The Australian franchises each faced vastly different tasks coming into Round Two after a fascinating opening weekend of rugby. What questions could Super Rugby 2016 Round Two answer for the Australian franchises after a mixed set of performances across the board in Round One?
Super Rugby 2016 Round Two: Australia
Brumbies 32 Waratahs 15
The blockbuster game of the weekend never really matched the expectations with two late tries adding gloss to a Brumbies victory that was a far cry from their dominance in Round One. Clearly the Tah’s had done there homework and consistently shut down the Brumbies attack in the opening half, ending the first 40 minutes all square. The feat of stifling the Brumbies attack was made more impressive by the fact that twice the Tah’s were down to 14 men. This ill discipline should have been punished but they stayed in the match long enough to frustrate the hosts considerably. The men from Sydney will need to focus on their discipline in the coming weeks as other sides may not be so accommodating for what were soft penalties resulting in yellows for Will Skelton and Dean Mumm.
The second half looked as if it may well continue in the same fashion until Joe Tomane sparked life into the match heading into the final quarter. An instant reply from the Waratah’s scrum half Nick Phipps suggested that both sides were now beginning to play some expansive rugby. Tiring defence from the Tah’s after having battled through the first half finally succumbed to Brumbies pressure as they finished off the game adding a further two tries. The Tahs head into the bye next weekend to reflect on a game that was well within their grasp to win from the outset but for a lack of intent in attack whist the Brumbies face the Force in Perth looking to reignite their backline play.
For the Brumbies no matter how tough this game was, they will be comfortable knowing they are two wins from two.
Reds 6 Force 22
It had to come, especially in the eyes of many Queenslanders, but this was the match that ultimately tipped the scales against Reds Head Coach Richard Graham. Disappointing results and performances from his players have led to him being removed from the position with immediate effect following Round Two. After three years in charge of the Reds he will be replaced for the remainder of 2016 by Nick Stiles and Matt O’Connor.
The new men in charge will not find much promise when they look back at the video of this match as they were out played by the Force. With both sides needing to resort to the boot for points a close contest looked to always be in the Force’s favour. Jono Lance again shined at fly half picking up 15 points from the tee consistently keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Before a Luke Morahan try at the death sealed the win. All the Reds could muster was two shots at goal from Ayumu Goromaru who continues to stand out in a lackluster outfit.
The Force welcome the Brumbies knowing they face a huge challenge but will have gained much confidence from this victory after disappointment in Round One. Whilst the Reds make the trip south to Melbourne hoping to take advantage of the Rebels fatigue after the journey home from South Africa. With new coaches to impress, Reds players will be looking to make a statement of intent.
Bulls 45 Rebels 25
The Rebels woes continued in South Africa as they were relatively easily dispatched by the Bulls. Four second half tries was not enough to salvage a disastrous first 40 minutes and opening five minutes of the second, as the Bulls ran in six unanswered tries after an opening penalty from Jack Debreczeni. Led by ‘Man of the Match’ Bjorn Basson who helped himself to a hat trick at the Rebels expense. A slow start is never conducive to gaining victory on the road but least of all in South Africa. A stuttering performance in Round One from the Bulls should have meant the Rebels went into the match high on confidence. They, however, soon felt the wrath of the Bulls and were unable to muster a response until the 58th minute when the damage had been done.
The Rebels head home for Round Three for the first time this season, as they welcome the struggling Reds. A rejuvenated Reds under new leadership will be no easy prospect but the Rebels showed enough promise against the Force [Round One] and in parts against the Bulls, that they can push on and get over this defeat.
Round Two created as many questions as it answered: The Brumbies were able to tame the Tah’s but what happened to the level of rugby witnessed in Round One and, can they find it again? How disappointed will the Waratahs be heading into the bye on that loss, and can they utilize that to bounce back? Are new coaches the answer to the Red’s woes or should more pressure be placed on the players? Whilst the Force and Jono Lance continue to knock points over the sticks can they march on under the radar? And in Melbourne, can the Rebels get back to winning ways under the lights of home?
All these answers and more coming up in Round Three of Super Rugby 2016.
Round Three Fixtures: Friday 11 March – Force vs Brumbies, Perth | Saturday 12 March – Rebels vs Reds, Melbourne | Waratahs (Bye)