I’ve said it a little bit over the last week, but these here really are crazy times.
The world as we know it is changing before our eyes, and rugby has been cast aside as the globe descends into what is already being described as our Great Depression.
It’s scary. Things are changing so fast that what looked like a good idea on Friday night was impossible barely 48 hours later. Plans for domestic internal rugby competitions to fill the void left by Super Rugby arrived and disappeared in a heartbeat. We didn’t even get a chance to consider what we thought of the ideas for that long.
Equally, and just as the global slowdown has hit sport, so too has it hit the sport media.
And the reality of the situation is that even though suggesting last week we’d continue with the tipping panel and all the great discussion that comes with it for as long as we can, “as long as we can” turned out to be only a week.
This will be the last panel collaboration for the time being, though rest assured that we’ll be back at the earliest opportunity.
And so what better way to go out than to think about what we all love about rugby: the great tries.
My request of the guys this week was simple: what has been your stand-out try of the year in 2020?
And we’d love to hear your thoughts on this too – who knows, there may not be too many more tries scored in 2020, so what we’ve already seen might be it!
In order of arrival in my inbox:
Ruhan Nel (Stormers) against the Lions in Round 3 two minutes after the hooter. The Lions had the match won at Ellis Park. Elton Jantjies put the ball through the sticks with a couple of minutes left on the Highveld clock. 30-26. The Stormers had to manage to get the ball back and then march all the way, phase by phase, and score a try at the death.
As we all know, the Cape side is ‘offensively challenged’. Magically, the Stormers won possession and built a flowing attack. At 81:30 they built an attacking ruck 13 metres from the Lions line. Critically, only one cleaner was sent – the bulky, sulky Frans Malherbe – while the Lions rejected social distancing guidelines and wasted eight defenders to the zone. The next ruck was in line with the poles, about ten metres out.
Three Stormers cleaners came in hard and low, giving the nine immediate ball, which he fired to reserve flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis, who had crucial space, like a 1990s playmaker used to have on every play.
Jean-Luc is footballer, and he used his three seconds to perfection. Dillyn Leyds inside him – a pop pass would have failed. Jamie Roberts behind him – too slow. Ruhan Nel outside him – he was jammed by the rushing Lions fullback Andries Coetzee. Run it himself? The cover defence was closing. His only option was to float a 25-metre pass to Sergeal Petersen on the right wing. He did it, the ball coming from shade to sun like a chip over the goalie.
Petersen represented South Africa in the 100 metres, long jump, and 400-metre relay in 2011. He’s quick. He and Nel played Sevens for the Blitzboks together. What happened next was a bit of magic. Nel turned sideways and sprinted to the exact spot he had to be in if Petersen could collect the ball in the blinding sun, survive Coetzee’s crash tackle and free his hands for the offload.
Bang bang, that’s what happened, and Nel galloped in, celebrating. On the sidelines skipper Steven Kitshoff was dancing his farmer jig and the game was over.
I will miss rugby, the celebration of combat sport and folkloric festival more than I did last week.
This is the end, my lovely friends. Thanks for the laughs, comments and insights of the last few years. I hope we can have some more in the future.
I reviewed several of the tries of this season and the reality is that there are several I liked. Then I started to think about what it is that makes a try beautiful, and I came to the conclusion that it is a matter of taste.
You may like those who come from a kick return or from ball recovery. I even find some of the rolling maul enjoyable.
You may also have to consider the value of the conquest since winning a game on the last play is not the same as supporting a try that does not change the result of the game. At least those points have to make the game interesting or entertaining. In other words, the try has to be meaningful.
I personally like those that are born from a set piece, since they are more difficult to perform because the defences are well predisposed.
With all these in mind I really liked the Henry Speight try in the 70th minute against the Crusaders in Round 6. From a lineout on their own 22 all the way to the end zone to put the game at reach for the Reds. The score is more valuable because the Crusaders defence has been the best in Super Rugby in the last few years.
I will miss you guys. Take care and be responsible. This virus is no joke.
So many good tries in just 47 games this season. So many.
Speight’s was indeed a ripper against the Crusaders for all the reasons Nobes has outlined, and it got my attention straight away coming from set piece. And though I do love dumping on the Blues at any given opportunity, their big lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti was on the finishing end of a ripping try against the Lions in Round 7 that went through only five sets of hands but felt like many more. It did come from broken play, though – just when the Lions thought they were about to get their hands on the ball it was rapidly heading in the other direction.
For the halfbacks it’s hard to top Chiefs scrummie Brad Weber’s ripper against the Waratahs, which was actually his second in about two minutes. The one I’m talking about was his second: a short side raid that came from a piece of Shaun Stevenson sorcery with a flick pass that exactly four Waratah defenders just didn’t see. Just brilliant.
But ultimately I keep coming back to what turned out to be the last try of the Super Rugby season, one that I was very happy to see live. It was also a set piece ripper, and I’m sorry (not sorry) to say it was against the Tahs too.
Scrumhalf Ryan Lonergan gets the ball back on a run-around, wrapping behind Bayley Kuenzle and Irae Simone, and has Tevita Kuridrani running goalpost to goalpost on his outside.
Andy Muirhead initially ran a line from the left wing along the ten-metre line, taking the ball behind Kuridrani, and straightened, having turned Lalakai Foketi and Mark Nawaqanitawase around completely.
Muirhead continues upfield before releasing Tom Banks, who burns Nawaqanitawase on the outside, leaves Jack Maddocks for dead and sells James Ramm the perfect dummy to Wright on the outside before pinning the ears back around the 22-metre mark and beating both Ramm and Foketi to the tryline.
We didn’t know it at the time, but it would indeed be the last try scored before Super Rugby was put on hold. It may become the last try scored in Super Rugby as we know it. But what a stupendously good try it was.
I don’t know what the future holds for us, Roarers, but I do fear that things are going to get worse before they get better. But while ever The Roar keeps publishing, and while ever you guys want to keep discussing it, I’m pretty happy to keep writing about the wonderful game of rugby.
In search of my best try of the year I carefully scrolled through all of Folau Fainga’a’s five lineout maul tries. I loved them all, but in the end I couldn’t separate one out from the rest.
Therefore my top two both involve the hapless Waratahs.
Runner-up is the gem put on by Brad Weber, Aaron Cruden and Shaun Stevenson at Wollongong in Round 6. What’s special about this one is that Weber was set up for a box kick, a play that he and other halfbacks go to as second nature, but his and Cruden’s awareness was such that they recognised how the Tahs hadn’t manned up properly on the blindside, made a snap decision and had a go. Cruden’s touch pass and the way Stevenson drew three defenders to him before freeing up Weber with an outrageous pass were sublime. The look on Weber’s face said it all!
Nosing it out, however, is a rare moment of inventive, free-flowing attack from the Tahs themselves: the try to James Ramm against the Lions in Round 5. This was a beautiful piece of breakout, ensemble rugby marked by players running hard to back up and being honoured by well-executed offloads. Which probably only makes Tahs fans all the more frustrated, wondering why there has been so little of that shown this season!
As tough as the next few weeks and months are going to be for many of us, rugby will eventually be back. And we’ll all be back to share in all of its beauty and imperfections. Stay well.
Brett’s note: Unfortunately Digger hasn’t been able to join us this week, it seems the New Zealand lockdown deadline had a very immediate impact on the interwebs within the shaky isles.
Or at least that’s what he told me. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the Hurricanes scoring exactly no memorable tries in 2020.
What have you got, Roarers? Which try stands out for you in Super Rugby this season?
And please, above all else, please keep yourselves and your families safe.