Super -- Not So Super -- Rugby Pacific: Jorgensen's showstopper raises awkward Suaali'i question

The Super Rugby Pacific finals are fast approaching, with a real battle on for the final two places in the top eight.

The Force and Highlanders improved their respective hopes with wins in Round 13, but it was heartache for the Rebels who were beaten by the Kiwis with a penalty after the final siren.

Elsewhere, there were wins for the Crusaders, Blues, Chiefs and Waratahs.

Read on as we review some of the Super - and Not So Super - action from Round 13.


Have the Force turned on a more complete performance at home, in fact anywhere for that matter, than their 34-19 victory over the Brumbies on Saturday night? It's certainly hard to recall one, and you perhaps have to go all the way back to the Matt Giteau days.

But even considering a touch of Kid Dynamite magic from yesteryear, seldom have the Force been so dominant, so clean in their execution, so resolute in their work at the tackle, than what they showed against the high-flying Brumbies in Perth.

While it was the Force's fourth straight win at home, it was the first in which they truly looked worthy of a place in the finals as they raced out to 21-0 in 26 minutes, stabilised through a mini Brumbies comeback, and then managed the second-half with aplomb.

Young No. 10 Max Burey impressed with his distribution, mixing his game up nicely between kick, pass and run, while forwards Carlo Tizzano, Jeremy Williams and Rahboni Vosayaco were dominant on both sides of the ball, and at the breakdown.

Tizzano's return to his hometown of Perth has been particularly important -- so too that of Isi Naisarani who came off the bench on Saturday night -- in growing the Force's depth; the openside is another player who appears to have benefited from a stint overseas.

But much of the credit must go to coach Simon Cron, whose blueprint for the team is now really taking shape.

The Force have had some memorable victories at home in their history, but this was the best of the lot. It's true it came over an understrength Brumbies side - more on that later - but it is a victory that can springboard the Force into the finals, providing they are good enough to back it up.


The Waratahs wrapped up a spot in the finals with a hard-fought 32-18 win over the Fijian Drua, NSW producing their finest defensive display of the season as they made 255 of an incredible 290 tackles at an efficiency rate of 90%.

The heroic defensive effort underpinned the victory, but there was also much to like on the attacking side of the ball, the partnership of Max Jorgensen and Mark Nawaqanitawase in particular.

After re-signing for a further season earlier in the week, Nawaqanitawase crossed for a double and generally gave the Drua trouble any time he touched the ball. But his task was made easier by the play of Jorgensen, who was a clear man-of-the-match in his latest start at fullback.

Jorgensen had a hand in four of the five Waratahs' tries, drawing in defenders with perfectly timed passes or offloads as he ran at the right defender to free up space for those outside him.

His positional play and kicking were also excellent and belied his relative inexperience as an 18-year-old in his first season of senior rugby, let alone Super Rugby. His form has been so good, in fact, that it is a very real possibility that Eddie Jones will hand him a Wallabies debut later this year.

Jorgensen was included in Jones' training camp in April, but at the time it was thought to be with an eye on the longer-term future rather than this year's World Cup. But the youngster's performances since then, particularly that from Saturday night, have surely boosted him up Jones' selection board.

It has also brought the recruitment of Joseph Suaali'i into question, with the Roosters teenager's reported record $1.6m-a-season deal looking excessive given Jorgensen's performances at fullback.

With Jorgensen having another season under his belt in the No. 15 jersey next year, Suaali'i may find himself with a similar roadblock to the fullback position he is currently enduring at the underperforming Roosters.

In the meantime it is hard not to get excited about Jorgensen's future, the key for both Waratahs coach Darren Coleman and Jones will be not to overload him for the remainder of the year; his 18-year-old body still has some development to come after all.


Another week, another heartbreaking narrow loss for the Rebels, this time at the hands of the Highlanders. The 20-17 defeat has left Melbourne likely needing closing wins over both the Force and Brumbies to secure a spot in the playoffs.

But it didn't have to be that way, particularly after Andrew Kellaway produced the defensive play of the round, and potentially the season, to deny James Lentjies a try under the sticks with five minutes to play.

With Lentjies headed for the tryline, Kellaway was able to tackle him just short of the line and then roll the Highlanders back-rower onto his back to keep him from grounding the ball.

With Tom Wright in excellent form for the Brumbies and Jorgensen's rise at the Waratahs, Kellaway finds himself in a real fight for the Wallabies fullback spot. But it's unlikely either of those two players would have been able to deny Lentjies as Kellaway did on Saturday.

Sadly for the visitors, it wasn't enough to see them home in Dunedin.



Melbourne certainly had claims to a penalty after Kellaway's heroics as they worked their way inside the Highlanders half in a bid to snatch victory from the jaws of the defeat.

Certainly Jonah Noreki tempted fate by dragging the leg of Joe Pincus, instead of releasing him as the tackled player as he's required to do, but no penalty was forthcoming from referee Paul Williams.

When the ball was knocked on at the breakdown seconds later, the Rebels' hopes of victory were done.

However, the visitors had had ample opportunity to set themselves up for a drop goal, and the experienced Reece Hodge should have been the one to drop back into the pocket and set himself for the match-winner.

Instead the Rebels moved the ball from one side of the posts to the other, until they turned it over at the tackle.

Kevin Foote's side were without regular No. 10 Carter Gordon, but that can be no excuse for a team that has already endured a series of near misses this season.


The resting of both Wallabies and All Blacks players throughout this season has been an ongoing bone of contention.

The point has been continually raised, perhaps rightfully, that Super Rugby Pacific will never truly reach its potential if some of its biggest stars are routinely given the week off at the directive of their respective national coaches.

The Brumbies were the latest team to sideline a number of frontline stars, namely Rob Valetini, Nic White, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Nick Frost, Allan Alaalatoa, Lachlan Lonergan and James Slipper; although it wasn't necessary they all had the same week off.

And Stephen Larkham's side paid a hefty price as a result, as they were played off the park by a determined Force outfit that will have been boosted by the Brumbies team announcement earlier in the week.

The 34-19 defeat means the Crusaders now sit one point ahead of the Brumbies with two rounds to play, the Cantabrians with games at home to the Waratahs and away to the Hurricanes to come.

The Brumbies meanwhile face a blockbuster against the Chiefs in Canberra, and then the Rebels at GIO Stadium again the following week.

Surely Larkham could have worked out a better way to manage his roster through the final weeks, even allowing for the required Wallabies rest weeks, rather than naming a drastically understrength 23 for the trip to Perth?

If the Brumbies find themselves travelling to Christchurch in week two of the finals, they will likely only have themselves to blame.