Everything is starting to feel right again.
Queensland Premier Rugby is back with a bang and with four rounds already gone, it’s time to dissect the first month of games. Here’s some thoughts on the exciting start to what will be an action-packed season ahead.
There have been two major factors that have determined the outcome of the opening fixtures in my opinion and the ability to attack from turnover ball is the first of these.
Every side in the competition will make mistakes, particularly in the opening rounds as everyone becomes accustom to their teams new structures and systems. However, it is has become clear that teams that can capitalise on their opponents errors will come up trumps in most occasions.
Defensively, it is obvious as to why this is an issue. Most sides have been strong from set defensive plays (scrums, lineouts and general phase play), and rightly so. They train all off-season for these sorts of shapes and they know what they are looking at. However when the attacking side turns the ball over, it means that their defensive alignments are not correct and they are required to scramble in response. With new combinations in most teams, this is a difficult task and has proved costly.
So far, the ability to take turnover ball and convert them into counterattacking opportunities has required the attacking sides to shift the ball decisively and early into space, allowing those in the wider channels to challenge the defenders as they scramble.
Both Brothers and Wests have been exemplary in this department and the ladder reflect this with the teams running first and second.
An obvious example was the ‘King of the West’ derby in round four when Wests took on The University of Queensland. On many occasions UQ turned the ball over and Wests were quick to act, often shifting the ball at least two passes before looking to move forward.
UQ not only had to recoup from the error but had to scramble in defence and Wests took the opportunity with both hands, transferring the ball across the park and converting them into points.
It’s not to say that the sides up the top aren’t turning the ball over it’s just when their counterparts are doing the same, they are making the most of the opportunity.
The second key takeaway has been set-piece stability.
Providing a platform from set-piece has been vitally important in the opening rounds as teams look to build confidence in their playing styles.
In seasons gone by, the bedrock of any strong game plan has been set-piece stability and 2019 has been no different with the sides struggling to lock down their game at line-out and scrum time also struggling to build any momentum in matches.
It allows teams to be assertive as they move up and down the field, and generally allows for the side to know their own game plan in and out. Without proper line-out and scrum ball, sides just don’t have the ability to attack the opposition or apply any pressure.
Norths are a prime example of this.
On countless occasions this season Norths have found themselves in the opposition half only to turn the ball over at set-piece and put pressure on themselves.
Compound errors of this nature need to be addressed as soon as possible as the base of any strong QPR team has a strong set-piece. GPS proved last year that if you can dominate your set-piece, it allows you to unlock your attacking weapons, which every-side has.
Young Talent Time
Every season Queensland Premier Rugby unearths some of the best young Australian talent and this year is no different, with a whole host of young stars taking centre stage.
In Round One we saw Kye Oates dominate for UQ at inside centre in his return to rugby union. Named in the P2P team of the week, Oates has the subtle mix of ball-playing ability and physicality required at 12 and UQ look a different side without him.
Round Two saw young Brothers flyer Byron Ralston star on the wing against Souths, scoring a try and having a hand in 2 others as he begins to acclimatize himself to QPR. Usually an outside centre or fullback, Ralston has slotted straight in to this young and talented Brothers side and has found himself in the P2P team of the week twice already.
Round Four saw the emergence of the Reds-contracted Carter Gordon who capped off a huge win against University with hatrick of tries to himself. Gordon’s ball movement often opened avenues for others to slice through and a silky kicking game capped off what was a polished performance (and a spot in the P2P team of the week may I add).
In the coming weeks look out for Hunter Paisami (Wests), Lawson Creighton (Brothers) and Tom Kibble (GPS) who are just some of the young guns showing their worth in QPR.
Still Got It
There are a tonne of QPR veterans still tearing it up but it’s hard to go past Dion Taumata at Bond. Not many have his range of exceptional skills but even fewer possess a running game as dangerous as his. He and fellow QPR star Harry Nucifora have continued their strong combination of last season and have shown their hands as one of the premier halves combo of 2019. If Taumata continues his brilliance, it’s hard to see Bond not sneaking into the top four come season end.
There are some real warning signals blinking on Shaw Road. Norths have struggled in the opening month of footy and sit at the foot of the table with it all to do on 0 points. With injuries hampering their squad early, there are some key fragilities in the side.
They lack dynamism in their ball movement and have struggled with their defensive. If they can fix up these key areas along with the set-piece, they do have the attacking weapons out wide to cause opposition sides harm.
If something doesn’t change soon though Norths could be eating from a wooden spoon.
Early season awards:
Sleeping Giant – Souths
NRC Dark horse – Liam Dillon (Wests)
Hardest Travelling Location – Easts
In other news:
Watch the Heineken Champions Cup Final live on RugbyPass throughout Asia and Australia.