Super Rugby AU kicked off with a bang last weekend. Round 2 sees the Reds aiming to go back-to-back, while the Force rise from the ashes.
History: Played 17: Reds 10 V Rebels 7
Last meeting: May 10, 2019: Rebels 30 d Reds 24 at AAMI Park
Final Thoughts: Melbourne Rebels kicked off their domestic Super Rugby campaign with a spirited 31-23 loss to the competition-favourite Brumbies. After falling behind 19-6, the Rebels rallied to within one point but were unable to go on with the job. There’s plenty to build on with the likes of Matt To’omua, Dane Haylett-Petty and Reece Hodge all back on deck together, while their unheralded pack performed creditably against their big-name counterparts.
Queensland Reds are fizzing after snapping an 11-match losing streak against the Waratahs in Round 1. The Reds scored four tries to two in a 32-26 victory, with No.10 James O’Connor nailing two late clutch penalties. Young back-rowers Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson were superb for the Reds.
The Rebels won both encounters last season, romping to a 32-13 victory in Brisbane and outlasting the Reds 30-24 in Melbourne. Each of the teams’ last seven clashes have produced 45-plus points.
There’s nothing between the teams in the head-to-head market or on paper. But the Reds showed more with ball in hand in the opening round and look the better bet in Sydney.
17:05 (AEST), Sat 11th Jul @ Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
History: Played 16: Waratahs 10 V Force 6
Last meeting: July 15, 2017: Force 40 d Waratahs 11 at nib Stadium
Final Thoughts: Western Force make their return to the big time after being punted from Super Rugby at the end of 2017. Fittingly, they take on the Waratahs, who the Force pounded 40-11 in their last Super Rugby match three years ago.
There’s some survivors of the Force’s last foray – including halves duo Jono Lance and Ian Prior – and plenty of supplemental experience in the form of veteran prop Greg Holmes, ex-All Black Jeremy Thrush and former Force back Kyle Godwin.
The Waratahs, who endured a miserable 1-5 start before the Super Rugby 2020 season was halted, went down 32-26 to the Reds in last weekend’s opener. Flyhalf Will Harrison’s boot kept the ’Tahs in the contest, kicking 16 points, while a youthful line-up earned plenty of praise for a gritty display and Jack Maddocks was a revelation at fullback.
The Waratahs have a 10-6 all-time record against the Force, but the Force won four of the last six encounters. Eleven of the 16 meetings were decided by 1-12 margins.
The hosts are hot favourites and would be deeply disappointed not to get the result. But the emotion surrounding the Force’s return should ensure a close contest, while an upset is not out of the question.