State of The Union Week 7 – Rugby Has Laws Not Rules

Joe Powell of the Brumbies playing Super Rugby
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

Week 7 of the Super Rugby Column and unfortunately Phil Kearns makes another appearance. I’m sorry, but he just keeps giving me ammo. I have to report it, it’s my duty as a Brumbies supporter.

It’s become clear that in Super Rugby Au the Brumbies are a cut above the rest of the Australian teams. Meanwhile across the ditch with three rounds to play there are three teams well and truly in the hunt for the Super Rugby Aotearoa title.

I’m still holding out hope we’ll get a Trans-Tasman champions crossover game, but given the current state in Victoria and Sydney that might be a pipe dream.

Never-the-less rugby is on the TV and I’m here to provide some completely biased commentary! Here it is week 7 of State of the Union.

Rugby Has Laws Not Rules

This is probably going to get me in trouble again. But there’s a bit of a recurring theme throughout my column over the last 4 weeks (since Super Rugby Au has kicked off). That theme is Phil Kearns’ horrible commentary.

This week, Phil stated that it’s taking some time for the players to adjust to the new “rules”. Phil, for a bloke with 67 test matches you seem to know very little about the game. You see, rugby has a set of laws, 21 of them if we’re counting. But, it does not have rules. “But Liam, you’re being a bit petty here. What’s the difference between rules and laws?”. I’m glad you asked:

Rules

A set of instructions or guidelines. They’re not open for interpretation. Usually very black and white. Every board game you’ve ever played has a set of rules. Like in Uno when you can’t play a card of a different colour unless the number matches the one in play.

That’s an example of a rule, even though there have been 1 billion arguments started because of Uno, the rule is clear and it’s not open for interpretation.

Additionally, rules are set by an individual for a specific purpose (to play a board game) and are self-governed by the individuals involved in said activity or purpose.

Laws

Are handed down by a governing body. They provide a list of what you can and can’t do and the severity of the punishment associated with breaking those laws.

The governing body elects officials (referees) to interpret these laws and decide on the severity of the punishment when a person breaks one.

But the key difference is that they’re open for interpretation. One referee may see a penalty, while another may see a penalty and a send-off, a third may see no penalty at all. That’s why there’s always 3 or 4 contentious decisions throughout a game.

Sometimes they decide the outcome of the game. But that’s one of the reasons our game has the potential to be so great. Part of the fun is pushing the letter of the law and gauging when the referee deems you’ve broken it.

So I’ll finish with this. It’s a small thing. But Phil, I’d like to reiterate that you’re doing your colleagues, your employer, the fans and the game a disservice by being so underprepared every week. Imagine if I just decided to write this column every week without having watched any of the games? It’d be complete garbage… Like your commentary.

I’d Hate to Be Rugby.com.au Right Now

So last week Rugby.com.au had some pretty awful chat directed at Matt Toomua.

Well, it appears that’s all the motivation that the Rebels needed.

The Tahs were first to strike through an Alex Newsome intercept try.

Will Harrison then kicked a penalty goal to put the Waratahs in front 10 – 9 after 23 minutes. For the first 23 minutes, it looked like a contest. For the remaining  57 minutes, the Rebels were dominant.

Pone Fa’amausili, while again solid in the front row at set-piece. Had obviously read the Instagram comment section swatting away Michael Hooper and three others for his first touch of the game.

And, in the end, the Rebels dominated across the park.  Here are some stats to back up that claim. The Rebels had an astonishingly high percentage of possession at 71%. The Waratahs missed 36 tackles to the Rebels 8. The Rebels had 11 linebreaks while the Waratahs only had 4. The final telling stat is that the Waratahs gave away 17 penalties and, as a result, had two players sent to the bin for repeated infringements.

But that shouldn’t take away from the Rebels performance. As I Said for 57 minutes they were completely dominant and showed some of the classy rugby they’re capable of playing.

The lesson here? Don’t poke the bear Rugby.com.au.

The Rebels look like they’ve turned a corner and could very well contend for the title. They’ll have to continue to build on this performance if they want to get past the Force this week, who look like they’re on the verge of putting together an 80-minute performance.

Here Come The Hurricanes

I’ve been saying this all year. The Hurricanes are a better team than everyone thinks. This week they (kind of) showed it. They did something that very few teams in Super Rugby history have been able to do. They beat the Crusaders at home.

Where I come from we call this type of game a “Shoot-out”. High scoring, with neither team getting out too much of a lead before the other team strikes back.

The difference again proved to be Jordie Barrett’s boot kicking 5 penalties and converting two of the 4 try’s.

The Hurricanes will claim the game was never in doubt. But this one had me on the edge of my seat. When George Bridge scored this one, I text one of my group chats and said: “here we go again, typical Crusaders!”

Call it what you want. The precursor to Bridge’s lucky bounce was some world-class footy from Bryn Hall and Sevu Reece, I’ll definitely be putting that move in my back pocket.

Peter Umaga-Jensen was fantastic in this game. Setting up the 1st of Wes Goosen’s two tries.

And scoring one of his own through a sheer will to get across the line.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention you’d know that the Hurricanes won the game. But if you look at the statistics they tell a very different story.

The Hurricanes missed a ridiculous 41 tackles, they also allowed 16 line breaks, they had less possession of the ball and 300 fewer carry meters than the Crusaders. Normally those statistics would belong to a losing team. But the Canes figured out a way, against (probably) the best professional rugby club in the world.

If the Hurricanes are going to have any shot of winning Super Rugby Aotearoa (noting that there’s no finals series). They’ll need to crusaders to drop another game. Likely against the Blues in Round 10. Additionally, because they have the Bye this week, they’ll need to beat the Chiefs and Highlanders pretty convincingly in the final two rounds.

All in all, it makes for a pretty great final three rounds with only 3 competition points separating 1st and 3rd place.

Brumbies Look Good, But Set-Piece Is Still Letting Them Down

I won’t spend too much time on this one. It’s become clear that the Brumbies are a cut above everyone else in the competition. In my view, it’s their competition to lose. I’m yet to hear an argument for anyone else that has any substance.

Brumbies were on fire right out of the gates. The first of two long-range tries in the first five minutes was scored by Tom Wright.

Followed a few minutes later by one from Irae Simone ft Tom Wright.

It was at this point I thought it was about to be a very long night for the Force. I figured maybe all that time away from home was starting to take its toll. But to their credit they regrouped and the game tightened up considerably. Not allowing another score until the 2nd half.

Even though they put up a good effort defensively, they weren’t able to create much in attack. Only able to break the line once and as the scoreline would suggest they weren’t able to capitalise.

Brumbies still battled at times with their set-piece. The scrum again giving away 4 penalties. The problem now is that there’s a perception that the Brumbies don’t have a good scrum. Once referees make that decision, it’s hard for a team to come back from that. Just ask Bill Young.

I think this is the Western Force’s week. The Rebels are coming off a comprehensive win over the Waratahs. The Force are still trying to prove they belong in this competition, a win over the 3rd place Rebels will go along way to proving that.

What’s Up Chiefs?

It was only 8ish weeks ago that Warren Gatland was voted the greatest coach in the world. But this week the Chiefs let yet another game slip through their fingers. It’s not time to hit the panic button just yet. Gatland has only been there a short time and the Chiefs have been “in” every game they’ve played. This just isn’t their year… So far.

Beauden Barrett returned to the familiar number 10 jumper for the game. He looked like he was right at home early, staying very calm even when the move nearly broke down.

The Chiefs appeared to have started where they finished last week against the Highlanders. Letting the Blues score once more about 10 minutes later to lead 14 – 0.

At around the 20 minutes mark the Chiefs game alive scoring through this nice piece of sleight of hand.

Then, right after halftime, they tied things up through Solomon Alaimalo at the 48-minute mark.

3 minutes later they nudged themselves in front through a Damien Mckenzie penalty goal.

But that would only be short-lived. The Blues struck back through a Finlay Christie try and Beauden Barrett conversion to lead 21 – 17.

As the score would indicate the stats painted a very even picture. Possession was dead even. The Blues had 11 linebreaks while the Chiefs had 10. The Blues missed 18 tackles and the Chiefs missed 19. And, the Blues had 356 carry meters while the Chiefs had 336. So it makes sense that the Chiefs were in the game right until the dying minutes.

Like I said it’s not time to panic just yet. The Chiefs are right there. This time next year I think we’ll be talking about a Chiefs team that’s near the top of the ladder.

Shout Out To New Zealand

I just want to commend New Zealand on the way they handled the Pandemic. They’ve eradicated the disease in their country and as a result, had 33,000+ fans in the stand for this game.

Super Rugby Aotearoa Power Rankings

  1. Hurricanes ▲
  2. Crusaders ▼
  3. Blues –
  4. Highlanders –
  5. Chiefs –

Super Rugby AU Power Rankings

  1. Brumbies –
  2. Reds –
  3. Rebels ▲
  4. Waratahs ▼
  5. Force –
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