Super 14 Summary – Round 7
by Tracey Nelson
30 Mar 2009
The Blues were the only NZ side not to win this weekend, with the Highlanders upsetting the previously unbeaten Bulls, the Crusaders shading the Stormers in a close-fought battle, and the Hurricanes coming from behind to beat the Lions in Johannesburg.
Blues v Waratahs (22-27)
It’s taken them 14 years of Super Rugby, but the Waratahs finally have a win in Auckland. Both sides were coming off losses the previous week, the Blues anxious to make ammends for the hiding they received at the hands of the Chiefs while the Tahs were still smarting from losing the home-win streak after losing to the Crusaders in Sydney.
If the Blues had worked on their defence during the week it wasn’t all that obvious, as despite withstanding the initial opening attack by the Tahs they conceded the first try 8 minutes into the game when Daniel Halangahu scored from a 5m attacking scrum. The conversion, plus a penalty in the 16th minute, saw the visitors ahead 10-0 before the Blues struck back thanks to a dazzling solo effort by Anthony Tuitavake down the right wing to score.
Some messywork at the back of a Blues’ defensive scrum saw Luke Burgess intercept the clearing pass, the converted try taking the Tahs out to a 17-5 lead. However, Tahs No 8 Wycliff Palu was sinbinned for a professional foul before half time and Jimmy Gopperth nailed the penalty to see the teams go into the break with the score at 17-8 to the Watatahs.
Having lost Ali Williams to what appeared to be an achilles injury during the first half, the Blues appeared to be starting to struggle and it was from a good lineout drive that the Tahs scored their third try to hooker Tatafau Polota-Nau. The home side rallied and struck back with a try to flanker Onosa’i Auva’a, but lack of accuracy at the breakdown cost them and a further penalty to the Waratahs took them out to a 27-15 lead.
A late try to replacement Michael Hobbs, converted by Gopperth, took the Blues to within 5 points of the Waratahs. But it was too little too late and despite coming out of the game with a bonus point it was yet another loss and back to the drawing board for the Blues.
Blues: Tuitavake, Auva’a, Hobbs tries; Gopperth 2 con, 1 pen.
Waratahs: Halangahu, Burgess, Polota-Nau tries; Halangahu 3 con, 2 pen.
Highlanders v Bulls (36-12)
There were three major points to take from this game: the previously unbeaten Bulls suffered their first loss, and it was an emphatic loss with no bonus point to take from it. The Highlanders scored a bonus point win. This “home” game for the Highlanders was played in Palmerston North infront of a crowd bordering on 10 000, which far eclipsed anything seen at Carisbrook so far this year.
This was a highly entertaining game of rugby to watch, with two very strong forward packs matching up alongside two backlines more than willing to run the ball when it was on to do so. But it was the Highlanders who came out on top in this duel, their urgency and pace being greater than that of the Bulls. It took 15 minutes for the first points to eventuate, and that was by way of a try to Highlanders’ centre Jason Shoemark after a sustained period of attack.
But the Bulls struck back immediately, taking a quick tap from a penalty and catching the youthful Highlanders’ side unawares as they turned their backs on the ball. Fourie du Preez tapped and sent a long pass out to his winger Gerhard van der Heever who sped over in the corner to score.
In days of old the Highlanders would have gone into their shells, but this year’s side refused to relax the pace and their second try came after a long series of phases where they drew the Bulls from one side of the field to the other before Daniel Bowden received the ball and sidestepped the defence to score near the posts. Their third try followed a few minutes later when Cowan ducked over the line from ruck. With Matt Berquist’s boot on-song the Highlanders went into the break 21-5 ahead.
The Highlanders signalled their intent straight after halftime when Cowan took the tap from a penalty, and some good support work led to a try to Berquist under the posts. Cowan capped off a fine display by intercepting a Bulls’ pass and making a big run to take his team onto attack. Offside play by the Bulls gave the Highlanders a penalty and Berquist made no mistake to take his side out to a 21-5 lead.
The Bulls hit back with a try to Morne Steyn, but the Highlanders weren’t finished yet. Israel Dagg, who was dangerous with his running all game, scored the Highlanders’ fifth try to sew the win up. The Highlanders will take great satisfaction from this win, not only beating the competition leaders but also showing they are a force to be reckoned with this year.
Highlanders: Shoemark, Bowden, Cowan, Berquist, Dagg tries; Berquist 4 con, 1 pen.
Bulls: van der Heevery, Steyn tries; Steyn 1 con.
Crusaders v Stormers (11-7)
When two of the better defensive sides in the competition meet, the chances are you are not going to see a lot of tries scored and the margin is likely to be narrow. And so it proved to be on Saturday night when the Crusaders ground out a win against the Stormers in Christchurch.
This was purely a game for the die hard supporters, and even they would have been tearing their hair out at the number of errors and inaccurate kicking that was on display. While both teams tried to get the ball wide, there were too many handling errors to ever make this game flow.
The Stormers were the first to score 11 minutes into the game when Luke Watson busted his way through a series of feeble Crusaders tackles. The conversion gave the Stormers 7 points, but that was to be their lot for the night. First points for the Crusaders came via a penalty goal to Stephen Brett, and it took the Crusaders more than 30 minutes to score their try, with Adam Whitelock going over in the right hand corner. Brett missed the conversion and the home team went into the break 8-7 ahead.
The second half continued much the way of the first, a myriad of handling errors, bad option taking and poor field kicking by both sides. The Crusaders were certainly trying to play with the ball, but numerous free kick indiscretions by the Stormers stultified their attack. Brett had a chance to increase his side’s lead with a kickable penalty in the 71st minute and missed, but managed to find the posts a few minutes later to take the Crusaders out to an 11-7 lead.
The Stormers ended the game hot on attack and received a kickable penalty in the 76th minute. However, they declined the shot at goal and went for a lineout in the hopes of scoring a try to win the game. But a great defensive jump by Brad Thorn saw the Crusaders steal Stormers’ ball, and they then held on to take the win.
Crusaders: Whitelock try; Brett 2 pen.
Stormers: Watson try; de Waal 1 con.
Reds v Chiefs (26-50)
The big question was, could the Chiefs follow up from their big win against the Blues the previous week. Fifteen minutes into the game the answer was an emphatic yes. In a highly entertaining game of running rugby, they scored their second consecutive big win this time against a Reds side who had previously one of the best defensive records in the compeition.
Despite the Reds starting strongly, the Chiefs stood firm on defence and when the ball was turned over it was Stephen Donald who hared off down the field to score the first try agains the run of play. This was followed a couple of minutes later by a try to Sitiveni Sivivatu.
His second try came moments later – or rather, would have if the referee hadn’t incorrectly ruled he had lost the ball as he went over the line. But justice was served when Sivivatu scored under the posts almost straight from the resumption of
play, although it was to be his last act as he left the field with a shoulder injury.
Dwayne Sweeny came on as a replacement player and soon found himself in the sinbin for a dangerous tackle. The Reds took advantage of this and first scored a try to Sean Hardman followed by one to Berrick Barnes. This took the score to 22-12 before the Chiefs were back to 15 players.
Mils Muliaina showed his speed when he latched onto a cross kick to score the bonus point try just before half time, and a further defensive lapse by the Reds saw Sweeney run 60 metres to score as the siren went for half time. It was pretty much game over then, as the Chiefs went into the break leading 43-12.
The second half was a tighter affair, with just a try to Muliaina to give him two for the evening being the Chiefs only scoring. The Reds scored first in the second half with a try to mark McLinden, and picked up a valuable bonus point try when flanker Daniel Braid scored towards the end of the game.
Chiefs: Sivivatu(2), Muliaina(2), Donald, Sweeney tries; Donald 3 con, 4 pen.
Reds: Hardman, Barnes, McLinden, Braid tries; Barnes 2 con, McKibbin 1 con.
Lions v Hurricanes (32-38)
Initially it looked as if the Canes were going to run away with this game, with two tries to Conrad Smith plus a penalty goal taking them out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter of the game. The Lions eventually got points on the board via a a try to Jacque Fourie. Andre Pretorious failed to convert, but was on target with two penalties to see the Lions only trailing by 6 points before Alby Mathewson showed good vision to dart over the line from the base of a close attacking ruck.
With the half time score at 24-11 the Canes were looking to score first after the break to put the game out of reach, but it was the Lions who struck with Fourie scoring his second try of the game. The try was converted, and minutes later the Lions took the lead from a tidy set piece move from a lineout, with American draftee Todd Clever going over under the posts.
Had the Lions managed to score again at this stage they may well have kicked on to win the game. It was thanks to Ma’a Nonu that the Canes got the lead back with some strong running – first with a try himself and then a kick through which was regathered by replacement Willie Ripia for the try. Weepu converted both to take them out to a 38-25 lead, before the Lions struck back with their fourth try to Shandre Frolick to take two bonus points from the loss.
Lions: Fourie(2), Clever, Frolick tries; Pretorious 3 con, 2 pen.
Hurricanes: Smith(2), Mathewson, Nonu, Ripia tries; Weepu 5 con, 1 pen.
In other games:
The Sharks beat the Brumbies 35-14
The Cheetahs and Force had the bye.