13 May

Rate that Ref
by Tracey Nelson
13 May 2009

Love them or hate them, referees are an integral part of the game. Nobody ever sits through an entire game without disagreeing with something the referee has or hasn’t done. Equally, the ELVs have added further confusion for the spectators with the different interpretations individual referees have – particularly at the breakdown. In the first of a new series, I will be dissecting a referee’s performance. The lucky first up referee is New Zealand’s Bryce Lawrence and his performance in the Super 14 Round 13 match played between the Chiefs and Hurricanes in Hamilton last weekend. Questionable decisions are asterisked and discussed at the end.

Time Incident Referee’s Decision
0.55 Knock-on by Scott Waldrom, then Stephen Donald Scrum to Chiefs
1.28 Early engage at scrum by Chiefs FK to Hurricanes
2.40 Offside Tialata in midfield (never retired) Penalty to Chiefs
4.46 FK against Liam Messam for not supporting body weight at tackle FK to Hurricanes
4.57 Penalty against Taumololo taking player out off ball Penalty to Canes
6.48 FK awarded to Chiefs (breakdown turnover dominant team) FK to Chiefs
7.36 FK awarded to Canes – same as previous, dominant team FK to Canes
8.44 FK against Canes for holding on in tackle FK to Chiefs
9.42 David Smith scores in corner, ref checks with TMO Try to Canes
12.08 Knock-on by Canes at ruck, Tialata kicks ball from offside position Penalty to Chiefs
14.00 Late charge with elbows by Eaton on Morland Missed by officials*
14.14 Forward pass Nonu to D. Smith Scrum to Chiefs
15.06 Early engage at scrum by Chiefs FK to Canes
16.07 Lauaki plays ball with hands while off feet in a ruck FK to Canes*
18.02 Nonu makes tackle but doesn’t roll clear FK to Chiefs
18.12 Late tackle with no arms by So’oialo on Donald(flagged by TJ) Penalty to Chiefs
20.08 Knock-on by Weepu Scrum to Chiefs
21.19 Canes scrum pulls back on the engage FK to Chiefs
22.17 Chiefs manage to hold the ball up in a Canes maul FK to Chiefs
23.32 Knock-on by Lauaki at lineout Scrum to Canes
25.04 Morland knocks ball on and Chiefs player picks it up in offside position Penalty to Canes
27.00 Forward pass by Morland Scrum to Canes
29.14 Eaton enter rucks from offside position (not through gate) Penalty to Chiefs
30.08 Knock-on by Bruce Scrum to Canes
31.12 Knock-on by Nonu, So’oialo then picks ball up in offside position Scrum to Chiefs*
31.53 Chiefs scrum, front rows collapse but play allowed to continue Play continues*
33.10 Knock-on by Waldrom at lineout Plays advantage to Chiefs
33.52 Eaton up-ends Masaga and doesn’t lower to ground in tackle Play continues
34.10 Hore makes tackle but doesn’t release player FK to Chiefs
35.05 Conrad Smith enters breakdown but goes off feet Penalty to Chiefs, final warning to Smith
36.46 David Smith offside at ruck Penalty to Chiefs
37.32 Not straight throw to Chiefs lineout Scrum to Canes
38.43 Knock-on by So’oialo Scrum to Chiefs
40.11 Chiefs players too slow rolling away in tackle FK to Canes
42.18 Clarke loses ball forward at bottom of ruck Missed*
43.28 Nonu and So’oialo off feet playing ball at breakdown. Team warning FK to Chiefs
44.46 Knock-on by Lauaki Scrum to Canes
45.23 Early engage by Chiefs at scrum, warning next one will be penalty FK to Canes
46.00 Knock-on by Masaga Plays advantage
46.49 Taumalolo goes off feet at breakdown Advantage to Canes
46.56 Knock-on by Conrad Smith Scrum to Chiefs
48.03 Masaga offside from Donald kick Penalty to Canes
50.40 Knock on by So’oialo at lineout Plays advantage
50.58 Ellison taken in air by Sivivatu (marginal) Play on
52.45 Lauaki knocks ball out of Weepu’s hand while lying in ruck Penalty to Canes
55.47 Turnover at tackle, Chiefs not releasing ball FK to Canes
57.19 Hore plays ball off feet FK to Chiefs
57.26 Knock-on by Bruce Scrum to Canes
58.06 Early engage at scrum by Chiefs, repeated offence Penalty to Canes
58.53 Knock-on by Canes at lineout Scrum to Chiefs
59.27 Early engage at scrum by Canes FK to Chiefs
60.11 Forward pass by O’Neill to de Malmanche Missed*
61.42 Knock-on by Canes at lineout Plays advantage
61.54 Offside entry at ruck by Nonu Missed*
62.02 Knock-on by May Scrum to Canes
62.46 Offside entry at ruck by So’oialo Missed*
63.40 Chiefs offside at lineout Penalty to Canes
64.29 Turnover won by Chiefs at tackle Play on
64.39 Turnover won by Canes at tackle Play on
64.53 Knock-on by Vito Scrum to Chiefs
67.07 Knock-on by Canes at lineout Scrum to Chiefs
67.56 Knock-on by Donald Plays advantage
69.04 Offside at ruck by Lauaki Penalty to Canes
69.15 Not releasing ball in the tackle by Canes FK to Chiefs
70.15 Knock-on by Chiefs Plays advantage
71.14 Turnover won by Chiefs at tackle Play on
71.56 Knock-on by David Smith Scrum to Chiefs
74.01 Knock-on by David Smith Plays advantage
74.26 Offside entry at ruck by Tialata Missed*
77.39 Forward pass by Nonu Scrum to Chiefs
79.19 Canes turn Chiefs’ scrum turns through 90 degrees Scrum to Canes
79.45 Front rows down in scrum Allows play to continue*
80.00 Knock-on by Jacob Ellison Plays advantage

SUMMARY

Rating = 9/10

Overall I thought Lawrence refereed this game very well. Of all the incidents noted, he and his officials only missed six and those were:

Eaton’s use of an elbow in late tackle on Morland after he kicked the ball in the 14th minute
Craig Clarke losing the ball forward in a ruck in the 42nd minute
A marginal forward pass by Kevin O’Neill to Aled de Malmanche in the 60th minute
Offside entry (not through the gate) to rucks by Hurricanes players in the 61st, 52nd and 64th minute of the game

Onlyfour questionable decisions:

In the 16th minute of the game Lauaki makes tackle and subsequently has a FK awarded against him for playing ball off his feet. However, closer observation shows that the tackled player had been turned on the Chiefs’ side of the ruck, Eaton goes off feet on top of Lauaki preventing him from rolling away, and Lauaki could not have played the ball with his hands because his upper body was on the far side of tackled player and that player’s body was between Lauaki and ball.

In the 31st minute there is a knock-on by Nonu, and So’oialo then picks ball up in offside position. A scrum was awareded to Chiefs for the knock-on but it really should have been a penalty to Chiefs for So’oiaolo deliberately playing the ball in an offside position.

Heallowed twoscrums to continue after the front rows had collapsed in the 31st and 79th minutes, and his calling rhythm did cause both front rows some problems with the engage at times – but overall we didn’t have lots of reset scrums so that was a plus.

11 May

S14 Summary – Round 13
by Tracey Nelson
11 May 2009

Once again this week the points table had a reshuffle, with the Bulls swapping position with the Canes who have slipped from first to third. The Chiefs stay in second place after beating the Hurricanes while the Crusaders have moved into the top four for the first time this season, moving from sixth place to fourth with their bonus point win over the Reds. Meanwhile the Highlanders lost their fourth successive game going down to the Lions in Johannesburg, as the Blues were outmuscled by the Brumbies in Canberra.

Crusaders v Reds (32-12)

The Crusaders comprehensively beat an injury-ravaged Reds side to take maximum points and keep the hopes of maintaining their title alive as they moved into the top four. It wasn’t the greatest night to play running rugby in Christchurch, with a chilly southerly bringing antartic air to the city but thankfully the rain held off to allow the Crusaders to run in five tries to two, and for the crowd to farewell Leon MacDonald who was making in all probability his final appearance at AMI Stadium before heading off to Japan.

Hard-working No 8 Thomas Waldrom scored the first try of the evening, crashing over the line from a series of rucks on the Reds goal line. A try apiece to Owen Franks and Tim Bateman, along with two connversions and a penalty from the trusty boot of Leon MacDonald saw the Crusaders go into the break 20-0.

While the Crusaders were expected to win this game, they did require a bonus point to keep their title hopes alive and thankfully it came seven minutes into the second half when Jason MacDonald scored in the corner. The fifth try went to replacement winger Sean Maitland, who has spent the better part of the season out injured and must have been relieved to finally get some game time. The Crusaders were 32-0 up and the match was essentially over.

The game lost its structure in the final quarter, with the Crusaders having emptied their bench and various injuries to the two packs leading to golden oldies scrums in the last 15 minutes, plus the strange sight of Richie McCaw playing at 1st 5 when the Crusaders ran out of backline replacements. The Reds hit back with two late tries to Ben Tapuai and Greg Holmes but that would have been little comfort such was the total domination of the Crusaders.

The Crusaders now look ahead to Saturday night when they take on the Blues in Auckland. A bonus point win will assure them of a semi-final spot, but they may be able to make it with just a win should the Chiefs beat the Brumbies and the Lions beat the Waratahs on the Friday night.

Crusaders: Waldrom, Franks, Bateman, Jason MacDonald, Maitland tries; Leon MacDonald 2 con, 1 pen.
Reds: Tapuai, Holmes tries; Cooper 1 con.

Lions v Highlanders (27-22)

The Highlanders will be shaking their heads and wondering what went wrong after blowing a 22-5 lead in the final 30 minutes of their game against the Lions. Despite a slightly slow start and conceding a try after five minutes, the Highlanders kicked into gear halfway through the second half and ran in three tries before halftime to be 19-5 up at the break.

A penalty early in the second half saw them increase their lead to 17 points, but lack of possession started to tell and the Lions given a sniff of a chance will always pounce. First it was their No 8 Willem Alberts who monstered his way over the line, then he set up a try for half back Jano Vermaak. With less than 10 minutes on the clock the Highlanders were starting to flounder, and when Earl Rose darted over to score the Lions fourth try the writing was on the wall as the home side grabbed a slender two point lead. Andre Pretorious then landed a drop goal to put them five ahead and all pressure was now on the Highlanders.

The Highlanders did manage to regroup and launch a comeback, but unfortunately for them the Lions defence that has been so brittle all season stood firm, as the Highlanders slipped to their fourth consecutive loss and just one point from their two-match trip to the republic.

Lions: Killian, Alberts, Vermaak, Rose tries; Pretorius 2 con, dropped goal
Highlanders: Soakai, Smith, Cowan tries; Dagg 1 pen, 2 con.

Chiefs v Hurricanes (16-8)

The match of the weekend certainly didn’t disappoint, and in front of a full house it was the Chiefs who ran out deserved victors and kept their chances of a home semi-final very much alive. Like the Crusaders, the Chiefs had just returned from South Africa and no doubt the Hurricanes were hoping that the travel factor would take its toll. But the home team looked anything but jetlagged as they put together an impressive second half effort to deny the Hurricanes any points at all from the game.

The Hurricanes got their first and only try of the game barely ten minutes into the match, when Sione Lauaki was stripped of the ball just out from his own 22. From the resulting ruck the Canes unleashed their backline and some indecision on defence by Richard Kahui who turned back infield allowed Ma’a Nonu to put David Smith in the clear as he outstripped the cover defence down the sideline and using the wet ground slid over for the try in the corner. Willy Ripia missed the difficult sideline conversion but was successful with a penalty, while for the Chiefs it was three penalty goals to Stephen Donald that saw the Chiefs go into half time with a slender one point lead.

The Chiefs scored their only try straight after the break, storming straight onto attack with pace and ferocity that put the Canes on the backfoot. Instead of clearing the ball from their own 22 the Chiefs launched an attack that was finally halted well inside the visitor’s 22. From the resulting ruck Stephen Donald decided to have a go, and fended off the last tackle from Rodney So’oialo to romp in under the posts to score. The conversion gave the Chiefs an eight point buffer and this was the way the scoreboard remained for the rest of the game.

The Hurricanes had their chances in the latter stages of the second half, with winger David Smith spilling the ball inches from the goal line to miss a try that would have given them at least a bonus point and the possiblity to win the game. Ripia also had a nightmare with the boot, missing four from five shots at goal. But in the end it was their old friend indiscipline that really cost the Hurricanes, with Donald landing three easy penalty goals, and the visiting team were probably lucky referee Bryce Lawrence wasn’t more observant at the breakdown as the penalty count could have and should have been higher.

Chiefs: Donald try; Donald 3 pen, 1 con.
Hurricanes: D. Smith try; Ripia 1 pen.

Brumbies v Blues (37-15)

The Blues started this game handily enough, and despite missing two penalty shots at goal a strong line break by Isaia Toeava allowed Rene Ranger to put Jimmy Gopperth in the clear 20m out to score the first try. Gopperth converted and also landed a penalty to see the Blues ahead 10-6 at halftime, the Brumbies only managing a drop goal and a penalty to keep in touch with the Blues. But whatever was said at halftime in the Brumbies changing shed must have hit its mark, as the home side came out scored four tries in the space of 15 minutes and effectively shut the Blues out of the game and play-offs contention.

A strong break by Stephen Hoiles was ruled held up right on the Blues’ goal line, but from the resulting scrum the Brumbies swung the ball left and Joe Rokocoko was caught too far in as Mortlock, playing on the right wing, outflanked him to score in the corner. The Brumbies scrum was starting to become their weapon of choice and tries to Francis Fainifo and Patrick Phibbs, both from attacking scrums, came in the next ten minutes.

A long pass in their own 22 by the Blues saw Tony Woodcoc
k clobbered in a huge tackle by Mortlock just as he received the ball, and despite the collision seeing Mortlock leave the field injured it still resulted in turnover ball to give Brumbies reserve hooker Huia Edmonds a try. Matt Toomua’s took over the goal kicking with Mortlock’s injury and his conversion made it 32-10 with 20 minutes left.

The Blues had a brief comeback when Rene Ranger counterattacked from a kick and put Rokocoko into the clear to score, but the conversion missed and minutes from fulltime the game was sewn up by the Brumbies with their fifth try to reserve Sitaleki Timani. Despite leaving the field injured, Stirling Mortlock moved past Andrew Mehrtens (990) as the highest points scorer in Super rugby as scored a try, two conversions and a penalty to move to 994 points.

Brumbies: Mortlock, Fainifo, Phibbs, Edmonds, Timani tries; Mortlock 1 pen, 2 con, Toomua 1 con, Toomua 1 drop goal.
Blues: Gopperth, Rokocoko tries; Gopperth 1 pen, 1 con.

In other games:

The Sharks lost to the Waratahs 12-16
The Bulls beat the Cheetahs 29-20
The Stormers beat the Force 25-24

8 May

Super 14 Preview – Round 13
by WAJ
8 May 2009

Not much time for rugby writing today sorry – abbreviated version only..

Crusaders v Reds
Reds are decimated by injury, changes all over the place, and will struggle big time without the skinny controller – Berrick Barnes. They will face a Crusaders side that has been spluttering along for a while now but is still winning and well in the running for the top 4. Crusaders have won the last 10 encounters in a row, it will be 11.
Crusaders 13+

Lions v Highlanders
A who cares game. The Highlanders were much improved last week and a similair performance will see them home. But the Lions will have targeted a win here and at home
Lions 1 – 12

Chiefs v Hurricanes
The game of the weekend. Both teams close to full strength with match ups all over the place. The Hurricanes have won the last 4 in high scoring affairs, again there should be plenty of points, but the Chiefs favored at home especially with their 2 top wingers back.
Chiefs 1 – 12

Brumbies v Blues
On current form this should be a massacre. The Blues porous defence is nothing short of atrocious – run at them and you will get through. But they also score points, can they improve their defence and sneak a win – give them another chance – why not. So another high scoring game here you would think as both teams need to win with a bonus point to stay in the top 4 hunt, the loser is out.
Blues 1 – 12

Sharks v Waratahs
Could be a dour grind, with plenty of mistakes, a bumbling Waratahs backline and the Sharks getting 2 turnover tries to win narrowly. Plenty of intensity up front in this one.
Sharks 1 -12

Bulls v Cheetahs
Close for 10 – 15 minutes, Bulls hit their stride – massacre
Bulls 13+

Stormers v Force
Lots of changes to the Stormers with the controversial Watson taking over the captaincy. The Force in a must win situation will have too many guns for a hugely disappointing Stormers team.
Force 13+

Regards Waj

6 May

Headlines May 6th 2009
by Tracey Nelson
6 May 2009

MacDonald farewells NZ rugby

Crusaders fullback Leon MacDonald will return to Japan to play his rugby for the Kintetsu club at the end of this year’s Super 14, which will end an All Black career that started back in 2000. MacDonald spent a season with the Japanese club side Yamaha back in 2004, but returned to Crusaders and All Black rugby at year later. A serious concussion suffered when playing the Springboks in Dunedin cut his international season short last year, and injuries also sidelined at times during this year’s Super 14. MacDonald has played 56 tests for the All Blacks, 116 Super games (Crusaders and Chiefs), and 69 provincial games (Canterbury and Malborough).

Key All Blacks re-sign with NZRU

Mils Muliaina has re-signed with the NZRU and the Waikato Rugby Union through until 2011, while Ali Williams and Tony Woodcock have both re-signed with the NZRU through until 2012. Williams’ contract also contains a ‘sabbatical’ clause allowing him time away from NZ next year. The three join join 2008 All Blacks Richie McCaw, Rodney So’oialo, Keven Mealamu, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Brad Thorn, Andrew Hore, Neemia Tialata, John Afoa, Andy Ellis, Richard Kahui, Brendon Leonard, Jamie Mackintosh, Rudi Wulf and Liam Messam, who are all signed with New Zealand rugby through to 2011 or beyond.

Latest Playing Apparel Revealed for All Blacks

At a launch in Auckland this week adidas revealed the two new All Black jerseys for 2009. Both jerseys feature a fern pattern across the front. A new all-white All Blacks jersey will be used as a second kit to complement the traditional, famous black apparel. The white jersey includes a white collar and New Zealand’s national symbol, the silver fern, on the left breast in black. It will be worn with the traditional black shorts and black sock with white stripes. The white jersey will only be worn when the All Blacks are playing outside of New Zealand when required in line with the IRB’s revised policy of the away team needing to change jerseys in the event of a clash. The first outing of the white jersey will be against France in Marseille, November this year.

New referees secure Test appointments

Bryce Lawrence has been appointment to control the opening Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions this June. In addition to the first Lions Test, Lawrence has also been named as Assistant Referee for the second Test and as Television Match Official for the third Test. He will also control a Tri-Nations match between Australia and South Africa in Perth in August.

Vinnie Munro joins Lawrence in all three Lions Tests as an Assistant Referee, while Chris Pollock and Keith Brown will both referee a Rugby World Cup qualifier each in June as well as officiate games at the IRB Junior World Championship in Japan in the same month.

Heartland Championship teams to trial Player of Origin

Heartland Provincial Rugby Unions will get the opportunity to have a Player of Origin in their 22-man Heartland Championship squads this year as part of a trial undertaken by the New Zealand Rugby Union. The Player of Origin will be in addition to the three loan players unions are entitled to have in their teams under current regulations. A Player of Origin will be defined as a person who from the age of 12-18 played rugby in the relevant Heartland Provincial Union (either for a club or school) for at least three years who is now playing club rugby outside the province.

SANZAR

The NZRU and Australian Rugby Union will continue to work towards expanding Super Rugby from 2011 in partnership with South Africa despite the current impasse in negotiations with SA Rugby. NZRU CEO Steve Tew and ARU Managing Director and CEO John O’Neill said this week that a continuation of the SANZAR alliance at provincial level remains the preferred option for both national unions.

Both New Zealand and Australia are determined to deliver a competition of the highest integrity to supporters and broadcasters and believe South African calls for further compromise will impact on that commitment. Talks will therefore continue on an alternative plan – an Asia-Pacific competition – to ensure a valuable and viable tournament is ready for implementation should resolution not be reached with South Africa on Super Rugby expansion plans.

6 May

Super 14 Summary – Round 12
by Tracey Nelson
6 May 2009

The Hurricanes maintained first place after a big win against the Blues in Wellington on Friday night, whilst a bonus point win against the Stormers in Capetown saw the Chiefs leapfrog the Bulls into second place to set up a top of the table clash this coming weekend when they take on the Hurricanes in Hamilton. Meanwhile the Crusaders gained a bonus point win against the Lions to shift up to sixth place ahead of the Blues, while the Highlanders lost to the Sharks in Durban.

Hurricanes v Blues (45-27)

In a high octane game, the Hurricanes scored six tries to the Blues’ four to take maximum points and take over first position in the competition. While not a game for the purists, with far too may errors and almost a complete lack of anything resembling defence from both sides at times, the crowd were entertained with plenty of running rugby and tries galore with almost 50 points racked up before half time.

The Blues were the first to put points on the board, landing a penalty after the Hurricanes fluffed the opening kick-off. This was a contagious disease that refused to die as the game went on, becuase from the restart of play from that penalty this time it was Blues who were asleep and allowed the ball to bounce out in their own 22.The subsequent lineout was botched and possession went the way of the Canes, who set up two quick rucks before bringing Conrad Smith in on the angle to scythe through the Blues defence and score.

The Blues launched a counter-attack from within their own 22, and a kick through saw Tamati Ellison spill the ball and the Blues had possession 5m out from the Hurricanes line. In what should have been a first and last warning for a professional foul, Rodney So’oialo came in from an offside position to slow the ball down and the Blues were awarded a penalty. Gopperth failed to land it, and the Hurricanes went back on the attack.

The Hurricanes’ second try came from a nice blindside move from a ruck on the 10m line close to the left sideline, when Andrew Hore made a burst and offloaded to Willie Ripia who ran the ball. He passed back infield to a flying David Smith who gave the final pass to Scott Waldrom to score. Moments later a ruck turnover conceded by the Blues saw Ellison kick ahead, and a favourable bounce allowed him to regather the ball and cross the try line.

A poor restart from that try saw the ball bounce off the chest of Jason Eaton and the Blues immediately went the ball wide on the Hurricanes 22. Rudi Wulf, playing at fullback, charged into the line at pace and beat Conrad Smith to give the pass to Isaia Toeava, who in turn passed to Joe Rokocoko as the Blues ran in their first try of the night.

But as was par for the course, at the very next restart the Blues were the ones to make a mistake with Jay Williams failing to field the ball and Nonu was the benefactor with his first try of the night. Ellison got his second try of the game when the Hurricanes tapped the ball from two free kicks – some harem scarem passing and poor defence by Williams and Keven Mealamu saw the score bounce out to 35-8 with 12 minutes left to play in the first half.

The Blues hit back right on half time with a try to Anthony Tuitavake as the Blues outflanked the Hurricanes cover defence and Tuitavake used his strength to get through the tackle of David Smith. The crowd were no doubt pinching themselves having seen seven tries scored in the space of 40 minutes, although undoubtedly a few were wondering whether tackling was optional on the night.

Thankfully the second half was a bit tidier, with both defences attempting to front up. The Blues scored the first try of the second half after Isaia Toeava cut straight through the Canes backline and sent a long pass out to Renee Ranger. Nonu got his second try after the Blues turned the ball over at a ruck in the 58th minute, and the Hurricanes sealed the win with penalty goal. The Blues managed to scrape a bonus point from the game when they scored their fourth try on full time to replacement flanker Dean Budd.

Hurricanes: Conrad Smith, Waldrom, Ellison(2), Nonu(2) tries; Ripia 6 con, 1 pen.
Blues: Rokocoko, Tuitavake, Ranger, Budd tries; Gopperth 2 con, 1 pen.

Lions v Crusaders (20-32)

Despite both sides wearing annoyingly similar jerseys (no thanks to the adidas away-strips we’ve been forced to suffer this year) the Crusaders managed just their second 4-try bonus point for the season in beating the Lions in Johannesburg.

Isaac Ross opened the scoring for the Crusaders with a try in the 8th minute, which was duly converted by Leon MacDonald who has taken over the goal kicking duties for the rest of the season. Despite the Lions having endless problems with plenty of knock-ons, they scored next after Tim Bateman lost possession in a tackle and Jano Vermaak raced off to score in the 14th minute.

The Lions scored their second try seven minutes later when Johan van Deventer spotted two front rowers in the defensive line and used his speed to evade their attempted tackles. The try wasn’t converted and the Lions had a slim five point lead when Stephen Brett charged down a Lions’ clearing kick and managed to ground the ball as it bounced back into the in-goal area to score. MacDonald converted the try, and then knocked over a penalty goal after the Lions were penalised for being offside.

The scourge of NZ forward play was also affecting the Crusaders, with Thomas Waldrom failing to field the ball from a restart, and immediately put his team under pressure. Brad Thorn was penalised for a high tackle 5m out and the Lions were back to being just three points in arrears. MacDonald had the chance to stretch the lead just before halftime when the Lions were again penalised for offside play but he missed and the Crusaders went into the break leading 17-15.

In the second half the Crusaders were desperate for tries and came close several times but for poor last passes or turnovers at the breakdown. Luckily for the Crusaders the Lions’ kicking game was poor, and kept the Crusaders on attack. It took the Crusaders 20 minutes into the second half to score, and it was a try to Brad Thorn after Kieran Read decided to set an attacking scrum from a free kick 8m out from the Lions’ line. But they immediately conceded a try almost from the next restart, when Anton van Zyl went over despite replays showing that his foot had touched the sideline on his run to the line.

It was from a lineout at the 65th minute in the Lions’ 22 that replacement hooker Dan Perrin scored the bonus point try with a nifty move at the front giving him a clear run to the line. Minutes later MacDonald scorched out of his own half and a fifth try was looking likely but poor option-taking saw the ball passed back infield and the movement was snuffed out. A penalty in the 76th minute saw the Crusaders stretch the lead out to 12 points and the game was safe.

Lions: Vermaak, van Deventer, van Zyl tries; Pretorious 1 con, 1 pen.
Crusaders: Ross, Brett, Thorn, Perrin tries; MacDonald 3 con, 2 pen.

Sharks v Highlanders (23-15)

The Sharks opened the scoring 10 minutes into the game with a penalty after Clint Newlands entered a ruck from an offside position, but it was the Highlanders who ran in the opening try of the game to Jason Rutledge after a good attacking phase. A charge down from the restart of a Jimmy Cowan clearing kick almost led to a Sharks’ try but Matt Berquist managed to get back and cover for a 22 drop out.

A few minutes later another clearing kick from the Highlanders failed to find touch and Stephan Terblanche ran it back to the centre of the field. JP Peterson made a searing run from the resulting ruck to break into the Highlanders half, his pass finding form No 8 Ryan Kankowski who sent an in-pass to Bismark du Plessis before the final offload to Stephen
Skykes who crashed over for the Sharks’ first try.

Another telling run from a scrum near halfway by Kankowski saw the Sharks hot on attack again, but a knock on by Rory Kockett a few metres from the goal line threw the Highlanders a lifeline. But the Sharks scrum was in dominant form and shoved the Highlanders off to gain a FK for hands in the scrum. The Highlanders got another chance to escape when the Sharks knocked the ball on from the resulting 5m attacking scrum, but despite managing to clear the ball from their defensive scrum Matt Berquist kocked the ball on in-goal and Jacques Botes swooped on the ball to score the easiest of tries.

A penalty five minutes out from halftime saw the Highlanders just seven points in arrears, but just before the hooter sounded they turned the ball over from a Sharks’ maul and Adam Thomson burst up the middle of the Sharks’ 22. From the resulting ruck the ball was sent out to the right, and quick ball from the breakdown allowed Cowan to dart over for the try. Berquist missed the conversion to tie the scores up, and the Sharks had a slim 2 point lead at the break.

The second half became a battle of attrition with both sides attempting to run the ball but handling errors and turnovers thwarting both sides. The Sharks kicked a penalty after 50 min, followed by a further penalty for a high tackle by Daniel Bowden five minutes later. Then followed a long period of good defence for the Highlanders as the Sharks attempted to break their line, until a second high tackle by Bowden resulted in a yellow card for him in the 74th minute.

Frustration was growing and tempers were fraying, and a mere minute later Kockett flattened Thomson with a smack to the nose and was red carded for his efforts. This gave the Highlanders a chance to escape their own half and launch an attack, and a Jason Shoemark break from the halfway line almost saw them score. However, a spear tackle spotted by the touch judge saw the Highlanders awarded a penalty 55m out with time up on the clock. Had Israel Dagg been able to convert it, it would have given the Highlanders a bonus point but unfortunately the ball dropped short of the posts.

Sharks: Sykes, Botes tries; Kockott 2 con, 3 pen.
Highlanders: Rutledge, Cowan tries; Berquist 1 con, 1 pen.

Stormers v Chiefs (14-28)

The Chiefs grabbed four tries to get a bonus point win and move to second place on the table after quelling an injury-ravaged Stormers side. The Stormers have had a wretched season on the injury front and this game added to their woes, with Conrad Jantjes leaving the field 10 minutes into the game with an appparent broken leg, and Schalk Burger also departing injured later in the game.

The Chiefs were full of running from the opening whistle but nearly coughed up a try to the Stormers after 3 minutes when trying to run the ball out of their own 22. Australian referee James Leckie managed to miss Luke Watson’s offside entry to the ruck that saw the ball pop out and get kicked through, but luckily Stephen Donald managed to get across for the cover tackle to prevent the try although he was subsequently penalised for the tackle being high. Willem de Waal missed the kick from the sideline but it was Luke Watson breaking from a scrum on the Chiefs’ 10m line that led to a try to de Waal in the 14th minute.

It took the Chiefs 23 minutes before they entered the scoring stakes, and it came after 11 phases in the Sharks’ half before a half break by Donald saw him offload the ball to Liam Messam who cantered in for the try. Just before halftime the Chiefs’ got their second when a set move from a lineout on halfway saw Callum Bruce put Richard Kahui into a gap. Kahui beat two defenders on his run before passing in-field to halfback Toby Moreland who scored under the posts to take the Chiefs into the break leading 14-7.

The Chiefs had the first scoring chance 10 minutes into the second half when a bust by Sione Lauaki saw prop Ben May held up on the line. Messam got the ball but dropped it as he was attempting to get over the line to score. A nicely weighted kick by Mils Muiliaina put the Stormers on the back foot, and from the resulting attacking 5m lineout the Chiefs again almost scored but the ball was ruled held up.

A lineout in the 63rd minute just inside the Stormers’ 22 saw a short ball popped up to Kahui who again broke tackles and offload to give Moreland his second try of the night by the posts. The Chiefs continued to play for territory and pinned the Stormers in their own half, and with just four minutes left in the game it was a turnover in the tackle effected by Kahui that put the Chiefs back on attack. The ball was swung out to the right and Lauaki rampaged towards the line but was pulled down 4m short. Quick recycled ball saw Kahui again break through tackles to stretch out his arm and score the bonus point try. The Stormers managed a late consolation try right on full time to winger Sireli Naquelevuki through some tired tackles, but the Chiefs had acheived their goal of a bonus point win.

Stormers: de Waal, Naqelevuki tries; de Waal 1 con, Grant 1 con
Chiefs: Messam, Morland(2), Kahui tries; Donald 3 con, Delaney 1 con.

In other games:

The Cheetahs lost to the Waratahs 10-18
The Reds lost to the Brumbies 13-52
The Bulls beat the Force 32-29