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Friday, April 06, 2012

The Rebels upset the Blues in Melbourne

The Blues slumped to a new low as they were beaten 34-23 by the Rebels in Super Rugby's Thursday night clash Melbourne. James O'Connor came into his own as the home side won back-to-back matches for the first time in the competition.

After having finished last in their inaugral season, the Rebels boosted their squad this year with the inclusion of ace Wallaby backs Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor. It's working for them so far as this week the two of them played a vital part in the win, as did Danny Cipriani, who is in good form.

"Having Danny inside me, I can play the role that I want," O'Connor said. "He controls the game really well and I can have more of a run and get into the second receiver a little bit more and obviously I've got a world-class player outside me in Kurtley and Mitch Inman's really stepped up."

The game went down to the final few minutes as the Rebels win looked secure before a late Chris Lowrey set things up for a tight finish. Rebels captain Gareth Delve drove over with time almost over though, adding some comfort to the scoreline and robbing the Blues of a losing bonus point.

"It was another real nailbiter, a bit closer than we'd have liked," said Welshman Delve.

"We're still a young team and looking to develop and that was another big step forward. The way we stuck together shows how we're coming together as a side."

It was the fifth loss in six matches for the Blues, who are missing some key players but now sit firmly on the bottom of the New Zealand conference.

Posted at 4:07 pm | 22 comments

Viewing 22 comments

Murina April 06, 2012 6:55 pm

You have to love watching Beale, O'Connor and Cipriani. Nice to see the latter being a playmaker for the former, not needing to try and do it all himself. I watched the game and thought he did exceptionally well and wasn't the defensive weakness he has been.

Lots of mistakes though, no S14 team is going to be afraid of playing either of these sides, not because the Rebels especially won't put points past you - they will - but because you'd always be confident of scoring more yourself.

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Pretzel April 06, 2012 8:02 pm

As someone said on the last Cipriani video, it is a bit early to be talking about an England shirt, but it makes you wonder whether he will be a candidate for the 10 shirt. Watching the 6 nations I really felt that Farrell had that 10 shirt well and truly nailed to him. But Cipriani seems to be getting A LOT of praise, and appears to be making a bit of a name for himself. I know it is club rugby, and obviously he would have to produce the right sort of play in the UK for him to be considered. But it makes me wonder whether England might have a bit of depth forming, especially for the 10 position.

I'm sure it is a good thing, it will keep whoever is wearing the shirt on top form as they will not want to hand it to the other guy, and the other guy will be striving to get into that shirt.

^^^ That comment is based on what people have said about Cipriani, not necessarily what I have seen

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moddeur April 07, 2012 8:05 am

Looked like an intense match! (unlike the Brumbies vs Sharks match the other day in which some players looked tired, or disinterested - which was understandable for the Sharks on a long away haul).
I've always been a big admirer of Kurtley Beale and of James Bieber O'Connor, they probably enjoy having a 10 who's good at passing. But defensively, are the Rebels solid? On the few highlights we saw, it was often 4 Blues vs 1 Rebel on the short side.

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Eggman April 07, 2012 4:26 pm

The Rebels have improved their defense a lot compared to last season and the first round. However, it's still a weak point for them. Im not sure how much of that is because they're a new team or if their simply crap ;) Will have to be seen I guess..

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FatProp April 07, 2012 4:08 pm

I think that he will soon be in an England shirt. Though Farrell is good he doesn't give you the creative play, kicks well but England need that creative influence. But with Cipriani's speed he could easily play full back. Which i would like to see because i think Foden can be very hit and miss.

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Pretzel April 08, 2012 12:17 am

But isn't Cipriani's defence a weak point? (that is what I have been lead to believe)...

So sticking him in a 15 shirt might be leaving the back door unlocked...

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Jwall April 08, 2012 2:11 am

Cipriani has been a defensive liability for the Rebels (last year he was statistically the worst defender in Super Rugby in terms of missed tackles).
However, he has been working very hard with Muggleton (Who was the Wallabies defense coach for ten years), and this season he has improved alot. He is still not a great defender, but he is making more tackles and missing fewer.

And fullback is a much easier position to defend from than flyhalf. Flyhalf is where the other team runs their forwards, it's one of the most popular channels for running traffic.
In fullback, the main thing is defusing kicks. You make alot fewer tackles at fullback, although you will often be the last line of defence. But weaker tacklers are better suited there.
Thats why Quade Cooper defends at fullback, not flyhalf, and is part of the reason Kurtley Beale was switched to fullback from flyhalf.

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FatProp April 08, 2012 12:07 pm

Well if defence is a problem you could even put him out on the wing. In the six nations England were very poor in the back three and strettle is getting on. The future back three for england could be Cipriani Foden Wade which looks very promising.

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Pretzel April 09, 2012 1:11 am

Problem is for England is that I can't see what use Cipriani would be if he wasn't in a 10 shirt. I mean Farrell really has the kicking duties nailed down, so if Cipriani's kicking is good then it will be there as a cover for Farrell. But on the wing or at 15 his quick hands and good brain etc (all the reasons he gets praise) could perhaps just be wasted.

I remember years ago when England stuck Johnny Wilkinson in the centre, I can't say I was following with too much attention but I seem to recall he played a good game as a centre, but his ability that he seemed to show at 10 was sort of wasted and not able to shine when he was in the centre....

So yes, I think that Cirpriani's abilities will not be able to flourish in other positions. Food for thought for potential England selectors. Do the English fans feel there is a place for Cipriani?

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ruckinmaul April 07, 2012 11:27 pm

blues really miss their playmaker of the last season, Stephen Brett and Luke McAlister.

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Jwall April 08, 2012 2:12 am

How about O'Conner's stepping. What a machine.

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stroudos April 08, 2012 10:50 am

Bloody brilliant. That run after collecting his kick just after 2:45 on the video was awesome.

The bloke's phenomenal, I actually find it hard to comprehend how someone can be such a complete rugby player at such a young age.

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FatProp April 08, 2012 11:58 am

I wonder how O'Connor will do in the Lions test. I have never really seen him defending but with Tuilagi and Roberts bombing it down his channel I wonder how he will stack up. Obviously when attacking he will just destroy Tuilagi with his stepping and speed and Tuilagi's poor defence.

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Eggman April 08, 2012 2:14 pm

Generally I don't thnik O'Connor is a poor defender, at least not out on the wing. In Super Rugby, at least what I've seen of him, he hasnt had any serious lapses either in the centre, but obviously the lions (and also the Welsh tests this summer) will be a tougher test. I feel much more comfortable with him defending though than cooper for example ;)

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FatProp April 08, 2012 6:32 pm

well i was just wondering because i would like too know if this guy has any weak points ! He is just great especially at his age he can only go onto greater things.

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Jwall April 09, 2012 7:15 am

His defence is solid. He is decpetivley strong for young bloke without a huge frame. Especially running the ball, he can carry much bigger defenders on his back and make driving ten or fifteen metre gains.
He isn't the greatest defender ever, but he can definatley tackle. I'm not worried about his strenght or tackling technique, but more about his decision making at inside centre, which is one of the hardest, if not the hardest position to defend. Alot of traffic goes thru that channel, and you have to make very good decisions defending there.

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PiratesRugby April 09, 2012 1:43 am

I was at the game.

Cipriani is a very good 10. Without him, O'Connor does not fire. Cipriani seems to be able to pick up any pass thrown at him and is a very good runner. I don't know how he'll fit into England's structure (ie boring straight up through the forwards then kick the ball away for no apparent reason rugby) but he is the best 10 playing in Australia at the moment. And he's a good penalty kicker. If England learn to use the posession won by their forwards to spread the ball wide and the backs learn some new running lines then Cipriani will make the English backline something to be feared. He is a playmaker.

But we all know that is not what England is going to do.

O'Connor is a world class 12. He's a very reliable defender and even better now that John Muggleton has had some time with the squad. The play you saw in the highlights came in the later stages of the game and he picked out a couple of big tired forwards to run around. Generally, the Blues did not show up for the game. We did not see the best of them. Of course, I still celebrated the win like a crazy man.

The Rebels scrum half Phipps actually had the best game of his career. Previously I have been unkind to him because he has been, well, crap. He had a great game on Friday night. His passing was good but his running, kicking and tackling were immense.

And Gareth Delve was terrific. He always nails his tackles. He's always back in defence when the full back comes in. He always makes yards when he carries the ball. He's always looking for work. He's just a great reliable forward.

Nic Henderson the Rebels' loosehead is having a top season.

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Jwall April 09, 2012 7:17 am

I would disagree about the flyhalf comment. Barnes has proven himself far more than Cipriani has.

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dave April 09, 2012 2:39 am

I think when it comes to how cipriani would fit into the england line up, it would be a 9 youngs, 10 cipriani, 11 ashton/tuilagi 12 owen farrell/brad barritt 13 owen farrell/ brad barritt 14 ashton/tuilagi 15 foden, I figure it could work this way because you don't want top talent kicking out top talent, if you want to be a great side you want to take the highest amount of top talent and mesh it, I think with cipriani at 10 you have a lot of offense created, and with barrit beside him at 12 it would help cover cipriani's defensive lapses, with farrell at centre you have an extra advanced ball handler/kicker to get the attack out to the wingers and I think tuilagi needs to move to wing because although he is a force he clogs the ball up at centre because he always tries to run it and not give it to the wingers, so if he wants to run put him on the wing, a back three of tuilagi, ashton and foden would be LETHAL, the one thing i'm not sure of is if tuilagi is as fast as a test winger for the defensive side of the game, if he is england is set

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FatProp April 09, 2012 11:02 am

The only problem is that when Farrell plays at 13 he just isn't that good, against clermont they had no problem controlling him, he has no real go forward. He isn't very fast and can't barge his way over the game line. Same with Barritt he justisn't that good at 13. I completely agree with you at putting him next to Cipriani he can cover him in defence, also Tuilagi is so annoying he just will not pass. That was te problem the whole six nations and the wingers got no ball. I just don't think he is fast enough to play on the wing though.

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Eggman April 09, 2012 1:52 pm

I think Cipriani is sort of similar to Cooper. When he's on song he is a fantastic attacking fly-half. However, there still are some defensive question marks around him and there's also the issue of continuity. This season he's been playing great from what I've seen but I'm not convinced that he can make it into an England squad with Farrell playing the way he did during the Six Nations. I agree with what many have pointed out, in that neither Farrell nor Cipriani really offer that much for any other position than fly half, so you'd really have to chose between either Farrell or Cipriani starting. Obviously Cipriani would still make a fantastic replacement for Farrell in case of injury or as an impact player in the last 20 minutes, but I can't see him get too many starts in an England squad.

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Pretzel April 09, 2012 5:56 pm

Maybe he will just have to fall into the replacement category as you said... that in turn will keep Farrell on his toes and it will allow Cipriani to try and step up his game to take the 10 shirt.

You look at the Irish (not a fantastic example) but they have the new Sexton starting, and the old guy ROG there to try and pick up the pieces if it goes wrong or secure the win if its gone right with his (mostly) accurate kicking... So maybe England will get some sort of partnership in a sort of "super sub" fashion as you said.

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