Super Rugby AU R10 review: White, McDermott at each other like Jack Russell dogs

The Rebels will travel to Brisbane this Saturday for a qualifying final against the Reds, but only after Dave Wessels' side needed every minute of their closing round clash against the Force.

A converted try in the final minute secured their maiden playoffs berth, 10 years after they first entered Super Rugby.

Later Saturday, the Reds proved too strong for an error-riddled Brumbies side who now have a fortnight to prepare for the final they are hosting in Canberra.

Read on as we review some of the weekend's key talking points.


We saw it a number of times during Super Rugby Aotearoa, particularly between Aaron Smith and Brad Weber, and a couple of Australia scrum-halves at last went at it on Saturday night.

Like two Jack Russell's fighting over the last bone in the dog bowl at dinner time, Tate McDermott and Nic White went at each other throughout the 55 minutes White was on the field. Wherever McDermott went, White was there. And wherever White went, yep, McDermott was there too.

This was a battle of two tough halfbacks who know they are the front-runners for the Wallabies No. 9 jersey. While Jake Gordon was very good for the Waratahs and Joe Powell continues to linger on the peripheries, McDermott and White are the front-runners for the threats they bring to the table.

While the Reds were comfortable victors at 26-7, the question as to whom came out on top between McDermott and White would have gone to the judges and likely resulted in a split decision.

Both men showed their ability to beat defenders in traffic, bouncing out from the ruck and ducking in and out of forwards, while White should have had a try assist for his handling in the move that set Tevita Kuridrani on a run to the line, only for the outside centre to take the grounding too casually.

And who was there chasing Kuridrani to the line? McDermott.

That play won't have gone unnoticed among the Wallabies selectors as McDermott later finished the match on the wing as injury cover, scoring a try in the process.

Perhaps White has his nose in front at this point with the experience he will add to a Wallabies starting XV that will likely be short of it. But the duo could also have another chance to turn Saturday's split decision into a clear head-to-head win, providing the Reds defeat the Rebels at home this week.

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar could also yet restore Powell to the starting XV after giving him the week off altogether, though surely White's class is shining through and his big-game experience will be vital in the tournament decider.


Dave Rennie isn't short on fullback options, so much so that it was made clear to Kurtley Beale that he probably wasn't going to be included in any Wallabies squad this year and the veteran Test star packed his bags and headed for France as a result.

Tom Banks and Dane Haylett-Petty were certainly the frontrunners earlier in the year after fine performances in the seven weeks of Super Rugby before it was cancelled.

But Jock Campbell has surely closed the gap with a series of fine performances at the back for the Reds, particularly the last three weeks running.

Campbell created a brilliant counterattacking try for Brandon Paenga-Amosa against the Rebels last month, backed that up with a solid night against the Force on the Gold Coast and then provided assists for two of the Reds' three tries against the Brumbies as well as three clean breaks and four beaten defenders.

People will point to Banks' match-high 152 metres, but many of those were merely by bringing the ball to the line from Reds' kicks; the Brumbies fullback hasn't quite been at his best of late.

As noted by The Australian's Wayne Smith, Campbell might not look your typical rugby player, but he still finds a way to weave in and out of defenders. Two further strong performances will make an almost irresistible case for Wallabies selection, at least in Rennie's extended squad.


That was a heartbreaking finish for the Western Force.

Having been the superior side against the Rebels in Newcastle on Saturday, their hopes of a deserved first Super Rugby AU victory were dashed when the TMO ruled that Cabous Eloff's try should stand; Matt Toomua's conversion giving the Rebels the four-point win they needed to make the playoffs.

The Force have been on the road since before Super Rugby AU began, and are at last now free to return home - after a fortnight's quarantine. And they will do so with the wider gratitude of the Australian rugby community; the tournament would not have happened without their involvement.

And they have proven they belong at the top level, too. With a few key squad additions, perhaps form South Africa or even Argentina now that the Jaguares are no more, the Force will return in 2021 with a squad that is capable of challenging for the playoffs.

Their involvement this year has already brought about two potential new Wallabies caps and helped facilitate the return of another in Kyle Godwin; Feleti Kaitu'u and Brynard Stander join Godwin in the train-on Australia squad while back-rower Fergus Lee-Warner and winger Byron Ralston certainly can't have been far away from selection either.

While the West Australian Government remains stubborn in its defence of its closed border policy, by the time Super Rugby AU starts up again next year -- chances of a trans-Tasman tournament coming to fruition appear all but dashed - the Force will hopefully be allowed to play at home once more.

That promises to be a special day for their loyal supporters, and hopefully results in a long overdue victory, too.


Taniela Tupou is having a fine season for the Reds, but his scrummaging continues to draw the ire of opposition teams.

The Brumbies conceded three scrum penalties at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, with coach Dan McKellar following a familiar path by pointing the finger at Tupou, just as the Waratahs had done a few weeks prior.

"The scrum's been a frustration for the whole competition to be honest; it's not the loosehead (prop's) job to keep the tighthead up," the coach said.

"We've had a number of conversations about it and I know it's been frustrating for officials as well, so hopefully it's a bit tidier in a couple of weeks."

Brumbies skipper Alan Alaalatoa, who was on the end of Tupou's powerful scrumming, felt his side had been given the short end of the stick.

"We were hard done by there, that's my honest opinion," the captain said.

"We did everything we could to paint a picture (of compliance), but it wasn't good enough for the ref."

Tupou has drawn widespread plaudits for his play in the loose this season, but the more his scrummaging is a topic of conversation in Australia the harder it is going to be for him to crack the Wallabies starting side as the rest of his game probably deserves.