This was a crucial weekend for the many Super Rugby teams. With nine teams fighting for the top six play-off spots and three fighting to avoid the wooden spoon, one slip had the potential to be crucial. Often in such situations, with the outcome so vital to a whole year’s endeavour, the contest becomes stodgy, with neither of the two combatants prepared to risk anything. Such was not the case, however, and the ambition and endeavour across the board was pretty much the opposite. We saw some great rugby.
The Reds needed the win, of course, but also the four-try bonus point if they are to remain any chance of overtaking the Brumbies for the Aussie conference lead, or even to sneak one of the bottom qualifier spots. They were away to the Rebels but this was not an automatic five points – just ask the Crusaders. Indeed, for the opening 10 or 15 minutes, the Rebels applied all the pressure, but the Reds weathered the storm. When the Reds finally got the chance to fire a few shots of their own, they didn’t miss and, by the break, they have scored three tries for a 24-3 lead.
What was the difference? Accuracy – accuracy of execution. When you have an opportunity, even the chance of one, you CANNOT afford to squander it with inaccurate play. Accuracy in the pass and accuracy in positional play in support and two of the most vital areas for quality execution in attacking plays. By and large, the Reds were accurate and the Rebels were not. Quade Cooper was special for the Reds. As I watched the first half, I kept repeating, in my own mind. “accurate (pass)”, “accurate (pass)”, over and over. Again I noted, accurate positional play in support – AWH in depth for Cooper’s delayed pass and his try; Shipperley in perfect position, around 2m inside the ball and about 4m behind, for his. Such simple fundamentals are, more often than not, neglected – but they are essential to quality performance. Moreover, they are easy to execute and, in general, the opposition can have no influence on “your” play – all you have to do, is pay attention to the simple key principles!
Quade Cooper was outstanding – on a different level! When he gets back to the Reds – and, dare I say it, to their coaching staff’s concentration on (again) “the fundamentals that underpin performance” – his huge innate, intuitive talent can show right through. It was a great team display by the Reds in the first half. I thought that Simmons and AWH (does he ever not?) contributed well up front and Mike Harris is beginning to look like his 2011 self again.
The Rebels, as they often are, were a different team in the second half, although much of their success came when Kurtley Beale was at first receiver. He is another genius and you can add the adjective “courageous” to any description of him. Although clearly struggling, he never gave up trying to lift his team – whatever they’re paying him, he’s worth it. The Rebels have some qualities. I reckon a couple of decent props and another hooker (unfortunately, they don’t grow on trees) and they’ll be a different team – for both halves. Adam Frier was, as usual, a fourth backrower for his 30 mins; unfortunately, his throws let him down.
So the Reds laid down the gauntlet to the Brumbies and the Brumbies took it right up. Despite the emotion, or maybe because of it, the Brumbies shot out of the blocks. Jesse Mogg showed surprising (to me) pace for a try after 2 mins; Nic White again showed his Gerrard-like touch-finder to go within 6m of the line; and Alexander scored a second try after 11 mins. 12 to nil!
The Force were letting themselves down with INACCURACIES. They established good field position and had the throw-in, but it was “not straight”. They again established good field position with good, determined attacking play – with Cummins well to the fore – and INACCURATE passing let them down.
The Brumbies next try, to Henry Speight, also told a story about accuracy – again in positional play in support. If the support player maintains his depth off the ball-carrier, he gives a big target for the pass. Conversely, if he gets flat, the target becomes too small and too difficult for a passer under pressure. After great work by Kimlin, White and the Holmes continued. Holmes “Hail Mary” pass under pressure was easily accepted by Speight for his try.
Again a second-half revival, this time for the Force. They looked much more positive and ambitious and were prepared to “have a go” with the ball in hand. Well done in the break by Phil Blake! Cummins did excellently – I thought that he was a bit unlucky to miss the Wallaby squad a few weeks back – for two tries and Mafi showed the way in carrying from the back. A very well-executed, driving maul – they rebuilt it three times – gave the Force their third try for a 17 to 25 scorelines and a few Brumby heart flutters. Well done the Force!
Good leadership soon got things right again for the Brumbies and their dominant scrum closed out the game. Well done Ben Mowen; his captaincy has been a clear factor in the Brumbies success.
The Brumbies front-row were again very good. I thought that Alexander was better in the tight/loose – he played a lot closer to the ball! Kimlin was again a big contributor and should soon be rated more highly. I like Fardy; in fact, I think that I would give him a go at #6 at a higher level – at least in a mid-week your game. He could play, I think like a fair-dinkum (Kiwi) #6! (Regular readers will know why I’m looking for one.) Interestingly, one of the Brumbies coaching staff told me last week, that Fardy leads the Brumbies stats for “steals” – and he took two more in this match!
McCabe and Smith were good and both continue to grow – albeit from different starting points. We need some big, strong, fast guys around the #13 spot. Cummins and Smith would be well worth an investment, I reckon.
POSTSCRIPT. If anyone wanted a demonstration of the value of attention to the fundamentals of the game, they could take a look at the two halves of Aaron Smith’s performance last week-end. I gave him some considerable praise for his All Black performances recently, but his first half for the Highlanders was dreadful. He constantly “lifted” the ball and took a step and a backswing for his clearing pass. Consequently, he squandered at least four hard-earned possessions for his team. After the break – and, no doubt, a few well-chosen words from Jamie Joseph &/or Simon Culhane – he was back to his smooth, precise delivery. Well done coaches!THE DEFINITIVE RUGBY COACHING NETWORK.
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