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Opinion

Super Rugby AU Round 9: Tight, but not tipping panel tight

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26th August, 2020
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Super Rugby AU has set itself up for a thrilling conclusion, with only two points separating the Brumbies and Reds, and just one splitting the Rebels and Waratahs below them. The final finishing order won’t be fully known until the end of the last round next weekend.

This weekend’s equations?

The Brumbies on 23 can wrap up the minor premiership with a win over the Force in Canberra on Friday night. That would put then at least six points clear of the Reds, who have the bye this weekend and host the Brumbies in the final round.

The Waratahs on 15 must beat the Rebels on Saturday night (a bonus point would also be handy) to remain a mathematical playoffs chance with the bye next weekend. A win would put them five clear of the Rebels on 14, and they’d then be sweating on the Rebels-Force result in the final round.

The Rebels can secure a playoffs berth by beating the Waratahs, and then a combination of their result over the Force and the Reds-Brumbies result next weekend would determine their final position.

It’s tight. But not nearly as tight as the tipping panel, with a three-way deadlock on top, and the rest of the field falling within three points. And there are just six games to play.

Last week: Harry one; everyone else two.

Overall: Harry, Brett, and The Crowd 26; Digger 25, Dan 24, Nobes and Geoff 23.

Harry

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Brumbies, Waratahs
The tipping competition has tightened, like a scrum reset and reset again. The Waratahs needed luck to win in the sleet, but received less than none from Angus the Chatty Gardener. With the first match a foregone conclusion (Brumbies by 60+), the key to tipping supremacy will once again rest on the fickle fortunes of the lads from Melbourne and Sydney. The short answer is: I don’t know. I don’t even have a strong feeling.

The reason it is hard to split these two teams is they are on par. The Tahs score 0.2 more tries per game, tackle only one per cent better, carry 3.3 meters per run (equal), and have only three per cent more “good carries” (carries which end in a beaten defender or clean break). The Rebels kick better from hand, and have a 1:2 ratio of winning to losing turnovers (the Tahs are a woeful 1:3), but the Tahs kick better from the tee (around 88%). Set pieces may matter most.

The Tahs have to beat the Rebels with a bonus point (and prevent the visitors from obtaining a losing bonus point) to guarantee a third-place finish on the log. The Rebels can sneak into the playoffs with a bonus-point loss in Sydney, plus a bonus-point win over the weakening Force. Thus, we should see a fired-up home team, full of ‘us versus the world, especially the referees’, which does seem to be the best mood for the Tahs.

I remain impressed with Wee Will Harrison (but not so much by the captaincy of Queenslander Red Rob Simmons, and the proto-captaincy of Mad Michael Hooper), and there are intriguing Wallaby-relevant matchups across the park, with Reece Hodge versus Jack Maddocks particularly of note. The coaches should be embattled, but in this forgiving world where any sport is welcomed and everyone gets ten chances, I think Rob Penney is more worried about the axe.

I will stick with the team whose jerseys match my lovely eyes. Tahs in extra time, courtesy of a Rebel lineout error.

Sure thing: Brett will create seven spreadsheets, and five new metrics, to sort the second game.

Will Harrison lines up for a shot at goal

(Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Brett

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Brumbies, Rebels
I’m not sure seven spreadsheets will be enough, Hairy Man. But I do agree there’s less than the proverbial bee’s between the Rebels and Waratahs on Saturday night.

However, before they go at it, the Brumbies and Force will run out in Canberra.

And the Brumbies win that for one simple reason: the Force haven’t been able to go for the full 80 minutes thus far. The Brumbies have only conceded four tries after halftime in Super Rugby AU; the Force have only scored three.

The Rebels and Waratahs are tough to split, I certainly agree on that front. But the thing that does split them for me is a little bit unconventional.

Come with me on this, because it’s a wired way to split them and it’s weird to cite it as a reason. Where the Rebels have an edge is that they’re not nearly as inconsistent as the Tahs. That’s not to say they’re definitely more consistent, just that they’re not nearly as inconsistent. Their best and worst haven’t been as far apart as it feels like the Waratahs’ have.

It’s a bit finger-in-the-air and gut feel, I’ll admit, but that’s how I see them. I told you it was unconventional.

Sure thing: The deadlock will again be broken this weekend, before quite probably reuniting again next weekend. Has the tipping panel ever had joint winners? I feel like that’s probably information I have somewhere.

Tom Banks chases the ball

(Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

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Digger

Brumbies, Rebels
Unfortunately, it appears the Force have been fading in the last few weeks, certainly a result of a squad lacking recent week-in and week-out competition for some time. I don’t see the Brumbies making it any easier for them this week.

Continuing on with my ‘seems to be the teams coming off a bye perform really well’ theory proposed last week, the Rebels will price too strong for the ‘Chookatahs’ this week.

Sure thing: The move to Wellington for the North-South clash with an empty stadium is a smart move as a ready-made excuse under level 2 COVID restrictions for the all the empty yellow seats.

Dan

Brumbies, Rebels
Starting with the higher-stakes match, the Rebels-Waratahs clash gives us a kind-of-final a few weeks out from the postseason proper.

The Waratahs will be hoping to have Karmichael Hunt back, whose sore hamstring was sorely missed – along with the rest of the centre – against the Brumbies, but even if he does return, I’m pencilling in the Rebels for this one.

Teams have routinely performed strongly after having the bye, and Melbourne have shown twice already they’re capable of handling the youngsters from NSW.

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As for the other game, the Brumbies will win. That is all.

Sure thing: Dan McKellar to make 16 changes to his team every week given how well it worked last round.

Dan McKellar

(Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

Nobes

Brumbies, Rebels
This round is do or die for the Waratahs, who started the season badly before a short string of triumphs that puts them in this unexpected position. A win with a bonus point this week against the Rebels would give them playoff chances despite not playing next week.

It is easy to say it but doing it is something else, since the Rebels will come rested to impose their physical game and deploy their dangerous backs. There is not much difference in both teams’ numbers. I think everything will depend on the side that wants victory the most. Rebels for me.

In the other game, the Brumbies should win with a bonus point against a Force team that seems tired and has a hard time playing at a good level for the 80 minutes.

Sure thing: A controversial call will be crucial in the Waratahs-Rebels game.

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Melbourne Rebels players after a try

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Geoff

Brumbies, Rebels
It’s been another tough week in Melbourne, with COVID chaos sending The Masked Singer into lockdown just as we were about to find out if the Wandering Water Buffalo really is Izack Rodda or not.

It’s not so tough to predict the outcome in Canberra though. The Brumbies will win in their sleep against a fading Force, and in doing so, stitch up a home final.

Unfortunately for the Waratahs, they’ll be stitched up as well, their season coming to an end at the hands of the Terrigal Rebels. The Melbourne pack has been too abrasive for the Tahs twice already this year, and while the Tahs will give it plenty, because that’s what you do at the last chance saloon, it will be left to the Rebels and Reds to fight it out for ‘home’ ground advantage for the upcoming second versus third playoff.

Sure thing: TMOs to be on their best behaviour this week, having been issued by Rugby Australia with a ruler and a marker pen to draw the offside line on their monitors.

AU Week 9 Harry Brett Digger Geoff Nobes Dan The Crowd
BRU v FOR BRU BRU BRU BRU BRU BRU BRU
REB v WAR WAR REB REB REB REB REB REB
Overall 26 26 25 23 23 24 26
Last week 1 2 2 2 2 2 2

Get your votes in now – The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon (AEST).

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