30 Mar

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.

27 Mar

Super 14 Preview – Hard To Pick Winners On Form
by WAJ
27 Mar 2009

There are some bloody tough games again this week. The Blues, Waratahs, Hurricanes and Brumbies were all abysmal last week so how could you choose them this week? And is the Chiefs form consistent – we all know not. And where are the Reds after an impressive win against the Sharks but then the bye the following week? Ditto the Stormers. So I don’t think I’ll do a game by game analysis because it is all guess work anyway.

1 5/8 rankings: The Duck, Brett, Berquist, Weepu, Gopperth.

The Duck underplayed his hand again but set his backs up beautifully. Brett is a good player, consistency with his goalkicking would have him knocking on the door at the moment.

Blues v Waratahs
Amazingly after some average form through the comp to date these two sides are still in the top 5. Both had bad losses last week and accordingly have made changes – notably the Blues in midfield and the Waratahs at 1 5/8. There is no doubt the Blues have some talent but seem to lack a bit of backbone – harden up guys, focus on defence and let the attack look after itself this week. Fortunately they are up against a mob who have forgotten what attack means, they looked bloody awful last week, couldn’t get things going at all. Don’t think Halangahu will help much either. So two packs with plenty to prove, inside backs who have not been overly convincing and outside backs looking for some decent ball. At least the Blues are scoring ties and on that basis and with home ground advantage(Waratahs have never won in Auckland) the Blues to win.
Blues 13+

Highlanders v Bulls
On paper this is an easy Bulls win. But the Highlanders are a team on the improve, and with some players back from injury could surprise here. They are as big up front as the Bulls and will break even there at set piece. But the Highlanders can’t let it become too much of a rumble up front – Bakkies and Roussow etc are too street wise at ruck and maul time. And you just know what the Bulls tactics are going to be in NZ – so the Highlanders need to counter the myriad of kicks heading their way and ensure they reply in kind and not give away the ground that the Hurricanes did last week. Take it to the Bulls, run at them and use the likes of Smith and Fred (Dagg) to take them on. And lets hope Cowan gets really snarly as well. I am becoming a believer – so please no last minute loss!
Highlanders 1 – 12

Crusaders v Stormers
The Crusaders are starting to get a few players back now – Laulala a big in for the match up against de Villiers. No out and out opensider though and I don’t see Manu as the breakdown type, will Read take that mantle? And big Ross is going well, has tightened up a bit and complements Thorn well – AB in waiting. The win in Sydney will have done the Crusaders confidence no harm at all, have won all 6 match ups at home, and have won 7 of the last 8 between these two foes. And the Stormers have their own share of injuries, with Bekker out and Bobo forced to the wing. But they travelled well last year winning 3 of the 4 games on the road, the loss a close one to the Blues. They do have some great players in Burger and de Villiers and Watson is an extremely good S14 player as well. But can they concentrate for the full 80, especially after the travel, against a very good counter attacking team – I doubt it.
Crusaders 13+

Reds v Chiefs
How many points will the Chiefs win by? Should be 25 or 30 on last weeks form they were that good. T5 held up, loosies were all over the place, the halves steering them around well with some great distribution and option taking, and the back four were breathtaking. The BIG question – can they put it together 2 weeks in a row. They are up against a pretty good team in the Reds, who pride themselves in winning at home, like the teams with the big reputation and will have conditions to suit – high 20′s with showers and plenty of humidity. The Reds have a maturing pack and any team that can leave the likes of Higginbotham out has some serious talent, and with big Horwill back the Chiefs will have to apply themselves at least as well as last week. The real key for the Reds though are Cooper and Barnes, they compliment each other exceptionally well, the cool head controlling things outside the instinctive playmaker. With a solid defence and if they can hold there passes they will be tough to beat.
Reds 1 – 12

Sharks v Brumbies
Couldn’t take the Brumbies here. They were horrible against the Lions, taking wrong options and making too many errors. If not for Gerrard the score line could have been worse, man can he kick a ball. And whilst Alexander was impressive up front, and Moore solid there was not a lot from the others, they just didn’t play good rugby. Not the team of old. The Sharks are back from a successful road trip and rarely loose at home. They will be too strong here.
Sharks 13+

Lions v Hurricanes
Bloody hell another game where form is all over the place. On paper the Hurricanes win easy, but then this is the Hurricanes. Can they focus and play to a plan – so much talent and such poor execution at times. Same as the Chiefs, they can play top class rugby as per their excellent win against the Crusaders and then we get served the crap from last week. Rodders get them sorted out, you are a AB captain – focus man, get them focused. The lions could do little else but win against a terrible Brumbies team, so a half decent performance from the Hurricanes will see them home.
Hurricanes 13+

A couple of roughies but then there were plenty last week.

Regards Waj

23 Mar

Super 14 Summary – Round 6
by Tracey Nelson
23 Mar 2009

Another all-NZ derby, and what a game it was. A total of 97 points were scored in Hamilton on Saturday night as the Chiefs demolished the Blues. Meanwhile the Hurricanes went down to the Bulls in a fractious game in Wellington, the Highlanders beat the Cheetahs, and the Crusaders got an important away win in Sydney against the Waratahs.

Hurricanes v Bulls (14-19)

This game will probably be remembered for the five yellow cards and one red that were dished out by Matt Goddard, however it was on the back of some excellent defence by the Bulls that they remained the only unbeaten side this week.

The Bulls only made it into the Hurricanes half on three occasions in the first 15 minutes of the game yet each time they managed to get a penalty shot at goal, two of which were converted by Morne Steyn for the Bulls to be leading 6-0. The Hurricanes scored the only try in the first half, coming from a beautifully timed angled run onto the ball by Tamati Ellison from fullback.

However, the game was marked by indiscipline by both sides as in the first half Pedrie Wannenburg was sent to the bin for a professional foul at the breakdow, followed a few minutes later by Ma’a Nonu for playing the ball on the ground. The Bulls were barely back to 15 players when Deon Stegmann was binned for also playing the ball on the ground. The Bulls managed to go into the break leading 9-7.

The second half fared no better on the discipline side of things, as barely a minute in Scott Waldrom was binned for being off his feet metres out from the Hurricanes goal line. The Bulls took the penalty shot, but minutes later lost Stegmann for the remainder of the game after a spear tackle on Conrad Smith. Not to be outdone, the Hurricanes had Jason Eaton sent to the sin bin in the very next lineout for stomping a Bulls player on the ground.

Despite playing 60% of the game with less than 15 players on the field, it was the Bulls who scored from a set piece move in the 57th minute of the game to take the score out to 19-7. While the Hurricanes were up a man for last 20 minutes of the game it took them that whole time to finally get Eaton over the line in the dying seconds. Too much lateral running behind the advantage line, poor discipline and too many handling errors against the very good defence of the Bulls cost the Hurricanes, who had the better share of territory and the breakdowns during the game.

Hurricanes: Ellison, Eaton tries; Weepu 2 con
Bulls: Nel try; Steyn 4 pen, con

Highlanders v Cheetahs (32-8)

It took the Highlanders until the second half to get going in this match, and they were down 5-8 at halftime after playing into a strong wind that played havoc with the goal kickers. The Highlanders missed all five shots at goal in the first half, and the only points they got was thanks to a try to Adam Thompson, while the Cheetahs scored thanks to an uncoverted Corne Uys try followed by a penalty goal.

The Highlanders were their own worst enemies in the first half, and were guilty of trying too much too soon and making numerous mistakes to keep the vistors in the game. But after half time they tightened things up and looked to phase play, which was much better suited to the blustery conditions. This allowed them to string together some very tidy attacks culminating in tries to Israel Dagg and Steven Setephano to take the Highlanders out to a 20-8 lead.

The bonus point try came when Thomson went over for his second, capping off yet another strong game from the flanker. Dagg got his second for the game just before fulltime to round off a very good second half for the Highlanders where they put on 27 unanswered points against a tiring Cheetahs side who will no doubt be glad to be heading back home after three back to bac losses in New Zealand.

Highlanders: Thompson 2, Dagg 2, Setephano tries; Berquist 2 conversions, penalty
Cheetahs: Uys try; Potgieter penalty

Chiefs v Blues (63-34)

There must have been a fair few Chiefs players pulled aside for drug testing after their massive win over the Blues on Saturday night, becuase the entire team played the full 80 minutes of the game like they were on P. From the opening whistle they laid into the Blues and never let the foot off the pedal until the final whistle blew.

The Blues would have been wishing full time came after 40 minutes, when they were already down 35-8. The Chiefs secured their bonus point try early in the game, with Sitiveni Sivivatu hauling in a hat trick of tries after just 25 minutes. It was probably just as well Sivivatu had been suffering from the flu in the lead up to this game, else he may well have scored 8 tries such was his performance on Saturday night. As it was, he took over from Roger Randle as the Chiefs’ top try scorer, and he did it in style securing a fourth for the night in the second half.

The Chiefs were out to make a point in this game, and their preparation had been thorough. They peppered the Blues with high kick after high kick, regaining nearly every one and gaining significant yardage each time. Their pack, often maligned this season for not being able to foot it with the rest of the competition, provided front foot ball all night for a backline stacked with All Blacks. Time and time again the Blues were outflanked and the Chiefs ran in tries with seeming ease, able to put the man on the outside shoulder of the defence every time they mounted an attack. As a loose trio, the Chiefs mix of Lauaki, Latimer and Messam comprehensively outplayed their counterparts, with Latimer in particular standing out.

The Blues did manage to take a bonus point from this game, with their fourth try coming in the 67th minute. This will be of little consolation to them, as they continue to have the worse defence in the competition – something harshly highlighted by the Chiefs on Saturday night. Not that the Chiefs’ defence was leakproof, conceding five tries themselves. A total of 97 points was scored in this game, and with 14 tries scored it now holds the record for the most tries in any Super rugby game.

Chiefs: Sivivatu 4, Kahui, Leonard, Masaga, Messam, Bruce tries; Donald 8 cons; Delany con
Blues: Toeava, Rokocoko 2, Tuitavake, Helleur tries; Gopperth 4 cons, 2 pens

Waratahs v Crusaders (13-17)

The Crusaders got their season back on track with a courageous win over the Waratahs, breaking an 11 home-win streak for the hosts. Still missing numerous first choice players due to an ever increasing injury list, a young and inexperienced Crusaders side managed to score two tries to one and hang on in the dying minutes to clinch the win.

The Waratahs started the game strongly but failed to capitalise on territory and possession, with good defence and handling errors halting any promising attacks they mounted. The Crusaders started to gain some confidence, and a break out down the left flank followed by a centering kick infield by Tim Bateman was regathered by Andy Ellis who showed presence of mind to time a long pass out to his captain Kieran Read who was backing up on the outside. This was to be the only scoring in the first half, and the Crusaders went into the break leading 7-0.

Crusaders lock Isaac Ross was sinbinned midway throught he second half for “lazy running” as he got in the way of a Waratahs attacking move in the Crusaders 22, and this allowed the Waratahs to finally score when their prop Robinson bounced over the line from a series of rucks. But the return of Ross to the field saw the best try of the night, if not the weekend. Stephen Brett stepped a defender and ran the ball out of his own 22 before unloading to Ross who galloped up into the Waratahs half. He offloaded to Thomas Waldrom, who drew the defenders before passing back inside to the supporting Ellis. Ellis had the simple job of drawing the last defender and passed to Leon MacDonald who scored under the posts. It was vintage Crusaders, an
d must have drawn a smile to the face of Robbie Deans who was watching the game from the stands.

With just a penalty apiece on top of the two tries, the Crusaders managed to hold out the Waratahs, and thanks to other results going their way this weekend moved up the ladder into 7th place.

Waratahs: Robinson try; Beale con, pen; Halangahu pen
Crusaders: Read, MacDonald tries; Brett 2 con; Slade pen Halftime: 0-7.

In other games:

The Force lost to the Sharks 10-22
The Lions beat the Brumbies 25-17

The Reds and the Stormers had the bye.

23 Mar

Headlines or Hysteria?
by Tracey Nelson
23 Mar 2009

Did referee Matt Goddard ruin Friday night’s game between the Hurricanes and Bulls, making it impossible as a spectacle to watch with a plethora of penalties and yellow cards – or was it simply a case of two sides playing negative rugby which was dealt to accordingly?

There was a lot of critical comment following Goddard’s officiating on Friday night. Some suggested that he had too big an influence on the game, making it a stop-start affair with constant whistle blowing and lectures to the players. Many felt he had been over-officious, handing out a hefty total of five yellow cards and one red to add to the 16 full-arm penalties he awarded.

But both sides should take a long, hard look at themselves rather than blame the referee. In the last few weeks Super 14 referees have been coming down hard on players not entering the breakdown through the gate, and also on those who do not support their full weight on their feet when attempting to play the ball. Players who have been deemed as committing professional fouls, such as ‘lazy running’ when attempting to get on-side and impeding the attacking team in the attacking zone, have all been sent for 10 minute spells in the sin bin in recent games.

So if we take a dispassionate look at the order of warnings and events that led to cardings during Friday night’s game, I think it will be fairly obvious that the referee ruled correctly in most instances – the only questionable carding being that of the Hurricane’s Jason Eaton for stomping as he attempted to ruck a Bulls player. Certainly a penalty offence, but possibly not card material.

15min: Following three penalties awarded against the Hurricanes for offside and high tackles in their 22, Goddard asks both sides for more accuracy at the breakdown.

19 min: Bulls #7 Wannenburg is yellow carded for incorrect entry at the breakdown – a professional foul coming round the ruck from an offside position and playing the ball.

27 min: Nonu is yellow carded for not rolling clear as the tackler and stripping the ball from the tackled player while off his feet near the Hurricanes’ 22.

35 min: Bulls #6 Stegmann is yellow carded for being off his feet and playing the ball in the tackle 8m out from the Bulls’ line.

36 min: Goddard calls time off and a general warning is given to both sides about discipline.

41 min: Waldrom is yellow carded for being off his feet and playing the ball 6m out from the Hurricanes’ line. A close look at the replay shows that Waldrom has bridged over the tackled player, is supporting his weight on the ground with his forearms and is effectively sealing off the ball.

49 min: Stegmann is red carded for a spear tackle on Conrad Smith.

50 min: Eaton is yellow carded for stomping on a Bulls’ player as he lies on the ground following a lineout.

54 min: A further warning is given to both sides following a penalty against John Schwalger for taking a player in the air. The replay shows that he led in with the elbow, so he can probably consider himself lucky not to have been carded or cited for this.

In most games, once both sides have received a yellow card, you generally see the standard of player discipline improve. Sadly in the case of the Hurricanes and Bulls, the players seemed determined to continue offending and despite being given several official warnings by the referee it took until almost the three quarter mark in the game for the players to finally take heed. Yes, it wasn’t a great spectacle other than the superb set-piece try scored by the Bulls in the 57th minute, but to blame the referee for that is simplistic.

To suggest the Hurricanes might have lost this game because the referee used the yellow cards too heavily is just ridiculous. What did cost the Hurricanes was the 13-3 penalty count they conceded, the fact they spent twice as much time in the Bulls’ 22 yet couldn’t convert this into points, that they had twice as many handling errors, and that despite the Bulls being down to 14 men they took 20 minutes to eventually score in the last seconds of the match.

The game itself wasn’t a great spectacle not because there were 16 penalties, five yellow cards and one red card handed out but because the players chose to play negatively – and in the case of the Hurricanes they had little structure to their play, no discipline and too many handling errors at crucial times in the game.

17 Mar

Super 14 Summary – Round 5
by Tracey Nelson
17 Mar 2009

In any other year, being in 10th place after Round 5 is usually the end of your season. But this year the Super 14 is a tight race with just seven points separating the team in 4th place to the team in 10th. The Hurricanes had the bye this week, but with some results going their way they remain in the top half of the table, while the Blues move up into fourth.

Blues v Cheetahs (46-12)

This game was expected to be a cakewalk for the Blues, and the first half seemed to suggest this was likely to be the outcome. Leading 20-7 at halftime thanks to tries to AnthonyTuitavake and Chris Lowrey, plus several penalty goals including one kicked after Cheetah’s flanker Wayne van Heerden was sinbinned for tackling a support player without the ball, it seemed a formality that the Blues would romp home. The Cheetahs had managed a solitary try to Corne Uys, but for the most part any attacking moves from them were well contained by the Blues.

The Blues started well following the half time break, with Isaia Toeava scoring almost immediately after the restart. However, a mixture of rain and the requirement to go to uncontested scrums four minutes into the second half when the Cheetahs were out of front row replacements, meant that the game faltered as a spectacle. From the first uncontested scrum Taniela Moa scooted round the blindside to score to give the Blues their bonus point try. Jamie Helleur, on as a replacement, scored the fifth try for the Blues ten minutes before full time with the six try coming to replacement halfback Chris Smylie.

The Cheetahs had the last word, scoring their second try right on fulltime to Kabamba Floors but it was too little too late for the visitors. There were too many handling errors to make this game a great viewing spectacle, but from the Blues’ point of view it was a bonus point win and just the tonic required following their loss to the Sharks the week before.

Blues: Tuitavake, Lowrey, Toeava, Moa, Helleur, Smyllie tries; Gopperth 5 con, 2 pen

Cheetahs: Uys, Floors tries; Potgieter con

Crusaders v Force (23-23)

This is a game the Crusaders will look back on a rue squandered chances with both tries and kicks for goal going astray. With Colin Slade’s 34% success rate for the season, Stephen Brett was giving the kicking duties this week but at the end of the game he had only landed 2 from 6 attempts.

In the first forty minutes of this match it was like the Crusaders of last year, with the forwards taking control up front and keeping the Force on the backfoot. The result was that with quick ruck ball and a backline running from the advantage line the Force were continually stretched on defence. By half time the Crusaders were up 20-6 after tries to Ryan Crotty, Time Bateman and Isaac Ross, and it looked like the Force were up against it.

However, it was a game of two halves in the classic sense, and following the break Matt Giteau began to exert his influence on the game as the Force slowly clawed their way back into the game. The Crusaders blew two try scoring chances in the second half, but the Force were more clinical first scoring out wide after a telling break from Giteau who fired the long pass out to replacement winger Sare. Giteau’s radar was on song with the boot, and penalties took the Force to within seven points of tying the game up.

When Leon MacDonald was sinbinned for tackling a player in the air, the Force mounted their attack and a failed clearing kick from Kahn Fotuali’i gave the visitors the chance they needed and Giteau’s running again set up the try for James O’Connor. The conversion tied the game up and the Crusaders were left to rue what might have been had they converted all the opportunities that were presented to them.

Crusaders: Crotty, Bateman, Ross tries, Brett 1 con, 2 pen.
Force: Sare, O’Connor tries, Giteau 2 con, 3 pen.

Highlanders v Chiefs (10-14)

Unfortunately for the Highlanders they couldn’t repeat their performace from the previous weekend when they beat the Crusaders, although they came close and but for a solo piece of brilliance from Chiefs’ winger Lelia Masaga they might again have come out victorious.

There was nothing much about this game to keep the fans on the edge of their seats, with far too many handling errors and knock-ons from both sides. The game seldom flowed, other than when the Highlanders scored their sole try of the game – a superb set piece move from a scrum sending Fetu’u Vainikolo over in the corner untouched. The Chiefs struck back with a try to Liam Messam after Mils Muliaina mounted a counter attack from his own half, to tie the scores up 7-7 at halftime.

The second half was a bit like an arm wrestle, until Daniel Bowden kicked a penalty at the 60 minute mark to put the Highlanders ahead 10-7. But six minutes later the Chiefs scored after Masaga broke four tackles as he danced and weaved his way through the Highlanders’ defence to score in the right hand corner. Stephen Donald nailed the difficult conversion from the sideline, and the Chiefs took the win.

Chiefs: Masaga, Messam tries, Donald 2 con
Highlanders: Vainikolo try, Bowden 1 con, 1 pen

In other games:

The Brumbies beat the Waratahs 21-11
The Stormers beat the Lions 56-18
The Reds beat the Sharks 25-13

The Hurricanes and Bulls had the bye.

13 Mar

Super 14 Preview – Round 5
by WAJ
13 Mar 2009

Uck, spit, clear throat, spit again… Sorry, still trying to get the taste of that abomination of a game on Saturday night out of the system. The worrying thing was that it almost became compelling viewing just to see if someone, ball boys, a drunk student, anyone, could score some
points. The biggest worry for the Crusaders is the “nil” part of the scoreline. Slade battling, no experience further out, and thus the backline struggled big time. And what about the injuries – Todd needs to sit and have a chat with Ian Foster on the roller coaster ride that is S14 coaching.

1 5/8 ratings: Weepu, Bowden, Gopperth, the Duck, Slade.

Blues v Cheetahs
Predicting a hiding here. A very solid T5, plenty of mobility in the loosies, and the best structured backline so far this season will give the Blues a huge edge. They looked jet-lagged last week – all over the place, the focus will be on handling errors I reckon. Can’t say much about the Cheetahs, haven’t won a game for so long they would have forgotten what it feels like and 3 weeks into their OE will have them missing the veldt big time. Will be competitive for the first 20 then massacre.
Blues 13+

Brumbies v Waratahs
Another excellent Australian derby. Some changes in both sides looks to slightly favour the Brumbies but against the most stubborn of Waratahs units they will need to get some of their old mojo back to prevail. They have of course arguably the best S14 player going around in George Smith and if he and Mortlock can dominate as they are capable of then a win is definitely on the cards. Lealiifano has to step up. The Waratahs have made changes to the T5, partly through injury and brought Tahu back to try and bolster what is still a stuttering backline. They are still a side that plays the percentages very well, but were lucky to win last week and will need to improve on that performance in Canberra Both these sides tend to win these clashes when
at home, only lost once each, and I expect that winning trend to continue.
Brumbies 1 – 12

Crusaders v Force
Welcome to your worst nightmare Todd. Flynn, Franks, Filipo, McCaw, Ellis, Laulala, and that’s just 6 AB’s not playing for one reason or another. Filipo dropped, Slade on the wing – desparate times call for desparate measures. The rest of the rugby world is sitting back having a right old giggle about this of course – now Crusaders folk can feel some of the pain we have been feeling for the last (pick a number) years they say. Or will the team thumb their collective noses and pull one out of the bag. The Force we know can play very well away from home and will be bitterly disappointed with last weeks effort. Expect a more focused defence and for Giteau to test the hugely inexperienced backline – still can’t work out Slade on the wing. Macca could be in for a very busy night. So will the Crusaders defy all the odds, and can the Force get revenge od the 53 point drubbing of 2 years ago. I just can’t see the Crusaders overcoming all those injuries and all the inexperience as a result.
Force 1 – 12

Highlanders Chiefvs
Why is Leonard on the bench? The highlight of this game for me was Cowan v Leonard – bloody Foster. Still Bowden v Duck and Latimer v Thomson are match ups to look at from an AB point of view I suppose. Going for the Chiefs here, they look to be running into a bit of form and if the Duck can put that friggin chip kick away for a bit, and use the running ability of Kahui, Masaga and Mils a bit more then they should win comfortably enough. The Highlanders have been a bit of a bogey team for the Chiefs of late though, winning the last 5 match’s, and man are they a stubborn bunch. But will they be in the same frame of mind after last weeks battle against their neighbours and the high of that win??
Chiefs 13+

Reds v Sharks
The Sharks continue on their merry way. They are now a team with so much experience, big game players and depth that more often than not they will win the close games. Still this could be a hard one as the Reds are capable of pulling an upset at anytime. But they have been struck by a few injuries to some experienced tight forwards, not something you need against a SA team let, alone this particular outfit. They will be brave but make too many mistakes and the Sharks thrive on turnover ball – and just have too many options for this still developing Reds outfit.
Sharks 13+

Stormers v Lions
Both teams are desparate for a win, a loss would make it very hard to stay in touch with the top 4. The Stormers have been disappointing to date, they always fail to take advantage of playing at home and after 3 close losses so far this year there must be a degree of frustration creeping in. Erasmus has chopped and changed a bit and the Watson issue must be having an effect as well. They just have to win to get confidence and morale back up. The Lions will come down well rested after the bye and have enough talent to cause problems. But they have lost this encounter the last seven times and I doubt whether those problems are going to be enough to win them this game. The Stormers to take control early and hold on to win reasnobly convincingly
Stormers 1 – 12

12 Mar

RWC 2011 Match Schedule and Pool Match Venues announced
by Tracey Nelson
12 Mar 2009

Lancaster_ParkThe opening match of RWC 2011 will be played between New Zealand and Tonga at Eden Park on September 9th. The RWC 2011 Match Schedule and Pool Match Venues were announced today in Auckland by by RNZ 2011 Ltd Chief Executive Martin Sneddon and RWC Ltd boss Mike Miller. With Auckland’s Eden Park already set to host the two semi-finals and the final, and Wellington and Christchurch will hosting the four quarter finals, there has been much anticipation as to where the pool games will be played.

Auckland (Eden Park), Wellington and Christchurch have been allocated five pool matches each while North Shore, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Dunedin will each host three matches. Whangarei, Nelson, Palmerston North, Napier and Invercargill will host two matches. There were submissions from 11 regions across New Zealand, comprising 16 match venues in total.The regions which applied to host Pool Matches were: Northland, Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu, Wellington, Nelson Tasman Region, Christchurch and the Southern Region (Otago/Southland).

Our philosophy all along has been a Stadium of Four Million. We believe today’s announcement, building on the knock-out decisions announced last year, takes us further towards the fulfillment of that promise said Mr Snedden.

Auckland and the Southern Region’s proposals contained three venues while the Bay of Plenty’s proposal included two venues. All of these regions have also included applications to host teams as part of their proposals. Regions which have applied to host teams only are: Marlborough, Tairawhiti (Poverty Bay/East Coast), Taupo, Aoraki Region (Timaru), Ashburton, West Coast, and Wanganui.

The opening weekend of the tournament will seeArgentina meeting England in Christchurch, and South Africa playing Wales in Wellington as well as communities in Invercargill, New Plymouth, Rotorua and North Shore getting their first taste of Rugby World Cup action. The second weekend will feature the Australia v Ireland clash, while the third will seeNew Zealandtake onFrance. The pool stage wraps up with deciders taking place across all 4 pools.

The quarter-final match-ups were also confirmed, with the top two teams in Pool A (featuring currently qualified teams New Zealand, France and Tonga) and Pool B (featuring Argentina, England and Scotland) playing off in Christchurch. Wellington will host quarter-finals featuring the winners and runners-up from Pool C (featuring Australia, Ireland and Italy) and Pool D (featuring South Africa, Wales and Fiji).

The four quarter-finals will be played on the weekend of October 7, 8 and 9, 2011. The semi-finals will be played on the weekend of 15 and 16 October while the Bronze Final will be staged on Friday October 21 at Eden Park, followed by the Final on Sunday October 23 at the same venue. The two day break after the Bronze Final allows us to better prepare for the Final on Sunday, and should also ensure a huge festival night for Auckland on Saturday said Sneddon.

Today marks the culmination of a 22 month process that has involved regions from every part of New Zealand.We are pleased that all 11 regions will have the opportunity to host matches. Given that a total of 16 venues were proposed, we do appreciate that there will be disappointment among those who have missed out. The RWC 2011 Regional Coordination groups, of which there are 22 around New Zealand, will now evolve from having an initial focus on bidding for hosting rights into regional core tournament and festival delivery agents.”

The 20 team bases will be announced later this year.

2011 Rugby World Cup Match Schedule

 

9 Mar

Super 14 Summary – Round 4
by Tracey Nelson
9 Mar 2009

The Chiefs and Highlanders got their first wins of the season this weekend – the Chiefs beating the Force in Hamilton whilst the Highlanders accounted for the Crusaders in Dunedin with the lowest scoring Super game ever. The Hurricanes stuttered to a win over the Cheetahs in New Plymouth, and the Blues were downed by the Sharks at Eden Park.

Chiefs v Force (31-13)

At last the Chiefs managed a victory, and a bonus point one to boot, although it took them almost the full 80 minutes to get the fourth try. Off to a roaring start, the Chiefs opened the scoring in the second minute of the game with a try to Lelia Masaga which Stephen Donald duly converted. Any thoughts that the Chiefs may have rid themselves of their high error rate were quickly dispelled however, with handling errors, turnovers and penalties keeping the Force in touch for the next 30 minutes through two penalty goals.

Just before halftime the Chiefs seemed to find their mojo, and a try to Brendon Leonard following a Liam Messam burst through the midfield put them ahead 14-6. A third try then came the way of Richard Kahui after he made a bust through some feeble Force tackles to feed Sitiveni Sivivatu down the wing before backing up to take the final pass, allowing the Chiefs to go into halftime leading 21-6.

But as is the way of the Chiefs, again they went off the boil after half time and allowed the Force back in the game – Matt Giteau in particular creating many backline breaks. This week however, the Chiefs’ defence held firm and other than spilling a high kick that allowed Tamaiti Horua to claim the loose ball and score the visitors’ only try of the evening, that was the extent of the Force’s tally for the night.

The last 10 minutes of the game saw the Chiefs going all-out for that fourth try, and eventually it came in injury time – a TMO decision awarding Colin Bourke the try following a quick tap from 5m out that saw him surge over the line. The return of Richard Kahui from injury provided some much needed solidity and structure to the Chiefs this week, and while the bonus point try will be welcomed it will be their much improved defence that will be most pleasing to the coaching team.

Chiefs: Masaga, Leonard, Kahui, Bourke tries, Donald 4 conversions and one penalty.
Force: Horua try, Giteau one conversion and one penalty, Shepherd one penalty.

Hurricanes v Cheetahs (29-12)

The scoreline slightly flatters the Canes in what was an entertaining game played in the sun at New Plymouth on Saturday afternoon. Most had written off the Cheetahs prior to the match, with many predicting a heady scoreline in favour of the Canes. But it took 17 minutes for the home side to register any points, and that was by way of a penalty goal to Piri Weepu who was again playing at 1st 5 this week.

This was followed up by a great try to Hosea Gear after the Canes swooped on loose ruck ball and their backline reacted quickly in a sweeping move down field. The Cheetahs then hit back, stealing the ball from a Canes’ defensive lineout and halfback Sarel Pretorious nipping through the lineout and over the line to score. This seemed to revive their spirits and they were unlucky not to score again when Zac Guildford just beat Hanno Coetzee to a ball that had been kicked into the in-goal area.

Just before halftime the Canes scored from a slick set-piece from a scrum, with the ball going to Nonu who switched the ball back in the other direction where Tamati Ellison was running in from fullback. Ellison’s run was timed to perfection and he scored untouched close to the posts for the Canes to go into the break leading 17-5.

The Cheetahs struck back immediately after half time, with Wayne van Heerden scoring a try following a strong counter attack. This took them to within 5 points of the Canes, and for a brief period it looked as if they might be about to cause the upset. But the Canes struck back with another try to Gear after the Cheetahs turned the ball over in their own 22, and they closed it out with John Schwalger getting over the line from a series of pick and goes close to the line.

So the Canes got a bonus point win but of concern for them will be the 13 throws they lost to their own lineout, the Cheetahs putting plenty of pressure on and managing to steal clean ball at the front for most of the game.

Hurricanes: Gear (2), Ellison, Schwalger tries, Weepu one penalty and two conversions, Ripia one conversion.
Cheetahs: Pretorius, van Heerden tries, Potgieter one conversion.

Blues v Sharks (31-35)

The Blues will be rueing missed opportunities and their inability to look after the ball at the breakdown as the Sharks made it two from two on the New Zealand leg of their away games. The very first try to the Sharks came from Blues turnover ball, and turnover ball was to be a recurring feature throughout the game and something the Blues probably thought they had sorted out following on from their loss to the Bulls a fortnight ago.

The Sharks loosies are a formidable trio, and if you are not going to commit numbers to the breakdown against them you are going to concede possession. Of that there is no doubt, and this was how much of the game played out. Having said that, the Blues did score one of the best tries in the game and it came from a set piece scrum in the Sharks’ 22 using dummy runners on the angle to put Isaia Toeava over in the corner and put them in the lead.

Handling and judgement errors throughout the game were further problems the Blues had, although given the short turnaround coming back from South Africa you could forgive them in some instances. However, bungling a too-clever 22 drop out gifted the Sharks a drop goal to tie the game up 13 all before yet another turnover at the breakdown saw the Blues mis-field a kick and the ever-present Jacques Botes snap up the ball to score just before halftime.

In the second half the Sharks scored again thanks to a poorly executed and ill-judged wide pass from Anthony Tuitavake that was knocked on by Toeava. From the resulting scrum the Sharks employed the pick and go, and scored taking the score out to 30-16. But the Blues hung in, and struck back with a try to Jimmy Gopperth to come within 9 points before Joe Rokocoko knocked the ball on going for the tryline (with immense speculation abounding that the Sharks player who tackled him did so from an offside position) and the Sharks launched a counterattack that culminated in a bonus point try to replacement John Smit.

To their credit the Blues didn’t give up, and penalties kept them within grasping distance until finally Rokocoko went over in the corner to give the Blues a bonus point for finsihing within 7 points. To get a bonus point from this game was no mean feat, as the Sharks have clearly set the bench mark in the competition to date. With their strong, mobile loosies and skillful backline – Jacobs in particular had a strong game in the midfield, and Kockott was a live wire at halfback – they will be hard for any side to beat.

Blues: Toeava, Gopperth, Rokocoko tries, Gopperth 4 penalties and one conversion.
Sharks: Pietersen, Botes, Sykes, Smit tries, Kockott 2 penalties, one drop goal and 3 conversions.

Highlanders v Crusaders (6-0)

This is now officially the lowest scoring game in Super rugby history, and is also the first time the Crusaders have been kept to zero. At long last the Highlanders have the monkey off their back and have their first win this year. The Crusaders, on the other hand, have not only now lost three games in a row (something they haven’t done since the first year of the compeitition) but their injury toll has compounded with a serious injury to skipper Richie McCaw who has damaged medial ligaments in his right k
nee – an injury not only causing concern for the Crusaders but no doubt for the national selectors as well.

McCaw limped off the field after 30 minutes, 10 minutes after winger Jared Payne retired with a serious ankle injury likely to see him out for at least two weeks. For a side that was already suffering from injuries to senior players such as Leon MacDonald and Casey Laulala, it proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. This game was never going to be a high scoring one, that much was obvious from the gritty defence both sides displayed in the first half. Nobody even looked like scoring, until finally in the 62nd minute of the game the Highlanders transgressed and Colin Slade stepped up to the mark to kick for goal. Slade has had a horror run with his goal kicking so far this season, to the point where Mick Byrne was brought in to give him assistance last week. Unfortunately it didn’t do the trick, as his kick was misdirected and sailed off to the left of the posts.

The Crusaders looked the marginally better attacking side during the match, and mounted several forays into the Highlanders’ 22 in the last quarter of the game. One promising attack almost led to a try but Thomas Waldrom was called back due to a forward pass to him from Andy Ellis. A moment of stupidity by Brad Thorn gave the Highlanders a penalty shot at goal for a no-arms charge, and Bowden slotted it through the posts. With 9 minutes to go the referee yellow carded Crusaders replacement openside flanker George Whitelock for playing the ball in an offside position in his own 22, and Bowden again kicked the three points to take the Highlanders to a 6-0 lead.

No doubt the Highlanders’ supporters were on the edge of their seats wondering how their team might snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this week, but this time they held on and despite not being able to breach the 14-man Crusaders they kept their defence tight and took the win.

Highlanders: Bowden 2 penalty goals.

In other matches:
The Reds lost to the Waratahs 11-15
The Bulls beat the Stormers 14-10
(Lions and Brumbies had the bye)

2 Mar

Super 14 Summary – Round 3
by Tracey Nelson
2 Mar 2009

A marginally better weekend for the NZ teams in Round 3, in that at least one of our two wins didn’t come at the expense of another NZ side. The Blues won a hard-fought game in Cape Town agains the Stormers, the Canes got what is only their second ever win in Christchurch against the Crusaders, the Highlanders were well beaten by the Waratahs in Sydney, and the Chiefs fell at the final hurdle just failing to grab a draw against the Sharks in Hamilton.

Crusaders v Hurricanes (24-30)

The Jekyll & Hyde side of the Super 14 finally pulled one out of the box on Friday night when they managed a rare away win in Christchurch against the Crusaders. From the opening whistle the Canes threw everything at the Crusaders, committing numbers faster and harder to the breakdown and putting the home team’s defensive line under extreme pressure – culminating in several early penalties for offside that Piri Weepu, playing at 1st 5 this week, happily slotted. The Crusaders seemed to find it hard to get into top gear during the first half, yet both sides scored tries (Zac Guildford and Casey Laulala) and it was the boot of Weepu that saw the Canes go into halftime with a 16-7 lead.

The second half saw the Crusaders up their game, and try to Thorn in the 47th minute cut the Canes lead to a mere four points. But they then immediately conceded a try under the posts thanks to a no-look pass from halfback Kahn Fotuali’i which was snapped up by his opposite, Alby Matthewson. Weepu’s on-song boot added the extras and the Canes were back to a 23-12 lead. The Crusaders again launched attacks on the Canes line, but great defence followed by a break out run by Hosea Gear from his own 22 eventually lead to a try to Nonu in the 60th minute to take the visitors out to what appeared to be an unassailable lead of 30-12.

However, history shows that the Crusaders can never be counted out until the final whistle and the last 15 minutes of the game turned into an all-out onslaught as the home team pounded the Canes’ line. Winger Jared Payne put down a pass metres from the try line after a break by fullback Stephen Brett in the 67th minute, but redeemed himself three minutes later after Isaac Ross thundered through the Hurricanes defence from the halfway line before offloading to Payne 20m out. This took the score to 30-19 and the Crusaders suddenly had a sniff of two bonus points if they could score a fourth try and finish within 7 points. This they duly did, with Thomas Waldrom taking a quick tap from a scrum free kick 5m out from the Canes’ line to crash over in the corner. Unfortunately for the Crusaders it wasn’t a fairy tale ending, and despite a strong finish they lost the game thanks to great defence from the Canes, numerous handling errors, and conceding too many kickable penalties.

Waratahs v Highlanders (34-16)

Not a game the Highlanders will remember with any great cherish, and coach Glen Moore aptly labelled it as their worst performance to date this year. The Waratahs were looking for a better performance than their error-ridden match against the Chiefs the week before, and obviously their practice during the week paid off.

Wins are hard to come by at the Sydney Football Stadium and with the Tahs now on a record run of nine consecutive home victories the Highlanders, like so many teams before them, were yet another notch in that belt. Three first half penalties by 1st 5 Daniel Bowden kept the Highlanders in the game with the Tahs having only scored a try to Lote Tuqiri, until right on the verge of halftime the Highlanders turned over possession and conceded a try to go into halftime 17-9 down.

Champion teams often score either side of the break, and the Tahs did exactly that – stringing together a succession of phases before Wycliff Palu drove over from a ruck to score under the posts. It appeared that the bonus point try was just a formality but the Highlanders showed some impressive defence and willingness to attack, culminating in a try to captain Jason Shoemark. Unfortunately, inaccurate passing and handling was the Highlanders’ downfall, and several promising attacks after that came to nought.

They can probably take some small amount of pride that they made the Waratahs work so hard in the second half to finally score that fourth bonus point try, but it eventually came just before full time when replacement halfback Brett Sheehan scored near the posts. The conversion took the score out to 34-16 and the Highlanders came away without even a bonus point for their toil to remain one of three sides yet to post a win after three rounds.

Chiefs v Sharks (15-22)

Despite pre-game predictions pointing to an easy win for the Sharks, they were made to fight hard in a game that wasn’t decided until the final whistle blew. As in previous weeks, again it was basic mistakes that cost the Chiefs dearly – bungled takes from kick-offs and restarts, handling errors and mis-directed kicking all had their part in the Chiefs downfall on the night.

From the opening whistle, confusion reigned as Brendon Leonard called for the ball then lost sight of it in the smoke generated by the pre-match fireworks (when will people learn that it is a stupid idea to let off pyrotechnics as the teams come onto the ground?) and knocked it on, immediately putting the Sharks onto attack. It was a telling stat at halftime that showed the Sharks had only made four handling errors in wet conditions, whilst the Chiefs were heading into double figures.

The Sharks had been forced to make 105 tackles in the first half, but managed to repel any attacks the Chiefs attempted. They went into halftime leading 7-3 thanks to try (albeit from a forward pass obvious to all except the referee) to Francois Steyn just before the break. The Chiefs opened the second half in style and should have taken the lead after a break by winger Lelia Masaga swung them onto attack. With the line wide open Stephen Donald put in a perfectly weighted cross kick, but lock Kevin O’Neill knocked on. Somehow they maintained their composure, and eventually their efforts were rewarded with a try to hooker Aled de Malmanche.

As has been their way this season, the Chiefs then went off the boil and a couple of telling attacks from the Sharks led to two great tries to wing JP Peterson (who amazingly went try-less during the 2008 S14), to put the visitors ahead 22-7. The game looked gone, but the Chiefs rallied, and thanks to some much improved play from the previous week at set piece got themselves back into the Sharks’ 22. A quick tap from a penalty saw Brendon Leonard score, and suddenly the Chiefs were within 7 points of a draw.

Attack after attack was mounted, and credit must go to the Sharks’ defence which held and held as first a surge from Liam Messam was ruled as held up over the line, and then in a second TMO decision Michael Delaney was ruled to be in touch in goal as he grounded the ball for a try. No doubt the Sharks were relieved when the final whistle blew, but much like the Crusaders the Chiefs have only themselves to blame as they rue yet another game that got away on them. Like the Highlanders, they remain winless but at least grabbed a bonus point from this loss.

Stomers v Blues (8-14)

Coming off the hiding they received at the hands of the Bulls last week, the Blues redeemed themselves with a well-earned away win against the Stomers. This was a win founded on great defence, an area where the Blues had been sorely exposed by the Bulls, and coach Pat Lam must be delighted with the way his team held firm against a side with the attacking abilities of the Stormers.

The hallmark of this game was the Blues’ ability to scramble on defence and shut down wave after wave of attack from the Stormers. The Stormers’ started the scoring with a penalty goal to Peter Grant, before the Blues answered back with a try to Paul Williams from a very nicely worked scrum move. Williams missed the con
version, then the Stormers hit back with a try to Ricky Januaire after he toed the ball through from ball left lying at the back of a Blues’ ruck. Grant missed the conversion, and the score was tied up 8-8 at half time.

The second half was all about defence, as both sides attempted but failed to cross the goal line. Key to the Blues’ defence was their ability to shut down the Stormers’ offload game, and nullify the threat of Jean de Villiers in the midfield. Their cause was helped by numerous handling errors at key moments by the home side, and the Stormers will be kicking themselves at the number of scoring opportunities they squandered in this game. Two penalty goals to Paul Williams were the only scoring moments in the second forty, and it was valiant defence in the final two minutes of the game as the Stormers camped on their line that saw the Blues emerge 14-8 victors.

To come back home with 10 points from three away games is a very good effort from a young Blues side, and with only one game in the remaining 11 weeks played outside New Zealand they will be feeling pretty pleased with where things are sitting.

In other games:

The Brumbies lost to the Force 16-25
The Lions lost to the Bulls 9-16
The Reds beat the Cheetahs 22-3