The Australian conference and its participants have been subjected to much criticism in recent weeks over there performances so far this season in comparison those in New Zealand and South Africa. Prior to Super Rugby 2016 Round Eleven, the Rebels were the highest ranked team from Australia in the overall table languishing below even the worst ranked Kiwi side the Blues. With the Rebels having the bye in Round Eleven it gave the Brumbies and Waratahs a fantastic opportunity to push on for top spot.
Super Rugby 2016 Round Eleven: Australia
Crusaders 38 Reds 5
A capitulation at the hands of a strong performing Crusaders side was no great surprise to Reds supporters but the lack of intensity will have disappointed. A six try to one thrashing hardly sets the tone for the remainder of what is still a disappointing season for them. Lacklustre defence resigned the Reds to having no hope of holding back the Crusaders as they led throughout. The Reds must now regroup to take on another inform side, the Hurricanes. As the Reds look to salvage some pride from this season they will surely have to up their game a great deal if they are to have any hope of containing Beauden Barrett and the rest of the ‘Canes.
Brumbies 23 Bulls 6
After relinquishing top spot in the Australian conference on the back of two losses, to the Crusaders and Highlanders, the Brumbies needed to make a statement in Canberra. Statement or not they gained a much needed win as they ground out victory over the Bulls. With both sides making numerous mistakes it appeared as if it would be the kickers on the night who determined the result, as it would have been but not for a two try salvo early in the second half from the Brumbies. Both sides looked a shadow of their previous selves as they failed to kick start any of the fluid running rugby that had been associated with both sides. The Brumbies leapfrogged the Rebels to set up an enthralling clash in Round Twelve as they travel to Melbourne in what will be a thrilling encounter.
Sunwolves 22 Force 40
Fresh from their historic first ever win in Super Rugby against the Jaguares, the Sunwolves simply could not match the pace and ambition of a fired up Force side. Repeatedly throughout the season the Force had pushed some of the top sides in the competition all the way before falling at the final hurdle. In Tokyo all the promise that had been on show in those matches came together in exciting fashion with the Force running in six tries. The Force, once in the same situation as the Sunwolves as an expansion side, have still yet to truly find their feet in this tournament against the higher ranked sides. Wins like this although great for confidence will count for nothing if they cannot replicate this form in the coming weeks against the Blues and Rebels.
Waratahs 21 Cheetahs 6
In what has been by Waratahs standards a disappointing season so far, the men from Sydney turned the Australian conference on its head as they leapfrogged the Rebels into second place with this victory. With the return of a number of players from injury for the ‘Tahs and a backline brimming with potential and class this should have been a far more comprehensive victory. Yet as before the star players continued to stutter under relentless pressure. Full credit must go the Cheetahs who applied that pressure but in the end the Waratahs had the necessary skill to grind out a win. They will now believe that they can push on and topple the Brumbies at the top although they face a tough task as they face three of the in form sides in the next rounds, the Bulls, Crusaders and Chiefs.
The bye can be a double edged sword at times, the Rebels could only sit and watch as they were replaced not only at the top but in second as well in Round Eleven. As the Brumbies and Waratahs begin to find form it would be expected that their experience of these pressure situations will count for a lot in the closing stages of the competition. A Rebels/Brumbies match up in Round Twelve is the stand out and no matter what the outside influence comment, Aussie pride is at stake in the battle for the top spot.
Round Twelve Fixtures: Friday 13 May – Rebels vs Brumbies, Melbourne | Saturday 14 May – Hurricane vs Reds, Wellington, Waratahs vs Bulls, Sydney|Force (Bye)