Super Rugby 2018
Reds vs Bulls
Final Score: Reds 20 – Bulls 14.
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: William Houston (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Tedium. – Defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary as: “The quality of being boring for a long time.”
I can think of no better word to describe the monotony of this rugby match that involved the Reds and the Bulls.
Watching the game was as boring as searching for an old photograph of someone you once knew, but cannot quite remember what they looked like or who they were, and you know you have a photograph somewhere down in one of the boxes in your cellar. There is no paint to watch as it dries, and you have had enough of watching the grass growing, so you go and look for the old photograph. A vague memory from some distant dusty past.
Or you can watch a rerun of the Reds and the Bulls slugging it out in Brisbane.
How to summarise the match?
Oddly enough, for a game as slow and boring as this one, the ball was in play for 37 minutes, 5 minutes more than the average Super Rugby game so far in 2018.
Around 11 000 people pitched up to watch the game, which is a huge crowd in Brisbane, but still somewhat short of filling the 52 500 seats available in the Suncorp Stadium. It is, however, the biggest crowd the Reds have drawn in a very very long time.
And what did that crowd get to see?
Well, the Bulls kicked a lot, mostly inaccurately. Their starting scrumhalf, Andre Warner had no idea whatsoever where the ball was going every time he put it on his boot. His box-kicking was a mystery, both to spectators and to himself.
The Reds also hoofed the ball a bit, one kick less than did the Bulls.
The Bulls determination to hand the ball to the Reds, by means of the pointless box-kicks and inaccurate tactical kicking, gave the Reds more possession than should be legally allowed. At one stage the possession stats said that they had held the ball for 90% of the time expired on the clock. The match ended with the possession statistics going the way of the Reds 56% to 44%.
When they were not kicking the ball to the Reds, the Bulls were giving it to them by means of penalties.
The surfeit of possession allowed the Reds to make 133 carries of the ball, and 761 meters with the ball in hand. An average of 5,7 meters per carry. (The Bulls were not too far behind, making 5,6 meters on average in their 100 carries, for 561 meters in total.)
The Bulls inaccuracy is further illustrated by the penalty count, and how each team used the penalties they were awarded. The Bulls game away 10 penalties and 3 free kicks. The Reds, conceded just 3 penalties in the game. And no free kicks whatsoever. What a remarkable turnaround for a team known for bleeding penalties in previous years.
The Bulls kicked all three the penalties they were awarded. One kick found a good long touch, as it should. Another was skewed into touch just a couple of meters down-field, and the third kick missed touch altogether and gave the Reds a counter-attacking opportunity.
Neither side was producing anything that resembled attractive, exciting rugby. Both teams went for the short-pass-and-rumble-it-into-contact stuff that we had so hoped was something in the past! The Reds were a little better at retaining possession when the ball carrier eventually went to ground to recycle the ball, putting together stretches of 10, 12 and even 20 phases.
The Reds took the ball into contact, and the subsequent ruck, 107 times. They recycled the ball 104 times. The Bulls, with less possession, took the ball into the ruck 68 times, and retained possession on 65 occasions.
Those are pretty dull statistics, illustrating a pretty dull game. 175 rucks in just 37 minutes of play……. 4 every minute…. 1 every 15 seconds…. No wonder the Suncorp Stadium was echoingly empty……
Both sides suffered the handling yips, 22 handling errors apiece.
The Reds made 186 passes and 9 offloads, with 23 of their passes going astray, missing the target or bouncing around in the back-field.
The Bulls contributed with 144 passes and 7 offloads, and 17 that went astray.
Both sides scrummed badly. There were 17 scrums in the match, and every single one had to be reset, some more than just once. Both teams lost 3 scrums, but the Bulls ended up on the wrong side of the referee with 5 penalties awarded against them.
And yet it all started so well….. The Bulls kicked off and then proceeded to play some really sparkling rugby, scoring two tries in the process. They were the new-look Bulls of 2018. For just 20 minutes!
Like a rabbit crossing a highway and startled by the headlights of an onrushing 18-wheeler, the Bulls suddenly seemed to freeze. As if a switch had been thrown, they reverted to the Bulls of 2017… And produced some dire rugby for the next 60 minutes.
If I may mention some names.
Warrick Gelant is supposed to be the next best thing at fullback, the possible saviour of the Springbok 15 jersey. He was as slow as a carthorse on Saturday. His twinkle-toed running was nowhere to be seen, his inter-passing with team-mates was of the powder-puff variety. When he decided to run, he invariably did the check-and-bob-step before committing himself to actually running with the ball. That stuff belongs in touch-rugby Warrick, not in real rugby.
His defensive positioning and tackling was poor, making just three tackles all game, and missing 1.
Springbok quality? I think not.
The “Tongan Thor”, Taniela Tupou, is learning the game and is going to be a handful for any opposing proper as he gains experience and technical nous. He was a huge presence in demolishing a couple of Bulls’ scrums.
The Bulls need a scrumhalf, just one will do. Neither Warner nor Papier impressed, with both meters behind the game and out of position a number of times. Papier, although a nippy-zippy player with the ball in hand, is often nowhere to be seen when the ball emerges from the ruck. Warner should not be allowed to kick a ball, ever.
Not much more that I can say about this game.
Tries: Timu, Toua
Cons: Tuttle 2
Pens: Tuttle, Lance
Tries: Gelant, Warner
Cons: Pollard 2
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jono Lance, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Adam Korczyk, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Duncan Paia’aua
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Duncan Matthews, 10 Handre Pollard (c), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Nick de Jager, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans van Wyk, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Divan Rossouw