With all five Australian franchises in action in Super Rugby 2016 Round Nine it was a busy weekend for rugby fans across the country. At this stage of the season it is surprise package, the Rebels, leading the Australian group ahead of the Brumbies who faltered against Kiwi opponents and the Waratahs who are looking to revitalise their push for the qualification spots. Whilst the Reds and Force battled it out for pride and the wooden spoon.
Super Rugby 2016 Round Nine: Australia
Rebels 36 Cheetahs 14
The Rebels may well be top for now but as so often is the case, appearances can be deceiving. Whilst it is a tremendous achievement for them to be in this position they have yet to beat a side currently in the top ten of the overall ladder. They have in fact only played three sides in that top ten and lost by 20 or more points to all of them, the Bulls, Hurricanes and Highlanders. They, therefore, cannot take their place for granted and will need to drastically raise their game in the coming weeks as they face tough tests away to the Blues then back in Melbourne for an all-important clash with the Brumbies. The bonus point victory over the Cheetahs highlighted the quality that is within this Rebels side but they must begin to replicate this form against the top sides.
Force 13 Waratahs 49
The Waratahs bounced back from two defeats in a row against fellow title hopefuls, the Rebels and Brumbies, to put the Western Force to the sword. In a six try demolition the Waratahs appeared to have regained the form of old that had been missing for several weeks as their key players began to reach their potential. After yet another reshuffle in the backline this year with Israel Folau starting at outside centre, the ‘Tahs dominated throughout. This win piled the pressure back onto the Brumbies as with this significant win they stayed in touch in the race for the top spots in the Australian group. Although second place may not be assured of finals footy.
For the Force it was another tough week that consigned them to the foot of the Australian ladder. More disappointingly was the manner of the defeat after they had pushed far better sides than the Waratahs close in the preceding weeks. Narrow losses on the back of hard fought matches had become the norm for the Force but this week they could simply not compete with the ‘Tahs. Early indiscipline allowed the match to get away from them far too soon.
Stormers 40 Reds 22
The Reds have endured a torrid season so far with the only bright spark a solitary victory over the Highlanders. On the back of that result hope sprung eternal for Reds fans as their side faced a two match tour of South Africa. Twice they threatened to compete and twice wilted under relentless South African pressure shipping 40 points in both matches against the Bulls and Stormers. As in earlier rounds individual performances stood out, notably Samu Kerevi again at outside centre who has done no harm to his push for a Wallaby jersey. At 22-17 to the Reds ten minutes into the second half it appeared a famous victory might be on the cards but the Stormers just had too much for the Queenslanders.
Brumbies 14 Crusaders 40
At times this season the Brumbies have looked to have the necessary quality and resilience to go all the way in Super Rugby and compete with the best. This match was not one of those times however, as the Brumbies appeared bereft of ideas and were completely unable to counter the Crusaders game plan. The Crusaders may well have won this match on the back of errors from the Brumbies upon which they capitalised but ultimately they were forced errors. A positive start by the Brumbies was to no avail as the Kiwi side settled into the match much better than their opponents. Whilst this is by no means disastrous for the Canberra men it is a setback as they push for what is becoming more likely the only qualification spot in the Australian group, top. The fixture in Melbourne against the Rebels now takes on even greater meaning although they will have to recover from this round much sooner as they travel to Dunedin to face the Highlanders in Round Ten.
Round Ten Fixtures: Friday 29 April – Force vs Bulls, Perth | Saturday 30 April – Blues vs Rebels, Auckland, Highlanders vs Brumbies, Dunedin, Reds vs Cheetahs, Brisbane| Sunday 1 May Stormers vs Waratahs, Cape Town