16 March 2022

After only one round of the NRL it’s easy to see that Super Rugby needs to lift its game

| Tim Gavel
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Raiders first game of the season against the Sharks at Canberra Stadium

The Raiders’ first game of the season against the Sharks at Canberra Stadium. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

As a Raiders fan, the opening game of the season could not have provided more drama and edge-of-the-seat anticipation.

Soon after kickoff, it became quickly apparent that the Raiders had adopted a new, more flamboyant approach in attack, with Elliot Whitehead providing an additional attacking option on either side of the ruck.

There was Ricky on the sideline jumping with joy as his players, down on personnel because of injury, came from behind to defeat the Sharks.

And you can be guaranteed that many of the 16,000-plus at Canberra Stadium will be back for more.

READ MORE Does anybody know the Super Rugby season has started?

The game was played with finals intensity and the drama of the Raiders game was replicated throughout the weekend in the opening round of the NRL.

Coverage of the game is everywhere. Raiders fans, for instance, would be well aware of practically every player in the rival team.

In contrast, while there was plenty to like about some of the football on the weekend in Super Rugby Pacific, including James Slipper’s pass to Tom Banks, some aspects left a lot to be desired as an entertaining product.

The Brumbies versus Waratahs

The Brumbies versus Waratahs game at Canberra Stadium. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

The Brumbies have an obvious intent to play attacking rugby, but the laws of the game at times are rugby’s own worst enemies.

A solution needs to be found for the continual resetting of scrums, which are a blight on rugby as far as entertainment is concerned.

There are also continual stoppages for minor injuries and players getting re-strapped.

Often, there is little flow. And I’m not the only one making this observation.

In writing this column, I canvassed the views of people who I knew were both Brumbies and Raiders fans.

While Brumbies fans are passionate about the team, there is a perception that something is lacking.

READ MORE Raiders legends to inspire 2022 team as club enters its 40th season

On the other hand, the NRL appears to be constantly looking at ways to make games quicker and more entertaining. The game rarely stops for an injury, unless it is for a head knock.

In Super Rugby, the sight of props going down on one knee seeking medical attention before scrums has become a blot on the game’s intensity.

NRL does also appear to have more autonomy in making rule changes. The result is an appealing spectacle.

But not everything is gloomy in the Super Rugby camp. Super Rugby has often presented exhilarating, attacking rugby, which is hard to match as a spectacle. It’s just that injury and player infringement stoppages, along with copious resetting of scrums, deflate the excitement and intensity of the game.

But the game can be thrilling. The Six Nations competition is an excellent advertisement for the rugby code. The France versus Ireland and the England versus Ireland games were outstanding.

Why can’t it be replicated in Super Rugby? Sure the lack of crowds does little to create a gladiatorial atmosphere, but they will return if teams and the code have an attacking mindset and somehow the rules of the game are followed and injury stoppages don’t dominate the flow of play.

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The value of penalties should be reduced. With the referees handing out adhoc and pedantic penalties just watch a Melbourne Rebels game. All they do is kick penalties. No running rugby for them, it is too hard.

Yes agree, it’s not supprising when the rules encourage teams to play for penalties instead of tries. This is considered good rugby in the northern hemisphere ?

Being from over the ditch I have been bought up on Rugby. But my interest in watching it is waning because the pedantic rules, pedantic refereeing and inconsistencies of refereeing between games is ruining the spectacle. The referees have to much influence over the outcome. The games that have been lost by dubious penalties in the last minute of the game by over zealous refereeing seems to have increased.
I have been watching 6 nations rugby where the atmosphere has been great but they still had to contend with petty pedantic refereeing decisions (England Ireland match) that slowed down the play and could have changed the result. PS I also have Stan now so can watch in the comfort of my own home ?

1.No more time consuming place kicks…..drop kicks only for goal. 2. Expansive individual play is limited by a back making a break then being isolated and having to release the ball which is either a turnover or penalty if they try and hang on to it..make it instant release only around the ruck and bring back rucking with the feet. 3. No more lifting in the lineout…deskills the game and takes away the wild card turnover. 4. No more picking the ball up off the back of the ruck or maul and running head down and back inclined towards the ground to make a metre and get the next phase…..back has to be level to encourage longer runs from the ruck or maul. 5. Get rid of the kicking out on the full from inside your own 25. 6. To avoid resets pack the Front Rows first then add the rest of the scrum with the ball to be fed in time with both scrums set. 7. No more ‘clearing out’…it’s just cheating plain and simple. 8. Reduce teams on the field from 15 to 13…at Super Rugby level all the players are fit, fast and strong..but they are still crammed into the same size field that they played on as amateurs 100 years ago…their superior speed these days negates open play to a fair extent. I played Union for 30 years, coached, reffed and even started a club but these days I can’t even watch Super Rugby on TV any more. Although I dont mind watching the odd game of local club rugby live.

I agree Tim. I am a Brumbies member and a Raiders member and I have occasionally been asked during Brumby games (usually due to another referee pedantic stoppage) how the Raiders game was the previous week. Rugby can be a great game to watch, for example the Fiji Drua v Queensland Reds game last week when the Fijians came from 19 points down to almost run down the defending champions with free flowing and unstructured rugby with the ref staying out of the way. The Brumbies holding on against the British Lions (2013) in the wet, and tough flowing games (usually NZ teams) are the exception rather than the rule.

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