All five sides have now taken part in at least one match in Super Rugby AU and much has been learnt of the first two weeks. Into round three we have another two, hopefully, exciting matches to come. Opening up the round on Friday night will be the Reds who are looking to get back on track against the feisty Force. On Saturday night the Waratahs are back at home and the Brumbies are fresh off the bye for a visit. The Rebels will sit the round out on the bye.
REDS vs FORCE – Suncorp Stadium
The Reds are back home for round three facing up against the travelling Force, who will have to wait another week before being able to go home. The Reds have been the biggest improver in Super Rugby over the recent time and these early few weeks have continued to prove that. Look back to last week and the abysmal game that they have against the Rebels, a draw isn’t the worst result for them. Considering how far behind they were heading into the last ten minutes, one thing they don’t lack is heart and determination. To storm back into the game and force the Super Time periods was a fantastic come back. If you want to be cynical about it, the Reds were pretty average in the hour of the match before that and will not want a repeat showing against the Force. James O’Connor is directing this side strongly so far and has grown into the position each week, if anything his crafty creativity is sometimes a bit too much for his team mates. While on the playmaker topic, Hamish Stewart has been a standout for me in this Reds side and I am enjoying the freedom of his play in the twelve jumper. I say it every week, but the Reds need that pack to perform yet again. They had a bit of an off night last week but this young pack will only get more consistent as it gains experience.
Right, so the Western Force, how impressive was that opening half against the Waratahs in round two?! It was brilliant to watch and I can only hope they will deliver that again this week, for eighty minutes, and every round on. I talked about how important that spine in their side would be and it was amazing to see it stand up. Brynard Stander was spectacular at the back of the pack and his supporting back row followed his lead. The experienced duo of Ian Prior and Jono Lance directed the side and showed how valuable that partnership can be. Even youngster Jack McGregor showed his worth in a solid outing at fullback for the Force. They had a good game plan that work well in the first half against the Waratahs, kicking well for territory and defending strongly to “force” their opponents into errors. They can run together good long periods on possession and really shut sides out of the game. Frustrate the Reds and big rewards can be taken, discipline is not the Reds best attribute. The big down side they had in their opener was the lack of a plan B when the Waratahs changed their game and maybe struggled to last the full eighty minutes, like many sides do at the pace its played. They will want to run this big Reds back around repeat that golden first forty from last week once again. The Force also just signed Richard Kahui during the week, will be intriguing to see his role in this team.
RESULT: Reds by 8
WARATAHS vs BRUMBIES – ANZ Stadium
The Waratahs have struggled their way through the opening two rounds of Super Rugby AU and are still to face their biggest test of the competition, the Brumbies. The best we have seen from the Waratahs is when they were under massive threat of losing to the returning Force, that somehow lit a fire of passion under them and transformed their game. The Waratahs don’t lack the players or the gameplan, but often the execution to properly play it out. Too many errors, too many individual players taking all the responsibility. Will Harrison is the best performing ten in the competition right now, so just play off the young man who is tearing things up. The pack will be majorly tested and I will be keen to see how promising props Harry Johnson-Holmes and Angus Bell match up to this experienced Brumbies front row. They will be hoping to have Karmichael Hunt back in the starting lineup this week, his impact off the bench was very strong and complimented the young Harrison very well. Its been a long time problem for the Waratahs to perform as a full unit and not individuals but it looked like when the chips were down last weekend, they can show their true ability. But the Force were the unknown, the Brumbies on the other hand, are something very completely known…..
Added on to coming off the bye this week after just one game, they will be despite to get back out there and into the action. The Brumbies are an evolved team now. Not just relying on the lineout maul and typical forward play, they have started to mix it up and in round one, kept the Rebels on their toes over how each set piece was going to go about. Whats the most exciting about this game for Rugby Australia is the battle at ten. I have talked about Harrison quite a bit in recent weeks but there is a Brumbies youngster who is just as exciting in Noah Lolesio. Its an area of constant problems for the Wallabies but these two kids could turn into something special, which is why I am excited to see how they will go head to head in this match up. Either way you look at it, those two tens probably wont be the ones to decide it, but instead the old cliche of the pack will. The Brumbies will look to that as its dominating outlet once more and I question how much of a fight the Waratahs pack will put up. For the sake of enjoyable rugby I hope the Waratahs have learnt a thing or two from the game against the Force but I fear it may be back to the usual again and the Brumbies to trot home.
RESULT: Brumbies by 11
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