Another weekend, another Round of Super Rugby Pacific in the books.
The first bye round, we had just four games to keep us entertained in Round 7 with plenty of table reshuffling and a couple of score blowouts across the weekend.
Read on as we review some of the Super — and Not So Super — action from the weekend.
Days after many critics questioned Beauden Barrett’s wayward form, the star playmaker made an emphatic statement in the second half of the Blues rampaging win over the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday night.
Struggling to make an impact in the opening 40-minutes, Barrett looked in two minds with ball in hand, often kicking instead of taking on the line, while commentators questioned whether the fly-half had lost confidence following his substandard performances over the last few weeks.
Shrugging off his in-goal blunder from a week earlier, the 31-year-old played his role perfectly in the second half, having a hand in three of their seven tries in the blowout win. Looking unfazed by the wet conditions, the fly-half wasn’t afraid to try his hand, testing the Rebels defence.
His set up for Mark Telea’s second try in the 62nd minute was a masterstroke from the No.10. A penalty advantage in his pocket, Barrett chipped the ball over the Rebels defensive line before regathering and sending a rolling kick 30 metres downfield for his wing to collect and dot over the line. Executed to perfection, the vision and skills were vintage Barrett.
“I just wanted to get back out here and enjoy my footy, the big boys gave me an opportunity to do that on the front foot,” Barrett told Stan Sport after the match.
“It wasn’t a perfect game, but it never is, but it is good to be smiling again.
“It’s just a mindset shift, I know there’s a few doubters around but I’m playing with a smile on my face and that’s all that matters.
“We came over here to do a job and we did it.”
He won’t be happy with his goal-kicking though, missing six of his 10 shots, continuing a trend over the last few weeks.
MCDERMOTT, LOLESIO MAKE STATEMENTS
A week after they both missed selection in Eddie Jones’s first Wallabies training squad, Tate McDermott and Noah Lolesio responded with impressive performances in the derby clash in Brisbane on Friday night.
The best player on the field for the Reds, McDermott kept his side in the game despite their many indiscretions, even running in his own impressive try.
Collecting the offload at the front of the lineout on halfway, McDermott got on the outside of Caderyn Neville before using his slick footwork to beat Nic White and finally threw a dummy to send Andy Muirhead the wrong direction before speeding away for the try.
Take a bow Tate McDermott 👏#REDvBRU #SuperRugbyPacific pic.twitter.com/f3CIhHCz99
— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) April 7, 2023
McDermott stood up when directing his teammates around the field stepping up as Lawson Creighton struggled to take a hold of the match, with the scrumhalf finishing the match with seven carries, 67 metres and six defenders beaten.
“I think Eddie Jones will be extremely pleased with Tate McDermott’s response,” former Wallabies assistant Dan McKellar said at halftime on Stan Sport.
“He’s been outstanding, the best player on the field for mine so far and has hurt the Brumbies when they play off quick ball.”
Meanwhile, Brumbies fly-half Lolesio made a statement of his own after he was left confused by his Wallabies snubbing.
Lolesio managed the game with aplomb slowly picking apart the Reds and eventually leading his side to a blowout 52-24 victory. Kicking a perfect seven from seven, the fly-half also had a hand in several of the Brumbies tries while he was hardly tested by the wet conditions.
“There was a bit of pressure on Noah this week; he had a tough conversation with Eddie on Sunday,” Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said postmatch. “He’s just stepped up to the challenge, hasn’t he?”
O’KEEFE’S IMPLEMENTATION OF TMO IN-GOAL REVIEW SYSTEM PERFECT
Steve O’Keefe’s decision to not issue an immediate red card following Angus Blyth’s reckless hit on Corey Toole on Friday night came under the spotlight when he chose to implement the new in-game TMO review system. Issuing a yellow card in the first instance and putting it on review, it meant the TMO had eight minutes to determine whether the ugly tackle reached the red card threshold.
While the yellow card was upgraded to a red just minutes later – only the second such instance so far this season – it had many questioning why a red card wasn’t handed out immediately.
“That is head-down, not in control, reckless, high – what else? Head on head, I’m thinking I’m hitting the red button, just quietly,” Stan commentator Justin Harrison said of the collision.
A straight red card would have meant the Reds would have to play the remainder of the match a player down with no option to replace Blyth, while the upgraded yellow to red meant the lock was replaced after 20-minutes. What differentiates a straight red card from a yellow elevated to a red is just one word: deliberate.
While a disgusting hit, you couldn’t describe Blyth’s actions of being deliberate and so O’Keefe’s decision to implement the TMO review system was the right call to make. Not only did it avoid endless replays and on-field discussions, but it also saw the correct red card implemented and Blyth penalised for his dumbfounding act.
NOT SO SUPER
Charging in, arms stretched high with his head down, Angus Blyth smashed headfirst into Brumbies wing Corey Toole as he sent up a high ball in the early minutes of Friday night’s clash. Collapsing straight to the ground Toole was clearly in a bad spot before he even attempted to regain his feet.
Stumbling and wobbling, Toole made just a few steps before two teammates grabbed his arms and referee Ben O’Keefe told the No.11 to sit down. The loud crack that was heard during contact was horrible with the movements of the clearly concussed Toole disturbing to watch. Even more disturbing is knowing both the short term and long-term impact this collision will have on the 23-year-old.
Nasty hit on Toole 🤯
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— Stan Sport Rugby (@StanSportRugby) April 7, 2023
In two minds, it appeared Blyth was undecided whether to attempt a charge-down or a tackle, but that in no way excuses the carelessness of his actions or how shockingly bad the hit was. The tallest lock in the Reds line-up he made no attempt to lower his body and recklessly took out Toole, who’ll likely spend plenty of time on the sidelines recovering from the blow.
Facing the match review panel in coming days, Blyth will spend several weeks on the sideline himself, and rightly so, with the mid-range entry point for a dangerous tackle six weeks and top-end 10. Based on how utterly stupid his actions were, a six-week suspension could be considered too lax on the 25-year-old.
As World Rugby looks to stamp out reckless acts such as this it will be up to the match review committee to remain resolute and hand down a suspension worthy of the act. Often reducing sanctions due to early guilty pleas and mitigating factors such as a clean wrap sheet, the panel has come into question several times for their soft stances on foul play, but in this case only the harshest penalty will do if they’re to send a message to players to lower body height.
“It was bad, wasn’t it?” Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said of the collision. “But it was just careless; no-one’s going out there to intentionally hurt someone else with a high shot.
“It happens with second rowers, who are a bit uncoordinated.
“He’s [Toole] pulled up okay … but we’ve got to take this one pretty seriously.”
ILL-DISCIPLINE, CONDITIONING UNDER QUESTIONING
One of the most penalised sides in Super Rugby Pacific, the Reds have continued the unwanted trend, essentially blown off the park through the referee’s whistle as they were penalised 15 times, many of them soft.
In the mix for much of the match, the Reds headed to the sheds just four points down, despite losing a player for a 20-minute passage following Blyth’s careless hit on Toole, but it wasn’t to be as the endless penalties piggy-backed the Brumbies downfield on several occasions and released any pressure the Reds built.
Isaac Henry’s penalty midfield for not retreating following a kick that led to the Brumbies try was a perfect example of the silly, soft penalties that have hampered the side throughout the season.
“You’re aiming for single figures when you’re thinking about discipline,” McKellar said on Stan Sport. “Fifteen penalties that’s 15 lineout opportunities you’re giving to a team that scores the majority of their tries from the lineout, so that’s going to hurt you any point in time.”
The former Brumbies coach also questioned the Reds conditioning after the score ballooned out in the final minutes with the Brumbies heading back to Canberra with a record scoreline and ending their seven-year hoodoo at Suncorp.
“There looks to be an issue with their conditioning and ability to stick in games for 80 minutes,” McKellar said.
“To concede 31-7 in the second half just isn’t good enough.”