RIP The Running Game

Despite rule tweaks, coach exhortations, CEO pronouncements and spectator pleadings, Super Rugby's teams all forgot how to score tries last weekend.

Consider these stats from the 7 matches played...

  • 18 tries scored in total (between all 14 teams).
  • The Stormers scored 39 points but only three tries and one of them was a penalty try.
  • In 4 matches the team scoring the most tries lost.
  • 2 teams won without scoring any tries (Blues and Lions).
  • The Lions' Elton Jantjies scored a Super Rugby record by kicking 9 penalty goals (all his team's points) to win them the match.
OK, so there were some mitigating circumstances. The weather in Auckland was terrible (but it is New Zealand and the players should be used to that), it was round 1 so players are not at their peak and the Melbourne Rebels weren't playing to allow some team to inflate their for and against.

So it seems that playing ugly is back in fashion. Clearly the Rugby World Cup is still on the minds of players who have become accustomed to winning for the sake of winning only. Tries may attract more eyeballs and satisfy administrators but for the players there is a bigger picture and that's getting hold of some silverware. 

Even the Reds, the self-professed entertainers, resorted to a tight game that was achieving nothing until a Waratahs' error handed the ball to the Reds backline with 30 seconds to go. With no option but to run they finally did, scoring a try on the final siren. To that point, Quade Cooper's absence was missed but only to the extent that his replacement Mike Harris kicked all the goals that Quade would have missed, keeping the Reds in the game.

The Tahs too had no intention of running with the ball, both their tries coming from try line surges that could be measured with a micrometer. The one decent back-line move that should have resulted in a try wasn't a move at all but a mistimed kick that ended in Totafu Polata-Nau's hands with an open tryline 50 metres away. Of course the ball went forward and it all came to nought.

The good news for the Tahs is that Berrick Barnes is back next weekend and the game has evolved perfectly to his boot-heavy style of play. Waratahs coach Michael Foley, an old hooker with no idea of backline play, could not have wished for a more promising start to the season.