Super Rugby W has been the most competitive to date but can anyone stop the in-form Tahs in the semifinals?


The Super Rugby Women’s regular season rounds finished up on the weekend. In cliché terms, without a doubt this season has been the most competitive of all the seasons since its inception in 2018.

After last weekend, as we head into Friday’s semi-finals, probably the two biggest stories are about the two teams that did not qualify for the semis, Melbourne Rebels and Queensland Reds.

One team produced their best season and the other their worst. In short, perennial big dogs of the tournament, the Queensland Reds, had a season they will want to forget very quickly. No idea what happened.

They did have a new coach and lost a couple of players Bree-Anna Cheatham ACL injury, Annabelle Codey to the Waratahs and a couple to the Force.

But the fall from grace has been pretty spectacular. While they lost their Kiwi half import from last season they still had a good backline that included the return of Lori Cramer who has had a good season.

Unlike last year neither Carys Dallinger nor Cecilia Smith was able to show much of their skill set.

It is probably not great timing when wanting to impress the new Wallaroos coach Jo Yapp. Then to make matters worse for Dallinger, she had to be carried off the field with what looked like a bad knee injury.

On a positive, Nico Andrade has been appointed QRU Women’s High-Performance Manager. So no doubt he will be reviewing what happened this year.

On the flip side the Melbourne Rebels played some terrific rugby this season. They jagged their second ever win defeating the Fijian Drua in their final game and to be fair were mighty close to defeating the Reds earlier in the competition.

The Rebels had the smallest squad (numerically) and the least number of returning players of any of the squads.

To be honest I thought the Rebels would really struggle. It is funny how wrong you can be. Credit to the coaching and recruitment.

Two stand outs for the Rebels were Kiwis imports in key positions, hooker Jayme Nuku and fly half Cassie Siataga, both had outstanding seasons. Locals Mel Kawa and Ash Marsters were instrumental in the team’s performance, with Kawa also bringing the hype.

It should also be noted former Tahs captain Grace Hamilton had a very good season locking the Rebels scrum, she is still a quality player.

Carys Dallinger of Queensland Reds earlier in the season. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

We are now at the pointy end, the semi-finals. On reflecting on all four teams’ seasons so far, noting it is only five games, three have improved markedly and one is probably not at the level they were at last year.

In some ways the Brumbies have been a surprise packet. The season started with a big defeat by the Waratahs but they bounced back with wins over the Rebels and the Reds. The Reds win was a solid 31-14.

They rounded it out with a hard-fought loss to the Force 38-36. Apart from the Waratahs game they have been in every match.

The Brumbies have a good mix of youth and experience. In the forwards some old heads such as Tania Naden, flanker Lydia Kavoa and captain Siokapesi Palu.

On the youth side 21-year-old number eight Tabua Tuinakauvadra is developing very well and combines with Kavoa and Palu to make a formidable back row.

Then there is 19-year-old fly-half Faitala Moleka who plays well above her age. Arguably their most consistent player in the backline is their full back Ashlea Bishop.

With a big first round loss to the Waratahs the Brumbies will want to put in a better showing against the Waratahs in the semi-final.

The Fijian Drua are not playing at the level they were last year, but they are still very, very dangerous. When they take a lead and go on a run in a game, they are near impossible to reign back.

During the competition their only really big loss was to the Waratahs. Going down to the Rebels in the last game, then throw in the fact they are playing the semi-final in Fiji.

A couple of red flags for the Western Force this Friday. The Fijian Drua can still make it three titles in a row.

The Western Force season so far is a direct reflection of investment in the women’s program.

This is their first time in the semi-finals. The Force are a great combination and balance of recruitment from overseas, other Super Rugby franchises and the development of local players.

Emily Chancellor of the Waratahs. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

On the local front, youngsters, halfback Samantha Wood and fly half Nicole Ledington have done a terrific job.

Add to this having two exceptional leaders Trilleen Pomare in the backs and Michaela Leonard in the forwards are big pluses. By the way, there was a terrific story on SBS Sports News about the two Japanese props at the Force.

Not unexpectedly the Waratahs have been the form team. It is stacked with Wallaroos and most of the players have been playing together for years.

As a consequence, we probably take for granted how well many of them are playing. There is quality across the park. It has been good to see a couple of youngsters like Leilani Nathan and Caitlyn Halse in their second year continue to develop.

With a new coach the Waratahs have not missed a beat this year. The extensive experience in the squad has also meant new players can be brought in quite seamlessly.

After missing out on the title the last two years the Tahs players seem laser focused to win this year.

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Both games broadcast on Stan

Fijian Drua vs. Western Force
4.35pm FJT (2.35pm AEST) Friday 19 April
HFC Bank Stadium, Suva

NSW Waratahs vs. ACT Brumbies
5.45pm AEST Friday 19 April
Allianz Stadium, Sydney

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