Queensland crowned champions at Suncorp Stadium
An excellent Super Rugby final, marred by a couple of dubious refereeing decisions, was won by the Queensland Reds, a rare success which has come after years of mediocrity and was throwback to their glory days of the 1990s. A thrilling match, very few points were scored in the opening half but the intensity from both sides was of a Test match standard. Quade Cooper struck first with a penalty before Dan Carter produced some trademark wizardry with a grubber kick through behind the defence that bounced perfectly into his hands and he strolled over. Cooper struck back with another penalty after a crude chip from Brad Thorn and at half-time the score sat at 6-7 to the visitors.
Backed by a record Australian provincial crowd of 52,113 though, the Reds were no doubt spurred on by the vocal support. The turning point came when Brad Thorn thought he’d scored after a good forward drive found him at the bottom, but it was ruled as held up by the TMO and the momentum swung. Good work from Will Genia and Quade Cooper around the Crusaders ten metre line saw the ball land in the hands of Digby Ioane, with plenty of space ahead of him. He powered through the gap and left full-back Tom Marshall comically diving towards nothing as he motored under the posts, giving the Reds the lead. Carter then brought the game level with a penalty leaving the scores all tied up at 13-13, before a bit of magic happened… read about it in Try of the Weekend.
The Crusaders have slugged away all over the world this year, the tragic earthquake in Christchurch uprooting them and placing them on the road. But class triumphs over adversity, and their performances in this year’s championship have been excellent, just not enough at the end to bring the title home. Their rugby has been thrillingly entertaining over the last few months, and this defeat will leave a bitter taste in the mouth, but will also make any motivational speeches a lot easier to write come the start of next season.
I spoke in the preview for this final about how for the Reds, winning the final would be the completion of a remarkable journey from strugglers to champions in just two seasons. The question now is, with the majority of their squad signed on and other young talent coming through, can one championship become two, or more? With the best half backs in world Rugby in Will Genia and Quade Cooper pulling the strings, there are no limits.
Fiji surprise Samoa as Japan edge out Tonga
The Pacific Nations Cup was thrown wide open over the weekend with a shock win for Fiji and a tight game in Tokyo. Fiji’s result was all the more impressive after the way they lost to Tonga last weekend, and they scored five tries in front of a strong home crowd. London Irish’s Sailosi Tagicakibau was on the scoresheet for the Samoans, who as favorites for the title will be disappointed with having been defeated so convincingly by 36-18.
Meanwhile a James Aldridge conversion proved the difference for Japan as they won 28-27 against Tonga in seven try thriller. Coached by former Italy coach John Kirwan, Japan fought back from behind to score three tries in 17 minutes and seal a thriller.
Samurai International win the Middlesex 7s
The all-star invitational side, who were champions in 2010, saw off Esher in the final to clinch their second title of the tournament at Twickenham. Not involving the Premiership teams this year, the annual charity event was filled with exotic sides from Brazil to uh, Esher, and remained a great day out for all involved.
Try of the weekend has to go to Will Genia, as it will be contender for Try of the Season. Seemingly drifting, Genia then cut back and was away through open space, searching endlessly for support. Eventually it dawned on him that he might just have to go all the way with Quade Cooper to far away to pass it, and he did it, reaching out brilliant to touchdown and complete a 65 metre break. Sheer class. Watch it here.
This weekend’s Hero is Reds coach Ewen McKenzie. Completing the ultimate turnaround has all come form this man, and now an honorary Queenslander, the Wallabies job should be his after Robbie Deans departs.
The Villain is Bryce Lawrence, who pulled back Reds lock Rob Simmons from a wonderful breakaway for an apparent knock-on that, well, simply wasn’t. He’s lucky it didn’t cost the Reds the game.
What were your thoughts on the action this weekend? Let us know.
by Ben Coles