Tuesday’s Rugby News looks at French ‘flair’, talking up Matt Philip, the Reds kicking woes, and Aussie 7 in Canada.
The French doing very French Things
France has, in this reporter’s humble opinion, been the form side of this years Six Nations. They have played some incredible attacking rugby and a defensive pattern, thanks to Shaun Edwards, that is an attacking weapon all on its own.
So was it really a surprise when french Tighthead Mohamed Haouas smashed Jamie Ritchie’s shnoz three minutes before half-time effectively ending his country’s run at the grand slam in a moment of madness? At the time France was leading 7-6 but that change after the resulting penalty and Scotland was never headed again.
Haouas’ mindless act brought back memories of Sebastian Vahaamahina’s own implosion in Oita at the Rugby World Cup, red-carded for an elbow on Aaron Wainwright that killed off France’s hopes of progressing to the semi-finals.
Haouas’ exit, a third penalty by Scotland fly-half Adam Hastings and then a well-worked try to put Maitland over in the corner all came in the space of less than five minutes. Collectively it felt like a knockout punch, not only in the context of the match but for France’s Grand Slam hopes as well, even with the second half still to come. Maitland’s second try shortly after the interval – made by a fine break from Chris Harris, slipping past Paul Willemse then combining with Ali Price – hammered that point home.
“You get confidence when you see the rewards you get for doing something, and the way we’re training, it really gives me a lot of encouragement. We had a big session on Wednesday, lots of physicality, lots of tackling and contact work, and we saw the players take that into the game,” explained Gregor Townsend.
Ritchie was unhindered by the cheap shot and went on to win the Man of the Match award. “It was the metal cheek. I’ve seen the photo a couple of times. I was a bit shocked. I must have one of those faces,” Ritchie said afterwards. “I couldn’t sense they were getting rattled. I saw Nick Haining on his own and three French guys around him, so I ran in and I got punched in the face. It’s one of those things that happen in a game and the guy’s got sent off. I can’t say too much about it. I don’t know what was going through his head but I caught the brunt of it.”
Wessel’s Spruiks Matt Philips
So David Wessels’ has an ulterior motive for talking up Matt Philip to all and sundry. Philip has fielded an offer from French club Pau when his contract at the Rebels is up. If he can get his guy a Wallaby top up it’s going to be a lot easier to keep him in Australia.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it! Philip is the lock every great team needs, the guy who shifts bodies tackles his guts out and does the hard yards. with the added bonus of being able to snaffle opposition lineouts, seemingly, at will.
But your coach talking you up to Rugby Australia and its coaches can’t help and he does a bloody good job.
After playing his three Tests on the Wallabies’ Spring tour in late 2017, Wessels said he had earned another call-up.
“I don’t think Matt is heading to France but I can understand why French clubs want to chase a guy like that,” he said.
“Matt is a really great story, he’s one of those guys who really cares about the team so he’s really motivated by that but one thing he really wants to do is play for his country.
“Matt is the type of guy who is going to have a good career with Australia. He’s waited a long time to have that opportunity but he’s earnt that now.”
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Philip with Wessels. Wessels admits that he nearly didn’t sign the lock and had to be talked into it by Dane Haylett-Petty.
“I wasn’t going to sign Matt back in the day until Dane talked me into it at a hotel in Sandton [South Africa],” Wessels said.
“When he started out I wasn’t convinced but Dane saw it long before I did so Matt’s got Dane to thank.”
Dave Alred Back At Ballymore
After the Reds 24-20 loss to the crusadist it was clear that the Reds had a problem. Four misses at conversion from three kickers and numerous declined penalties shots show a pattern that needs to be arrested quickly. The penalties may have been part of a plan but if only 50% of the conversions had succeeded the Reds would have salvaged an unlikely draw.
As a Reds fan, it’s hard to fault the up and coming side for their efforts last Friday. The Reds weren’t supposed to come within cooee of their more fancied opponents but managed to score four tries to three in what would have been a morale-boosting win for all of us north of the Tweed.
Which is why the return of Dave Alred, back from a month away coaching golfers like Italy’s 2018 British Open champion Francesco Molinari couldn’t be better timed. Alred now has just a week to get the misfiring Reds kickers back on track.
But before Alred gets to work question must be asked as to what happened last Friday. Why was Jock Campbell only given two shots in the gusty conditions? Surely if he’d kept going he would have landed at least one of the four. Why give Scott Malolua just one shot at goal?
It was always going to be a tough start to the season and 1-5 is probably and depressingly about right for the reds but, they now have a chance to rack up a few wins with four of their next six games at home.
‘It’s time to re-set. We have a lot to play for with plenty of Australian Conference games in this middle part of the season,’ Reds coach Brad Thorn said, ‘We knock over our conversions and it’s a different result which is the big frustration.’
Alred has spent more than a year refining the Reds kicking game and you can see his mark on several players. But with only Bryce Hegarty, who can’t hold down a starting position, kicking at a reasonable percentage there are only days to get at least one guy shooting straight.
Aussie 7 Men take second.
Australia has just failed to defeat New Zealand in the final of the Canada Sevens in Vancouver going down 14-17.
The Aussie 7s took control of the match early on, starving New Zealand of possession for most of the first half with tries to Lachlan Anderson and Maurice Longbottom giving the men in gold a 15-5 lead.
Two yellow cards for Australia and a determined effort from All Blacks Sevens side allowed the New Zealanders to take the lead 14-17.
Australia fought back with seconds to go in the match, but a pass deemed to go forward by Lewis Holland prevented the Aussies from taking what would have been a famous victory.
The second-place finish moves Australia into fourth position on the HSBC Sevens World Series ladder on 81 points, just trailing Fiji on 83 points. New Zealand has extended its lead over the competition on 115 points with South Africa on 105 points.
Earlier in the day, Australia had defeated England in the quarter-finals and Canada in a tough semi-final, where the Aussie 7s held out against the home team 19-14 with some desperate defence on the goal line.
Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens Head Coach Tim Walsh said: “We fought hard today, and it wasn’t to be in the Final but it’s been a really great effort by the team over the last few weeks.
“Building consistency is the key to build confidence and momentum, its pleasing to be on the podium again but naturally disappointed to go down to New Zealand.
“We will look at the positives and move forward.”
Day one results
Australia 33 defeated Scotland 19
Australia 40 defeated Samoa 12
Australia 29 defeated USA 7
Day two results
Australia 31 defeated England 12
Australia 19 defeated Canada 14
Australia 14 was defeated by New Zealand 17