We didn’t see that coming when Folau Faingaa just defected teams from the ACT Brumbies to now the Western Force starting next season on a two-year deal, while remaining with Rugby Australia for Wallaby selection at the same time. He also reunites with a couple of ex-Brumbies who now play their trade in Perth – including Reejan Pasitoa, Bayley Kuenzle, Issak Fines, Kyle Godwin, Toni Pulu, Harry Lloyd & Angus Wagner.
It’s a great sign of ambition being shown there from the WA-based Super Rugby side – who wants to make the most of themselves in the long-term at Super Rugby level – and be a competitive front on the pitch. Plus, it will be great to see Faingaa get the chance to show his full 80 spells ahead of Felati Kaitu’u for the leading hooker position after he always start half-games often, before he was replaced by Lachlan Lonergan every time later during the 2nd half in a Brumbies shirt.
They have came from a long way since their shock axing back in 2018 before COVID changed everything three years ago, and Rugby Australia has came to their rescue once more as the 5th full-time Super Rugby Team here alongside the Melbourne Rebels, ACT Brumbies, NSW Waratahs & Queensland Reds.
From the Super Rugby AU Qualifying Final in 3rd last year to a near Top 8 finish in 9th this season in the Super Rugby Pacific; They’ve gone from strength to strength, having replaced Tim Sampson with one of the emerging coaches from New South Wales in none other than – Simon Cron – as the new head coach.
Not only he knows the NSW Rugby system & talent pool very well like current Tahs head coach Darren Coleman, he also most recently worked with Steve Hansen over the last three years as Director of Rugby at Toyota Verblitz in Japan.
There’s also a talented youngster in Jeremy Williams coming over from the Tahs where he will replace the now-retired Jeremy Thrush on the second row, while they convinced experienced Flanker/Number 8 Michael Wells to move back home from the Rebels.
The best is yet to come when Faingaa’s vast 63-cap Super Rugby and 25-cap Wallaby experience will change the way how the Force executes their throw-ins and driving maul come line-out time.
It could be a game changer under his watch that will provide plenty of competition across the Trans-Tasman in the hope of beating some New Zealand teams, as well as an extended shot via the Playoffs as long as they can finish Top 8 in the regular-season ladder every year.
Leicester Fainga’anuku is such a wonderful standout player tonight for the Crusaders on the left wing with a hat-trick of tries from the first-half. He struck a fantastic balance between pace & physicality where he can track back and forth that is being defensively, as well as finish off the attack. And it came at the right time when the Crusaders were patient with the ball off the back of the Western Force’s lack of support numbers, before his team called him up & bit back the Force that made them pay the price in return.
Another standout Crusader player to look at is Will Jordan in the No.15 shirt at full-back where he dominated the 2nd half with a hat-track of his own, just like team-mate Fainga’anuku from the other 40 minute spell. These two players both young and talented in their early 20s; they also share the same height, physicality and pace. All Jordan does is track back and protect his men defensively where he was tested with the tackling & read, before he knows what to do with the ball and that word is to dominate where he was just too good.
Both players are just sensational to watch where any opposing team will have a tough time dealing with Jordan and Fainga’anuku at their defensive territory, based on the lack of support numbers/communication before it’s ripped into shreds.
And Tim Anstee put his best tonight throughout the full 80 for his Western Force team at No.8. He provides so much physicality, talk-up and tall reach when smashing his way through the Crusaders defensive blocks with the ball on hand. He also provides that athletic ability when running back and forth where Anstee made a name for himself back in the 7s days. Although, his contribution benefitted with a number of winning penalties and advantages. But his team’s poor communication & execution in the attack let him down, where the Force had to pay the price for their defensive damages at the hands of the Crusaders in the end.
Western Force welcomed the Crusaders at HBF Park in Perth earlier tonight in Round 12 of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific. The home side briefly snatched the lead earlier on, before the Crusaders dominated the first-half at 8-18. They tried to catch up with another TRY from Fergus Lee-Warner not long after half-time, but the Saders are just too good with a 15-53 win.
It’s been a tough night in the office from the Western Force after a huge defeat on home soil v the Crusaders. They weren’t bad in the first half when the Force briefly snatched lead for a while at one point, thanks to Kyle Godwin’s cross-kick where Jake Strachan ran the ball in time for their opening TRY. Although, they’ve benefitted from a couple of winning penalties/advantages along the way. However, their lack of support & communication in the attack couldn’t keep the standard that the Crusaders set up tonight, which is too much to catch up where their defense was heavily exposed. They have a long trip now to Dunedin in New Zealand ahead of the Week 13 opener on Friday night v Highlanders.
And congratulations to the Crusaders on an easy win away from home after a shock defeat last week in Sydney v NSW Waratahs. Now they still need to work on some ill-discipline where they lost some penalties on a couple of occasions. They will need to be on their best if they want to beat the best Australian Super Rugby team next Friday night v ACT Brumbies in Canberra. But they’re just simply outstanding where the Crusaders took advantage of the Force’s lack of finishing opportunities, before they cashed in with plenty of hat-trick tries from Leicester Fainga’anuku & Will Jordan.
What a way to finish Round 9 of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific as we turn our attention between the Australian and New Zealand teams battling each other with six rounds left to go. NSW Waratahs were off to a stellar start in the 1st half with a decent lead ahead of half-time at 7-24, while Western Force began to make up lost time with three tries on the board in the 2nd half alone. However, the game has already handed over to the Tahs by that stage when they’re too good to pull off a comfortable win at HBF Park in Perth. The final score is 24-41.
NSW Waratahs looked outstanding; left, right, center, tonight; on all fronts. Their first-half spell was unbelievable when the Tahs rack up three tries on the board off the back of the Force’s poor start, such as; Mark Nawaquanitawase, Lalakai Foketi & Michael Hooper. And they continued to extend their winning margin alongside the double try brace from Alex Newsome after the half-time break, even though there were some mistakes with the ill-discipline and that blunder at one point from Dylan Pietsch on the left-wing. It’s nice to see the Tahs high & flying now in 5th on the ladder under new coach Darren Coleman; players such as Michael Hooper & Jed Holloway, who have returned from overseas, will play a key role in their playoff push & the development of the Tahs youngsters.
Western Force just still held on to their place within the Playoffs bubble in 8th; they need to start acting fast now if they want to stay there, especially with the New Zealand teams around the corner for the remaining six rounds this season beginning next weekend. There’s no problem with their defensive shape that helped the Force win a couple of penalties. Although, they can be patient when building some pressure with the ball going forward. However, they only dominated the 2nd half alone with three tries on top of one lone big score in the first 40. They need more support with the executions & cut the ill-discipline from the start if the Force wants to stay in this fight by winning games.
The Tahs will open the Super Round at 6 pm AEST with the Chiefs from Waikato in Hamilton, NZ, where all of the Round 10 games are held at AAMI Park in Melbourne next Friday. Meanwhile, the Force has an opportunity to strike back when they take on Moana Pasifika straight after this Tahs v Chiefs match-up at 8.30 pm AEST.
You cannot fault Michael Hooper’s all-round contribution 100% down on the openside back row at No.7 with such a great read noticing the Force’s conversion struggles. He was there to cancel the opposition team’s opportunities with a couple of his Tahs support numbers defensively; before the ball came to them & Hooper played a brilliant role when helping out the attack, having scored one of the team’s tries in the 1st half. It’s great to see Michael Hooper back home at the right time under new coach Darren Coleman & new a crop of youngsters that helped the Tahs become a winning Super Rugby team again.
The next Tahs spotlight player after Michael Hooper is Alex Newsome, who started in the No.15 shirt at full-back. How good is that two-minute demonstration with the two tries he scored in the 2nd-half? He’s happy with the way the Tahs fired off when his team spotted a couple of Western Force’s weaknesses in the attack before they cashed in & did some damage in return. Not only he’s a brilliant finisher thanks to the number of turnovers & penalties won that made his life easier, but he’s also a decent contributor defensively when Newsome nailed down the Force’s lack of numbers at their end. It’s also another good reason Newsome helped the Tahs dominate possession with the ball, which means more try-scoring chances & demolishing the Force’s defense that played a huge role in their big-scoring win tonight.
And Reesjan Pasitoa’s move to Perth from Canberra proved to be the right place for him to develop at first five-eighth, despite the one rash decision he made with the yellow card in the 2nd-half. He worked with his No.9 of Ian Prior very well when launching the attack together for the Force; that way, Pasitoa calls his numbers by dictating the game & put the pressure back on the Tahs with the ball on hand. Although, the executions worked with three tries in the 2nd half alone in addition to the lone 1st half TRY from himself. However, a poor first 40 left them way out of reach when their chances of winning from out of nowhere were slim to none.
It’s been a long time coming after 287 days, as Melbourne Rebels get to play at home in Round 2 of the Super Rugby Pacific v Western Force at AAMI Park. The first 20 minutes may be quiet for both teams, with the Force up ahead early in the first half, while Rebels just took the one three-point goal. But it’s the away team (Western Force) who found it too easy to nail down v Rebels by 25 points, 3-28.
The Force looked stronger than ever off the back of their 2021 season, even though they were so close to upsetting the Brumbies with the narrow loss last week in Canberra. They showed patience and teamwork for the majority tonight that led to a couple of successful big points, having dug deeper after the first 20 minutes of play when the Rebels lacked their attacking fire & possessed messy discipline. That’s how the Force took control of this game with Tim Anstee onboard with the first-half TRY. And they continued to increase their winning margin after half-time through Kyle Godwin via the penalty scrum feed, where the Force wrapped this up comfortably through another five-pointer touch score by sub utility back, Byron Ralston.
Meanwhile, the Rebels always know how to get the ball rolling defensively. They won a few penalties along the way including the three-point goal between the sticks from Matt Toomua at fly-half. However, they made plenty of ill-disciplinary mistakes, mainly full-back Reece Hodge, who received a double yellow card that turned into red. And the Rebels were also disorganized when trying to get the job done with the ball on hand despite the winning penalties, which is disappointing to reflect through a 25-point loss after full-time.
Rebels will now head off to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, QLD on Friday night v Fijian Drua where they both seek their first victories of 2022. And the Force will host their first home game this year at HBF Park in Perth, also on a Friday night local time v Queensland Reds, which is straight after the conclusion of Drua v Rebels match-up.
Izack Rodda worked really hard on smashing through every blow of the Melbourne Rebels defense tonight. He brings valuable Super Rugby and overseas experience by his side on the second row at the Western Force, which helped play a part in their win at AAMI Park. It’s so easy to look through the lens when it comes to the Rebels’ ill-discipline mistakes and their lack of numbers, thanks to his fantastic two-meter height plus the packed physicality. And he provided the Force plenty of chances to get the job done, before they took these for granted with a few tries & successful kicks that made Rodda’s game easier to play around. Since he had a well-deserved rest after 70 minutes of play, Rodda hopes to recover in time for next Friday’s home clash v Reds and continue tormenting opposition defenders throughout this Super Rugby season.
Next up is Force team-mate Ian Prior at the starting half-back role, who heavily contributed with two assisted tries and plenty of converted points tonight v Rebels. Not only did he look after the Force’s attacking shape with great care and talk-up that helped them execute past the Rebels, but also his brilliant kicking skills when clearing out & converting inside these two goalposts. He’s been at the Force for many years now with plenty more left in the tank on offer, as his presence both on and off the pitch will help them put this team on the hunt towards more breakthrough success at Super Rugby level.
And Michael Wells never gave the Western Force an easy go at Number 8 for the Melbourne Rebels. Every time a Force player runs into him or his team-mates, Wells is always there to tackle plus push and shove that may have given him some pain, but he never backs down. Credit to the Rebels forward back and defensive contribution, where it helped them win a few penalties. It’s just the messy discipline & the miscommunicated attack, has played a part of their huge loss tonight, however. He desperately needed the attack to combine with their defense that can go a long way towards winning games & stay in the fight long-term.
2022 is a big shakeup for super rugby. The competition includes three new teams and is now exclusive to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Despite the changes, this season should still be incredibly exciting.
The closest thing we have had to super rugby over the last three years was the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman series last year. It was a series in which the Australian teams struggled massively, only winning two games against the five New Zealand teams in the competition.
It looks likely to be another year where Aussie teams will struggle. The Brumbies once again look to be the pick of the Australian teams despite the Reds winning their first domestic title in Super Rugby Australia last season. The Queensland Reds will be looking to compete thanks to a variety of international players like Taniela Tupou and Tate McDermott.
The Waratahs, Force and Rebels will all be looking for spots in the knockout stages, but it will not be easy. The Waratahs do see captain Michael Hooper return for 2022, but they still look to be towards the bottom end of the table. Both the Force and Rebels have lost a lot of test experience over the last year and it will sadly hurt them this season.
New Zealand Teams
After dominating the Trans-Tasman series last year, it looks to be another Super Rugby season dominated by Kiwi teams.
Favourites for their fourth title, the Crusaders have a wealth of international talent led by two time reigning player of the year Richie Mo’unga. Their talent also includes Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, George Bridge as well as recent addition Pablo Matera. They may have some competition for their fourth title in a row.
The Blues are welcoming back Beauden Barrett, while still having internationals like Rieko Ioane, Nepo Laulala and Dalton Papalii. They come into 2022 off the back of winning the Trans-Tasman series. The Chiefs could be a surprise this season despite the losses of Damain Mckenzie and Lachlan Boshier. The Chiefs have one of the most talented set of forwards in Super Rugby which could dominate any team on any day.
The Highlanders and Hurricanes both have a huge amount of talent on the squads. But the Highlanders will struggle having lost a third of their starting XV from the Trans-Tasman final. They have a brilliant leader in Aaron Smith, but will struggle to progress in the tournament. Similar situation for the Hurricanes with some major losses coming into the season. But the Hurricanes add Dom Bird and TJ Perenara and could surprise a few people this season.
Two New Pacific Teams
This season features two new teams, both based in the Pacific Islands. After many years of lobbying, the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika will join Super Rugby. Starting with the Fijian Drua. They have had a difficult preparation for Super Rugby due to COVID issues, meaning the squad is based on the NSW North Coast as they could not prepare in Fiji. It looks like the team will need some time to adapt to Super Rugby’s intensity. Their squad contains Olympic champions Napolioni Bolaca, Kalione Nasoko and Meli Derenalagi. Don’t be surprised if Fijian Drua make a push for the knockout stages this season.
The second new team is Moana Pasifika, made up of players from New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and Australia, including 18 former or current internationals. Much like Fijian Drua, it will be a season of getting used to Super Rugby for Moana Pasifika. 110 capped Australian Sekope Kepu is captain for the 2022 season, bringing a huge amount of experience to the new team. Moana Pasifika will be very exciting in the upcoming season, but don’t expect them to be near the top of the table come the end of the season.
The Loss of South African Teams
The reshaped 2022 Super Rugby does not include any South African teams, after their Super Rugby licenses expired after the 2020 season. It does seem odd going into a Super Rugby season without the Bulls, Sharks, Lions or Stormers. Their exclusion opens the floor up a lot for either the New Zealand teams to take over or opportunities for the new teams or the Australian teams to step up.
Super Rugby is going to look very different this season. Losing the South African teams is big for the competition. Despite not competing with them domestically, South Africa is still playing against New Zealand, Argentina and Australia in the Rugby Championship. It does show some disjointed thinking when it comes to Super Rugby’s thinking. But the 2022 changes bring plenty of opportunities for Pacific Island teams who have been trying to get into Super Rugby for years.
In this new look Super Rugby, it looks as if it will be a few years until the new teams or the Australian teams can compete with the talent of the New Zealand teams. 2022 looks to be a similar story.
Working from the bottom up, I think the four teams that are likely to miss out on the knockout stages are most likely to be the Rebels, Force, Waratahs and Moana Pasifika. These teams just don’t have the talent to move any higher. In terms of the teams to get stuck at the quarterfinals, I could easily see these teams being the Hurricanes, Highlanders, Fijian Drua and the Brumbies. The Brumbies could be the surprise package this year, with the talent their squad possesses.
But this season will be dominated by the New Zealand teams. The Reds will be the exception to this, looking likely to at least reach the semi-finals. In an emotional season, the Chiefs will also be targeting a semi-final push, but it may be slightly too difficult for them to get past either of the two teams left.
These two aren’t exactly surprising to anyone who has followed Super Rugby over the last five years. The Blues welcome back Beauden Barrett after his time in Japan, the team has talent in all areas. But the Blues don’t quite have the two time reigning Super Rugby Player of the year.
I think at the end of the season, the Crusaders will lift their fourth title in a row. A team with Richie Mo’unga, Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Sam Whitelock and Joe Moody is too much talent for any team to compete with when you reach the knockouts. The Crusaders will win their fourth title in a row.
It may be difficult for me to keep up with a few sporting events at the same time in a busy weekend which is so huge to cover so had to rest up at times with managing my body. But I will put in a summary of what we have seen so far from Week 5 of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.
First of all, we will start with the Crusaders here and they may have won all five games so far in this cross-border competition between the Australian and New Zealand teams. That includes yesterday afternoon’s encounter v Melbourne Rebels at Leichardt Oval, New South Wales at 52-26. But they unfortunately did not meet the 33 point margin & bonus point requirements to pip The Blues for next weekend’s final.
It did not go the Crusaders way when The Blues had a big head start v Western Force in the 1st half at 28-0. The Aickland-based side were almost blown off by the Force’s fantastic comeback after the break alone but not enough time to catch up in the end at 31-21. So it’s an all New Zealand showdown once more at Eden Park & see who will take home this trophy ahead of the International leg which kicks off next month.
Then we go to Brookvale Oval for the final regular Super Rugby Trans-Tasman game as NSW Waratahs welcome The Chiefs from Waikato. Chiefs pulled away with the early lead before the home team registered a late first touch just right on half-time thanks to a Will Harrison cross kick that sent Mark Nawaqanitawase flying up high. But it’s the visitors who stole the show when Sean Wainui collected a whopping five tries at 7-40 that sums up the Tahs frustrating 2021 test.
We were excited to see them battle against the Kiwi counterparts beforehand after a wonderful 10 weeks of Super Rugby AU. But it’s no fun seeing the Australian teams fall way behind with only two wins out after five rounds in the 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman which saw all five of them out of the Top 2 almost immediately. There are some good moments however when it comes competing against the best, and it will benefit them in the long term from 2022.
The first 32 minutes saw both Brumbies & Western Force fight for their first points. When they struggled to find any solution to get past the touch line going forward. So far the defensive work from Western Force got them ahead. Thanks to the three-point penalty goal. But Brumbies bounced back straight away. Thanks to the advantage against the Force.
And used that opportunity to nail down the Brumbies first touchdown from Tom Wright. After the home side used the short side towards the left with no way for the Force to prevent it. At the same time Force also lost a man in right winger Toni Pulu.
Where he made a dangerous tackle on Irae Simone. And received a straight red card. Before Brumbies scored another touchdown via Tom Banks. Brumbies 14-3 Force at half-time.
Western Force began to close down the lead despite having 14 men. When their defensive setup remained key to their strengths. Thanks to the successful scrum which led to another penalty goal. Brumbies 12-6 Western Force after 45 minutes. The away team however struggled to group themselves together in the attack. While Brumbies took advantage of their mistakes going forward.
Especially with plenty of patience via the ball in play. They might have been denied a touchdown. But pushed their extended lead via the penalty goal to nine. Brumbies 15-6 Western Force with 20 minutes left.
Before Force bounced back a bit with the three-point penalty goal. Score remains to the Brumbies in front at 15-9 going into the final ten minutes of play. But still struggled to get going in the attack.
Where Ryan Longeran kicked enough into the goal. That pushed the Brumbies ahead by another three-points. The home team leads at 18-9 with six minutes left. In the end Western Force unable to get away their lack of attacking awareness. After another penalty goal was enough to pull it off first at the finish line. Final score is Brumbies 21-9 Western Force. As the home side will face Queensland Reds next Saturday for the Final.