It will take time for Super W to get into the mainstream media but if last weekend is an example of the future there should be a few more eyeballs on it soon. Arguably last weekend was the best round of Super W rugby since the competition started in 2018.
The first game of the weekend was the Brumbies and the Rebels. With no disrespect to the Rebels, most would have thought the Brumbies would win this game. Maybe not an easy win but a pretty certain win. The Brumbies, although no wins have had some big efforts against the Reds, Tahs and Fijiana Drua. In cliched terms the Rebels did not follow the script.
The Brumbies scored early and quickly led 10 -0 and things seemed to be going according to plan. But the Rebels just kept defending, chipped away, took the points when on offer. (Mia-Rae Clifford, former AFLW player, is a very good goal kicker, weird, kicking three penalties and two conversions.)
The Rebels actually took the lead just after half time and held it until the 75th minute. The Rebels’ captain Wallaroo Ash Marsters really led the pack. As they say, it was a belter of a game. The Brumbies pack is pretty fearsome – that includes Fijiana prop Iris Verebalavu, Black Fern gun prop Amy Rule and Wallaroo Grace Kemp. The backs were unable to convert even though they have a quality centre pairing in Sarah Riordan, Siokapesi Palu and a lively full back in Ashlea Bishop. Anyway the Brumbies finally broke their drought with a 30-23 win and the Rebels were understandably gutted.
Next up was the much-anticipated Tahs and Reds blockbuster. It did deliver with a nail biting 31-30 win for the Tahs. It was a fiery encounter, there seemed to be a bit of lip between the players and the occasional push and shove. (Tahs’ young lock Rosie Ebbage was in the thick of it and was probably lucky not to have gone to the bin). The Reds were out to make a statement having been flogged twice last season by the Tahs. (In fact, the Reds did not score a point against the Tahs last season.)
This year the Reds recognised they needed to strengthen their backline. Consequently, a bit of overseas recruitment, the backline includes three Kiwis, in the halves Diane Hiini and Carys Dallinger, with Sam Curtis on the wing. Add in centres Cecilia Smith, Briana Dascombe and Ivania Wong on the wing, you have a very good backline.
The Tahs started the game very well and looked to be dominating but were unable to convert the opportunities. The Reds wrestled back the momentum with a couple of tries. The Reds fly half Dallinger was providing some real stability and control for the team. She never appears flustered.
Just before half time Tahs’ winger Desiree Miller scored a very good try, following a brutal cleanout by flanker Loretta Mailangi. Then just after half time a slick backline play saw Georgina Friedrichs dive over. While the Tahs scored two more tries, keeping the lead, the Reds fought back with a penalty goal and a try of their own. Captain Smith will be kicking herself as she missed the reasonably simple conversion. In the dying minutes, the last try was in the 78th minute and Smith was unable to kick the sideline conversion. In some ways the Reds will see this game as a missed opportunity.
The Tahs again showed the value of squad depth with Piper Duck and Maya Stewart out and Fi Jones dropping out just prior to the game and during the game Eva Karpani coming off, with a dislocated finger, soon after coming off the bench.
The game had everything you would expect from a NSW and Queensland derby, a bit of niggle, solid defence, rumbling forwards play and some flashy backline tries.
For the second time on the weekend, things did not go to script. The final match of the round was across the Nullabor, the Western Force and Fijiana Drua. The Fijiana Drua scored first but it was 10-all at half time. The Fijiana Drua had discipline issues and the multiple changes to the squad from last year has not helped. They are not quite the team of last year. Once the Force got to the lead with 20 minutes to go they were able to hold on to win 23-10. It was the Force’s first back-to-back win. It is a really positive outcome for the Force who as a club are really investing in their women’s program recruiting from overseas and developing a women’s academy.
Next week is the final round with a huge game in WA between the Force and the Brumbies to confirm who makes the finals. A win by the Brumbies would see them leap frog the Force.