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Rugby World Cup 2015

The eighth instalment of the Rugby World Cup Pool stage has been completed with the usual suspects of teams from the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship making up the final eight teams. Hosts England are the notable exception, but there was always going to be a top tier team being knocked out in the so called, “Pool of death”, Pool A. The real highlight of the Pool stage was the 34-32 upset by Japan over South Africa in the first week. Possibly the most improved team of the tournament, Japan, were unlucky not to progress to the finals series with only one loss to Scotland in Pool B.

  

It has been one of the most popular tournaments with most matches played to sellout or near sellout crowds and a national TV record of 25 million achieved in Japan for the Brave Blossoms clash with Samoa, surpassing the French record from 2007 tournament they hosted.. Georgia’s win over Tonga and Romania’s one point, come back, win over Canada are standouts from the lower tier nations and the gap is narrowing, making this the most hotly contested World Cup in history. No longer are the 100 point blowout scores seen as the lower tier nations are really challenging the big guns…

The knockout stage of the 2015 tournament has some real juicy match ups with Ireland pitted against their nemesis Argentina, New Zealand against France at Millenium, South Africa verses Wales and the Wallabies against their bogey team, Scotland, back at Twickenham. It has worked out as a classic Southern Hemisphere verse Norther Hemisphere affair with the respective troublemakers to face each other. Three nations have won two World Cups a piece and of the other five nations, France has made three finals.

The finals series is certain to take the World Cup to another level and it is those hard matches in the Pool stages that really propel teams to achieve their goals in the sudden death knockout part. It will be another weekend of late nights in the Antipodeas with the mouth watering match ups and may the best teams achieve victory.

   

All But…

One of the Reds better performances of the season, with the much anticipated return of Quade Cooper, was not quite enough to secure a win against an impressive Johannesburg Lions side, that have won three from four on their Australasian road trip. Less than 20,000 diehard fans had come out to see the return of some of the missing stars.

After some razzle-dazzle from Cooper in the first half with James O’Conner running off him, the impenetrable Lions defence remained intacked with the Reds trailing 8-3. A miss-throw from replacement hooker Saia Faingaa to James Horwill in the second half gifted the South Africans 7 points, to lead 15-3.

A short time later the reds were back in the contest with a penalty try after Greg Holmes came on and added much needed grunt to the front row to trail 15-0. A neat backline move with James O’Conner standing at first receiver lead to a try by Samu Kerevi which put the Reds in front until Ben Tapuai gave away a penalty in the 72nd minute which Elton Jantjies slotted to put the Lions ahead 18-17. A desperate field-goal attempt by Cooper was charged down right on fulltime to leave the Reds one point behind.

“We’re incredibly disappointed by this result.” Reds coach Richard Graham said after the match. “We put ourselves in a position to win the game. Had we managed the last portion of the game better we could have left here with a win tonight.”

It does not get any easier for the Reds now as they depart on their road trip, first to Melbourne then off to South Africa. They are beginning to show positive signs, but the next few weeks together will see where this team is headed and how secure Graham’s position will be.

Seeing Red

As the 27,199 spectators at Suncorp Stadium filed out after another loss to the New South Wales Waratahs, 23-5, questions started to be levelled at Queensland Reds coach Richard Graham. Queenslanders are a pretty passionate lot and to lose so easily to arch rivals the Waratahs, with the 133 year rivalry seeming a pointless advertising gimmick to heighten pre-match anticipation, seems like the players are lacking direction.

Eddie Jones and Phil Mooney were shown the door before Ewen McKenzie arrived as the saviour and turned the Reds fortunes around winning the Inaugural Super 15 Competition in 2011. Since Graham has taken over the Reds have spiralled down to 13th place last year, the position they are currently placed, and with a rampaging Brumbies match next weekend their prospects do not look much better.

QRU chief executive Jim Carmichael and chairman Rod McCall have some serious decisions to make over the next few weeks if they want to maintain their healthy membership base. Despite an horrific amount of injuries (Quade Cooper, Rod Simmons, James Horwill, Beau Robinson, Ed O’Donoghue, Ed Quirk and the suspension of Karmichael Hunt) this season, that are a natural occurrences in professional rugby, the fans expect results.

Graham’s contract runs out at the end of this season and there are number of suitably qualified Australian head coaches plying their trade in Europe and Japan that should be considered. We all want to see a strong Reds side and the buck stops with the coach.

THE DAY BRISBANERUGBY.COM WENT GLOBAL

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time.
 

T.S. Elliot

Little Gidding

© September, 1942

 

As I board QF 537 at Brisbane Domestic Terminal the Third Test against the French is kicking off at Sydney Football Stadium; where, at the 11th hour, I was granted a coverted media pass to attend the sold out match. Thanks to a man I just happened to run into at the Sofitel in Brisbane two weeks before, Bill Pulver, CEO of Australian Rugby Union (ARU). I had introduced myself as the Editor-at-Large of Brisbanerugby.com and he handed me his business card and said, “Whenever you are in Sydney, give me a call.” Well I wasn’t in Sydney, I was going there, and it was 11:46am in Brisbane.

 

Now we go back two weeks to June 4th when I just happened to be walking through the Sofitel lobby, because I knew I could get a hit of my latest addiction, free Wi-Fi. Like a junky suffering withdrawal, I took my Galaxy S5 and gingerly searched for the free Sofitel Lobby Wi-Fi. Typed in “accept” and sat back in relief while my emails, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. loaded. I ordered a coffee and looked around at my fellow junkies tapping away at the phones, tablets, laptops etc. with sheer pleasure on their faces, like a heroin attic scoring a hit in Fortitude Valley. 

 

I glanced over to the reception area and noticed a young gentleman that I had never met before, but had first seen on the rugby pitch 11 years ago at Lang Park in the 2003 World Cup. With a sense of disbelief I walked over to the man and introduced myself, to which he replied, “I’m Freddy”.

 

The French number 10, Fredric Michalak!

 

To be continued…Image 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super 18 & Beyond

Yesterday, Bill Pulver, CEO of the ARU, announced that initial discussions with the CEOs of the five Australian Super 15 franchises on SANZARS proposed format for Super 18, coming into effect in 2016, are positive. Greg Growden, from ESPN scrum.com, told me this morning it was “ridiculous”. On Foxtel’s The Rugby Club last night they discussed the concept and I understand Tim Horan’s wish for a South Pacific team to be included, but television rights demand that greater audiences in Asia will benefit from their inclusion. Obviously with the 2019 World Cup in Japan, including matches in Hong Kong & Singapore, a franchise based in Tokyo or Osaka is almost a fait accompli.

 

With the time zone of Japan only being one hour behind Eastern Standard Time, or an hour ahead of Western Australia, the television audiences in these areas is where the money will be generated for Murdoch & Co. Even if some of those “Asian” matches were played in Hong Kong or Singapore, they would align with the Perth time zone. After all, as Pulver says, the money is in the television rights and the positives he was hinting at was some Super Rugby matches will be shown on free to air channels.

 

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HSBC WORLD SEVENS GOLD COAST Final Wrap

The Gold Coast 7s party is over for 2013 and the Kiwis finally claim the spoils after two exhilarating days of action defeating the Aussies 40-19 in an exciting Cup Final where initially the local team lead 12-0 after two quick tries. All the weekend action was hot on and off the field with the Robina Stadium bathed in glorious sunshine, until the twilight sessions began, of course. The usual costumed spectators from ninja turtles to ostrich jockeys were in the crowd to support Round 1 of the HSBC Sevens World Series.

 

Last year’s winners Fiji, under new coach, former England boss Ben Ryan, proved not quite up to their usual high standard. Despite a loss to Wales they did top Pool C, however they squandered this opportunity losing to England, 12-26, in the Cup quarter final. As a consolation, they did win the Plate with a rousing 36-0 victory over Kenya.

 

The Bowl was won by France 19-14 after a strong challenge from Canada that went into extra time. France were relegated to the Bowl after losing 5-29 to South Africa and 12-26 to England in Pool B on Saturday. Canada were their due to a count back in Pool C, where the top three teams finished on 7 points. Fiji were given the top berth with Wales second.

 

Team USA took out the Shield Final 22-0 over Portugal, after coming third in a tough Pool A with the likes of New Zealand, Tonga and Kenya.

 

England showed the talent they had in their stocks by defeating South Africa 47-0 in the play-off for third. After a mammoth Cup semi-final loss to Australia 19-24, South Africa, were just too weary to put up much resistance to an English side that had scored the first points against New Zealand for the tournament in their 5-14 semi-final loss. But, the New Zealanders, as they showed all tournament, with an unblemished score line after day 1, that they were always going to be the team to beat. Under coach Michael O’Conner the Aussies came out firing in the Cup Final leading 12-0, however their draining semi-final with South Africa, that went into a second 5 minute extension, proved too much against the much fancied Kiwis.

 

Rugby league school of excellence, Keebra Park State High, proved their versatility by once again winning the national schools sevens title 24-10 over TSS in an all-Gold Coast affair. Forced off the main oval to Robina station reserve due to Australia’s semi-final double extra time with South Africa did not deter from the determination for Keebra Park to secure their fourth straight 7s title, extending their unbeaten record to 40 matches.

 

Numbers attending the two days were 25,320 which is down on last year’s 27,000+. Rugby Union boss, Bill Pulver, will be sitting down with a team of professionals to see how an improvement can be made to have more people attending. The Gold Coast contract is up next year, 2014, and it’s important to keep this location leading up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which has sevens, as the Gold Coast is the host.

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Souths Rugby Football Club, Brisbane USA-Canada Tour 1988

This November will mark the 25th anniversary of the Southern Districts Rugby Union Football Club’s epic undefeated tour of the USA and Canada. On the 26th of November, 1988 a contingent of 48 members, both players and supporters, departed Brisbane Airport bound for Vancouver. Led by Tour Captain Mark “Nugget” White, the youngest member was Brad Moriarty, at just 10 years old, and the eldest, Henri Harries, at 54 years of age. The tour party grew to 50 as we were joined by Ken & Sue Wills, who had travelled via Europe before coming over to Vancouver.

 

The tour was the culmination of some of the finest moments of the club’s history: winning the Brisbane A Grade Premiership in 1986 (not since 1958); followed the next year, 1987, by defeating Parramatta in Sydney for the Australian Club Championship; and a star studded Colts 1 side winning the Premiership in 1988. As the youngest player in the touring party, at 19, and having played in the Premiership winning Colts 1 team, it was a particularly memorable occasion.

 

After a massive travelling effort of some 22+ hours, from Brisbane to Sydney to Honolulu to LA-X, then finally a Delta Airlines flight up to Vancouver. Upon arrival we were expected to play rugby against Meraloma RFC in the rain & icy conditions out on North 10th Street near the Molson Brewery. Being the youngest member I was relegated to the bench; however, it wasn’t too long before I debuted for Souths seniors as a replacement flanker. I remember getting tackled and bracing my fall with my hand in what I thought was a puddle of water; which turned out to be ice… The first match was won and this was followed by much drinking and merriment well into the night and onto the streets of downtown Vancouver.

 

From Canada we travelled to San Francisco to play the Golden Gate Rugby Club in the middle of Golden Gate Park for another win. Located in the middle of Golden Gate Park with the rugby fields inside a cycling track, it proved a bit treacherous just entering to play. San Fran is a beautiful city and Fisherman’s Warf proved a big drawcard for building camaraderie; one memorable day was spent at the Eagle Café, Pier 39.

 

After three days we were back in the air and out to Las Vegas where we stayed at the iconic Landmark Tower. Gambling and stage productions was the goal here, although a few participated in a 7s tournament. A road trip was then planned, the two coaches were loaded with Coors & Budweiser before we headed out to Hoover Dam and then a night at the Grand Canyon. A scenic trip through Monument Valley saw us arrive in Scottsdale, Arizona for our third match & a memorable win.

 

Back on the coaches we continued to San Diego where we played & won against UCSD to complete our “Grand Slam”. Trips to San Diego Zoo & Tijuana were arranged before heading up to Los Angeles for more sightseeing at Universal Studios & Disneyland.

 

The main tour group departed LA on December 13th for two nights in Honolulu en-route back to Brisbane; whilst a few of us decided to stay on and extend our American experience. Those of us who stayed on, caught up with Gary Christison, a late withdrawer from the original tour, for Christmas 1988 in New York, New York.

 

Tour Party: Mark White “Tour Captain”, Grant Brady, Anthony Blake, Michael Bailey, Stephen Blackburn, Paul Coffey, Warwick Currin, Shane Campbell, Sean Cuffe, Tony Cooper, Anthony Crane, Kevin Culla, Ian Cameron, John Deighton, Peter “Doubles” Daley, Brian Drainey, Mark Derwin, Patrick Dempsey, Richard Dickson, Michael Duke, Jon Eske, Michael Firth, Darren Free, Alec Harris, Henri Harries, Connie Harries, David Hickey, Gary Henderson, Mark Jenvey, David Knight, Donna Knox, Michael Maloney, Ian Moriarty, Cheryl Moriarty, Brad Moriarty, Paul Mitchell, John Mulvihill, Gary Perrett, Christopher Rea, Danielle Strachan, Gavin Sparks, Michael Turner, Ray Thomas, John Wilson, Barry Watson, Barry Wilkin, Lyn Wilkin, Ken Wills, Sue Wills, Sean Zegenhagen.ImageImageImageImage