Super Rugby 2018

Post Match Review : Week One


Rebels 45 vs Reds 19


Venue: AMI Stadium, Melbourne

Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

Assistant referee: Nic Berry (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)

TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)


I have watched many rugby matches in my life. Very few, if any, came close to this one for sheer ineptitude and incompetence. I have watched 3rd league club fixtures that have been less riddled with errors and inaccuracies!

A total of 69 handling errors, 36 by the Rebels and 33 by the Reds, caused the referee to either intervene by blowing the whistle or allow advantage to accrue. These 69 errors required the referee to be involved, and they do not take into account the plethora of errors that did not require his intervention. Passes that went astray, balls that were dropped, offloads to no one in particular, speculative kicks…. It was one of the poorest displays of ball control that I have ever seen.

And then there was the discipline factor. Or rather the sheer indiscipline of the Reds. Their captain, Scott Higginbotham received a deserved red card for a head-high shoulder charge, with some considerable force involved, into an opponent in the 9th minute of the game. After the shoulder contact he wrapped his arms around the neck of the opponent and took him to ground. It was a red card, without any shadow of a doubt.

He added insult to injury by suggesting to the referee that the Rebel was falling and he had no time to get his arms around. Palpably untrue, Scott!

To make matters worse, this was his second shoulder-charge of the game. At 3 minutes and 37 seconds into the game he attempted to take out Tom English in a similar way, but missed the hit as English swayed out of the way.

If your captain is going to play that way, the rest of the team is likely to follow suit. And they did.

Lukhan Tui was soon to join his captain on the side-lines, albeit for just 10 minutes, after a spear tackle on Will Genia. The lock forward was fortunate that the referee, Brendon Pickerill was in a forgiving mood. The tackle looked to all to be a case for another red card as Tui drove Genia’s head into the ground. Somehow the TMO saw the head as a shoulder….

These two incidents resulted in cards. There were a number of other incidents that slipped past the match officials. Eto Nabuli, on the wing for the Reds, was twice guilty of taking a player out in the air, and was lucky that Pickerill chose to allow advantage and did not go back for further sanction.

Samu Kerevi, perhaps in frustration, perhaps not, went head hunting. He was very lucky to get away with two very high hits in the second half, one of which happened in a movement that resulted in a try for the Rebels, which is perhaps why Brendon Pickerill again chose to ignore the incident.

There was another very ugly moment when the Reds’ Kane Douglas (19) kicked out at the ribs of a Rebel lying on the ground. The incident was right in front of one of the assistant referees, and no more than three meters from him, but was missed by the official as the ball was moving away from the contact point. This was another red card offence that was missed.

The next thing worthy of comment was the leaky defences of both sides. The Reds cannot complain that the loss of Scott Higginbotham for 70 minutes of the game was the cause of their outside backs complete ineptitude on defence. The moment the ball went wide of their halfbacks, the Rebels seemed able to run through the Reds backline without a hand being laid on them. It was no fault of the Reds that the Rebels were unable to score more tries, bad handling and ball control saved the score-line somewhat.

It is indicative of their poor skills that the Rebels could not really take advantage of their two-man numerical advantage when both Higgenbotham and Tui were off the field together. They did score twice, but squandered at least two other clear opportunities along the way, and gave one up to Kerevi too.

Equally, the Rebels defence went soft the moment the Reds carried the ball.

Bluntly, this was an atrocious game of rugby. If this is going to be the trend during 2018, Super Rugby Australian style, is in some very serious trouble.

The scorers:

For Rebels: 
Tries: Naivalu 2, English, Haylett-Petty 2, Debreczeni 2
Cons: Debreczeni 5

For Reds:
Tries: Paia’aua, Kerevi, Feauai-Sautia
Cons: Tuttle 2
Yellow Card: Tui
Red Card: Higginbotham