Round five of Super Rugby AU promised to be one worth watching and the games in action was right up there again, with one of the best weekends of the competition. Maybe we should put the Waratahs on the bye each weekend…. We got our second match of Super Time this season in the weekend opener, that actually delivered between the Force and the Rebels. Then on Saturday night, the game of the round saw the Brumbies sneak home with the greatest get out of jail card, after the full time hooter against the resurgent Reds. Lets take a look at how it all unfolded…..
FORCE 20 vs 25 REBELS
This was a grudge match for the Force after the battle these two sides faced three years ago, as it was one of these two teams faced with getting the chop from Super Rugby and we all know how that story went.
The conditions were perfect for a running game of rugby and both sides went about their game early with that in mind, with plenty of passion in the play to boot.
The Force seemed intent early to score again in groups of five and seven but finally put that to the bin in favour of getting on the scoreboard this week, Jono Lance happy to chip over the penalty and set the scorers in action after eleven minutes of play.
It was the 50th cap for Isi Naisarani, but the celebrations were cut short when he was sent to the bin for a number of ruck penalties near the Rebels line. The Force had no intentions of going for the posts this time, hitting consecutive penalties to the corner.
The lineout maul was the order of the day for the Force, twice from the penalty and the second time they got it spot on. The forwards charging ahead and the backs jumping in for that little bit extra to help the pack over for the opening try. Fergus Lee-Warner from the second row credited the try, nope hes not a hooker but a lock. With the Lance conversion, it extended that good start lead they love to play to 10-0.
A man down, no problem for the Rebels. With a lineout five meters from the Force line, the Rebel pull out the training pitch set move down the narrow front of the lineout. Some quick, slick hands and Jordan Uelese bounced his way over in the corner to put the Rebels finally in this game. To’omua’s kick was outstanding from the sideline and cut the lead back to just three.
The Rebels ended the half with a shot a goal from half way, which Reece Hodge struck over off the post. That evened up the scores to 10-10 at the break, an entertaining and very even half of rugby from the two sides.
The second half was a stalemate for the opening ten minutes before the Force had their captain Jeremy Thrush sent off for the killing the ball in a ruck a meter away from his own line. The Rebels turned down an easy three at the first asking, but when receiving another penalty quickly after, decided to grab the safe option and take the lead.
Once again, a player down gives a lift to the side missing! A sensational dummy and short pass from Nick Frisby put Jono Lance in a gaping hole and launched the attack that went through a couple more sets of hands before the try scoring sensation Byron Ralston, finished brilliantly in the corner to complete a fantastic move and give the lead back to the Force, 17-13 with the conversion.
That sparked the Rebels into life. A mistake quickly after the kick off opened up the chance for the Rebels to hit back and swiftly they did. Matt Philip doing it all himself, twisting in the tackle, busting through multiple defenders from a few meters out to plant it under the sticks for an easy To’omua conversion and the lead back, 20-17.
The points were flowing thick and fast now, Thrush back from the bin, the Force quickly grabbed themselves a penalty just inside the Rebels half and swiftly looked to Jono Lance who slots the penalty to tie it back up again. Super time was sniffing…..
As the match was wearing into its final stanza, the Force were starting to get a grip on the game and look like they may cause an upset. A couple of big turnovers launched them up the field with five to play and and gained an opportunity to grab a penalty shot at goal. Sadly Lance split his kick to the left and it remained 20-20.
With time up on the clock, the Rebels received a penalty sixty meters from the Force line which Reece Hodge stepped up to take but his shot fell just a meter or two short and we were heading into SUPER TIME!!!
Just as quick as it started, Super Time was over again! An error by the Force captain Thrush off the kick off gifted possession back to the Rebels who really pumped up the tempo and the big forwards hit up into the twenty two. A few phases later and Isi Naisarani crashed over to put the feather on his 50th cap with the winning play.
A harsh result for the Force, who I feel were the better side throughout most of the match up and deserved to grab their first win. Jono Lance and Kyle Godwin were great in the backs, that experienced worked well for the Force. The usual suspects in the back row were again a “force” to content with and continually put their side in good positions.
Matt To’omua had a really good game for the Rebels on attack and defence, sadly a lot of his team mates were half asleep around him. Was good to see Isi Naisarani back in action and showed glimpses of what he can do for the Rebels.
BRUMBIES 22 vs 20 REDS
The two undefeated sides in Super Rugby AU were set to do battle this weekend to leave only one remaining. The Brumbies back at home and still the leading contenders despite some indifferent form, they know how to win.
The Brumbies know their strengths and set about enforcing their dominance in the forwards from the first minutes. A number of penalties inside the Reds twenty two gave the Brumbies plenty of chances to put that play in effect and almost inevitably, Folau Fainga’a crashed over at the back of that lineout maul.
Although most of the first half following the opening points was positioned around the middle of the park, the Reds played their way into the game with some good periods of control, but ultimately couldn’t finish any chances off with errors and some aimless kicking.
When the Brumbies got back in the right area of the field, its a copy paste of what happened earlier. Lineout, maul…. try! Folou Fainga’a getting a double and the Brumbies with one trick in mind when the opportunity strikes. The Reds do get on the scoreboard through the boot of O’Connor to open their account shortly after.
The Reds will feel harshly treated as they sit in the sheds for half time, having a try disallowed by the referee who was watching the home town big screen of a big tackle four phases before they go eighty meters to score. The ref deeming the thumping hit on Tom Banks after losing the ball to be high and dangerous even after the Reds went the length of the field and scored an outstanding try by returning Jordan Petaia. An incredible harsh call for a tackle that was hardly even a penalty.
The Brumbies Bayley Kuenzle blows the penalty shot at goal wide and the two sides head for a break with the score fourteen points to three.
The Reds get instant revenge very early in the second half. A messy exchange from the Brumbies falls eventually for the Reds who finally manage to clean up the loose ball. Its that man Petaia again who half breaks and offloads brilliantly to Harry Wilson and the number eight bolts over in a footrace against his opposite number. The Reds are back in the game.
The momentum had fully swung heavily to the Reds. Another extraordinary run from Harry Wilson perfectly in support of Filipo Daugunu after O’Connor send the flying winger through a hole with a no look inside pass. Angus Scott-Young is quickly on the ruck just a meter or two out and crashes over the line. An outstanding turnaround by the Reds who now lead by three.
James O’Connor continues the Reds period of dominance with a big forty meter penalty to drag the lead out another three points and out to six in total.
The Reds had done so well to keep the penalties clean in their own half but with just six minutes remaining, an offside penalty from O’Connor gave that chance again for the Brumbies to strike. Into the corner they go and with no Fainga’a on the field, its instead his replacement Connal McInerney who rolls over in the corner to cut the Reds lead to just one point as the conversion sails wide to the left from Mack Hansen.
With just three minutes remaining, who will have the nerve to finish this game off!? The Reds impact off the bench from usual starters like Tate McDermott and Fraser McReight could have been the difference maker.
With time well and truly up, the Reds give up a penalty forty meters out from their own line and step up a man in only his fifth Super Rugby game, the new hero, Mack Hansen! A calmly struck penalty turns the lead around denies the extremely impressive Reds from what would have been an incredible victory. The Brumbies and the lineout maul get the job done, as tough as it was, by just two points, 22-20.
An incredible twisting and turning match to close out the round of Super Rugby AU. Plenty of standouts but I am impressed from the early showings from young ten Bayley Kuenzle. Speaking of young guys, Nick Frost was another who stood out but the Brumbies pack as a whole again stood up and even though you know whats coming, they make it near impossible to stop.
Oh the poor Reds, how good they were for a lot of this match! James O’Connor controlled the game so well for the Reds and the return of young Jordan Petaia was a joy to watch as he made every meter look easy. Big number eight Harry Wilson was the main standout though, not just in his core jobs, but the way he supports his team in possession is a quality attribute.
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