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Opposites are just as attractive

Rebel yell: James O'Connor of the Melbourne Rebels has treatment during Friday night's match against the Brumbies.

Rebel yell: James O'Connor of the Melbourne Rebels has treatment during Friday night's match against the Brumbies. Photo: Getty Images

IN ALL sport it's the contrast in styles that makes the contest, particularly when the differences between two key players in the opposing teams are so evident.

James O'Connor is the golden boy of Australian Rugby, the blond bombshell who sells tickets and attracts the image makers as much for his looks and style as his game.

Versatile and skilful, 22-year-old O'Connor can operate anywhere in the back line, but is currently being used at full-back by the Rebels.

Jesse Mogg, at 23 a couple of months older, is far less celebrated. The Brumbies full-back has played less than half the number of Super Rugby games as O'Connor, and scored only a fraction of the points since being plucked from the obscurity of the local league by the Canberra side last year.

But his explosive pace and hard, direct running provided a tremendous variation to O'Connor's supple sinuousness when the two lined up at opposite ends of AAMI Park on Friday night.

Their differences illustrated, in this sport as in others, that while there may be one method of play that is more fashionable or aesthetic than another, in the end it's the style that gets the job done that is the most effective.

Where Mogg was all power, speed and straightforwardness as he attacked, O'Connor was a muscular, twisting shape as he stepped and probed trying to find space where, for most of his colleagues, none would exist.

The difference was perfectly described in two periods of play early in the game. Mogg opened the scoring with a display of scorching pace - a rugby version of Black Caviar if you like - as he kicked the ball long to launch an attack and chased his own delivery down.

On the way through he outpaced O'Connor and then hit the turbo button to get his hand to the ball before Rebels half-back Nick Phipps, who had a healthy head start in the run to the try line.

O'Connor then showed the other side of the game, exemplifying his ability to turn and dance, to find the gaps and accelerate off a short step to set up his teammates.

Launching himself under a Mogg high bomb, O'Connor palmed the ball down, roved his own knock back and set off on a jinking, slippery run that took him past several opponents before off-loading for Scott Higinbotham to score his first try for the Rebels.

Mogg took the advantage in this contrasting battle of the full-backs near the end of the first half when another rampaging run saw him brush through several challenges before his pass set in train the move completed by Clyde Rathbone, who went over in the corner.

Still, it's not all glamour and pyrotechnics playing at No. 15. Sometimes you have to stand and take your hits, and O'Connor showed that he had the right stuff in that department, too, when he made a second-half try-saving tackle on Rathbone that stopped the winger's break. His efforts to return to the fray after an injury time-out were overruled by the medical staff - much to his evident frustration.

He will live to fight another day as the Rebels look to get back on track against the Waratahs next Friday. With the Brumbies on the break next week, Mogg can rest and recuperate - and prepare to let the brakes off in Canberra in a fortnight when the Brumbies take on the Waratahs.

1 comment so far

  • Its early, but Mogg is looking good for the Wallabies 15 jumper versus the Lions. Reminds me of Chris Latham: massive boot on the clearing kicks, positions well and very instinctive. Everytime I see him run, he brings to mind Glen Osborne, the former AB full back, but might be a shade quicker and bigger than Osborne. Some teams like to have a safety net fullback who can catch, clear well and is solid at the tackle (SA's Kirschner, Ireland's Carney). I think Aussie teams have always done well with attacking full backs who might not be as solid in the traditional aspects of the full back game. Always felt safe with Matt Burke at the back but Campese, Latham, Andrew Walker and Ashley Cooper were always a threat on the kick return or chiming into the back line. As for O'Connor, his versatility (and attitude) makes him a bench player for mine.

    Commenter
    John from the Hill
    Location
    QLD
    Date and time
    February 24, 2013, 11:46AM

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    Super Rugby 2015

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    BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
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    STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
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    HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
    FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
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    HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
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    Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
    HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
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    HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
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    Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
    CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
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