Super15 Rugby Tournament - Mark Ella's comments on the first 2 games

Australia has always had a reputation as a sporting nation because of our tepid climate and outdoor lifestyle but in life nothing is perfect because our expectations on winning makes coming second unpalatable.
And in a sports mad environment in which rugby competes against cricket, Australian Rules Football, Rugby League and Football almost every weekend, winning by playing attractive rugby is crucial to the growth in our game and share of mind from the fans.
In recent years Rugby in Australia has suffered dramatically because of a 'winning ugly' syndrome which has turned rugby fans away in droves and reduced the codes market share in terms of sponsorship and television dollars.
That is why last weekends start to the Super Rugby season was so important for Australian rugby and although the two matches between the New South Wales Waratahs and Queensland Reds and the ACT Brumbies up against the Western Force didn't reach any lofty heights it was a start at least.
Australia's most successful team the Brumbies have in 2012 the least amount of Wallabies  and under former RWC winning coach Jake White they will struggle to keep up with the pace of the game.
Even though the Brumbies defeated the Force 19-17 in Canberra it was a scrappy game with far too much reckless kicking from both sides with field position rather than ball in hand ruling the day.
The Force coached by former Queenslander Richard Graham will struggle again this year particularly in the three-quarters who are young and energetic but lack the strategic nous to challenge the better teams in this competition.
It was always going to be a close game between the Waratahs and Reds played in Sydney  particularly without their respective No.10's, Wallabies Quade Cooper for the Reds and Berrick Barnes for the Waratahs.
Cooper has become the heart and sole of the Reds attack and without him their rhythm was down-beat rather than exciting and unexpected as we have become used too with replacement No.10 Mike Harris doing a fine job but without the fancy tricks that Cooper conjures up on a weekly basis.
Harris though proved to be a excellent goal kicker landing six penalties and one conversion from seven attempts which wasn't a bad effort for a bench player and coach Ewen McKenzie will be very satisfied with the Reds performance.
Although the Reds had the better of the loose play their scrum was out muscled and one of the Waratahs two tries came about after the Reds scrum collapsed under the pressure in the first half.
To their credit the Waratahs kept in the game after trailing for most of the match and with 13 minutes left to play it looked like they might get away with defeating the defending Super Rugby Champions when they took the lead after former Cheetahs half back Sarel Pretorius scored his try on debut.
But great teams do not surrender until the final whistle has blown and it was when the fans were starting to exit ANZ Stadium that Reds winger Dom Shipperley picked up a loose ball from inside his own half and skirted down the right hand side of the field to give the Reds the final say, winning 25-21.
Many would say that the Waratahs were unlucky to win particularly playing without five Wallabies Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Lachlan Turner, Dan Vickerman and captain Rocky Elsom.
NSW rugby prior to professionalism dominated Australian rugby but sadly since then they have struggled to win any silverware at all and they play without heart and commitment.
They have lost their traditional running style and the players always seem to take the easy options rather than trying to test themselves and at least join them those around them.
Without the free flowing style of the Reds Australian rugby would be struggling and my hope in 2012 is that the Waratahs at least join them in the Finals but first they must find their passion for the game which I hope in still in their hearts. 

Mark Ella

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