Will Skelton played 70 minutes less Yellow Card time in Sydney yesterday. More than he’d get in the Wallabies squad currently. Image: ARU/Flitty Images
ABC Grandstand Digital:Al Crombie is back in the chair after a holiday jaunt to the States, and today was the time to try and figure out what was happening with the Wallabies. Experience seems to be the theme in Ewen McKenzie’s squad to tour South Africa and Argentina, with Benn Robinson, Adam Ashley-Cooper, and Will Genia all back in the fold.
Meanwhile, we also talked NRC and a cracking Round 5 was played out over the weekend, including a pretty impressive top-of-the-table win for Melbourne over NSW Country in Orange, which I was very glad to have made the trip for. Will Skelton picked up some valuable game time in the Sydney Stars’ last-gasp draw with Canberra, while North Harbour pipped Perth.
Teams with poor set pieces are quickly being found out in in the NRC. Image: ARU/Flitty Images
Though the competition itself might be battling for exposure, the variations to the Laws of Rugby, and the little tweaks made to how certain Laws are interpreted by referees has certainly had the desired effect on the rugby being played in the National Rugby Championship.
The biggest change has been the reduction of penalty and drop goals, from three points to two points, and the increase in the value of conversions, from two points up to three.
The effect has been profound. As at the end of Round 4, only nine penalty goals had been attempted in 16 matches, as teams universally prefer to kick for touch when receiving penalties in the opposition half.
The Wallabies know they have much to improve before they head to South Africa and Argentina. Image via Wallabies Facebook
The Roar: If last week’s win over South Africa offered up unanswered questions as I suggested it did, then none of those questions were answered on Saturday night on the Gold Coast. If anything, the Wallabies’ 32-25 win probably threw up even more questions in need of urgent addressing.
Once again, preparations and thoughts ahead of this column were as conflicting as they were difficult picking a route to head down. It really was one of those games where it was frustrating to watch the rugby on show, yet you also had to be impressed that the Wallabies were still able to secure the win, almost in spite of themselves.
My regular weekend morning rugby chat on ABC Grandstand Digital radio then provided an interesting perspective on Sunday morning, where we were able to talk to Wallabies Assistant Coach, Andrew Blades.
Nick Phipps had a first half to forget, but redeemed himself with a strong second half. Image via Wallabies Facebook
Encouragingly, many of the post-mortem criticisms levelled at the Wallabies on the forums and via social media after the win are the same as those already being focussed on internally. Execution across the park was well short of the required standard, and some of the decision-making left a lot to be desired…
Greater Sydney Rams flanker Chris Alcock on the charge. The Rams beat the Sydney Stars 47-18. Image: ARU/JB Photography
The Roar:With Melbourne Rising still unbeaten after four rounds and now a bonus point win clear of the chasing pack, even with five rounds to go it’s hard to imagine them not playing in – and probably even hosting – one of the inaugural National Rugby Championship semi-finals.
The Melbourne juggernaut kicked off Round 4 on Thursday night with just another crushing win for them. NSW Country’s unbeaten run ended at the hands of Brisbane City in Lismore yesterday, but they’ve still been an impressive team who I expect to make the final four. It will take a real collapse in form for them to miss out from here.
The resurgence of the Greater Sydney Rams is encouraging, because the early rounds were all looking like the Sydney-based teams would struggle, relative to the more Super Rugby player-laden NRC squads around the competition.