Super Rugby AU R8 What screen was the TMO watching?

There were wins for the Brumbies and Reds in Round 8 of Super Rugby AU, cementing their positions at first and second on the ladder respectively.

Read on for some of the big talking points from the weekend's action.


If the Sydney Morning Herald is to be believed, then James O'Connor is not in the running to wear the No. 10 jersey for the Wallabies.

Dave Rennie's latest Players of National Interest [PONI] squad, according to the Herald, had O'Connor listed only as an option at No.12, with veteran Matt To'omua and talented youngsters Will Harrison and Noah Lolesio [injured], the players being considered as a potential Wallabies playmaker.

But that was before O'Connor went and played a leading hand in Queensland Reds' 57-5 demolition of the tiring Western Force at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday night.

O'Connor ran riot against a back-tracking Force defence, laying on four tries for his teammates, scoring one himself while kicking a tidy seven from eight conversions.

While his 15 runs may still be a little high for your typical fly-half, the growth in O'Connor's game since he last wore the No. 10 jersey for the Wallabies - against the British & Irish Lions in 2013 - is undeniable. And there are just enough ambitious offloads, like the one that produced a try for Fraser McReight on the Gold Coast, that are still a part of O'Connor's game.

And what should also play into Rennie's thinking is the fact that O'Connor has played outside of Tate McDermott for much of this year.

The Reds No. 9 is firmly in the reckoning to earn his first Test start, and he has the support of the last man to play scrum-half for the Wallabies: Will Genia. Nic White's return at the weekend certainly adds to the competition at No. 9, with the Waratahs' Jake Gordon and Brumbies' Joe Powell also a part of Rennie's latest PONI squad.

But with the Wallabies coming out of a chaotic period where there was next to no stability in the halves, the logical move would appear to be to combine two players who have spent time together at Super Rugby level, just as McDermott and O'Connor have.

Certainly the closing two weeks of Super Rugby AU, followed by the two-week final series, will have a huge say in the make-up of Rennie's first halves combination.

A short preparation and step up in grade are certainly now catching up with the Force, evidenced by Friday night's capitulation against the Reds, meaning both McDermott and O'Connor will need to further prove their credentials against stronger opposition after this week's bye.

But O'Connor has certainly done enough to at least see himself bracketed as both a No. 10 and No. 12 when Rennie names a Wallabies squad for real following the Super Rugby AU decider.


The game of Rugby has many laws that are open to interpretation.

The breakdown has, for many years, baffled players, coaches and, more worryingly, supporters. So many things can happen around the tackle that a referee could often award any number of penalties, to either side, and thus the whistleblowers must be forgiven for making some mistakes.

But when it comes to the Television Match Official [TMO], who has the luxury of replays to watch, there can be few excuses for a decision that is blatantly incorrect.

And that's exactly what happened in Canberra on Saturday night when Brumbies scrum-half Ryan Lonergan was inexplicably awarded a try despite being at least one metre offside.

Lonergan was first through to a clever grubber kick from fly-half Bayley Kuenzle, forcing the ball in-goal to give the Brumbies the edge early in their crunch clash with the Waratahs at GIO Stadium. However, such was his head-start in the chase, the immediate thought was that he may have been in front of Kuenzle when the ball was kicked.

And so it proved on the replays, with Lonergan clearly a couple of steps in front of the Waratahs' 22 when the ball was kicked by Kuenzle, who was on the other side of the 22-metre line.

TMO Ian Smith, however, inexplicably ruled that it was not "clear and obvious" that Lonergan was offside and so reverted back to referee Angus Gardner's on-field decision which was to award a try.

Smith was watching the same Fox Sports replays that the viewers were taking in at home, people quick to take to social media to slam the dumbfounding decision.

While the Brumbies were easily the superior team for much of the match, Lonergan's try certainly set them off on the right foot when he scored in just the 15th minute.

The decision rightfully irked Waratahs coach Rob Penney, who had seen his side denied two tries against the Force a week earlier that were both certainly far more worthy of five points than Lonergan's blatantly illegal effort.

"Clearly the nine was in front and we missed out on a bonus point last week because of the TMO," Penney said. "We've got to get the big wrongs right. This week the opposition get off the hook and get off to a good start because the TMO again makes a bad call.

"I actually feel they [referees] are equally as frustrated as why they can't get it right. We'll have a conversation during the week. We just got exposed as the game went on. Our discipline was average, our lineout was poor and we had too many loose turnovers. We fell into the trap of providing far too much possession for a good side. I thought they played really well."


Australian rugby must keep five teams. After the ugly scenes of 2017, when the Western Force were axed from Super Rugby, the game can't afford to cause any more heartache across the rugby community.

But there is also then the need for a greater influx of non-Australian players who can help bolster the playing stocks at the Force, so, too, the other four Australian teams should they need a player in a specialist position as was the case with Jacques Potgieter at the Waratahs in 2014.

Force owner Andrew Forrest and Rugby Manager Matt Hodgson must be allowed to bring quality players to the west to help build the depth of the franchise ahead of another round of Super Rugby AU in 2021 or, if it does come to fruition, a trans-Tasman competition.

The Force have been genuinely competitive in the return to the national stage, of that there is absolutely no doubt.

But the cracks were just starting to appear against the Waratahs late last week, before the floodgates then really opened in the second-half against the Reds on Friday.

It may be that the Force pick can pick up a few quality players from New Zealand or even South Africa, who may yet end up moving all of their provincial teams to the PRO14.

Bringing in quality overseas players would not only help to ensure the Force would be competitive again next year, but also help to develop the talented Australian players, such as Fergus Lee-Warner and Byron Ralston, who have been playing so well in Super Rugby AU already.

The Force are playing a great brand of rugby under coach Tim Sampson, but they just need that little bit of extra talent to really worry their Australian rivals. And they will certainly be better served by a full preseason next year, too.