The Super Rugby Women’s competition is a sprint and the finish line, as it does each year, has come up fast.

The results of the Super Rugby W semi-finals were not unexpected, so the two teams fighting out this weekend’s Grand Final are no real surprise. At the beginning of the competition most would have considered the grand finalists to come from the Waratahs, Fijian Drua and Queensland Reds. The Reds have had a shocker, so we have the Tahs and Drua. However in saying that, the competition was closer than any previous season and more competitive than most probably expected.

So what did we learn from the semi-finals?

Fiji again provided a loud and raucous crowd. On the flip side there was not a big crowd at Allianz but being realistic no one outside of the rugby fraternity knew it was on. In Sydney the media did not cover it in the lead up to the game. But that is a story for another day.

The Western Force coach Dylan Parsons said earlier in the week that they needed to play to their strengths. That entailed slowing the game down, keep it in the forwards, focus on the set piece and do not fall into a fast and flowing Fijian game.

As always, it is easy to plan, harder to execute.

The Force put in a good effort and even had a lead at half time. Eventually they went down to the Fijian Drua 25-14. But realistically the Drua always looked the most dangerous. When it comes to danger, the Drua fullback Atelaite Buna was outstanding scoring three tries.

The Force put pressure on the Drua in the forwards but were not able to convert the opportunities when they got into the opposition 22. The bottom line, the Drua scored four tries to one and forgot their kicking boots, kicking only one of four conversions and one of three penalties.

So the Fijian Drua women are into their third consecutive Super Rugby W Grand Final.

Next up was the Waratahs vs Brumbies.

The Tahs’s 47-27 win did not really reflect the match. It was a lot tougher and closer. The score line was not too dissimilar to their first-round match which the Tahs took out 45-10. However in round one the Brumbies were never in that game.

In this semi-final the Brumbies forwards put it to the Waratahs. They were not able to keep the pressure on and convert to points. They have some quality backs in Faitala Moleka, Ashlea Bishop and winger Biola Dawa is developing, but the Tahs backline defence is very good.

This was the second week in a row where the opposition forwards put the Waratahs under pressure and really tested their defence. It is a tough call to make after winning 47-27 but in some ways you could say the Tahs defence fell a bit short. The 27 points the Brumbies scored is the most points scored against the Tahs all season. It did feel as though the Waratahs knew no matter what the opposition does, they can out score them.

Again the Tahs had stars across the park. So who to make mention of? Fullback Caitlyn Halse. Fans and media alike always get excited and talk up the next new shiny thing as we saw recently with Darby Lancaster. I’m not one to normally follow that trope but Halse is very good, astonishingly good for 17 and in her second year with the Tahs.

Caitlyn Halse of the Waratahs passes the ball during the Super W match between Melbourne Rebels Women and NSW Waratahs Women at AAMI Park, on April 21, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Caitlyn Halse . (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Often we get excited because a new player has some outstanding natural talent like speed or physical size. Halse is different, she is more a playmaking fullback, both a smart and skilled player. She more often than not makes the right decision, can pass long, off load, toss in a flick pass, kick a grubber, kick long and split the defence. So let us not get too excited – but maybe just a little.

A couple of honourable mentions are hooker Brittany Merlo, backrowers Skye Churchill and Leilani Nathan – all three have played well in every game. They are not flashy players, they just do their job and do it well.

Next Sunday’s Grand Final at Ballymore could be a beauty. The Waratahs have been overwhelmingly the form team of the competition. They have been ruthless averaging 45 points per game and conceding 21. While many will say it is theirs to lose that underestimates the Fijian Drua women. The last time these two teams met the Waratahs blitzed them in Lautoka 62-21 so you can be assured the Drua will want some serious payback for that.

Just like when the Aussie Sevens women play Fiji it is vital to keep the ball away from them. All the Drua players backs and forwards are physical, like to run and offload, it is in their DNA. A Fijian team with possession, playing up tempo and offloading rugby is near impossible to rein in.

The Waratahs have a formidable back line that can score tries with wingers Maya Stewart and Desiree Miller having scored nineteen tries between them. But at the end of the day, it is, as it always is in rugby, the forwards who need to dominate physically. The Tahs forwards will have to have their set piece on point. One gets the feeling the Tahs forwards in defence will have to woman up and dominate their opposition for the Tahs to get the win.

Which ever way it goes it should be a cracking game, it could be close, or it could be a big win to either side.

Grand Final

Broadcast on Stan
Waratahs v Fijian Drua
Sun, April 28, 2024, 2:00 PM
Ballymore, Brisbane





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