Five things we learned: One area Gordon must fix to convince Wallabies boss, ABs bruiser should be on notice


Late on Friday night, Morgan Turinui paid Carter Gordon the ultimate compliment.

The former Wallaby turned pundit described Gordon’s pass as Stephen Larkham-esque.

Over the course of 80 minutes against the Drua, we saw Gordon’s passing game and vision come to the fore.

His cut out pass to Glen Vaihu, where he cut out three Drua defenders, was delicious as the recalled winger scored out wide.

What a way to start the second-half! ????#SuperRugbyPacific #REBvDRU

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) April 5, 2024

Ten minutes later, Vaihu had his second, as Gordon’s bat-on pass was perfectly executed. In-between, he also put David Feliuai away with another sumptuous ball.

As well as showing off his passing skills, his clean out in the phase ahead of Taniela Tupou’s linebreak showed his desire to get stuck in and react to the moment.

It was a timely moment because it gave Tupou the front-foot ball he thrives off, with the Drua unable to slow the Rebels down.  

However, two aspects are holding Gordon back: his kicking for the corner and off the tee – and it’s the biggest reason why Noah Lolesio’s stocks continue to rise.

Not for the first time, Gordon kicked the ball dead in goal from a penalty kick. It’s something both he and Ben Donaldson have struggled with in recent years.

Gordon’s goal-kicking was also shaky, as one ball flew under the posts. Later, he pushed the ball well out.

In Tests, where matches are often settled by scoreboard pressure, banking points from the tee is crucial.

At present, Gordon’s a 50-50 proposition.

Compare that to Lolesio, who hasn’t missed over the past two weeks and was also ice cool under the roof in Dunedin in their season-turning win over the Highlanders, and the difference is stark.

Noah Lolesio hasn’t missed a shot at goal in the past two Super Rugby matches. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Gordon’s hopes of starting for the Wallabies aren’t helped by the lack of goal kickers beyond the five Australian fly-halves.

Indeed, all five Australian goal kickers are currently wearing the No.10 jersey.

Outside of them, Brumbies halfback Ryan Lonergan is one of the best from the tee in the country, but with Lolesio currently the preferred sharp-shooter, it means another quality goal kicker isn’t getting the repetition that’s often needed to maintain form and confidence.


Staying with the Brumbies and Charlie Cale is putting together a compelling case for a national call-up.

Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt will be excited by what he’s seeing in the back-row – and not just by Cale.

But what the Brumbies No.8 is producing is quality and eye-catching. He’s a point-of-difference type of player.

Cale made another three lineout steals against the Waratahs and disturbed another throw, which led to a Brumbies scrum.

It’s no fluke either because he’s the competition leader in lineout steals (11), with the back-rower one ahead of the Waratahs’ Jed Holloway.

Brumbies back-rower Charlie Cale continues to turn heads. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Although he’s on the leaner side, his ability to get up quickly is because of his explosiveness.

Cale’s ability with ball-in-hand and his pace are another two aspects which stand out.

The 23-year-old’s stunning try earlier in the year against the Rebels made highlights reels across the globe, but he once again backed it up by finishing off a lovely worked movement from the Brumbies at the death against the Waratahs.

He also punched hard from the back of the scrum earlier in the half and threw a lovely over-the-top basketball-esque pass to Lolesio.

He’s one to watch, and his combination with Tom Hooper and Rob Valetini worked wonders over the weekend.


There was one huge theme over the weekend and that is without a forward pack, it doesn’t matter who you have in the backline.

The Force unveiled yet another glitzy backline signing on Saturday, but just as Nic White and Ben Donaldson are discovering, Kurtley Beale will find it difficult behind an undermanned forward pack.

The Force were bullied up front by the Blues during their ugly return to Eden Park.

Until they solve their tight-five issues, they won’t ever be a Super Rugby contender.

Angus Bell’s latest setback is going to heap more pressure on the Waratahs. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

That involves both short and long-term planning.

Dan McKellar ensured the Brumbies had a tight-five to stand the test in Super Rugby.

It’s why he brought James Slipper to jostle with Scott Sio at loose-head prop and had three international hookers.

He also lured Cadeyrn Neville, Nick Frost and Darcy Swain to Canberra – all three locks will likely feature under Schmidt this year.

The Force haven’t been helped by Izack Rodda’s lingering injuries, but Super Rugby programs need several forwards, not just one.

In Sydney, Coleman’s Waratahs are also in the hurt locker.

Their problems are also up front.

Although on paper the Waratahs have a rock star backline, they’re paying the price for being wasteful and not playing behind a forward pack that they trust.

Charlie Gamble was ever present at the defensive breakdown against the Brumbies, while Julian Heaven carried well, but the rest of the forward pack was barely sighted with ball-in-hand.

Angus Bell’s injury will only test Coleman’s Waratahs even further, with the Crusaders’ strength in their front-row at present.

Coleman has now lost four of his seven contracted props. Few sides ever come back from that kind of injury toll.

Will he return to Jack Barrett?

The Junior Wallabies prop started for Randwick in second grade over the weekend, yet wore the No.1 jersey against the Rebels a week earlier.

It says something about the pathways in NSW that such a situation could occur.


Shannon Frizell was one of the great movers in New Zealand rugby last year, as he won the race to wear the No.6 jersey at last year’s World Cup.

But with Frizell in Japan this season, it’s unclear who Scott Robertson will turn to in 2024.

Capped loose-forward Samipeni Finau hits like a tonne of bricks.

In the post-Jerome Kaino era, there’s not been an All Blacks flanker who quite hits like Finau.

It’s one aspect Robertson will have taken notice of.

Whether Super Rugby officials are cottoning on to his propensity to target opposition playmakers remains to be seen. But they should.

After whacking Noah Lolesio and Tom Lyangh late, Finau followed it up by smoking William Havili after the playmaker had released the ball.

The incident came in the 38th minute.

Samipeni Finau has been in strong form to start the Super Rugby season, but he’s been lucky to get away with a few late shots in defence. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Referee Ben O’Keeffe, who also thought the shot on Lynagh was legal, said at the time “it’s fine”.

Moments later, Havili asked O’Keeffe about the incident and wasn’t happy.

“I didn’t think it was late. I watched it,” O’Keeffe said. “My TMO just checked and confirmed (it was OK).”

That’s Finau’s third strike.

It’s more than fractionally late, it’s a targeted measure from the blindside flanker to go after the opposition playmaker just as they release the ball.


Michael Hooper had his World Cup dreams shattered last year. But he still has a long way to go to convince John Manenti that he deserves a plane ticket to Paris for July’s Olympics.

Ahead of his sevens debut, Hooper quipped that he wasn’t the fittest nor the fastest in Australia’s sevens team.

That point was reaffirmed over the weekend.

Unsurprisingly, he was used sparingly across the opening five matches until Manenti started him against Ireland.

Michael Hooper celebrated his first World Series Sevens match in style by making a breakdown turnover against Fiji to end the match. Photo: World Rugby

He was barely sighted in the first half as Ireland dominated possession.

In the second half, he was beaten on the outside and then caught over-tracking.

However, it was the next ruck that he showed what he’s capable of.

Single-handedly, he counter-rucked the Irish and won Australia the ball.

It was there that Hooper showed what he brings to the table: breakdown prowess. It’s something few others in the Australian sevens team can do.

Way back on Friday night against Fiji, it was a breakdown steal that saw his debut go viral.

If Manenti wants a way to use Hooper, it’s in that area of the game that he offers Australia a point of difference.

Christy Doran’s Australian Super Rugby team of the week

Matt Gibbon, Jordan Uelese, Sam Talakai, Josh Canham, Nick Frost, Rob Valetini, Charlie Gamble, Charlie Cale, Harrison Goddard, Carter Gordon, Glen Vaihu, Tamati Tua, Filipo Daugunu, Ollie Sapsford, Tom Wright

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