The Rogues Rant #256

Welcome to The Rogues Rant, an occasional look at all things Rugby

There will be a big start to Illawarra Rugby for 2021 with the announcement this week that the Bowral Blacks will be hosting the The Waratahs and Brumbies for a pre-season trial match on January 30th. Bowral who continue to go from strength to strength after some quiet times are proving to be one of the real go ahead clubs of Illawarra Rugby. The Blacks are proud to make their upgraded facilities at Eridge Park available for this match which will mark the start of what is hoped will be a full season of Rugby in 2021. Add the date to your Rugby diary, January 30th at Eridge Park kicking off at 5.00PM.

Talking of Super Rugby, it has also been confirmed that there will be a Trans-Tasman cross over tournament later this year after the Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby Tournaments are played. All five teams from each country will play over a period of 6 weeks starting on the 14th May. Each side will have two home and two away games and there will be Super Round at a venue to be confirmed where all matches will be played over one weekend at the one venue. The draw will see each Australian side play each of the Kiwi sides over the six weeks with a final to be played between the top two rated sides at the top team’s home ground on 19th June. It’s a very interesting format and after some disappointing years of Super Rugby, should generate some new interest in the annual Aussie V Kiwi Provincial battles. All the matches will be broadcast on Stan with one match each weekend shown live on Channel 9.

The Rugby Championships tournament this year was a bit out of whack with some strange results and draws featuring. After a slow start the All Blacks found some sort of form late to finish on top of the ratings but fell well short of their usual dominance in general. The Pumas went home from the tournament with probably the most kudos with strong performances throughout especially in defense to perform a lot better than most pundits expected given their very limited program for 2020. As for the Wallabies, well as their coach Dave Rennie was quoted as saying after their final game, “there’s a lot of work to be done”.

With the Argentinians in town, The Old Illawarrior provided me with some fond memories of the night Illawarra took on a strong University of Buenos Aires touring team that included several Puma representatives, way back in 1992. The match was played at Vikings Oval and attracted a very strong crowd of in excess of 1000 people in a mid-week game which the Argentinians won by 23 – 21 after a last minute field goal to the tourists. There were some prominent names in the Illawarra squad coached by the late Les Whittaker who won the praises of the tourist’s management rating the Illawarra side better than the Sydney sides they had competed against earlier on tour. After the locals conceded an early 10 – 0 lead to the tourists Illawarra Captain and NSW Hooker Peter Palmer provided the inspiration for a spirited fightback. Palmer scored the side’s first try running off a clever play from Fly Half Todd Goodwin, with Mick Allen also scoring a spectacular intercept try just prior to the break. Fullback Mark Flyne added goals as Illawarra went to half time leading 12 – 10. In a very physical second period Illawarra provided a lot of up tempo play staying right in the game more than matching the physicality of the tourists. Allen scored again from a brilliant run down the touchline with five minutes left on the clock and with Flyne converting from touch the Illawarra side hit the lead 21 – 20. A heart breaking last minute field goal to the South American Fly Half Joaquin Del Carril pinched the match for the Buenos Aires side. Some names from the side on the night included, Spiro Lozenkovski, Peter Palmer, Chris Coulthard, Ian Westwood, Glen Hutton, Simon Whyte, Mark Peterson, Steve Talbot, Mick Delavere, Tod Goodwin, John Rolls, Mick Allen and Mark Flyne.  Stay tuned for some more memories of past Illawarra glories in the weeks ahead.  

The Wallabies have drawn Wales and Fiji as Pool opponents for the France 2023 World Cup. They will also have two other Qualifiers in the Pool which could see the Wallabies up against England at the Quarter Final stage if they get through. There’s a long way to go and a lot of work to do before then.  

It’s awards time with Michael Hooper recently winning his third John Eales Medal to go with his awards from 2013 and 2016. Taniela Tupou was crowned Super Rugby Player of the Year and Harry Wilson Rookie of the Year. Ema Masi won Super W Player of the Year.

Congratulations to one of the real characters of Rugby, Welsh International Referee Nigel Owens. In a 17 year career as a Referee Owens has now officiated in 100 Test matches the first man to do so, after controlling the recent France V Italy match. The very well respected and entertaining Welshman has announced his retirement from International Rugby but will continue to Referee in Pro 14 and local Welsh Rugby. The international game will be much the poorer without this lovely man on the International panel. We all wish the best to Nigel Owens, and thank you for your contribution to our great game.

All opinions offered in this column are the opinion of the author. They should not be considered to represent the views of the IDRU.