Whilst the Waratahs had the bye, they would have been able to look on and watch a feast of great rugby in both of the Aussie derbies in Super Rugby 2016 Round Three.
The Brumbies faced the Force in Perth, looking to lay the perfect foundations for their tour to South Africa by beating the Force and becoming unbeaten in the opening rounds. The Force were looking to build upon their victory over the Reds in round two, hoping to deny the Brumbies that reward. In Melbourne, a potentially rejuvenated Reds side with new coaches at the helm needed to put past results behind them as they took on the jet-lagged and injury hit Rebels.
Super Rugby 2016 Round Three: Australia
Force 14 Brumbies 31
The Force were unable to find any answer to the Brumbies running rugby and further hampered themselves with consistent indiscipline during the first half. A hotly contested match threatened to ‘boil over’ on numerous occasions. with opposing captains Stephen Moore and Matt Hodgson having plenty of niggle between each other, as neither side would take a backwards step. With Pek Cowan in the bin, the Brumbies were able to run up a 17-0 lead that they never looked like relinquishing in the match. The Brumbies superiority at the breakdown stemmed mainly from David Pocock as well as a team effort to constantly be a nuisance at the tackle area. They now have the perfect springboard to tackle the rigours of an arduous South African tour.
For the Force however, things look far less promising as they failed to match the Brumbies for the full 80 minutes. The aforementioned indiscipline issues in the first half must have been massively frustrating for the coaching staff to witness. Supporters inside NIB Stadium began to get on the back of referee Andrew Lees, as he continually penalized the home side. Ultimately though, his decisions were correct no matter how much it frustrated the Force’s supporters. With Jono Lance having to leave the field for a blood bin the Force appeared to lose much of their go forward, as well as his work with the boot. Although an able deputy, Peter Grant was not able to continue the go forward that Lance had done in previous weeks.
The Force now face the unenviable task of a trip to New Zealand to face the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Highlanders. This will be a true test of both their physical and mental capabilities, with much improved performances needed if they are not to suffer a whitewash on tour.
Rebels 25 Reds 23
A week after the dismissal of their Head Coach, the Reds fell ‘just short’ of justifying that decision with a victory. A win, however, would have only succeeded in papering over the cracks that are apparent within the franchise. A slow start to the match ensured that they would always be chasing the Rebels, who ran out to an early 16 point lead with an impressive opening salvo. Reds flanker Henrik Tui kick started the comeback just before half time, as he carved open the Rebels from a lineout win, setting up Nick Frisby.
Despite large amounts of possession and territory, they were unable to overturn the deficit and must now return to the drawing board, before facing the Blues and Waratahs back home in Queensland.
The Rebels will be disappointed with those final minutes of the first half, when they allowed the Reds back into a match that was ‘theirs for the taking’. Nervy moments at the end were not welcomed by Coach Tony McGahan, while the performance from fly half Jack Debreczeni will have pleased him to no end. Despite a couple of missed penalties, his boot was the difference between the two sides though.
Significantly, history was made as local rugby product Sione Tiupolotu added extra verve to the evening, as they held on for the win. They now head to Tokyo to face the Sunwolves, looking to build some needed momentum for their push for a finals berth.
Round Three in Australia reinforced the hopes of the Brumbies and the fears of Reds fans, whilst the Rebels and Force are both yet to show signs in either direction. More tests await for all the Australian franchises but they are all showing some promise even the Reds in minor doses and Round Four is sure to be another cracker.
Round Four Fixtures: Friday 18 March – Hurricanes vs Force, Palmerston North – Waratahs vs Highlanders, Sydney | Saturday 19 March – Sunwolves vs Rebels, Tokyo – Reds vs Blues, Brisbane | Sunday 20 March Stormers vs Brumbies, Cape Town