State of the Union Week 13 – Melbourne Rebels First Finals Appearance

Melbourne Rebels After Thier Win Against the Force
Photo Credit; Getty Images/Cover Art

It’s finals time, and the Melbourne Rebels make the first Finals appearance in their club’s 9-year history. I’m happy for them, and, I’m even happier that they knocked the Waratahs out in the process. There’s plenty to discuss this week on the column; Are the Brumbies in trouble? England 7s players fight for survival and the Rugby Championship is coming to Australia!

So jump in and as always I look forward to hearing your opinions in the comment section.

Should the Brumbies Be Worried?

If you just looked at the scoreboard. You’d assume that the Reds put in a fairly comprehensive performance against the Brumbies last weekend. And, you’d be right.

I’m always one to give credit where it’s due. They performed really well and got the win they probably deserved back in round 6. But, if we dive deeper into the statistics it brings up some interesting things to think about.

The Brumbies lead the game in just about every major statistical category. Possession (62% in 2nd half), territory (67% in 2nd half), clean breaks, defenders beaten, offloads and rucks won. Then, we move down to turnovers and the Brumbies turned the ball over a whopping 28 times. Conversely, the Reds only turned the ball over 15 times.

The Brumbies created opportunities but looked complacent in patches and lacked those finishing touches they normally display. These are just two examples, but they kind of sum up the brumbies day.

At this point in the game, the Reds were leading 8 – 0. And you’d back Kuridrani to score this 10 times out of 10.

And this one late in the game would have put the Brumbies right back in the game with the Reds leading 18 – 7. By the last pass was just far enough behind Kata to allow the Reds defence to close the space.

Having said all of that the Reds showed a lot in defence. They made 143 tackles at an 85% success rate. And, when presented with opportunities they took them with both hands. I mean they took the first on they had and I think this is a contender for try of the year.

And I think it rattled the Brumbies.

It’s not panic stations for the Brumbies but these are the types of errors that can sometimes creep in after a bye, not the week before. And now that they have the week off they’re going to have a lot of work to do to make sure these errors don’t present themselves again in the Grand Final.

If the Reds can build on last weeks performance they’re going to be difficult to beat in the finals. I don’t think the Rebels are going to have enough to get past the Reds. But stranger things have happened, right?

Melbourne Did It…

I don’t think I’ve ever been more conflicted in my life watching a game of footy.

On one hand, I wanted my friend and former colleague Tim Sampson to get his first win as coach of a Super Rugby team. On the other hand, as a lifelong Brumbies supporter, I love nothing more than revelling in the misfortune of the Waratahs. And a Rebels win ensured that the Waratahs would not make the finals.

I feel for the Force, this was probably their most complete game. And with every Rebels punch they had a counter. The game was a good old fashioned shootout with neither team ever getting out too much of a lead.

The Force broke the seal through an Ian Prior penalty goal. The Rebels would then score 15 their first try 15 minutes later. The Force answered through this Henry Taefu finish.

The Rebels would then Answer through Reece Hodge 8 minutes later, Andrew Ready would score two either side of Halftime, and Stander would add another for good measure. But Matt Toomua’s boot kept the Rebels within striking distance. Then Dane Haylett-Petty Answered with this one at the 60-minute mark.

I think you get the idea…

With just a minute remaining the Force led 30 – 27. At this point I found myself cheering both for a Force win and for the Rebels to snatch the game… It was really confusing for me.

But the Rebels were relentless in the final minutes, probing the line over and over again. The Force did unbelievably well to hang on as long as they did. But right at the death, the Rebels did it, they fought their way into their first finals appearance in Super Rugby history.

But again I have to give the Rebels credit. They backed themselves to win this game by more than 3 points when they opted to end the game last week. And they did it.

Congratulations Melbourne, I hope you prove me wrong in the Semi-Final, but I think this Reds side is peaking at the right time.

England 7s Fight For Survival

I haven’t had much of an opportunity to write about 7s since the pandemic started. But this is a really sad story. And it’s a shame that it hasn’t been more widely reported.

The Pandemic has been incredibly difficult for everyone, and basically all organisations have had to make difficult decisions. The RFU is no different. And, in an attempt to cut costs they’ve decided to cut both the Men’s and Women’s 7s programs.

England won’t field a team in the next iteration of the HSBC world series, likely to kick-off at some point in 2021 (if at all). Additionally, it means that England may not contribute any players to team Great Britain for the Olympics.

But in an act of Solidarity, the England 7s players have banded together to try and rebuild their program.

The players posted on Twitter

“It’s been a turbulent ride. Last summer we were on cloud nine after our men’s and women’s teams qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Last month, however, our contracts were terminated due to major funding cuts, meaning the end of the England 7s programme as we know it. 

“So what now? As players, we want to take matters into our own hands and re-build our programme. Faced with redundancy, some of us signed for new clubs, a few of us have transitioned into coaching roles, while others have entered the working world to earn a living. Each players’ journey is unique but all of us have our sights set on the same goal – to compete on the Olympic stage.

“We push ourselves to the limit every day, so why stop now?  The aftermath of Covid-19 has hit the world of professional sport hard and we’re up against multiple challenges in our mission to succeed. We know it’s not going to be easy, but we can’t sit back and let the opportunity pass us by. We are England 7s, we’re relentless and we love what we do.”

The Cover will keep you guys updated as this story progresses, but for now, follow them on Social Media and share everything!

Rugby Championship Comes to Australia

This is great news! And a huge boost not only for Rugby Australia but for Rugby generally.

The proposed tournament will take place over 6 weeks, with 2 games to be played each weekend. At this stage, it looks like games will be doubleheaders and predominantly played in NSW.

It’s unclear by November how many people will be able to attend the games, but it’s awesome that we’re going to get some test footy. And, without a doubt, it will add some much-needed value to Rugby Australia’s new broadcast package.

However, it’s not without its challenges. The NSW is allowing teams to train in a bubble while undergoing their mandatory 2 week isolation period. That’s the first checkpoint and ultimately why Australia was made the preferred hosting nation.

But, the tournament going ahead is still contingent on approval to bring three teams into the country. I don’t see there being any issues with New Zealand, they’ve been one of the most successful countries in fighting the pandemic. They’ve already managed to play a full Super Rugby season and their provincial competition has just kicked off.

South Africa appears to be on the right side of the curve. The country is now reporting less than 2,000 new cases per day for the first time since the 2nd of June. However, South Africa’s provincial rugby is planning to make a return in October. This would only allow players a 4-week window to get back to match fitness. It’s definitely cutting it fine.

For Argentina, well, they’re right in the middle of a big uptick in cases, reporting more than 10,000 new cases daily, including Pumas head coach Mario Ledesma and 7 of his players. Additionally, the Pumas aren’t guaranteed to get an opportunity to play any games in the lead-up. Rugby Australia is looking at bringing back an Australia A fixture to help. But for many of the Argentinian players, they won’t have had an opportunity to play since the shutdown in March.

Even if we can’t get the full Rugby Championship contingent surely we could just play 5 Bledisloe’s?

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