Fox Sports rugby commentator Greg Clark runs the rule over all the round five Super Rugby action, highlighting the Brumbies’ gritty victory over the Waratahs as a first-class advertisement for the Australian conference.
IT was an eventful round five of Super Rugby as the Brumbies brought the aggression out in Michael Cheika and the Force pulled off a stunning upset.
There was also a first Super Rugby try to code-jumper Benji Marshall while the Reds failed to make the most of their opportunities as the Sharks maintained their unbeaten record under Jake White.
There were also wins for the Chiefs, Crusaders, Hurricanes and Lions.
BRUMBIES TRUMP TAHS TO PUT HYPE THROUGH WINDOW
We were told it was going to be a heated local derby full of aggression and ill-feeling yet it was clear only the Brumbies arrived at GIO Stadium with their minds fully focused on a round-five victory.
There may have been rumours of a Waratahs “get-square” with alleged dobber Ben Mowen, but it was the Brumbies who thundered into the breakdown with the hostility of a man scorned.
Led superbly by veteran front-rowers Ben Alexander and Stephen Moore, the Brumbies pack completely outplayed the Waratahs’ forwards, laying a wonderful platform for their in-form backline in the process.
The Waratahs confidence – and the NSW coaches box – were left worse for wear in Canberra Saturday night after the aggressive Brumbies claimed a satisfying victory over their fierce rivals.
Matt Toomua then did the rest from fly half and although he would be sin-binned during the second half, the No.10 was clearly the superior playmaker ahead of Bernard Foley.
Jesse Mogg grabbed his fourth try in four games by outsprinting Israel Folau to a bouncing ball beyond the tryline while the encounter was tailor-made for halfback Nic White, who opened the try-scoring with a sniping effort in the 15th minute.
The game was as good as gone by half-time and when Tevita Kuridrani finished off a sweeping Brumbies movement 13 minutes after the resumption, the Waratahs looked set to be headed for another flogging in Canberra.
But to the visitors’ credit they found a way back into the match on the back of a try to Michael Hooper and repeated infringements from a tiring Brumbies side.
That was confounded when Toomua went to the bin, allowing the Waratahs to close within two points after the now-obligatory Israel Folau five-pointer.
But that would be as close as the Waratahs would get as the Brumbies finished off their fierce rivals with a penalty in the final seconds.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika was left to lament the refereeing of the scrums at full-time, saying “it’s just taking far too long”.
Whether that was what led to the alleged window-bashing in the Waratahs box remains to be seen, but it was one of the few gripes Cheika could have after his side finished 15-9 up in a lopsided penalty count.
HIGHLANDERS HOLD NO FEAR FOR FORCE
Written off as wooden-spoon contenders just a few weeks ago, Western Force are now just one spot outside the top six after a second straight bonus-point win and sixth consecutive triumph over the Highlanders.
It was a victory built on a superb all-round team effort but highlighted by standout performances from hooker Nathan Charles and form No.8 Ben McCalman, who both crossed for first-half five-pointers.
Western Force has scored successive Super Rugby victories after Highlanders five-eighth Hayden Parker missed a conversion on the siren.
The visitors led 21-16 at the break and wrapped up a four-try bonus point when Junior Rasolea regathered his own charge-down and sprinted to the corner in the 56th minute.
But as has been the case so often in their nine-year history, the Force were made to scrap all the way to the final siren for a vital four competition points.
In fact, they finished the match playing rugby league after Adam Coleman and McCalman were both given an early shower in the 73rd minute.
McCalman could find himself in some trouble after he was cited for the lifting tackle that led to his sin-binning but it was the only sour point to come out of a gutsy Force victory.
The Highlanders had the chance to snatch a draw after Hayden Parkes made the most of his side’s two-man advantage with a try inside the final minute. But the replacement No.10 failed to convert his own try, the kick coming up short as the siren sounded.
The Force face a greater test of their recent resurgence this weekend when the undefeated Chiefs hit Perth on Saturday night.
But should Michael Foley’s side play with the spirit and intensity of their Dunedin effort it will be anything but another comfortable four points for the two-time defending champions.
REDS RUE MISSED CHANCE TO BITE SHARKS
There are no easybeats in Super Rugby, as the Force and Lions have shown just this round.
So when you come up against a really good side – like the ladder-leading Sharks – you can’t afford to be anything but near perfect if you want a shot at victory.
The Reds missed a great opportunity to at the very least give themselves a chance of breaking their Durban drought, or at best claim their first triumph in Natal since a 6-5 result way back in 2004.
Three butchered tries – centre Mike Harris dropped the ball with the line wide open, and then fullback Aidan Toua did the same, twice – prevented the visitors from making crucial inroads into a clinical Sharks outfit.
Or, as Reds coach Richard Graham later put it: “That’s probably the difference between being down 28-20 and leading 27-25.”
The ladder leading Sharks have held out fast finishing Queensland Reds to claim a 15-point win and continue their unbeaten run.
Ill-discipline also proved costly, with Beau Robinson sin-binned for pulling down a player in the lineout when Queensland trailed by eight points with the best part of 15 minutes left on the clock.
Dale Chadwick’s match-sealing try in the Sharks’ 35-20 victory came when the Reds were still down to 14 men.
There were positive signs for the Reds, not least of all Will Genia improving his running stats for the season – they previously stood at 0 runs for 0 metres. And what do you know, the Wallaby scrumhalf darted over for a crucial five-pointer.
But the Reds will need to be much more clinical themselves when they travel to Johannesburg to take on the surprise-packet Lions who have already racked up three wins this season.
Meanwhile the Sharks show no sign of slowing down.
REF DROPS THE BALL IN BLUES’ LOSS TO LIONS
When is a knock-on not a knock-on? When it involves a player being tackled over the tryline and losing the ball forward – sorry, having the ball “ripped” from his hand in the process, apparently.
One of the strangest refereeing decisions in recent memory marred the Lions’ 39-36 win over the Blues in Johannesburg, with a controversial try awarded to Coenie van Wyk.
The Lions fullback dived on a loose ball that had been spilt by forward by centre Deon Van Rensburg as he was tackled by Blues winger Charles Piutau.
Incredibly, referee Stuart Berry called for a Television Match Official ruling and even more bizarrely both Berry and the TMO agreed Piutau had stripped the ball out of Van Rensburg’s hands.
Benji Marshall has claimed his first super rugby try, but his side left its run too late as the Lions claimed their first win over the Blues in eight years 39-36
What ever happened to the onus being on the ball-carrier to control possession?
The decision to award the try was certainly baffling, and left the local television commentators stunned.
“It’s definitely gone forward, I don’t even know why there’s a debate,” one of the callers said.
It was even more galling for the Blues because after rallying back from 23-3 to 23-15, they fell behind 30-15.
John Kirwan’s side never stopped coming but in the end ran out of time to reel in the Lions, who again had the boot of Marnitz Boshoff, who kicked three conversions, four penalties and two drop goals for a 24-point haul, to thank.
On the plus side, former NRL star Benji Marshall impressed at fullback in his starting Super Rugby debut, capping off a nice attacking display with a jinking run to the line for his first try since switching to the 15-man game.
UNDEFEATED CHIEFS STILL THE TEAM TO BEAT
The Sharks continue to look ominous over in South Africa, but there’s another unbeaten outfit that deserves just as much respect – the Chiefs.
It sounds silly saying the back-to-back champions aren’t getting enough credit but a stop-start opening season (two games, then a bye) and the hype surrounding Jake White’s arrival at the Sharks has combined to ensure the talk hasn’t been as focused on Aaron Cruden, Liam Messam an co. Yet.
Despite providing every reason to claim the spoils, the Melbourne Rebels left it too late, going down to the Crusaders 25-19.
The Chiefs returned from their week off to remind everyone of their strength, holding off a sustained charge from the Stormers to run out 36-20 winners in Hamilton, picking up their first bonus-point of the season in the process.
That victory put Dave Rennie’s side five points clear at the top of the New Zealand conference with a game in hand over their nearest rivals – the Crusaders, who edged past the Rebels in a scrappy affair in Melbourne.
They now embark on a three-week road trip that takes in the in-form Western Force, Bulls and Cheetahs where they will look to prove they are just as strong outside New Zealand.
The absence of backs Charlie Ngatai and James Lowe through injury and fellow attacker Robbie Fruean, whose heart issues have resurfaced, will test their depth.
But if there’s any side that has shown it can continue to roll along regardless of what challenges are thrown their way it’s the Chiefs.
Don’t miss another classic Nick Cummins interview below!
The best of Nick Cummins interesting post match presser following the Western Force’s win over the Highlanders