Super Rugby – WoC Fantasy Contest

Our homework this spring is to know more about Super Rugby. It might be skillful and entertaining without much boshing, aimless kicking or inept gameplans, but that doesn’t mean that we in the Northern Hemisphere should snear at it.

So we are setting up a Fantasy League on Fox Sports excellent flamin’ website, so log in, set up a team and join our league (code 1890-6547).

In the interests of full disclosure, Egg Chasers team is below, and its heavily long South Africans for a reason I’m not really clear on:

Quade Cooper: Rugby Genius

Did you see it?  Did you see Quade Cooper’s two ridiculous line-breaks and offloads for the Queensland Reds in Saturday’s Super Rugby semi-final against the Auckland Blues?  The first, a hand-off followed by two outrgeous dummies, a sprint up the line and an absurd offload to a support runner who was at least five metres away, set up a magnificent try. The second involved quick footwork and superb ball-handling to create space between two defenders, followed by a behind-the-back offload to the supporting flanker, Higginbotham, who was eventually tackled, but a penalty was secured.  Both were simply breathtaking – so good in fact that you’d be forgiven for overlooking the bullet-speed cut-out pass that set up Rod Davies to score his second try that followed in the second half. 

If you didn’t see it, it’s all free to view here, and we encourage you to do so.  As a Eurosport commentator once said, ‘If you’re a fan of brilliance and spectacular action, you’ll want to see this’.

It all has us slightly terrified of facing Australia in the World Cup.  We’ve seen Kurtley Beale shred defences in recent weeks, now Quade Cooper looks even more devastating an attacking threat.  Could he be the equal of Dan Carter?  A grand total of twelve points missed from the kicking tee would indicate that he still has a bit to go (what is it with these Aussie geniuses who can’t place kick for toffee?). Might Australia have a backline to match even that of the Kiwis?  Next week’s final against the Crusaders will give some indication – it cannot come soon enough.

Super Rugby … showtime

After a ludicrously-conference-based season (4 bonus points for having a week off?) with an NFL style random fixture computer, SANZAR got what they wanted: 2 teams from each country in the play-offs, and the best 6 teams in the competition. The haplessness of the Lions wasn’t their fault, the expansion Rebels were always fun, and the what-will-we-do-with-Argentina question was punted into touch for another few years.

And now it’s even better – the teams which made up the top 4 since Easter are in the semi-finals. All Northern Hemisphere fans should look forward to this – the skill levels and intensity won’t be matched in many games this season.

Egg Chasers young brother (Óg Chaser?) went to Rebels-Reds in Melbourne a few weeks back, and he said the most notable thing about the match was no-one, including Quade Cooper, knew what Quade Cooper was going to do next. Except the Reds outside backs. That kind of unpredictablility is very hard to maintain a defensive line against for 80 minutes, and offers the Reds (and the Wallabies) huge attacking possibilities.

The Blues only lost by 6 when they came to Suncorp at the beginning of May, 2 games into a 4 game losing streak, which they arrested with 2 scratchy wins, including against the injury-stricken Waratahs last weekend. They have been consistently inconsistent this year, and we would be pretty surprised if they held out a Reds side that has the look of a team on a mission.

In the other semi-final, there is another team on a mission. The Crusaders have not played at home at all this season due to the Christchurch earthquake, and apparently the longest time they have spent in one place since February is 8 days. And yet they keep on winning. Richie McCaw and Dan Carter will start, and rumour has it the South African officials will let Carter be tackled. The Stormers won the South African conference on the back of a mean defence, but never quite convinced in attack – they were out-scored by all the other South African teams, except the Lions.

One of the side-stories around this game (at least up here) is the presence of Saracens’ hooker Schalk Brits on the Stormers bench. Brits is great fun, but you have to ask why the only fallback they have in the probablity/event of McCaw and Kieran Read making hay at the breakdown is a hooker just off the plane? We fancied the Stormers before the play-offs began, but are edging towards the Crusaders now…

Super Duper Rugby

This weekend is the last weekend of the Super Rugby season, and the last two play-off places are still to be decided, as is which team gets a bye to the semi-finals, along with the Reds.

Currently, the table looks like this:

1. Reds 62
2. Stormers 58
3. Crusaders 57
4. Blues 56
5. Bulls 53
6. Sharks 53

7. Waratahs 52

Six weeks ago, the top six looked set in stone, and it consisted of everyone above except the Bulls. However, like the vampire which keeps coming back to life, six wins on the trot, including two on the road against the Stormers and Sharks, have rocketed them right back into contention. This weekend, the Sharks fly up to Pretoria hoping that last week’s sloppy draw next door in Jo’burg was a blip. If the Bulls win as expected, the Waratahs can sneak into the top six with a win against the hapless Brumbies in Sydney. The Blues have stuttered badly in recent weeks, losing four on the spin, but would be expected to beat the Highlanders at home. We can’t see the Reds losing to the Chiefs, or the Stormers and Crusaders not winning away to the Cheetahs and home to the Hurricanes respectively.

Any win for the Stormers will ensure second place as they have more wins than the Crusaders (it’s wins before points difference for tie-breakers). Is the Reds do lose, the Stormers have a chance to top the table.
We reckon the playoffs could pan out something like this:
Round 1:
Bulls beat Blues
Crusaders beat Waratahs
Round 2:
Stormers beat Crusaders
Reds beat Bulls
Final:
Stormers beat Reds

Moments of the Season Part 1

In keeping with the end of season theme, we’re going to take a look at our favourite moments of the season.  First, Egg Chaser takes us through his, tomorrow Palla Ovale follows suit.

Chris Ashton’s length of the field try against Australia. Australia, fresh from beating the All Blacks in a remarkable game of running rugby, landed in Twickers in November. Its fair to say WoC probably weren’t the only ones expecting the Wallabies to be the only team playing fast and loose, but in an incredible match, they were beaten at their own game.There had been flutterings of something happening for England in Australia in June, but the anthracite-clad red rose announced itself this day, with the highlight Ashton’s try. It established Ashton as a star, and signposted a gloriously unexpected positive attitude, the type of which we had not seen in an English team since 1990.



The best two teams in Europe collide. Coming to Lansdowne Road for the final game of the 6 Nations, England needed a win to complete a first Grand Slam since 2003, when it was also finished off (in style) in Dublin. Less than a minute into the game came the first scrum, something Dylan Hartley was clearly relishing, judging by the way he shoo-ed away the physio. Cue Mike Ross mincing the England scrum, a quick tap penalty by Sexton, Banahan’s outside shoulder exposed by Earls, and 80 metres gained by Ireland. The English platform had been decimated, and Ireland never looked likely to lose afterwards.

Reality dawns on the Northern Hemisphere. Following the rather dowdy and generally low-quality Six Nations, the Crusaders and the Sharks came to Twickers as refugees from the Christchurch earthquake. To stunned Northern Hemisphere fans made comfortable by the likes of Mad Dog Jones deriding the Super XV as basketball, this was a serious shock to the system. The players here seemed to be playing a different sport to that which “graced” Murrayfield and the Millennium Stadium. Not only did we see wonderful running lines and a series of deft and intelligent offloads by Daniel Carter and Sonny Bill Williams, we witnessed a display of powerful scrummaging from the Crusaders and ferocious rucking. Simply incredible.

Clement Poitrenaud not scoring against Clermont. If any passage of play symbolised French rugby over the last decade, it’s this one. Indeed, if any player symbolises French rugby over the past decade, it’s Clement Poitrenaud – a man who mixes the sublime with the ridiculous, sometimes within seconds of one another – just like here. Toulouse covered 105 metres in just six marauding phases, a mesmeric series of play full of offloads, line breaks and runners flooding the support channels, all in a visceral and powerful lunge at Clermont’s throat. Poitrenaud touched the ball 3 times in this magical 45 seconds, once to draw in 2 tacklers to a prop, again in a brilliant half-break to commit 2 more men before offloading to Servat, and the third time to drop the ball when all he needed to do was fall over to make this the try of the century. Which almost made it better.

Sweet Sixteen

The Ospreys were given 400 tickets by Munster for the ML semi-final, and shifted …. 16 (Videprinter: SIXTEEN). The number itself doesn’t need any comment, but the reasons behind it do. Is this what regional Welsh rugby has become? That the best team (statistically that is, the Scarlets are the best team in reality) can attract less spectators than players for their most important game this season? Although, having seen the fayre dished up, perhaps the other 384 were the smart ones.

Down where the weather is nice, the Lions, led by the impressive young Elton Jantjes, broke a 16-year winless run in Australia with a storming win over the rudderless Brumbies, the Southern Hemisphere’s answer to the Ospreys. The same day, the Cheetahs beat the Crusaders to win their 3rd Super Rugby game in a row for the first time ever (ever!). SARU have promised that the Port Elizabeth-based Southern Kings will get a Super Rugby franchise for 2013, and its likely to be the Lions or Cheetahs making way – wouldn’t it be great if last year’s bottom two turned into front runners next year, and gave SARU a headache?

Whither the Wallabies

If South Africa can be characterized as the Bulls (strong setpiece, brutal physicality, hoof the ball into orbit) and NZ as the Crusaders (brilliant in pretty much every facet of the game), then Australia are undoubtedly the Queensland Reds (brittle upfront, majestic backs).

After 10 weeks, the Reds stood proudly on top of the Super XV with a 8-1 record. However, there was a huge caveat – they had played no Kiwi teams. In the last 7 games of the season, the Reds had 4 games against NZ teams – the Hurricanes, Blues, Crusaders & Chiefs. The Blues and Crusaders are among the favourites for the overall title, but the other 2 are also-rans.

Last week (Week 11), they lost 28-26 to the Hurricanes after a horrible first half, and a botched end-game. They are still odds-on to win the Aussie conference, but arguably more important is banking some results and performances against NZ outfits.

This could be a very important portent of things to come, for both the Reds and the Wallabies, and the Reds progress is worth keeping an eye on.