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Sports and Fitness It's football, not soccer.

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Old February 22 2014, 12:55 PM   #1
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Rugby 2014 thread

It's 2014 and another long Rugby season is starting...well, is underway. Only a few rugby followers here, but we can't help it everyone else has poor taste!

Anyway, down to the nitty-gritty. The Super season kicked off last weekend, but this weekend is when the NZ and Aust teams joined in. We have a lot of tests to look forward to come SH winter through spring. It even seems the rumour of a union-league hybrid exhibition game is making the rounds again after spending the off-season in hibernation. We're also a year out of the next RWC and its generally a big moving year as players rise and fall in their efforts to find their way into serious contention for 2015.

On the more immediate issue of the 2014 Super Rugby season, as a Brumbies supporter I'm hoping of course they can go one better than last year and win the championship. Off season was a bit of a media circus. First, Jake White left and we had the dual Laurie Fisher-Stephen Larkham setup come in. The CEO of the organisation also left. Then to top it all off, Ben Mowen, current Brumbies captain and Wallabies captain announced he's leaving Australia to go play in France after the end of the 2014 season (either Super or Wallabies season depending on the ARU and selection).

They also come into this season with significant pressure due to being runners-up last year rather than also-rans from 2012. They face a seemingly healthier Australian conference with the Reds still strong, the Tahs fast on the rise, and even the Rebels and Force showing some promising signs. While it is likely still be a just a three horse race, the conference definitely looks better than the dark days of 2011/12

The Brumbies have just finished their first game. It was against the Reds at Canberra and in a reversal of the 2013 opener it was the Reds coming out on top. Quite a similar game to 2013 but where the Brumbies kept the lead for most of the game, before it got close and a late try to secure it, it was the Reds doing that this time.

The Brumbies pressure game built under Jake White looked quite unsteady without radar boot Leali'ifano. In fact in general poor kicking hurt the Brumbies a lot. Average goal kicking prevented score board pressure and Nic White kicking two restarts out on the full allowed the Reds to build and maintain pressure on the Brumbies, seeing them get out to a 17-9 by half time.

The Brumbies fought back well in the second half and got it to 20-17 behind the Reds, though uncharacteristically they didn't go after penalties in the middle of the second half where they could have evened up the game. Maybe Mogg's not as reliable kicking made Mowen too desperate for a try a goal kicking war was not one he thought they could win. Though the Brumbies did have two tries disallowed, so the had shown that the Reds were vulnerable. In the end it didn't work.

Yet, worse was to come. In the last 2 minutes of the game the Brumbies made one of the worst mistakes you'll likely to see in this years comp. Mogg (who had at best an indifferent game) went to field a touch finder near the Brumbies line, knocked it on, knocked it on again, then knocked it back through his legs and through that of a player coming to help clean the ball up all for the substitute Reds winger to scoop it up and run under the posts to seal the win. This time last year, it was Mogg intercepting a Cooper pass to seal the win for the Brumbies, this year he made it so that they would miss out on a bonus point.

Mogg wasn't the only one off. The entire Brumbies outfit was off. On the plus side Pocock looked okay, and survived uninjured. The limited ball Tomane and Speight got they also looked good. Sio was good around the park and Moore was his usual hard working self. But as a unit they had too many handling errors and allowed too many turnovers so that they couldn't turn 60% possession and around 7 mins in the opposition 22 into a victory.

Early days yet so I'm not off to throw myself into the sea just yet. As the Reds showed last year, a slow start doesn't mean you can't make the finals. No doubt there will be immediate media questioning of the coach setup at the Brumbies, but as I said it's only round 1(2). I still believe the Brumbies can give this competition a good shake this year.
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Old February 23 2014, 09:22 AM   #2
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Ah, good - the rugby thread has appeared. After all, it's February so it must be rugby season. Or something.

After the general disappointment of last year I'm hoping for better things for Australian rugby in 2014. France is this year's touring side and as ever it'll be interesting to see which French side turns up - the version capable of beating anyone, or the version capable of losing to a pub team. There's another attempt at a desperately-needed third tier competition getting under way later in the year, which hopefully will actually happen and be successful. And of course there's the "Four Nations" to look forward to as well.

No doubt NCC will disagree vehemently but it's well past time the large gaudy silver trophy made its way back to this side of the Tasman. I'm no more confident we'll succeed in that endeavour this year than in the past decade, but one must hope.

One also hopes the Waratahs will actually win something, hopefully the Super series and hopefully before I die. Today's effort against the Force appeared to be standard Waratahs fare - good play interspersed with ridiculous errors. A bonus-point win first up is still pleasant and hopefully (there's that word again) the rust will be abraded away sooner rather than later.
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Old March 2 2014, 05:07 AM   #3
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Another interesting weekend in Super Rugby. Some close games across the NZ and SA teams, but not for the Australian teams, with the 3 winners this week winning comfortably. Didn't see the Rebels play, but saw the Tahs give it to the Reds. Quite impressive, especially Folua's second try with the interplay between the players and ball movement.

Of course my main focus was the Brumbies who got on the board with a win against the Force through 30 mins of very good rugby. Then Mogg got yellow carded and the Brumbies moved into a protect the lead mode. They didn't seem to really break out of that for the rest of the game. The Force also picked up their play in the second half and were more competitive and scored two tries in the final 5 minutes of the game.

The big news however were injuries. McMeniman was stretchered off the field in the first half with a possible neck injury while driving for the Brumbies line. Not only was it unfortunate for him, but the break in play also gave the Brumbies a chance to recover and helped them hold the Force off, who were coming strong with Mogg in the bin.

Next, just before half time I saw McCabe sort of stumbling in backplay, Speight went to check on him and called on the trainer. McCabe didn't return after the break and the commentators reported they had taken him to hospital to get scans on his neck. He doesn't seem to be able to go half a dozen games before injuring it again, might be the end of his professional rugby career if it is another long lay off.

As if it couldn't get worse, in the last ten minutes Pocock came off limping, possibly injuring his knee. When he did his knee last year he had to be carried off, so the fact he walked off and was walking around post game hopefully means it isn't that bad.

Mixed feelings over the game. Good to have a win. Would have been better if the Brumbies played better in the second half. Definitely could have done without the injuries, including to McMen.
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Old March 2 2014, 10:31 AM   #4
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Pleased to see the Tahs clock up another win, particularly against opponents who thrive on the sort of stupid parochialism that I loathe about my country. It's unfortunate we have the bye next week, but such is life. It's a nice start but that's all it is and the Tahs have flattered only to deceive far too often for me to muster much enthusiasm at this stage of the season.

The Rebels won as well and although I remain completely uninterested in the Brumbies the injury toll - especially any talk of neck injuries - isn't good. Here's hoping the news on that front won't be too bad.
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Old March 7 2014, 09:38 AM   #5
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

A week off for me in terms of direct interest in the Super series, but from an Australian viewpoint the news that Pocock has required another ACL reconstruction is pretty dismal. It's one of the very few positions in which Australian rugby has any sort of depth but basically it's bad news all round. Here's hoping he'll make a full recovery and have better fortune next year.
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Old March 8 2014, 07:49 AM   #6
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Pocock out for another year isn't great. Hoping he doesn't turn into an Elsom and just be a drain on the clubs resources and that he can really have an impact a player of his calibre should have on a team.

The Brumbies got a decent win against the Hurricanes last night and got a bonus point. It was a fairly scrappy game for the first 30 mins. Both teams punching at each other only for it to breakdown. The Canes finally got on the board thanks to the touch judge missing a boot on the line a metre from his face. Thankfully it seemed to kick the Brumbies into gear and they scored two tries before half time.

After the break the Brumbies scored their third quickly and then the game sort of faded for the next 20 or so minutes. The Brumbies couldn't put the Canes away and the Canes seemed to just want to kick possession away. In the last ten the Brumbies finally got their bonus point try and as they have a want to do they let the opposition in for the last try of the game.

Only injury concern was Toomua game off early in the second after hurting his shoulder late in the first. With CL out for a few more weeks the Brumbies can ill afford to lose Toomua.

On a positive side, McCabe who I was thinking might be forced to retire last week had the best game I've seen from him in a long, long time. He sliced through the Canes lines on a number of occasions, even playing a crucial hand in the fourth try. It wasn't just crash ball stuff either, he was hitting on angles and into gaps. I've often been a bit down on McCabe, especially in terms of his appearances in the Wallabies, but that game reminded me of why he has represented his country.

Big grudge match coming up against NSW next week. It's going to be a tough ask to beat NSW who seem to be well into their stride early on. The Brumbies are looking better on the weeks go on, but aren't performing as fluently as the Tahs are. Not at all confident of the Brumbies getting three wins on the trot.
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Old March 8 2014, 09:32 AM   #7
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Interesting first few weeks for Super Rugby over here, both the Chiefs and Blues winning their first games against the Crusaders and Highlanders looking good early on, at least they're improving from last year. Canes look to be in for another average year, although with three tough first games - starting the season in South Africa is never a picnick and then the Brumbies at home the week after - would be tough on anybody. Interesting to see the Stormers push the Crusaders all game tonight until the final 10 minutes, Saders limping home 14-13 for their first win of the season. Hoping to see the Blues do good against the Bulls tonight, although I won't be getting up at 4 am to watch it!
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Old March 16 2014, 10:45 AM   #8
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Possibly Michael Cheika is more disgusted about last night's result than I am, but it'd be a close-run thing. Surely the Tahs aren't reverting to type already.

In happier news, Queensland lost and Brian O'Driscoll's career ended on the correct note. I'm thankful for such small mercies at this stage.
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Old March 18 2014, 03:44 PM   #9
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Solid game by the Brumbies. The niggle during the week might have got their backs up, but at the very least you could say it didn't do them any harm.

I wasn't confident of the win and at the start of the game I was even less so. The Tahs were breaking apart the Brumbies with deft kicks behind the rush defence, Folua took a great high take and sliced through the defence and I thought it was going to be a tough, tough night. Then two quick tries and the Brumbies get a good lead and their defence started to shine (not going to lie, I enjoyed seeing Beale getting flattened) and their scrum smashes their opposition apart.

All looked good through the first half of the second half until Toomua got carded. Wasn't surprised that the Brumbies defence was finally breached through that period but I was feeling still pretty good when Toomua came back. That lasted all of 3 mins when Ruan Smith got carded, which I of course thought was a travesty at the time (though if Smith pulled out a gun and shot a Tah I'd probably still complain about the ref sending him off as the Blue and White haze and truly descended by then).

Very nervous after the Folua try, but was delighted to see the Brumbies scrum with a winger packing at no.8 win a penalty to waste some time and pretty much wrap up the game. Though I'm sure if it were the other way around I would have been hurling abuse at the TV for the ref to make the kicker hurry the f up.

Very happy with the win in the end. Not so much with the injuries. Speight is out for 4 - 6 weeks with a broken jaw, Sio is out for a few weeks with an ankle injury and Power is also out with an ankle or knee. I already thought the Brumbies bench was the weakest out of the top Aust teams so this just adds more pressure.

Anyway, it keeps the fight for the top spot in the conference interesting. Though you'd have to give the Reds a very slight advantage at this stage given their away win against the Brumbies.
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Old March 22 2014, 09:40 AM   #10
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Nice to see the Tahs back in the winner's circle but as it was the Rebels it's difficult to get too worked up. A real test lays ahead; two games in South Africa and a game against the Force on the way back. How we fare in those games will be a far better indication of where the Tahs are at.
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Old March 23 2014, 09:51 AM   #11
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

An interesting set of results for the Australian rugby fan. Queensland lost in what seems to have been a whistle-fest, the Brumbies won (eh), and most remarkably the Force clocked up a win against the Chiefs. If anyone had suggested that result was even a possibility at the start of the season they would probably have been directed to the nearest psychiatric ward, but that makes it three wins for the Force so far. Their match against the Tahs in a few weeks is suddenly looking more interesting.
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Old March 26 2014, 02:34 PM   #12
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Brumbies had a good win against the Stormers. Stormers had a lot to play for and really fought hard, but were outdone by some individual class, luck, and a solid set piece. Coleman's second try was a highlight. Swooping in on a ball that just rolled kindly and sat up just before the goal line while the winger escorted it willing it to go out was a testament to how he has played since getting the starting spot due to injuries with chasing everything at full pelt.

It was also great to see the Brumbies scrum destroy the Stormers at the end to get a penalty try. It's a rare thing to see an Australian side so demolish a SA side's scrum like that. Even better was that it was when Moore was off and Sio injured, so Alexander was the sole Wallaby rep in the front row at the time.

In the end what was a very close match got away from the Stormers, who deserved to end up within 7 for a bonus point given how hard they competed.

This weekend the Brumbies face the Rebels and it has "Danger Game" written all over it. Rebels have been pumped by the Force and Tahs and the Crusaders always looked comfortable in their win over the Rebels, so they will be pumped up to take down the Brumbies. The Brumbies have had two very hard weeks against the Tahs and Stormers, with the former also quite emotionally draining as well. On the plus side, Kuridrani and CL should be available for the Brumbies to at least take up some space on the bench.
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Old March 28 2014, 11:49 AM   #13
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Sometimes I hate being right.

Rebels win 32 - 24.

This was the Brumbies of round 1 against the Reds. Lacking the necessary intensity for extended periods, average ball handling skills. Only good point is their set piece is close one of the best in the comp.

There was a great fight back by the Rebels in the back end of each half. The Brumbies look a bit busted at the moment. Their bye can't come soon enough, but until it does unless they find a way to reinvigorate themselves they might start to fall behind the Reds and/or Tahs.

Last edited by Jon-o'-lantern; March 29 2014 at 03:39 AM. Reason: tried to get rid of some of the sour grapes
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Old April 2 2014, 09:15 AM   #14
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Oh, yes - the Waratahs lost in South Africa, in a performance evidently rife with errors and indiscipline and where our pack was off the pace and outmuscled.

In other news, the sun rises in the east and water is wet.
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Old April 7 2014, 04:57 PM   #15
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Re: Rugby 2014 thread

Good to see the Brumbies not let in the last try for a change, in fact they didn't let any in (or least any that counted).

Not so much about what the Brumbies did well, though their kicking game was very good and a Mogg and McCabe were stand outs, but the Blues were just poor. On that performance it was hard to believe they were the best attacking side in the comp so far. However, they also have an absolutely terrible away record of late, I think they said it was 11 losses in a row now. On the plus side their scrum monstered the Brumbies. They were the first side to do so this year.

Only confusing point was with 10 to go up by 23 - 9, Mowen opted for a kick at goal instead of pressing for the bonus point given they had 3 tries. The Tahs were (and still are) a point behind the Brumbies and had a game in hand (two if you count that they've had the bye). It just seemed like a strange thing to do at the time.

Watched the tail end of the Reds vs Force. I thought the Reds were home up by 4. The Force were giving away too many penalties and I expected the Reds might just kick themselves clear. But good pressure saw them break the line and score the match winner. They also then held for 2 mins into injury time and force Cooper (who had given up kicking duties to a knock on the leg) into taking a mid-range drop goal attempt that missed by a fair margin. The unfashionable Force are definitely keeping things interesting.
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