Three Points
Sio's scrummaging a welcome sight for Wallabies
Brett McKay
February 25, 2015
Scott Sio has put forth a couple of strong scrummaging efforts © Getty Images
Enlarge

Round two of Super Rugby provided yet more unexpected results, while some highly fancied sides showed signs of life after first-round performances that many a tipster has quickly forgotten. And teams who surprised us in round one were found wanting a week later, proving only one thing remains true about the premier southern hemisphere competition: you just cannot assume anything from one week to the next. What you thought you knew about a team one week may not apply the following week. Solid game plans descend into panicked losing bonus point-seeking desperation quicker than you can say, 'there goes that tip, then'.

Here a few things that stood out in round two.

Lacking breakdown presence? Just add an All Blacks flanker

The return to Super Rugby of Adam Thomson in a Queensland Reds jumper always promised heaps, but who really thought it would deliver even more again?

Thomson admitted at half-time on Saturday night in Brisbane that his lungs were burning and the pace of the game was a fair bit higher than his two seasons with the Canon Eagles in Japan had him used to. But you wouldn't have known it watching him play.

Queensland's Adam Thomson wins a lineout, Queensland Reds v Western Force, Super Rugby, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, February 21, 2015
Adam Thomson was huge for the Reds against the Force © Getty Images
Enlarge

Red hair and with socks down, as always seems to have been the case, had Thomson easily identifiable in every breakdown he found himself in. And there were heaps, as the Reds' breakdown presence was noticeably better than the disappointing opening effort in Canberra.

The stats sheets confirm Thomson's stellar return. Four runs for 16 metres in the tight spots, tucking the ball under the arm every time; 14 tackles made with just one missed, and two turnovers won to boot. And two lineout takes, both when the intended target and when pinching one from a Western Force throw-in, as well as providing good leverage behind rookie tight-head prop Sef Fa'agase.

I had Thomson pinned as the Reds most valuable pick-up back early in the new year, and ahead of the higher-profile dual recruitment of James O'Connor and Karmichael Hunt. Already that's come true, with O'Connor yet to play a game, and Hunt, perhaps, yet to play again.

To my thinking, what the Reds needed especially was some follow-me-boys experience in the backrow for the likes of Curtis Browning, Liam Gill, Jake Schatz, and once fit again, Ed Quirk. They had plenty of firepower out wide even before bringing O'Connor back from France, but they needed something more than what their serviceable young back-rowers were providing.

Thomson is that something more, and he was superb on Saturday night. What's more, he dragged Gill with him, with the young opensider's numbers very closely matching Thomson's. Runs, tackles, turnovers won - heck, even penalties conceded; whatever Thomson did, Gill did too, and the two of them made more than 10% of the Reds' total carries, and made more than a quarter of the Reds' tackles between them.

Thomson and Gill working in tandem the way they did was the major reason for the Reds getting the better of the breakdown against what is a very good breakdown team, and on just one showing, it's already clear to me that they'll be a major reason should the Reds push for the playoffs in 2015.

I don't want to say the Chiefs are a one-man attack, but...

I'll say it anyway. And it'll be harsh, because it is only round two and the two players I mention have only played one game each. And not together.

Last week, I raved about the Sonny Bill Williams' offload game, and the effect he was still able to have on the Chiefs' attack even in the absence of All Blacks fly-half, Aaron Cruden. With Cruden back for the New Plymouth showdown with the Brumbies, I was genuinely excited to watch the Cruden-Williams combination for the first time since the 2013 decider.

Except it didn't happen. Williams was ruled out less than an hour before kickoff, and Cruden directed the Chiefs attack around almost nothing like they played the week before against the Blues, which I described in Three Points as, "following SBW wherever he went and waiting for offloads".

And I wasn't alone in wondering about this change, with Sky Sport commentator Justin Marshall remarking about Charlie Ngatai late in the game, as the Chiefs were trying to work out how to win the match:

"When you get to this stage of the game, and you look at what's happening in the dynamics of the game, you look to what's worked; what's been successful for you," Marshall began. "Charlie Ngatai. Everything that's been good about the Chiefs tonight, he's been involved in. They need to get the ball in his hands. He's having a good night - give it to him."

And Ngatai was excellent, with his numbers confirming a standout game in terms of run metres, clean breaks, and defenders beaten.

I know it's only round two, and I don't really mean they're a one-man attack, but it just intrigued me that, with the really strong game Ngatai was having at second-five, why the Chiefs didn't still use the same attacking plan from week one. Hopefully we can just put it down to rust or something.

Charlie Ngatai cut through the Brumbies defence © Getty Images
Enlarge

Australia's next top prop?

I couldn't help but be impressed with the scrummaging of the Brumbies against the Chiefs on Friday night and in particular Scott Sio at loose-head. Sio has been on the radar and on the periphery for a little while now, but injury has always struck just as it seemed his Wallabies time was about to arrive.

In the first half, opposing Chiefs tight-head Siate Tokolahi, Sio had a lot of success leading the second shove, twice shearing Tokolahi off the scrum. After Ben Tameifuna came on in the second half, Sio completely dominated the once All Blacks squad member in four scrums over the course of seven minutes.

Twice Sio was able to get under Tameifuna and 'pop' him, and twice more he was able to win penalties after Tameifuna collapsed and stood up early. Sio had well and truly earned his spell by the 62nd minute.

And like last year, the real measure of the Brumbies' scrum dominance was the way it disappeared once Ben Alexander and then Sio were both replaced. It was scrum pressure on their own line that saw the Brumbies concede what would be the match-winning penalty.


Enter your Super Rugby tips at http://www.footytips.com.au/tipping/superrugby for your chance to win an Auckland Bledisloe Cup travel package. Enter the ESPN Scrum Super Stars tipping league at http://www.footytips.com.au/comps/ESPN_Scrum_Super_Stars to claim bragging rights over the ESPN Scrum rugby journalists including Greg Growden..


© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.

  • Football

  • Cricket

  • Rugby

    • Days
    • Hrs
    • Mins
    • Secs

    F1 - Mexican GP

  • OtherLive >>

    Boxing - Nelson v Wilson; Simmons v Dickinson; Joshua v Gavern (Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle)
    Golf - Houston Open
    Snooker - China Open
    Tennis - Miami Open