Posted by John Gates on

We saw two games of redemption tonight, but as usual with recent Aussie teams it was heart in mouth stuff.

The Rebels leading by less than a try with the Highlanders breathing down their throats for the last 8 minutes. If you are a hard suffering Aussie fan, you have seen it too many times. New Zealand teams always think that they can do the impossible and pull a win out of the fire, even if they are down by plenty.

The Waratahs, with the home ground advantage (albeit they have multiple home grounds this year, while their stadium is being rebuilt) got out to a brilliant start, but there was no really comfortable point in the game where you thought that they really had their foot on the Lions' throat. At the 62 minute mark, Lions number 10, Jantjes scored a very soft try under the posts and I thought that the rot was about to set in. It didn't happily.

But having said that, it was a great game to watch. The Tahs pretty much shut down the Lions in mid field with excellent defensive work.Hooper was everywhere and played a very understated hand, showing us that he is still the premier openside flanker in Australia - nobody else in Australia has yet outplayed him this year, in my humble opinion.

The Waratahs played a wide expansive game, getting the ball to the edges, where there was usually a ball-running forward waiting for it. Bell, a 19 year old prop with masses of talent, was hitting it up the middle while the likes of Swinton were waiting for it, out wide. Some debutantes scored their first tries tonight and who is James Ramm, anyway?

A very enjoyable game and a great relief to see the two Aussie "bottom dwellers" get good wins. What is even more significant for the Rebels is that they won away from home in New Zealand - never an easy thing to do.

I am certain that those results tonight will give both of those teams hope and a way ahead.

The Waratahs were 0-3 and, to make matters worse, had had a bye week. Not a great scenario, but at least they had time to re-group and re-focus.

Similarly, the Rebels needed to forge ahead, or find themselves with a huge mountain to climb.

Now the Aussie conference gets interesting and just when the Brumbies were on a massive roll, they find themselves in their bye week. Life's a bitch .. but we Ruggers always look forward to next week. What else is there after all?

Interestingly, they were due to travel to Japan next week to play the Sunwolves, but now, thanks to CoronaVirus,  find themselves playing at an unfamiliar ground at Wollongong (yes, dear US friends, there is such a place) about 2 hours south of Sydney in a double header before the Waratahs scheduled game.

Tomorrow night we have the Qld Reds v the Sharks - a mouth watering prospect, given that the Sharks are well up the ladder and the Reds will have had a full week of preparation in their hometown, Brisbane after their recent world odyssey.

...and guess what, our amateur clubs have their first season trials so I will be sitting in the stands or in the beer tent, down at Yoku Road, Ashgrove for the  first week of trials between GPS ("Jeeps") and Brothers - used to be a Jeeps guy because it was near where I first lived in Brisbane, and my boy played two seasons of juniors there, but we moved to the Valley and I decided I knew more blokes at Brothers, and since I am an Irish Catholic descendant, it sort of fits. Unfortunately, the other clubs in Brisbane refer to Brothers as "the filth"- who knows the origin of that?

Who cares, as Brothers, also known more gently as "the brethren" have been around for over 120 years and have produced some of the toughest Wallabies of either the amateur or professional eras.

It wasn't so hard to leave Jeeps. This year my boy played American football - for the Brisbane Rhinos, as a pretty handy linebacker - not that I pretend to understand it, and respectfully, speaking as a Rugby bloke, it's hard to understand and a bit like watching paint dry - you have two or three teams within a team and two thirds of them are always standing around with their hands on their hips - and people complain about Rugby being stop-start !?
It wasn't  a Brisbane competition, but a South East Queensland league, meaning that we had games at venues that were hours away, and Charlie had to be there 2 hours before the game - who knows why?  What do you do for 2 hours?

Given that he was still on his learner plates, I got to drive him to every game and I got pretty familiar with reading the Saturday newspapers from cover to cover.

I said to him .."mate, if you want to play this game next year you  better have your driver's licence".

I mean when I was coaching Rugby at Norths, in Sydney, 5th grade was first cab off the rank and we started at 10 am - I was lucky if the blokes turned up the mandatory hour before kick-off and there were a couple of times that one or two of them were still in their pyjamas! I kid you not - and I think that the  Friday night booze ban was honoured more in the saying than the doing!!

Amateur sport, club Rugby, sheer tribalism, bring it on - you wouldn't be dead for quids! Winter is supposed to be in the air, except that we live in Queensland ("beautiful one day, perfect the next") and even after 5 years living up here, it is still hard getting used to going to Rugby games in shorts and a t-shirt. It's tough, but someone has to do it!

See ya's on the sidelines!


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