7 Apr

Super 14 Summary – Round 8
by Tracey Nelson
7 Apr 2009

Tragic news this week that Brumbies player Shawn MacKay has died in St Augustine’s hospital in Durban, following complications a week after being hit by a car outside a nightclub following his team’s game against the Sharks on March 28. MacKay, aged 26, suffered mulitple injuries and had initially been in an induced coma. He had shown some signs of improvement before the weekend after being brought out of the induced coma and undergoing spinal surgery, but a post-surgical infection caused him to deteriorate rapidly and he suffered a cardiac arrest from which he didn’t recover. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and teammates.

Crusaders v Bulls (16-13)

The first thirty minutes of this game seemed to promise something great, with the Crusaders pack hitting the breakdowns at speed and putting the big Bulls pack on the backfoot. The first try came in the fourth minute of the game after a high kick into the Bulls’ 22 bounced between Morne Steyn and Fourie du Preez, and Isaac Ross pounced on it and raced over to score. Stephen Brett was on target with the conversion, and then with a penalty goal after the Bulls were pinged and given a verbal warning for offside play at the breakdown in their own 22. This saw the Crusaders up 10-0 after 15 minutes.

Great defence by the Bulls, along with a couple of knock-ons at crucial moments for the Crusaders, kept the score this way until seven mintues before the halftime break. Bulls 2nd 5 Wynand Olivier, who was playing his 50th game, broke through a loose tackle and the Bulls outflanked the Crusaders cover defence for winger Akona Ndungane to score in the corner. The conversion from the sideline was by Steyn, and the teams went into the break with the Crusaders ahead 10-5.

The second half saw the Crusaders emerge minus centre Casey Laulala, who had broken his arm towards the end of the first half. The home team started the half strongly and swung onto attack, with Brett dropping a goal (the first one by a NZ side this season) after 5 minutes. The Bulls then gathered some momentum and possession, and launched several attacks via 2nd 5 Olivier. Eventually this led to Ndungane’s second try, and despite the missed conversion it took the Bulls to within 3 points of the Crusaders. Minutes later a penalty goal brought the scores level, and with thirty minutes left to play it looked like being anyone’s game.

Unfortunately the intensity that was to the fore in the first hour of play, was largely lacking in the last half hour and for long periods of play the crowd were witness to plenty of aimless kicking and numerous handling errors by both sides. The only further scoring came with 15 minutes left in the game, when Pedrie Wannenburg was penalised for a high tackle, and this week Brett’s boot was on song to take the injury-hit Crusaders to a hard-fought victory.

This was the Bulls second loss in a row, and will no doubt be raising doubts again that they can’t win on the road. Despite being the only South African side to ever beat the Crusaders in NZ, they last did that in 1996. The Bulls now travel to Australia to take on the Waratahs and Brumbies before returning home, while the Crusaders have the bye before travelling to South Africa for three matches.

Crusaders: Ross try; Brett 1 con, 2 pen, 1 drop goal.
Bulls: Ndungane(2) tries; Steyn 1 pen.

Chiefs v Lions (38-29)

The old saying of “game of two halves” needs to be ammended, because in the case of the Chiefs it was a flurry of scoring in a 15 minute period late in the game that saw them come from behind to beat the Lions. The Chiefs had entered this game as raging hot favourites sitting in third place, whereas the Lions were languishing in second-to-last place. But all bets were off as the Lions roared into life and very nearly caused the upset.

The Lions had a simple but effective game plan, and that was to target the Chiefs at set piece and in the air. This they did to near perfection in the first half, with cleverly placed kicks that the Chiefs foolishly allowed to bounce, and pressuring their opposition into mistakes particularly in the lineouts. Sione Lauaki and Lelia Masaga were two players the Lions targetted with the high ball, and both obliged their opposition by spilling and knocking on numerous times.

The Lions scored first with a try to Jano Vermaak, before the Chiefs struck back with a penalty and then a try to Dwayne Sweeney after some sloppy work at the base of the Lions’ scrum led to a turnover. Some poor kicking by the Chiefs’ backs was returned with interest by the visitors, one superbly placed down the sideline led to Jaque Fourie’s first try of the night. A drop goal followed, and then a high kick was fielded and spilled by Lauaki to allow Fourie to go over for his second try, and the Lions were leading 22-10 at half time.

When No 8 Ernst Joubert was sin binned after the break for a professional foul at a ruck, the Chiefs went for a set-piece move but it was well read by Earl Rose who timed his run onto the pass from Donald to score an intercept try from 60m out. This gave the Lions their bonus point try and the conversion had them out to a 29-10 lead with 24 minutes left to play.

Things were looking hairy for the Chiefs when Masaga had to leave the field injured, but it was their bench that sparked the revival they needed with Hika Elliot giving them some much needed go-forward and front foot ball to attack from. The Chiefs finally managed to string some phases together to send Sweeney over for his second try, before Pretorius missed a penalty shot for goal that may well have put the game out of reach for the Chiefs.

As the Lions started to tire, the Chiefs replacements were making their mark with Jackson Willison going over in the corner. The conversion of Willison’s try took the Chiefs to within 5 points, before Elliot crashed over the line minutes later to draw the scores level. A counterattack from the Chiefs’ own half saw Sweeney win the race from a kick through to score his third try and take the Chiefs out to a 36-29 lead in the space of 15 minutes.

This was a timely scare for the Chiefs as they go into the bye before heading to South Africa for three matches, and they will be looking to work on their set pieces, aerial skills and defence before taking on the Bulls, Cheetahs and Stormers.

Chiefs: Sweeney(3), Willison, Elliot tries; Donald 4 con, 1 pen.
Lions: Fourie(2), Vermaak, Rose tries; Pretorius 3 con, 1 drop goal.

Sharks v Hurricanes (33-17)

This match started off as a closely contested affair, with just a penalty goal apiece in the opening 15 minutes. The first try came when John Smit uncharacteristcally slipped a tackle to allow Faifili Lavave to run 20m to score under the posts. Piri Weepu converted to take his side out to a seven point lead, but two penalty goals had the Sharks just one point behind at 9-10 at half time.

Five minutes into the second half Zac Guilford kicked directly into touch from a ball taken back into the Hurricanes 22, and quick thinking by the Sharks saw them take advantage of the Canes’ lack of awareness by taking quick throw in for Vulindlu to score in his first Super 14 game.

The Canes then botched the restart with the ball not travelling 10m to immediately put themselves back under pressure. A high return kick from Stefan Terblance travelled into the Canes’ 22 and was dropped by Tamati Ellison, allowing Francois Steyn to swoop on the loose ball and score their second try in the space of three minutes.

The Canes tried manfully to get back into the game, but strong defence by the Sharks kept them scoreless. The Sharks had a chance to further their lead after a high tackle by John Schwalger gave Kockett a penalty kick at goal but he missed. The pressure began to mount for the Canes, first conceding a tighthead from a
defensive scrum in their own 22, then losing an attacking lineout throw in the Sharks’ 22.

Eventually they managed to cross the line when a neat pass from Conrad Smith sent Zac Guildford in for a try in the corner, and they could have scored again had Dane Coles not knocked the ball on just before the line. The Sharks struck back late in game from yet another high kick that this time was not fielded by Guildford and Sharks went in for their third try to take the game and any chance of a bonus point out of the reach of the Canes.

Much like the Chiefs, the Canes were guilty of trying to play too wide too early with the ball, and also suffered from numerous handling errors and an inability to control their own set pieces. They now have the gruelling trip back from South Africa to contend with as they look to take on the Stormers back in Wellington this week.

Sharks: Vinlindlu, Steyn, Jordaan tries; Kockett 3 pen, 3 con, Steyn 1 drop goal.
Hurricanes: Levave, Guildford tries; Weepu 2 con, 1 pen.

In other games:

The Force beat the Reds 39-7
The Waratahs beat the Stormers 12-6
The Cheetahs lost to the Brumbies 27-40

The Blues and Highlanders had the bye.

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