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Reds confident at the pointy end of the season

Date

John Eales

So near ... the Brumbies suffered a disappointing end to a promising season.

So near ... the Brumbies suffered a disappointing end to a promising season. Photo: Colleen Petch

Former hard-as-nails Wallaby and now dentist Brendan Nasser, who Gordon Bray described as having corpses in his dental chair, once told me that he never misses a Queensland Reds game live. Each week he records them along with the NSW Waratahs' match. Being a typical Queenslander, however, he only replays those which the Waratahs lose and the Reds win. Given that the Reds have won their final six matches this year and the Waratahs have lost their last eight, he's been watching quite a bit of rugby.

This weekend's rugby results in the Australian conference rewarded the Reds for their most comprehensive victory of the season and punished the Brumbies for their worst performance. They rewarded confidence, precision and the resulting flair, and punished inexperience, nervousness and indecision.

The Brumbies would be inconsolable. It's not that they disappointed on expectations–in many ways they far exceeded them–but expectations are relative and at the end theirs were centred on hosting a playoff match. Their arrow, which they had worked so hard for and had made so few errors in its pursuit, is now spent. They will undoubtedly see failure but there has been much to celebrate.

Australian rugby can celebrate the emergence of Brumbies captain Ben Mowen as an unassuming and composed leader who has represented the franchise with dignity, never resiling from his coach's demands or his team's ambition.

It can celebrate the form of Nic White and his leadership of the backline, the cajoling of his forwards and his selection in the Australian squad.

It can celebrate the maturation of Stephen Larkham as a mentor and the introduction of one of the game's most decorated in George Gregan to the specialist coaching group.

It can also celebrate the form of StephenMoore, Michael Hooper and Henry Speight, among others.

Australian rugby is better off for the Brumbies' season as some of these outcomes may not have eventuated.

And they came oh, so close, missing by a solitary bonus point.

While the coaches and teams themselves were most certainly au fait with how the finalists would be determined, particularly in the event of teams finishing on the same competition points, up until a few weeks ago most supporters were clueless about it. That's because it wasn't immediately relevant. It's a bit like when you buy something from the shops and don't read the instruction . . . until you have to.

Followers of Super Rugby have now read the instructions.

Some may not like the instructions. For example, the Crusaders from New Zealand who, despite finishing on 61 points to the Reds' 58, are positioned below the Reds on the rankings by virtue of Queensland winning the Australian conference. Equally, both the Bulls and the Sharks of South Africa, who completed the regular rounds with 59 points each, could feel perturbed.

This status has rewarded the Reds in the weaker Australian conference.

But this is by the by as it could just as easily reward the team from a tougher, or at least more even, conference where points may have been taken from them throughout the season.

It is what it is, as they say, but it doesn't make it any easier. They are fine lines which hit the bottom line in such a cruel or fortuitous manner.

For one bonus point the Brumbies have handed the Reds a windfall in hosting a final, literally. Last year the luxury traded the Reds out of debt.

So the finals now play out as such.

The Stormers finished first and the Chiefs second. Both sides have a week off to prepare for their home semifinals, where the Chiefs will play the top-placed winner of this weekend's play-offs and the Stormers the lower finishing. To decide the semifinalists, the Reds will host the Sharks and the Crusaders will host the Bulls.

It's possible the Reds will again face the Crusaders in a home final yet there is some rugby to be played before that is determined.

But while, of the other finalists, the Reds have only beaten the Chiefs this year, they will remain confident knowing they are capable of beating any of them. To date they have rarely been at full strength and were not for any of their encounters with these opponents.

A key for them could be Quade Cooper. They are not lost without him but they are far better with him and the width he creates with his long, accurate passing. Reds supporters will hold their breath until after the case against him for a high tackle is heard today.

Just like the final round of Super Rugby and the vagaries of the judiciary, there are few certainties over the next three weeks, but hopefully when Nasser finds the time to take his video off permanent 24-hour loop, the hue of his screen remains red and his viewing hours as busy as ever.

13 comments so far

  • Funny John that you should be giving such high praise (quite correctly) to players that your favorite coach Robbie Deans refuses to give a go in favour of his favorite pet underperforming "romneys". And you can't see the hyprocrisy ? Amazing. I can see the Bulls rolling the Crusaders in Christchurch. There appears to be fractures opening up in the Crusaders fault lines.

    Commenter
    johnny-boy
    Date and time
    July 16, 2012, 9:45AM
    • fractures?

      ... you lot never learn do you?

      Commenter
      piru
      Location
      Perth via Rakaia
      Date and time
      July 16, 2012, 4:21PM
  • " It is what it is,as they say,but it doesn't make it any easier."
    About somes up the whole S15 comp for Aussie supporters and their respective teams. As the season has panned-out things have been restored to their (normal) status with one exception.
    The Reds will get an opportunity to defend their title and rightfully so.The Brumbies didn't promise much but delivered much more but failed at the death. The Rebels did OK all things considered. The Force was always going to be a struggle but showed provincial pride not to implode.
    Finally, the Tahs.....and finally the season is over. No finals, no confidence, no pucker, no status, just no, no, no !
    Surely this isn't going to be the norm but just an exception? Geez, things couldn't get any worse, could they?

    Good luck to the REDS we need you now !

    Commenter
    Machooka
    Location
    inner west sydney
    Date and time
    July 16, 2012, 11:02AM
    • North of the Tweed, the sages of our code have often been heard to say:- 'WHEN THE WARATAHS ARE PLAYING WELL, THE WALLABIES WILL HAVE A GOOD TEAM!!; After their 2012 experience and their 13 members of Robbie Deans' latest train-on squad I am very confused. Very very confused. Where are the sages now? I was at Suncorp last Saturday evening and couldn't find one!! GB

      Commenter
      Grae Gafia
      Location
      Sandstone Point
      Date and time
      July 16, 2012, 12:23PM
  • NZ and South African teams must be looking at the Reds with envy! In the Australian conference you only needed 58 points to be top of the ladder (even though the Reds are only sixth overall based on points). If the Reds were in any other conference they would only be 3rd or 4th in a conference.

    I agree with the current system, but the Reds have all the aces based on the conference they are in. Until the Australian teams become more competitive, I suspect we will see this type of thing happening for a while and benefiting the Reds.

    Darren

    Commenter
    Redback Rebel
    Date and time
    July 16, 2012, 12:30PM
    • Thats a good point and a valid one. This is only the second (?) year of the conference system and hopefully the time will come when the Aussie conference is a strong one. In fact, that all conferences are strong. Thats the point of having five Australian teams in the conference: to build depth and give opportunity for players to develop at a higher level. SA have the Currie Cup and NZ have the NPC (forgot whats its called now) but we don't have a national type tier to our system. It will always start off slow as it has with the Force and Rebels but if the ARU keep promoting the game at a grassroots level, hopefully the player pool in Australia will develop to the vast numbers and ability that the other conferences have. Despite the comparatively limited number of players we have always had to choose from, the Wallabies have remained consistently in the top 3 or four teams in the world and have two RWCs in the cupboard. Go the Reds!!

      Commenter
      John from the Hill
      Location
      QLD
      Date and time
      July 16, 2012, 5:02PM
  • MAybe the Super 15 season should be extended by a couple of weeks so everyone plays everyone. Currently teams do not play one team in the other 2 conferences but play the teams in their conference twice on h&away basis. . If there is a weak team in a particular conference and you do not play them but play all the other better teams you miss out on probable "gimme" points.

    To be truely fair each team in all three conferences should play every team in the other conferences.

    Commenter
    Andy
    Date and time
    July 16, 2012, 3:46PM
    • For example, the Brumbies didn't play 2 of the top 3 teams this year (Stormers and Crusaders) and almost (should've) made the finals. The poor old Hurricanes missed the finals by 1 game but had to play all the top teams.
      It seems a bit silly that they don't squeeze in 2 more games and make it fair for everyone.

      Commenter
      Crispy
      Date and time
      July 16, 2012, 6:50PM
  • I could see this farce (IMO) some weeks ago. A team getting a home game (please ewen, no luck??.........you should have been down to 13 guys in last 10 miniutes for professional penalties conceeded in the 10 metre area). However MORE luck as you get third spot when it is really 6th (just). Ok for top team in each conference to be in the 6 but not at worst 3rd. Do not see how that is "fair?
    Reds are not good travellers and are better at home ground so this is really a leg up. Also, and I know this will get Oz fans upset but there can seriously be no doubt as to the weakness of the OZ conference (Blues....worst S15 team in NZ history?? ) when Brumbies with everything up for "grab" were woeful.
    Crusaders cracking? Someone here has forgotten their medication. They had the 5pts at half time (as I predicted) but fell off pace in 2nd half.........ok, what is your criticism of Crusaders? Just wishful thinking. They sat their premier players on the bench at half time!! + had Read in the stands! When has an Oz team done that???
    I believe turnstile cooper played 70 minutes ( 10 for sin bin) and he is usually missing in the heavy stuff
    Sure Canberra just missed out but john the canes with possibly the youngest squad were only a point further back and were far and away winners on bonus points, top try scorers and +/-
    This is finals time and crusaders have the best form/pedigree

    Commenter
    Heading off
    Location
    Guatavita
    Date and time
    July 16, 2012, 4:09PM
    • The comment re professional fouls etc was in Highlanders game. I do not like to criticise refs but it was a shocker. Earlier in same game he pulled the captains together and issued a warning on number of penalties to that point. Jamie MacIntosh pointed out they (Highlanders) had committed two!!! The Reds??..............8!!
      He told Genia after three (!!!!) consecutive infringements during a passage of play INSIDE the 10-15 metre area........"I could go to cards but need you to stop these infringements".............Genia (any captain would have done same.........just ignored him and so it continued until the highlander player was held up over the line)
      Yes, Ewen you have had no luck!! Please.........the better team lost......full stop

      Commenter
      heading off
      Location
      Guatavita
      Date and time
      July 16, 2012, 4:23PM

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