Going into the third round of Super Rugby AU, early predictions looked like this round should be plain sailing for rugby pickers but that was far from what we saw this weekend. The Western Force continued to show they will be competitive this season by pushing the Reds all the way home on our Friday night opener. Following that, on Saturday night, what looked like the easy pick of the round turned out to almost be the biggest upset as the Brumbies had to pulled out all the lucky charms to get past an impressive Waratahs side. Lets take a look at how the games went.
REDS 31 vs 24 FORCE
The conditions were much better this weekend for the Reds who were looking to bounce back from the disaster of Super Time last weekend. Up against them, the Force will be trying to find a complete eighty minutes after two contrasting halves last weekend. Early on it was all the Western Force who dominated the early game before things just exploded with points. After the Force turned down some early points off the tee, they were the first to cash in with Jono Lance having the backline on song setting up Jack McGregor in the left corner for his first Super Rugby try. It was only minutes later when the Force struck again, under advantage Jono Lance puts up a little chip which impressive midfielder Marcel Brache pounced on and with numbers out wide, put Byron Ralston in for his second Super Rugby AU try. The Reds jumped in on the attacking fun with a run of penalties getting them into a good position and grabbing their first try to hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa. Want another try? The Reds delivered, Jock Campbell this time from fullback finished off a scrum play from inside their own half. From 14-0 down, the Reds had tied it up, but the game just did not settle down. A cracking 50-22 from James O’Connor (he loves them!) put the Reds within the danger zone yet again and as the last fifteen minutes had shown, tries are easy. The forwards decided this one was theirs and when that’s the case one mans name comes to mind, Taniela Tupou. Huge traffic but a huge man and no one was stopping him for the Reds third try and fifth in the game inside half an hour! The Force haven’t seen the ball let alone any territory since their last try and have been completely shut out of the game. The Reds continue to dominate the remainder of the opening half but right at the end try happy winger Byron Ralston grabs his second with a full field run away intercept try off a O’Connor pass, showing just how much pace he has got. Just as we were expecting a 21-21 half time score, the conversion was charged down from right in front. There was so much action in that half, its hard to describe how the match flowed without writing a novel, but pure entertainment and fully committed by both sides. The Force defence has been very average at times but the ability to attack has been exciting from both sides. The joy of no rain has changed the game in Australia this Friday night, lets hope it stays that way.
The Reds extended their lead early in the second forty with some slick backline passing and a hot left foot step from Filipo Daugunu put it out to an nine point difference as the Force struggle to get back into the match. The Force got themselves a good run of penalties at times but have really struggled to contain the Reds power game which has got stronger as the minutes kept ticking by. The Reds became quite wasteful as the game wore on, throwing away plenty of chances to put this game to bed. The Force kept hanging into the game, their loss of Ian Prior at the end of the first half proved to be a critical moment as the Force just did not seem anywhere near as dangerous or accurate with ball in hand. With just ten minutes remaining, the game took a twist in the favour of the Force when Hunter Paisami was sent to the bin for a tip tackle. A quick kick to touch and a powerful lineout drive put the Force back in the game, with the conversion off the upright the lead was cut to just four points. The Force put plenty of pressure on the Reds in the final ten minutes but couldn’t crack that final play. The Reds had a simple plan to push that lead out at all costs and it was O’Connor once again to stand up and deliver a late drop goal that put the lead out to seven and enough for the Reds to hold on to full time.
The Reds stand out performers were led from Taniela Tupou and Harry Wilson who made some big yards along with their mobile pack yet again. Chris Feauai-Sautia was the destroyer in the backs making numerous breaks throughout the game. For the visitors they found out just how important Ian Prior was to their game plan, attack and defence fell apart with him off the field. Marcel Brache was outstanding on attack, created a lot of line breaks but was often found lacking on defence. The Force pack also stood up very well for itself. Another pleasing competing performance.
WARATAHS 23 vs 24 BRUMBIES
It did not take the Brumbies long to hit their stride as the Waratahs gifted them early territory through consecutive penalties. A cross field kick from Noah Lolesio was spilt in the corner from the Waratahs defence and good following up from Tom Cusack left him alone for an easy dot down on the right edge. The Waratahs were happy to let their sharpshooter do the damage off the tee, Will Harrison bringing them back in the match with a run of penalties, one even coming from a scrum, which was a shock. A huge number of offside penalties started to mount up on the Brumbies and referee Angus Gardner had Andy Muirhead sent to the bin and very nearly another followed him a few phases after for the same thing. The Waratahs made the numbers pay, driving their maul close to the line for the spark of hooker Tom Horton to snipe over off the back and extend that Waratahs lead. The Brumbies game was becoming very scrappy, fighting for every phase, struggling to hold the little ball they were getting in hand. The yellow card was becoming costly for the Brumbies now, conceding a scrum penalty yet again and not even paying attention thinking the Waratahs would take a shot at three, Harrison thumped the penalty across field for a blistering Jack Ramm chasing down the left wing before the Brumbies could react and the ‘Tahs were in once more. The lead very quickly rocketing out to a fifteen points. Things go from bad to worse for the Brumbies, young fly half Noah Lolesio injuring himself trying to step his way out of trouble, 22 year old Bayley Kuenzle took his place. When the chips are down, the Brumbies go back to what they know, the lineout maul. Launching that typical nudge into the corner and setting up the try scoring number two Folau Fainga’a to cut the lead to ten. The momentum was starting to shift after that try, penalties easing the side quickly up the field and with it breeding confidence and opportunities. The Brumbies don’t often say no to those opportunities, a tidy half break from Kuenzle got them going forward and Tom Wright found plenty more ground down the left wing before a big crash off a long run up by Rob Valetini and all of a sudden the Waratahs lead is only three.
The second half started off as a bit of a stalemate as the two side crashed between 22 meter lines. After ten minutes of the second half the Waratahs dropped another three points, doubling their lead to a mighty six points. The Brumbies have struggled badly with the offside line all night long and its cost them a huge number of penalties, that needs to be a number one priority to tidy up. There was little to trouble the scorers through the majority of the second half, the Waratahs were attacking hard but getting beaten at the breakdowns and the Brumbies could not win a lineout the save their careers in the second forty, neither side was able to string together any phases. Its amazing what happens once the Brumbies do actually win a lineout! Chance after chance they threw away over the last twenty minutes from lost lineout’s but with one in the hand the Brumbies get the field territory required to strike. Replacement scrum half Issak Fines running sideways skipping past defenders, picks his spot and splits the defence in half to score a cracking try for the Brumbies and with the conversion take a tiny one point lead. Straight off the kickoff with just two minutes remaining, the Brumbies go straight into turtle mode and pick and drop phase after phase for the final minutes to hold on by a whisker!
Karmichael Hunt made a huge difference to the Waratahs backline effectiveness, taking the pressure off Harrison who himself benefited from it. Hooker Tom Horton was a standout in his first Super Rugby start. Boy the Brumbies should be out buying lotto tickets after this one, their lineout and offside discipline was terrible but somehow they still got the result. With the Lolesio injury, Bayley Kuenzle showed some good touches and of course Fines giving huge impact of the bench. Rob Valetini was a powerful runner all night for the Brumbies and the return of Tom Banks is sure to put a smile on those Brumbies fans who like seeing some exciting backline rugby. Not for the first time this season, the Brumbies will head home disappointed with the performance but still happy to be winner, while the Waratahs will be wondering how they didn’t win the match again.
Previews and reviews are right here Behind The Posts for each and every round of Super Rugby AU! Rugby is back in Australia! Let me know your thoughts on the action this weekend in the comments and thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts. If you would like to have your say here, get in touch on the contact page today!