Super Rugby 2016 Round Twelve saw the Australian Conference turned on its head as the Waratahs began to find form at the right stage of the season. The ‘Tahs after struggling for much of the year have now leapfrogged the early pace setter the Brumbies and Rebels into the much coveted top spot which is appearing more likely to be Australia’s sole representative in the Finals. A tough Aussie derby in Melbourne began the weekend of action before the Reds travelled to New Zealand and the ‘Tahs welcomed the Bulls to Sydney.
Rebels 22 Brumbies 30
A fantastic showing of rugby in Melbourne on Friday night was enough to keep the Rebels pushing their more experienced opponents for first place in the Australian conference. Both sides showed clear early intent that they were not going to settle to grind out a victory with the ball seeing plenty of air and pushed out wide. The Rebels dreams of making the Finals may well be a distant memory as they fell seven points behind the leaders with tough matches to come against the Chiefs and a must win match against the Force before the break for the June Internationals. Although constantly in the match on the scoreboard, the Rebels never really looked like they had the beating of the Brumbies. Solid defence was great to see after recent rounds were it appeared the defensive abilities of the side had taken a backwards step but under constant pressure from the away side it was apparent that the deadlock would be broken.
As for the Brumbies it was a match that they appeared to be in control of from start to finish. Despite injuries in the back line to key players the side on the night was overflowing with experience and talent. The likes of Stephen Moore, David Pocock and in particular Scott Fardy led their side to victory in a match they needed to win. By removing the emotion and intensity of derby from equation by the leadership on the field, the Brumbies were simply too clinical for the Rebels to contend with. It can now be assumed that the race for the top is now a two way battle between the Brumbies and the Waratahs and the Canberra based side will fancy their chance of hitting top prior to the International break with a home game against the Sunwolves to come after the bye.
Hurricanes 29 Reds 14
Much was made in the media in the build up to this match of the effectiveness of Ayumu Goromaru since his move to the Reds. With some outlets suggesting it was make or break for the Japanese international on his time in Brisbane. It was the boot of Goromaru who kept the Reds in this contest which on paper and recent performances they had no right to be contenders in. Yet they were for much of the match in a fantastic showing from the Queenslanders whose performances continue to show sparks of positivity whilst never being maintained. At the 50 minute mark the Reds were within two points of their opponents but they failed to keep the same intensity in the closing stages of the half. A late try for the Hurricanes added gloss to the scoreline and difficult week in which five players were stood down for off field transgressions. For the Reds it is a case of yet another bit part performance were they showed their potential but failed to realise it fully on the field.
Waratahs 31 Bulls 8
The Waratahs ability to score tries across the team now sees them sitting top of the Australian Conference. Despite having played a match less than the Brumbies they have secured try bonus points on three occasions whilst also fighting hard to obtain three losing bonus points. The new rejigged bonus point try scoring system has added another dash of spice to Super Rugby making it all the more impressive from the ‘Tahs. It is critical points such as these that may well decide the fate of the Australian front runners. The match up against the Bulls never appeared to be in doubt despite the early loss of Kurtley Beale to injury (and Wasps). The home side dominated throughout led excellently from the front by scrum half Nick Phipps. The quality of this Waratah’s side is evident to see on paper and they are beginning to show it on the field at just the right time.
Round Thirteen Fixtures: Friday 20 May – Crusaders vs Waratahs, Christchurch | Saturday 21 May – Reds vs Sunwolves, Brisbane, Chiefs vs Rebels, Hamilton, Force vs Blues, Perth|Brumbies (Bye)