State Of The Union Week 9 – Anyone Else Sick Of The Crusaders?

Crusaders Winning Super Rugby Aotearoa
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

It’s a late column this week and I do apologies. If it’s any consolation I had an 87 on the golf course today. Actually that might have made you all even angrier.

Anyway, last week I picked a mid-season Wallabies squad, which started quite the debate. And, I may have upset the Rugby Gods and even Isi Naisarani (he was incredible in the Brumbies game after I started talking sh*t about him). So, I’ve decided to update the squad every week from here on in.

A lot has happened this week. The Brumbies look beatable, the Waratahs look like a Super Rugby Team and the Crusaders ruined everyone’s good time… again.

Rugby Australia has also announced it’s new Rugby broadcast package. But that deserves its own article, so look out for that one early next week.

Anyway, here it is the state of the union week 9.

Brumbies Had That Coming

That was hard to watch. But, given their lucky escape against the Reds the week before it was probably bound to happen.

I don’t want to take anything away from the Rebels, they deserved the win. Additionally, I don’t want to place all the blame on one player (it’s actually not this players fault).  But, I noticed something when the Brumbies played against the Reds and it was evident again against the Rebels.

The Brumbies struggled in attack, they looked like they didn’t have a plan B. But when looking at the way the Brumbies set-up their attack, it’s evident what the problem is.

The Brumbies play flat which is good for teams who want to play quickly. But a flat attack is predicated on having a fly-half (or inside back) who takes on the line. The reason the inside back needs to take on the line is to keep the defence from shooting out of the line and stopping the ball behind the gain line in midfield. Here’s an example from earlier in the year.

You’ll notice in this clip when the defence shoots up, Lolesio attacks the line and exploits the disconnect in the defensive line. This is where playing flat is advantageous because the defence has less time to react and adjust. But it works because the fly-half is challenging the line.

In this example, you’ll notice the Reds defence shows the Brumbies a similar look. They shoot out of the line but look at how differently Kuenzle attacks the situation. Then conversely how Petaia attacks the shooting defender at the end of the clip.

Because he’s more of a catch & pass fly-half, it’s much easier for a defence to slide off him and shoot up in midfield. Because of this, the Brumbies attack didn’t have as much room to run their move.

I’m not saying that Kuenzle is a bad player. He’s just different from Lolesio and for the Brumbies to have success with Kuenzle in the number 10 jersey is simply to play with slightly more depth. If you watch the above video again, you’ll notice that if the Brumbies play with slightly more depth they more than likely break the line down the left edge.

As long as the Brumbies make this change they’ll be fine. But until they do they’re going to be a little bit vulnerable in attack.

The Rebels play the Reds this week. This has all the makings of an absolute belter. The Rebels will be trying to prove they can string performances together, while the Reds will be trying to bounce back after being completely shellshocked by the Waratahs.

Hurricanes Gave Themselves A Chance But All For Naught

The Hurricanes did what they had to do on Saturday. Short of securing a Bonus point that is.

The Hurricanes got out to a quick start with Umaga-Jansen Scoring at the 7-minute mark and then following it up with this piece of set-piece brilliance 20 minutes later.

The Hurricanes would go into halftime leading 12 – 3, well on their way to a bonus-point win.

The Chiefs came out of halftime, looking hungry to get that first win. They would run one in in the 44th minute through Sean Wainui and Damien McKenzie would covert to make the score 12 – 10. Unfortunately (for the Chiefs) that would be as close as they got. 5 minutes later Dane coles would run this beauty in, stretching the lead to 17 – 10.

Damien McKenzie would take an easy three points a couple of minutes later to bring the Chiefs within striking distance once again.

Another Hurricane try to Jacobus Van Wyk and conversion from Jordie Barrett would stretch the lead to 24 – 13.

The Canes looked poised to take the bonus point win and get them to 22 competition points (even with the Blues and 2 back from the Crusaders). Unfortunately, before the Canes could run in their final try the Chiefs would return serve. Resulting in a final score of 31 – 18

Good enough for 4 competition points leaving them on 21 overall, 1 back from the Blues and 3 back from the Crusaders. It was shaping up to be a brilliant final round with three teams all on the hunt. The Crusaders had a different idea.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs that was their last opportunity to put up a win. A tough year for the Chiefs and Warren Gatland finally ends. I look forward to seeing what 2021 holds for the Chiefs.

Waratahs Send Strong Message

I was sitting on my couch with one eye on the TV (the Waratahs game), the other on my laptop (the Raiders game). I figured since it was raining, and with the Reds having played well the week before it was going to be a fairly boring 10 man footy slugfest.

For the first 5 minutes it appeared I was right. Will Harrison opened the scoring with a penalty goal and I figured it’d be a while before we saw another score. 5 minutes later the flood gates opened (no pun intended) and, It wasn’t long before I had turned the Raiders off and was completely enthralled by what was happening.

I mean Gordan had 3 tries in the first 27 minutes of the game. Here’s the first:

The second:

And, the third:

But the Waratahs weren’t done. Jack Maddocks got in on the party after an unreal carry and offload from Jack Dempsey.

Then, as if the Reds hadn’t had enough Alex Newsome ran in one more just before halftime.

At the Break the Waratahs lead, 31 – 0. At this point, I had to remind myself that the Waratahs were doing this to a team that had gone the distance with competition leaders the Brumbies the week before. The Reds had no answer for the Waratahs attack and if this is a sign of things to come from the Tahs then the rest of the competition should be very worried.

The Tahs would score once more and the Reds would run in 2 for good measure. The game finished up 45 – 12 in a massive upset. But it’s put the rest of the competition on notice. If the Waratahs can keep this up they might make some noise in the finals.

Anyone Else Sick Of The Crusaders?

So there we were, Sunday afternoon (AEST) and three teams still in the hunt for the title. And, even though the Highlanders were no longer in the hunt they had a chance to spoil the Crusaders party. It would have made for an unreal final round! The showdown at Eden Park more than likely would have determined the Champion. And the Hurricanes would have thrown everything they had left at the Highlanders.

And, for 60 minutes it looked like it was going to happen. But then, the Crusaders did what the Crusaders do.

The Highlanders got off to a quick start through Shannon Frizell scoring in the first 2 minutes of the game.

Riche Mo’unga would hit back a few minutes later to tie the score up 7 – 7.

From that point on it was more or less one-way traffic. The Highlanders ran in another try and kicked a penalty goal before the half. Richie Mo’unga managed to put over a penalty kick but the Highlanders held a 17 – 10 lead at the half.

In the second half, the Crusaders would open up the scoring with another penalty goal to make the score 17 – 13.

The Highlanders then nudged themselves further in front through Michael Collins.

With the Highlanders leading 22 – 13 my phone started to light up. Friend 1: “Mate, they might actually do it!” Friend 2: “How good is next week going to be!?” Me: “You know they’re playing Crusaders right?” Friend 1: “Nah they can’t do it again” Me: “Let’s see what happens at the 60-minute mark…”

It was like clockwork: At the 60-minute mark queue George Bridge.

Those two tries occurred during the 61st and 63rd minute. In the 3 minutes after the clock struck 60, the Crusaders went from 22 – 13 behind to 22 – 25 in front.

My phone started to light up again Friend 2: “Unbelievable” Me: “🤷🏻‍♂️ they’ve been doing it for 25 years not sure why you’re surprised” Friend 2: “😂😂😂”.

For good measure, they ran in one more to seal the win.

And, I couldn’t help but smile. They’re an incredible club and they thoroughly deserved that win. For all the pain and anguish they’ve caused me over the years I can’t help but feel a bit of pride for a rival.

Doesn’t mean I’m not annoyed at them for ruining the last round of Super Rugby Aotearoa though…

In all seriousness though congratulations Canterbury Crusaders 4 titles in a row and 11 overall unbelievable.

Super Rugby Aotearoa Power Rankings

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

Super Rugby AU Power Rankings

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

 

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