Monday, July 31, 2017

A new Lowe for Leinster



Throughout the rugby season the main feature of HarpinOnRugby.net is our writeup of what we call the 'match of the weekend', which generally involves Leinster, Ireland or the Lions and is published on Monday.
July, however, rarely gives us the chance to do this, so we either take some time off or look to Super Rugby for a chance to 'keep our hand in' before the preseason matches begin.  

My original plan for this Super Rugby semifinal was to do a straightforward writeup on the 80 minutes but as I watched on Saturday morning I realised I couldn't hide my Leinster goggles.  I wasn't merely watching as a neutral - I was more about keeping an eye out for Leinster's new signing James Lowe to see how I reckon he'll fit in for the upcoming season.

So be warned - I'm not writing this article to pretend I'm some kind of expert on Super Rugby as if watch it all through the campaign - what with the busy European schedule including a Lions tour at the end my opportunities to watch the 2017 campaign have been limited.  These are opinions from afar of the match, the other semifinal, the competition in general, and most importantly for me anyway, a player bound for the RDS - so why don't we start there.

JAMES LOWE

Don't read too much into the headline, please - it's merely a pun on his name and in no way demonstrates my feelings on his move here; it's more ironic than anything else - I wish him all the best.

However if you watched a basic highlight reel of this semifinal against the Crusaders, you'd be forgiven for thinking it wasn't an ideal night at the office for him.  Both the second and fourth tries for the home side came after errors he made, one directly as he had a clearance kick poached after he released the ball, the other indirectly as he dropped a catch he'd be expected to take and as a result the Crusaders went down the other end and eventually dotted down.

But as often is the case with highlight reels, you don't get the full story of what happened over the 80 minutes.  In fact, you don't always get the story of what happened in a given moment - both the errors I mention above came from Lowe trying to make the most out of tricky situations which had developed moments earlier.

In actual fact, based on the evidence of this match as well as other previous 'scouting mission' watching of Chiefs matches when I got the chance, he seems to be a player who could slot in very well at Leinster. 

He's a big unit for a winger and definitely not one to hang about waiting for the ball to reach him.   He'll get stuck in and clear out when required.  He seems to know when to use his pace up the touchline and when to cut in and recycle.   Joe Schmidt might be tempted to check for any Irish ancestry as a winger like the former Maori All Black would fit right into his setup.

The attribute Kiwi commentators mentioned the most though was his booming left boot.  We did see it a couple of times in this match, but he also seems to know how to kick more deftly.  The Chiefs had three decent try-scoring chances in the first half and he was involved in all of them.

Just before the break he showed strong pace up the wing and he proved hard to stop in the 22 providing the kind of front foot ball the likes of Johnny Sexton craves, while the two earlier chances resulted from a little grubber that really should have been finished by Nanai Williams followed by a garryowen that gave the Crusaders defence some rare problems.

If I had to find a fault in this performance it was in his broken play running.  That might seem harsh as he was credited with 81 metres on the night but that was from 18 carries and for the most part he was running into dead ends.  To be fair to him, however, he was up against an extremely well organised defence which proved to be the winning of the contest.

So overall a positive report for Lowe and I really do think he can do a job for us both in the Pro Whatever and in Europe.  Now to harp more on the actual match itself.

CRUSADERS D

The Chiefs got a try in the 78th minute from Brodie Retallick but the match was well over at that point.  To get a sense of the dominance of the Crusaders defence, consider the score was 27-6 just before the All Black lock touched down.  Now consider that the home side had just 33% possession and 30% territory throughout, and had 185 tackles to make as opposed to the  visitors' 66.

And it's not as though the opposition were slouches.  The Crusaders may have won the most Super Rugby titles but the Chiefs won back to back more recently and with names like Cruden, Retallick, Cane, Leinart-Brown, Messam, Mackenzie and yes, Lowe among others, it took a fair amount of consistent line speed and accurate scrambling to keep them out that that's exactly what they did.

It was a long, long way from the kind of rugby you'd expect from an All Black side that's for sure, but for this particular day it was certainly effective.  Matt Todd stood out the most for me.

THE TRIES

But all the defence in the world won't win the day if you're not putting points on the board and if anything the Crusaders were even more efficient with the ball.  

The first try was started and finished by scrum half Bryn Hall - in between there was a superb shimmy around one player and fend off another from Crotty before he shipped it to Israel Dagg who powered through before teeing up his number 9.

It was the defence that was responsible for tries two, three and four...sure, they had to be finished by Dagg and Tamanivalu [2] respectively but in each case the attacks began with the Chiefs having the ball on the halfway line or beyond.

Basically it was the kind of display I was hoping Leinster would be able to show in the Pro12 playoffs back in May.  Yes, it still hurts.

THE OTHER SEMIFINAL

Later on Saturday we had the Lions of Johannesburg facing the Hurricanes of Wellington.  The South African franchise were the only one with a regular season record that came close to that of all of the Kiwi sides, although they were yet to face one.

With half an hour gone it looked as though an all-New Zealand final was guaramteed as the 'Canes shot out to a 3-22 lead but you rule out a home team on the Highveld at your peril.

To be fair to the Lions, while the visitors were bound to tired because of the travelling and altitude, the scores still had to be found and the six tries they found in their comeback were all well earned.

HOW THE FINAL STACKS UP

From my lofty perch of merely having seen both semifinals, the destination of the trophy seems to be all about patience.  If the Crusaders can match their defensive stubbornness from last Saturday, they will be just as tough to break down.  

However, the Lions' superior season record gives them the home advantage and I don't know if the Crusaders can afford to let their hosts have the ball for two thirds of the contest this time, especially in the closing stages as the lungs start gasping.  

Whatever way you look at it, it looks set to be a cracker and I can't.  Doesn't hurt that I don't have to be up and alert at 8:30am either!

THE STATE OF SUPER RUGBY

Again I have to plead ignorance about the season as a whole, but I must say it was disappointing to see so many empty seats at both semifinals, especially the one in Christchurch as it involved to Kiwi sides.  This is meant to be the southern hemisphere's answer to the Rugby Champions Cup and both our semifinals were pretty much sold out.

Maybe they could consider small stadia for these matches but that's something of a Catch 22 because if they're forced out of the test arenas then you can't really justify the prefix 'Super' for the competition can you?  I understand there were a lot of objections to the format over the past couple of seasons, maybe that will help though I wouldn't be too sure.

Anyway that's enough of a ramble for this week.  Even though there are no Leinster-bound players involved in the final [Scott Fardy's Brumbies perished in the quarters] we'll look to do something similar for the final and after that we'll be all about the Women's Rugby World Cup.

Here's hoping the new Lowe for Leinster can brush off the weekend's disappointment and travel north for a ton of new rugby highs.  JLP

Rugby Africa Gold Cup Round 6

by Ciarán Duffy


Two games in the penultimate round of the Rugby Africa Gold Cup.  This week saw the destination of the trophy decided, as well as an upset with relegation permutations.  

Zimbabwe 23 – 31 Tunisia

Tunisia got their first win of this years competition to keep their survival hopes alive.  Tunisia went ahead early on but Zimbabwe would get the games first try as it looked like the match was going to begin to march towards the expected conclusion.  However, Tunisia would respond immediately to lead 10 – 16.  Tunisia went down to 14 but the resulting Zimbabwean lineout was overthrown.  The Sables would only be able to add a penalty at the stroke of halftime as Tunisia led 13 – 16.  

Tunisia would get a penalty of their own after the break before Zimbabwe got over the line, Kingsley Lang diving over as Tunisia ran out of numbers out wide.  Once again Tunisia would respond immediately, winger Jabri scored the first of his tries.  He’d touch down once again a few minutes later, bouncing off defenders on his way to the line to give Tunisia an 18 – 31 lead.  Zimbabwe got one more try to stay in the game but with 5 minutes to go, needing two scores, they were turned over and that was that.

In truth Zimbabwe made too many basic errors and didn’t put enough phases together going forward.  Tunisia now have a three point advantage over Senegal heading into next weekends game which will decide which team gets relegated.

Namibia 45 – 7 Kenya

photo : @WorldRugby
The title decider was unfortunately one-sided as Namibia got their 5th bonus point win of this years tournament.

David Philander got the first of seven Namibian tries, with fullback Chrysander Botha getting the second shortly after.  Cliven Loubser converted both tries, the second one right from the touchline.  Kenya had their moments of attacking pressure in the first half, but failed to score as Namibia led 14 – 0 at the break.  

Loubser and JC Greyling would ensure Namibia got their 5th bonus point of the tournament as Namibia went 26 – 0 up.  The Simbas would finally get a score when flanker Moses Amusala drove over the line.  Namibia responded as Philander got his 2nd try, slipping through the defence to squash any hopes of a comeback before the hour-mark.  Casper Viviers and Lesley Klim touched down for the Welwitschias as they retained their title in emphatic fashion.  

Table:


Pld
Pts
PD
1
Namibia (C)
5
25
+208
2
Kenya
5
18
+91
3
Uganda
4
11
+38
4
Zimbabwe
4
6
-20
5
Tunisia
4
4
-189
6
Senegal
4
1
-128

Next weeks Fixtures (kickoff times in Irish time):
Uganda v Zimbabwe (14:00)
Tunisia v Senegal (17:00)


Ciarán Duffy (@TheVoiceDepth) is a Leinster supporter and self-proclaimed ‘big cheese’ of Post To Post (@PostToPostSport).   He’ll write about anything rugby under the condition he gets to take it too seriously.


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Front Five - 31.07.17

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

Happy birthday to our Front Five feature
Three years to the day since the first edition



“As we head into August we still don’t know the fixture list for the new season and that can’t be doing anyone involved any good at all.”


Delme Parfitt - WalesOnline



He saw Barrett backing out of the tackle and at the same time moving the ball back in his side's favour, leading to a turnover.


Rugby365.com



History will tell you that puts favouritism firmly in the Lions' corner given only one previous Super Rugby final has been won by an away team playing in another country.


ESPNScrum.com



Forrest, who is valued at $4.8bn, has pledged to do whatever it takes to save the Force.


The Guardian (via AAP)



"...many will never truly forgive the decision that saw this mighty warrior rejected from inclusion."


Rugby Onslaught



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Front Five - 30.07.17

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

The SuperRugby semifinals were
both entertaining though it was a shame
to see the grounds much less than full



I did a match in Dunboyne once and went into the dressing room to say ‘lads I’m here to check the studs’ and they were like ‘Sure we’re all studs here!’


Cliona Foley - Irish Examiner



It's been such a shambles, such a convoluted, confusing journey to this point it seems as if so few people now care how it all ends - just as long as it ends.


Gregor Paul - NZ Herald



Kiwi sides don’t often get beaten, let alone get pounded like that in any game.


Brendan Nel - SuperSport.com



It is widely understood that the understated Halfpenny was interested in a return to Wales. However, time is running out


Ian Cameron - RugbyPass.com



Unsurprisingly, Sam Warburton's gear sold out in no time, with the charity shop revealing they had raised more than £2,000.


Daniel Kelly - Balls.ie



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Front Five - 29.07.17

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

We'll be giving Crusaders v Chiefs
the 'Monday match writeup' treatment
this week to see how James Lowe
squares up against Israel Dagg



"I've enjoyed hugely my time with the Brumbies, but this is an exciting opportunity for me to challenge myself in a new club and a different country"


EPCRugby.com



21-year-old former St Andrew’s schoolboy Jones formed a formidable back row alongside Max Deegan as Ireland defeated New Zealand


Sean Farrell - The42.ie



“Right now SANZAAR is focused on ensuring the Sunwolves can compete in Super Rugby. That’s the first step."


All Out Rugby



...at this point it feels like some of the same blindness we as a community showed to PRO Rugby because we were so desperate for professional rugby is shining through again.


Curtis Reed - This Is American Rugby



There were kung fu kicks from the French, off-the-ball shoulder charges, sly digs and stand-up scraps involving players from either side.


Mark Orders - WalesOnline



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Friday, July 28, 2017

Front Five - 28.07.17

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

Super Rugby semifinals and Premiership 7s
are good distractions this weekend but we need
an announcement on Celtic Rugby stat



One worrying fact, for lovers of test rugby, is that this year’s World Cup had its lowest entry ever (or at least since it ceased to be a largely invitational event).


John Birch - Scrumqueens.com



...the dislike between the Crusaders and Chiefs, which has become perhaps the pre-eminent rivalry in New Zealand rugby, has its roots in the success of the two franchises


Patrick McKendry - NZ Herald



Chris Boyd made two changes to the side that scored a 35-16 win over the Brumbies in the quarter-finals last weekend.


The42.ie



World Rugby has ruled the match is not "meaningful" and Williams' suspension will end on August 20


SkySports.com (via AP)



Wasps have selected ten members of their senior squad, including debutant Marcus Watson – a GB silver medallist from Rio – Christian Wade and skipper Dan Robson.


Alan Pearey - Rugby World



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Rugby on TV : July 27 - Aug 3

Rugby on TV is brought to you by
the IrishRugby TV YouTube channel


Even with the loss of the RCC on the horizon I still
think Sky have plenty of rugby to merit having a dedicated
channel in their new branding.  Between replays, "Rugby Gold" and various highlight shows and documentaries on top of the live action it would seem to make sense.


DateTimeShowCompetitionChannel
Thu Jul 2710:30amPANTHERS V BULLDOGSNRLEIR SPORT 2
1:00pmINSIDE THE TORONTO WOLFPACKEIR SPORT 2
5:00pmBACKCHATNRLEIR SPORT 2
6:00pmTHE FOOTY SHOWNRLEIR SPORT 2
11:00pmTHE WORLD RUGBY SHOWSKY SPORTS ACTION
Fri Jul 288:30amWARRIORS V SHARKSNRLEIR SPORT 2
10:50amEELS V BRONCOSNRLEIR SPORT 2
5:45pmPREMIERSHIP 7SGROUP PHASEBT SPORT 1
Sat Jul 296:00amKNIGHTS V DRAGONSNRLEIR SPORT 2
8:30amRABBITOHS V RAIDERSNRLEIR SPORT 2
8:30amCRUSADERS V CHIEFSSUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
10:30amROOSTERS V COWBOYSNRLEIR SPORT 2
11:00amPREMIERSHIP 7S (REPEAT)GROUP PHASEBT SPORT 1
1:25pmLIONS V HURRICANESSUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ACTION
2:00pmHULL FC V LEEDS RHINOSRL CHALLENGE CUPBBC 1
2:45pmPREMIERSHIP 7SFINALSBT SPORT 2
11:30pmA SPORTING CHANCEDOCUMENTARYEIR SPORT 1
Sun Jul 305:00amSTORM V SEA EAGLESNRLEIR SPORT 2
6:00amSUPER HEROESALI WILLIAMSSKY SPORTS ACTION
7:00amTITANS V TIGERSNRLEIR SPORT 2
2:00pmWIGAN WARRIORS V SALFORD RED DEVILSRL CHALLENGE CUPBBC 2
5:15pmPREMIERSHIP RUGBY 7S (REPEAT)FINALSBT SPORT 1
6:05pmYORK CITY V TORONTORUGBY LEAGUEEIR SPORT 2
Mon Jul 317:00amCRUSADERS V CHIEFS (REPEAT)SUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ACTION
9:00amLIONS V HURRICANES (REPEAT)SUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ACTION
9:00pmFULLTIMESUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS ARENA
10:00pmSCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS2016SKY SPORTS MIX
Tue Aug 18:30amSPORTING GREATSGARETH EDWARDSSKY SPORTS ACTION
7:00pmSIR GARETH EDWARDS AT 70BBC 2
Wed Aug 23:00pmGAME CHANGERSINCL MAGGIE ALPHONSISKY SPORTS MIX
10:30pmSPORTING RECORDSINCL 74 LIONSSKY SPORTS MIX
Thu Aug 310:30amBULLDOGS V EELSNRLEIR SPORT 2
5:30pmTHE WORLD RUGBY SHOWSKY SPORTS ARENA
7:30pmMATCH TBASUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
10:00pmTHE FOOTY SHOWNRLEIR SPORT 2

Times generally refer to beginning of broadcast not kickoff
Check local listings for repeat showings
Feel free to let us know if something is missing! paganoblog@gmail.com

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