Super Rugby AU opens with a whimper rather than a bang

Jeremy Thrush of the Western Force in action during the round 2 Super Rugby AU match between the Waratahs and the Western Force at Sydney Cricket Ground. Photo: Getty Images
Jeremy Thrush of the Western Force in action during the round 2 Super Rugby AU match between the Waratahs and the Western Force at Sydney Cricket Ground. Photo: Getty Images
The return of Western Force and a slew of rule changes to speed up play had raised hopes that Super Rugby AU might deliver entertainment for fans but Australia's domestic tournament has already been panned by critics after two rounds.

Following an error-strewn win over the New South Wales Waratahs in week one, the Queensland Reds drew 18-18 with the Melbourne Rebels at Sydney's Brookvale Oval on Friday, a match roundly condemned by media pundits for a low standard of play.

Even Fox Sports' Greg Clark, who as a commentator for the rights-holding broadcaster has some interest in talking up the game, dismissed much of the clash as a "borefest".

It produced the first use of the new "Super time" rule, in which the first team to score in extra time wins, yet neither side grabbed the opportunity.

"It was a case of no one wanting to lose," Rebels playmaker Matt Toomua conceded.

"If a draw is like kissing your sister, then a draw after extra time is like giving her a French kiss. It's much worse."

The return of the Force on Saturday, three years after being axed from Super Rugby, was emotional for the fans but ultimately disappointing as they went down 23-14 to the Waratahs.

It was another match that fell short of the standards produced in New Zealand's Super Rugby Aotearoa, which has seen fans flock to stadiums.

Super Rugby AU's opening round ratings on pay TV platform Foxtel underlined the challenge RA faces to negotiate a new rights deal after 2020, with the Queensland-NSW clash drawing barely a quarter of the viewers generated by Australian Rules and rugby league games on the same weekend.

"We want television executives to be entertained ... so there is a chance Super Rugby has a future," The Australian's Wally Mason wrote in an editorial.

"Sadly, the snooze-fests being served up in Super Rugby AU at the moment are doing none of that."

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