ANZAC Round showed New Zealand teams still well ahead in terms of SRP scorelines, but are the Aussies slowly closing the gap?


For many rugby fans, Round 10 of Super Rugby Pacific was a key marker in judging the progress of Australian sides versus New Zealand teams.

Up to now, we kept on hearing TV pundits from both sides of the Tasman commenting on the number of Australian victories compared to past seasons.

That was all good except that they forgot to mention that only one of those victories was against a top-three New Zealand team, the rest being against the two teams that have struggled since the start of the competition, i.e. Crusaders and Highlanders.

So round 10 was pitching all five Australian teams against Kiwi teams. The final result was a resounding 4-1 for the Kiwis but I feel that some of the results could have been different with a bit more maturity from the Australian sides in closing out games.

Let’s start with the positive and the Brumbies’ victory against the unbeaten Hurricanes.

It is great to see that, a week after the Auckland capitulation against the Blues, the Brumbies were able to regroup and bounce back to score a convincing victory.

Tamati Tua of the Brumbies is tackled against the Hurricanes. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

This was done on the back of a pack ready to front up, with solid defence and an 80-minute effort.

There were no refereeing blunders, just a team that won fair and square against a disappointing Hurricanes team.

It must be said that the Brumbies scrum showed some weaknesses and that Andy Muirhead was more of a liability than an asset for his return game, turning over three good possessions.

The story in Brisbane could have been the same if it was not for the last 10 minutes of a game that the Reds should have won, playing better rugby than the Blues. But, a lack of killer instinct from a young Reds side led them to give away the victory right on the bell.

Fatigue and naivety made them commit crucial errors of placement in the last 10 minutes.

It is also disappointing that the TMO seems to have rushed his decision to cancel Vunivalu’s effort in the fourth minute.

At the same time, Vunivalu has also shown why he is far from being a great rugby player: a small dive would have done the work but the careless attitude at the time of scoring may have cost the game.

The Reds, despite some key absentees through suspension or injury, have shown some ticker which cannot be said of other Australian teams in that competition.

The Waratahs- Chiefs game may best exemplify the gap that remains between the top Australian and Kiwi teams: the Waratahs played superb rugby for 20 minutes and scored two tries.

The Chiefs got one possession and scored a try without any effort and a lot of their other tries did not require a lot of phases.

As soon as the Chiefs accelerated, the Waratahs defence was all over the place.

Breaks are converted by Kiwi teams whereas they are not by Australian teams, as Perese made a number of breaks without any support.

Julian Heaven of the Waratahs celebrates after scoring a try. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

A lot of focus was put on Damian McKenzie but the danger was coming from everywhere on the Chiefs side.

The big disappointment came from the Western Force, a team totally unable to win away from Perth and one that has lost its rugby away from home.

Weather cannot be the excuse as the game was played under the roof in Dunedin. It is all great to have a roster full of current and ex-Wallabies but that does not click.

And what to say about the Rebels? All that good work unravelled in one game against a resurgent Crusaders side.

Humiliated by the Crusaders’ scrum, the entire front row was marched off the field after just 30 minutes. No scoring chances with leaders going missing (sorry but Carter is not ready to play for the Wallabies).

Agreed that the Crusaders, with a number of returning All Blacks were more or less unstoppable but still, the paucity of the Rebels game was hard to fathom, especially coming from a top-four team before the start of that 10th round.

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So yes, we can see progress but not enough to be able to conclude that the Australian teams have closed the gap.

From what I have witnessed, three New Zealand teams will play the semis with one Australian team completing the top four and a grand final between New Zealand teams as usual!

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