I remind you of the third Lions test in 2013) hopes at Ballymore are still up in the air as to whether Smith will take the field in what would be his 165th match of super rugby.

Speaking today at the launch of Queensland’s NAIDOC jersey, Smith wasn’t giving anything away, “I’ve just got to really listen to my body,” he said.  And seemed hesitant to acknowledge his presence on and off the field, backing Queensland’s new crop of loose forwards to step up in his absence, “Liam Wright’s a fantastic talent, and I think Queensland rugby should do all to keep him here…Caleb Timu…Korczyk led by Scott Higginbotham, we’ve got a number of backrowers who can fill any void I may have left”.

When quizzed about his injury the openside wasn’t being so open, stating, “The knee is progressing well but I won’t know up until the later part of this week,” although he did let on about his desire to make amends for the Reds’ massive loss to the Japanese franchise earlier in the season, “I really want to play this last game, especially against the Sunwolves, we were humbled by them early in the year so I’m doing everything I can to get back on the field.”

World Cup Repechage Taking Shape

Known for their 7's tournament, now closing in on a 15's World Cup spot

Known for their 7’s tournament, now closing in on a 15’s World Cup spot

Hong Kong have crushed a hapless Cook Islands on their way to securing the second place in the four-team repechage that will determine the last team to join Pool B in next year’s world cup.

After their thumping 51-0 victory at home, the Asia Rugby Championship winners easily won the tie by a 77 point to 3 aggregate margin.

Despite their comprehensive 4 try to nil win in the first fixture, Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones wasn’t letting himself, or his chargers, get ahead of themselves saying, “We didn’t know exactly what to expect from the Cook Islands. Having been through that arduous travel a week ago, I wasn’t sure how they would come through,” a theme he echoed when reflecting on the past week’s effort, “The boys last week were subdued after the win as they knew there was still another level of performance to reach and they reached it today”.

It seems the players more than reached the coach’s expectations in both matches, especially defensively, “Our defence was superb. I can’t single anyone out, but as a whole, to keep two clean sheets, especially away in the Cook Islands, was really difficult to do.”

Hong Kong now join Canada as confirmed starters when the November mini-tournament kicks off.

Although still not technically determined, Samoa are likely to also qualify as they are heading into this weekend’s away rubber with a handy 51-point lead over Germany.

The fourth and final team to make the cut will almost certainly be Kenya, who are solidly in second place in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup after their 38-22 win over Uganda at home. This is unless the Simbas can overcome an all-conquering Namibia when the two face off next month, the winner of which will almost certainly gain direct qualification as Africa 1.

  • IIPA

    Just a correction – Samoa will gain direct qualification after their ( almost inevitable ) series victory over Germany is completed this weekend. That means Germany then get a second bite through the repechage tournament. Of course that team should have been Russia ( now qualified directly ) or Romania or Spain ( both disqualified ) so it’s a bit of a mess old Tier 2 Europe.

    This likely repechage teams are thus HK, Germany, Canada and Kenya. Exotic.

    I also noticed Tyrone Viga was playing 8 for Cook Islands. He was awesome for Rams a few years back in NRC and wondered where he went.

    • Andrew H

      Oh yes, of course, sorry. I’m going to put that down to the freezing conditions I was subjected to while typing this up at the dinner table last night.

      • IIPA

        Haha not a problem. I’d love to see Hong Kong or Kenya make it through, although I would fear for the Kenya scrum up against a tier 1 opponent. But imagine them drafting in the likes 7s stars Injera, Ouma, Ambaka, Amonde et al they’d bring a little bit of swagger and cool to the RWC.

        • Andrew H

          I wonder if the referees will brush up on their knowledge of the uncontested scrum laws before the tournament? Hate to see anyone get injured.

        • IIPA

          If I’m the Kenyan coach I am saying whenever we knock the ball on, just stand back and let the opposition grab it and wait for the ref to say advantage over.

        • Who?

          Trouble is that refs don’t call penalties for deliberate forward passes, so the opposition will just throw a few dodgy passes (forward, low so they’ll be dropped), so that the opposition forces a scrum. And penalty. Then they’ll throw it into the lineout crooked, and the ref won’t necessarily remember you can ask for the throw to be reversed (rather than ‘receiving’ (the feed into) a scrum). You can’t avoid all scrums…

        • IIPA

          Correct. Only way around it is like Japan played at the last World Cup….get your timing spot on and on your own feed hook the ball through to the number 8 and get it out of there as quick as you can. And likewise dont contest opposition throws on lineouts in your own half, step back and let them create an off-side situation by engaging no-one in the maul. Risky but Japan employed this quite effectively and it pisses opposition off no end

        • Andrew H

          I almost think the Reds this should have done the opposite. Often, the only time they went forward was in the scrum.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Andrew, I’m loving the fact that most of the games this weekend can still determine the outcome of the finals. Even those teams with not a lot of hope can cause an upset and affect other teams chances. I think a couple of them will be playing for pride and have a point to prove that could cost others their place on the table if they don’t step up. To me the crucial games are; Brumbies/Tahs and Reds/Jags

    • Andrew H

      Morning KRL, yes, personally I think it’s wonderful that so many games this weekend will have an effect on the overall standing, the Lions and Jags could both finish as high as third or as low as seventh. As problematic as the conference system can be it does have redeeming features.

    • You mean Sharks/Jags I think.

  • Nutta

    What, no random Troll Kiwi’s espousing the usual annualised line that the conference system is crap and the finals should follow the pure table? C’mon! It’s past midday in NZ by now isn’t it?

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      We know you understand mate. Besides we don’t consider the Lions or Tahs that high a threat anyway (Is that enough of a troll?)

      • Nutta

        Nah, you can do better then that surely? Or are you holding the line waiting for the others to show up?

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Just setting a place holder mate.

          I think the whole conference thing sucks but I also think that if the system played out so that the home final wasn’t guaranteed then the negative affect on Australian Rugby would be worse. Personally I’d like to go to a round robin where everyone played everyone else and di d it as a bi-annual home and away. So one year you’d play them at home and the next away. However, with the travel that makes it hard so I’m not sure it’ll happen.

        • Happyman

          Mate I agree the conference thing is not great. I do like all of the teams playing in each country playing home and away each year though.

          IMHO it won’t matter after the current TV expires the Safas are going to Europe and we will be left with our brothers over the ditch. It will be quite a bit of short term pain but longer term it will be better.

        • Greg

          How about – we would never have a conference system like this if Ruchie was still playing?

          any better?

        • Nutta

          Gold.

    • juswal

      They don’t switch the internet on over there until 3:00 p.m., when the methane has been piped to the power plant.

      • Missing Link

        I thought they had to wait until they had their Watties baked beans for lunch, then they’d have enough tin cans to join together with string :D

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Ba-Boom!

      • Nutta

        See if we all just got over it and recognised them as the 7th State of Oz we would have already fixed that with the NBN…

        I mean, we are already their federal police, their navy, their air-force, their banking system, their quarantine system, their remand system, basically their judicial system and above all else their social welfare system so we may as well just annex and be done with it I reckon. I mean we do all that and more for bloody Tasmania and even those half-Saffa West Australians (or East South Africa depending on where you stand). So if we basically pay for the running of the place as-is, then let’s save a whole level of futile & redundant bureaucracy and administration.

        Republic of Nutta marches on (the Revolution is coming Comrades)…

        • Who?

          If NZ were the 7th state, then the NBN would be officially further progressed in percentage terms than it is, given NZ went FTTN (which is the majority of Turnbull’s NBN, and was the original Rudd NBN proposal before Telstra decided to play hardball) before Rudd proposed the FTTP NBN! So we’d go from beyond 50% of 25 million Australians served by NBN to beyond 66% served by NBN overnight. Along with Rugby, NBN is one of the areas Kiwis have a better history than us. NBN, Rugby, and winter.
          Agree with the rest. :-)

        • Greg

          This is actually true….

        • Bobas

          remember that cheik press conference where he got asked whether the ability to upload and download faster gave new zealand an advantage?

        • Who?

          I forgot that! You’re right – and he had no clue what they were talking about! :-D It was hilarious (for those who understood it. I’m not in the industry, I just moved to a suburb without DSL a decade ago and was forced to educate myself).

        • Bobas

          Cheik was like – ‘are you trying to plug some company, you know what I mean?’

    • Andrew H

      It’d be hard to argue that if you look at it from a purely “who qualified” point of view. The Blues are the only Kiwi team missing out and they’ve been dismal this year.

      • Mica

        True, but it means a couple of their teams have to play away and that’s a bit of an outrage. Don’t they realise our teams need all the help they can get?

        • Andrew H

          Totally unreasonable!!

    • andrewM

      Hang On! Us Force Supporters haven’t had a gripe yet either!

  • GoMelbRebels

    Phil Mack is the player / coach of the Seawolves, but only because the actual head coach (can’t remember who) had visa issues and couldn’t stay in the country. So, they did well considering their scrummy was also coaching them AND he was absent for the June test series as he was playing for Canada. Hopefully they will have a proper coaching setup next season. Not a bad start for the MLR, hope it keeps going. Seems a lot more organised and less thrown together like PRO Rugby was. Seems a bit like the NRC at the moment. Not big crowds for season one (except Seattle, who have embraced the Seawolves in a big way), but a lot of potential.

    • Andrew H

      I did read that about Mack, what a story!
      Early days but it does seem a lot more organised and thought-out compared to PRO.

  • onlinesideline

    Genia practised full contact today – how long does it take for a broken arm to heal.
    How the hell do you play a rugby match after 4 weeks and 5 days healing.
    These blokes are friggen mad

    • Missing Link

      he must have been knocking back Naholo’s Fijian jungle juice to come back that quickly from a broken limb

    • Bobas

      If its a clean break most of these guys muscle groups are so conditioned its like already being in a cast once it’s done.
      There will be some bone bruising and it will be sore for him, but it wont break again in the same spot.

    • Andrew H

      Depends on the break he suffered, it could be close to fully healed already.
      Also, they built Genia extra tough.

    • Parker

      Homeopathy is your answer OLSL. Dunno if he used it, but there is a remedy that greatly hastens bone growth.

      • onlinesideline

        quackery mate – a fraud that should be banned

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Turned to writing for GAGR before my over the top rants about rugby landed me in hot water. Hoping this will keep me a little more measured.

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