IT WILL be a case of whoever is left standing for the ACT Brumbies-Queensland Reds derby at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
Artcile by Greg Growden, www.rugbyheaven.com.au.
The back-up strength of both provinces has been tested in the first two Super 14 rounds, and they will again have to cover key positions with novices this weekend.
The saddest casualty was Wallabies and Reds back-rower Hugh McMeniman, one of Australia’s most talented forwards, who is set for another disrupted season after fracturing his ankle against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday night.
McMeniman’s run of injuries has restricted him to just 12 Wallabies appearances. The 24-year-old’s 2006 season was ruined by shoulder and neck troubles, while knee problems last year restricted his appearances.
The Reds last night confirmed that McMeniman will be sidelined for at least six weeks. This will give former NSW back-rower Leroy Houston, who went on the Wallabies’ end-of-season tour in 2005 before playing a Super 14 match, an opportunity to establish himself.
The Reds will also be without Test halfback Sam Cordingley, who has a groin injury, for a fortnight.
The Brumbies are looking at yet another back-line reshuffle after losing young centre Anthony Faingaa with a grade three medial ligament tear during the 22-20 win over the Highlanders in Canberra on Saturday night.
Faingaa’s injury, which will sideline him for at least six weeks, comes on top of the Brumbies losing centre and captain Stirling Mortlock (shoulder) and utility backs Adam Ashley-Cooper (ankle), Gene Fairbanks (neck), Clyde Rathbone (knee) and Peter Betham (leg).
With so many key players unavailable, Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher may be forced to use winger Peter Playford in the centres, and move Tyrone Smith from outside to inside centre.
The luckiest Australian team was the Western Force, who benefited from streetwise cheek and the inadequacies of their opposition to win in Bloemfontein on Saturday. Force five-eighth Matt Giteau kicked a penalty after the final bell to defeat the Cheetahs 16-15, but should never have been in the position to win the game after two minutes of extra injury time.
In the final minute, with his side two points ahead, Cheetahs goalkicker Conrad Barnard made the crucial error of missing a penalty that also finished short of the dead-ball line. This enabled the Force to counter-attack and keep the game alive. If Barnard’s kick had been successful, the Cheetahs would have won 18-13.
Another crucial moment came in the 70th minute, when a poor refereeing decision by New Zealand’s Chris Pollock worked in the Force’s favour. With his back turned, Pollock was convinced by a loud call from a voice that sounded suspiciously like Giteau’s that a Cheetahs player had knocked the ball on at the tackle. The Brumbies won possession, but video replays showed there was no Cheetahs knock-on.
The most encouraging sight for an Australian province during round two was watching the Waratahs launch several attacks against the Chiefs – executing several precise moves in the process. This included one excellent manoeuvre that involved decoys and five-eighth Kurtley Beale throwing a pass to put centre Ben Jacobs away in the 46th minute.Tweet