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TJ's Rugby Wrap

TJ's Rugby Wrap

TJ's Rugby Wrap

TJ_March2017_primary

The Rugby Wrap

But first, the news :  Eddie Jones was right about one thing (that’s not the news, the next bit is), records like the one England were chasing are hard to come by, no matter who you are and aren’t playing.

We know this from the number of times the All Blacks stumbled between 15 and 18. And sometimes the record is allowed to become more important than the actual game you’re playing next, and Eddie and his team know that now, too. 

Ireland were good, inspired, passionate, committed, but they weren’t great. England fluffed possession 35 times, and you’re not going to beat anyone doing that. Still, it was a very good run.

Hopefully the result at the Aviva will bring some sanity into talk of a November test that has once again become all about money, and the wielding of power.

OK, back in our own neck of the woods. 

New Zealand Conference :

Sighs of relief in Chiefs territory as the bye comes at a good time to heal and replenish bodies after a patchy showing in Melbourne. The Hurricanes have such great momentum another game would not have been a bad thing, but they too, sit the next dance out. Believe it or not if the playoffs started tomorrow, the Blues would still be in, such is the anemic look of the Aussie conference. 

So to the weekly Kiwi power rankings :

1)    The Chiefs stay top of the points table, and just stay top of the power rankings. Finally got their act together late in the piece against an improved Rebels side, proving again that the bench is where the best New Zealand teams have it all over the rest. 

2)    The Crusaders followed the same script as the last two weeks, although they are gradually reducing the points starts. This week it was, everybody singing… “Only Sixteen, Only Sixteen”. “Sixteen Tons” might better describe the effect of their forward pack in the second half. 

3)    The Hurricanes go up a notch after powering away from the Highlanders. No Cory Jane, No NMS, no matter, as young guns, Ngani Laumape, Vince Aso and Matt Proctor tormented the ‘Landers with their power running, and Jordi Barrett produced a peach of a game, with some utterly sublime touches.

4)    The Blues made a good game of it with a stirring first half performance. Hard to say whether they were right to start going for the three pointers in the second half or whether they should have stayed with the bold approach of the first 40. Where they really went wrong was allowing the Crusaders territory, from where the red and black forward juggernaut took over. A couple of winnable games coming up though, and they are not to be written off yet.

5)    The Highlanders are the team who could really do with a bye, such is their catastrophic injury list. They’ll need all of their trademark resilience to win in Canberra this week.

Australia:

Just goes from bad to worse.

Only the Brumbies won, at the expense of an insipid Waratahs effort that has seen the guns firmly pointed at Daryl Gibson. Yes, the Rebels showed some spunk against the Chiefs, but only until the visitors got organised, while the Reds were already well on the way to being smashed by the Lions before Quade Coopers brain explosion.

The count is now one win in 10 games against overseas opposition, and the Brumbies are the only team to have won two matches.

Horrible.

Africa:

 Yes, the group is called Africa, not South Africa, and with very good reason now, as the Jaguares lead a very competitive  Africa Two group from the Lions and Sharks and have the overall lead in the combined group.

With a home game coming up against the Reds, they should stay there for another week, but it gets tougher after that. Still, it’s good to see them looking genuinely competitive. 

The Lions were all over the Reds, with four tries by Courtnal Skosan, but the Sharks were spared a major embarrassment as young Curwin Bosch nailed a kick from halfway to beat the Kings.

Five Star Performers:

1)    Brodie Retallick. No-one plays the big minutes like big Brodie. Seven lineout wins, no missed tackles, a try, an assist as he shunted Sam Cane over for his crucial touchdown, and to cap it a sensational offload in the lead up to Sean Stephensons final try. 

2)    Sam Whitelock. Impressing as a calm leader who wouldn’t ask anything of his fellow forwards he wouldn’t do himself. England can go on all they like about Itoje, Launchbury and co, the best locking duo in the world are right here.

3)    Jordi Barrett. The right handed, cut out, off load, right into the buckets of a player arriving at speed, whilst fending off with the left…that’s worth it all on its own, but there were also some beautiful deft kicks and a desperate, if slightly “kids don’t try this at home” try saving tackle. Unbelievable talent.

4)    Ngani Laumape. Leads the competition stats for defenders beaten and clean breaks, and has five tries to go with it. Don’t want to diss the other code, but his years with the Warriors were regrettable for a guy who is every inch a rugby player.

5)    Tolu Latu. With the fail stamp hanging over so many of his team mates right now, especially given the hype surrounding some of them, the cannonball Waratahs hooker might just be the brightest light in a rather dim landscape right now.

And from the Not So Good Department:

1)    Luatua, Bothma, Cooper….please write out a thousand times ….”Direct Contact to the Head with Force is a Red Card”. Is it that difficult?

2)    Having said that, I wasn’t sure where to put TJ Perenara for his high lunge at Fletcher Smith. Even if it did appear careless and accidental, and lacking the “force” element, it could have been costly in another game. And yet he was so genuinely remorseful about it to the point of almost volunteering for a red card. Just be more careful next time, ay?

3)    The Waratahs. Always hyped to the max pre-season, and with some reason. These guys are supposed to be the standard bearers for Australian rugby, but right now they are a train that can‘t find a station. Being a Kiwi, Daryl Gibson will be an easy scapegoat, but is it all his fault that there are some guys in that team who don’t look like they’re trying very hard?

4)    No matter how many changes are made to Super Rugby to reduce the travel factor for South African teams, they continue to treat a game offshore like a trip to another planet. Two weeks in a row now, in form South African teams have got all spooked about Argentina, left good players at home, and returned empty handed.

5)    Rugby matches that last 100 minutes. Wayne Barnes, one self-administered uppercut, please.

For full highlights and discussion points from the weekends Super Rugby, catch TJ with Rugby Nation, 4:30pm Sundays on Prime with replays on SKY Sport.