The battle for supremacy at the top of the Australian Conference heated up in Super Rugby 2016 Round Five as the Waratahs and the Rebels looked to keep the pressure on leaders, the Brumbies. With the Canberra men facing a tricky tie in South Africa on the back of a loss to the Stormers, it provided ample opportunity for the chasing pack to keep in touch.
Chiefs 53 Force 10
The great thing about the Western Force this season is their consistency. Unfortunately, it is their consistency to capitulate in the final 40 minutes of matches that will frustrate followers of the Force. As with last week’s Round Four test against the Hurricanes, they leaked in a large amount of points in the second half. The Chiefs ran in six tries in a little over 20 minutes in the closing stages of a match which at half time was poised at 12-10 in the home sides favour. Against the ‘Canes it had been 10-3 resulting in a 41-6 loss (again conceding five tries in the second half). Whether it is fitness or composure is less clear than the statistics to the outside eye but the Force radically need to change their approach to the final 40 minutes of matches if they are not to end up at the bottom of the ladder this year.
Rebels 3 Highlanders 27
Much was said in the build up to this match about the credentials of the Rebels after an opening record of 3-1 with their only loss being on the road in South Africa to the Bulls. Comparatively easy fixtures against the Reds, Force and Sunwolves had led many fans to believe that the Rebels could challenge this season. Facing the defending Champions was always going to be a massive test and they struggled to repeat their performances from previous weeks. This was not a slight on the Rebels but a huge plaudit to the Highlanders. As demonstrated against the Waratahs, they matched everything the Rebels tried with ferocious line speed and a tactical kicking nous that was executed by players across the backline. Quite simply the Rebels had no answer to these tactics with a dropped try late in the first half removing any hope they might have had of keeping in the match. It is not all doom and gloom for rugby in Victoria but they will need to reassess their ambitions for the season.
Cheetahs 18 Brumbies 25
The Brumbies started in the best possible way after suffering defeat in the previous round as they were over the try line inside the first five minutes to gain a lead they would not relinquish. Whilst they failed to obtain the try bonus point they will head back to Australia greatly buoyed with two wins out of three on the road. The Cheetahs never really looked like they had the beating of the Brumbies but were able to peg them back sufficiently to grab a late losing bonus point. A win is always good for moral but the performance will need to be addressed as they face much stiffer tests in the coming weeks with the Chiefs first up at home in Round Six.
Reds 13 Waratahs 15
Bernard Foley had the final say in a gripping contest in Brisbane as the Reds succumbed to yet another defeat this year. His late penalty edged the Waratahs to a victory that keeps them in the running for the playoff qualification spots. The Reds who are steadily improving this year since they lost in the opening round to the ‘Tahs 30-10 have now lost two matches by two points and drawn in the last three rounds. They will now head into the bye wondering what they need to do to grab that elusive win. With their pack impressing and their backs starting to fire a little more it surely won’t be too long till they taste the victory. As for the Waratahs they continue to fire hot and cold after an abysmal opening half against the Highlanders last week they showed their true abilities to almost secure a late comeback win in the second half. Against the Reds, however, they again struggled to play to their potential.
As the Rebels and Waratahs continue to chase the Brumbies, they match up in Sydney in Round Six hoping to take the spoils. Whilst the Brumbies face a huge test with the Chiefs at home in what is set to be a cracker if they can replicate their early season form. The Force close out their disappointing New Zealand tour in Dunedin against the Highlanders where the tour could take an even worse turn unless they improve their second half performance.
Round Six Fixtures: Friday 1 April – Highlanders vs Force, Dunedin | Saturday 2 April – Brumbies vs Chiefs, Canberra | Waratahs vs Rebels, Sydney. Reds (Bye)