Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (11/5/11)

The Drawing Board (11/5/11)

Welcome to the Drawing Board, Who’s Playing Who?’s one stop rugby stop. This week has been an exciting one, especially up north where a few of the major domestic European leagues finish their league phases and move into the play-offs. Things are beginning to shape up in Super Rugby as teams jostle for the top 6 positions. It’s quite congested in the middle part of the table, as shown by the fact that the mighty Cheetahs are now up to 10th on the overall standings!! Let’s get straight into the news.

News

  • Lakers lost!! (OK, so that wasn’t really rugby news, but I guess our basketball correspondent Tomo Yee will have to settle for a Crusaders victory.)
  • Richie McCaw looks set to stay in New Zealand with the current All Blacks skipper reportedly being close to resigning with the NZRU.
  • Springboks coach Peter de Villiers has launched another scathing attack on Crusaders star Sonny Bill Williams, describing his flamboyant offloading style as “nonsense” and a poor example for young rugby players. Should really have a muzzle on this guy. Unless you’re like me, and you find it amusing.
  • The NZRU looks set to bail out Canterbury rugby with a special grant. The NZRU has promised to deliver “a special grant” to prop up the CRFU’s ailing finances hit hard in the wake of February’s earthquake.
  • Speaking of Canterbury rugby, it looks like they have found a replacement for the damaged AMI Stadium to play their ITM Cup matches. Rugby Park is the word doing the rounds at the moment, but that has no lighting so it looks like only day games will be played in Christchurch.
  • Ruan Pienaar and Butch James look like they could be joining the Stormers and the Lions respectively.
  • Tyson Keats has been handed a four week suspension for a dangerous tackle.
  • Danny Cipriani seems to be in more trouble, with the Rebel not taken on their tour to South Africa due to his team mates not wanting him there.
  • James O’Connor will decide his future soon.

North of the Border

Whilst most of us were sleeping, the northern hemisphere competitions were busy trying to find out who to relegate and who to play who in the final series. It produced some exciting rugby, as teams were desperate to keep their seasons going, or in some cases, to keep in the top flight for next year.

In England, the Leicester Tigers have managed to claim top spot and the right to host a semi final. They managed to stay ahead of Saracens (who ended up second) by only two points. Rounding out the top four are Gloucester and the Northampton Saints.  So the Leicester Tigers will play Gloucester and Saracens will play the Northampton Saints.  Get this; Leeds Carnegie (the team that finished last this year) will only be relegated if the Worcester Warriors win the RFU Championship (second division of English rugby), as they are the only team among the Championship semi-finalists to have applied for promotion. Now if you were in line to be promoted into a more lucrative league you would surely apply wouldn’t you? It’s all a bit bizarre if you ask me.

In France, the top six of the Top 14 have been sorted with Toulouse finishing the league phase as top dogs. Racing Metro finished 2nd with Castres not too far behind in third, but there was a bit of a log jam for the rest of the positions as only 2 points separated 4th through 8th. Clermont Auvergne got fourth; Biarritz got fifth position and Montpellier got 6th with all these teams having to be separated by point’s differential. What this all means is that Clermont Auvergne will play Biarritz in the first semi final play off whilst Castres will take on Montpellier in the other. Toulouse and Racing Metro will have a bye this week. Speaking of byes, we have to say goodbye to La Rochelle and Bourgoin-Jallieu, as they have been relegated.

In the Magners league, Munster claimed top spot as predicted. They were so far ahead that it was not funny. Unless you’re from Munster, in which case it would be great. Leinster managed to get the second spot, gaining a home semi final. Ulster and the Ospreys rounded out the top four. This means that Munster will play the Ospreys in one semi and Leinster will play Ulster in the other.  No relegation threat here, so no teams to say good bye to.

Super Wrap

Another week goes by and so does another round of the southern hemisphere’s premier domestic rugby competition. The conference leaders and the Crusaders are beginning to pull away from the rest of the pack, with five points now separating the fifth placed sharks and the fourth placed Crusaders. Or alternatively, there is four points separating the Stormers and being knocked off their mantle as top South African side. Bulls and Highlanders still are in with a shot, with the Chiefs and the Cheetahs only in with a mathematical shot of making the play offs. Anyway, here is this week’s Super Wrap.

Hurricanes 11 – 17 Blues

This was a case of so close yet so far for the Hurricanes, as they could not have been closer to beating the Blues. Tyson Keats had an opportunity to atone for some ill discipline that let the Blues take a decisive lead, but he dropped the ball when he was over the line. This would have allowed Aaron Cruden a chance to win it for the Hurricanes, who pushed the Blues all the way.  The Hurricanes did well to earn a two point lead mid way through the second half, but the key moment was Keats being sent off, which allowed the Blues to score a try and a penalty whilst he was in the bin. Not a free flowing game, but still had a fair bit of skill and tension.

Rebels 18 – 33 Reds

The Reds got back to their winning ways as they easily quelled the Rebellion in Melbourne. They were in control of the game throughout, leading by 26 – 8 at half time. The Rebels threatened a comeback with a try mid way through the second half, but a Digby Ioane soon after sealed the deal for the Reds. Poor goal kicking let the Rebels down, as they missed Danny Cipriani’s boot. The Rebels seemed to lack the confidence needed to rally back from being down at half time.

Lions 19 – 53 Cheetahs

The Cheetahs continued to show the kind of attacking machine they are when they thumped the hapless Lions at home.  The game was effectively over at half time as the Cheetahs raced out to a 36 – 7 lead thanks to three first half tries and a great kicking display from Sias Ebersohn. Whilst they put up a better display in the second half, the Lions really didn’t have any chance of winning this game. After a better start to the year, they have not kicked on with this representing their best chance to register a win before the end of the year. Riaan Viljoen grabbed a second half double to seal a hat-trick.

Chiefs 20 – 7 Highlanders

The Highlanders dream run is stuttering as the Chiefs condemned their second straight loss. In a game riddled with errors the home side rallied after the break to overcome a 6 – 7 half time deficit. A try three minutes after half time allowed the Chiefs to control the half, although they had to put in a good defensive effort to keep the Highlanders out.  The Highlanders pushed for the winning score but could not find a cutting edge, Liam Messam compounding their woes by diving over two minutes from time, with the Highlanders’ defence at a ruck again letting them down.

Waratahs 20 – 15 Force

The Waratahs managed to win a scrappy affair against the Force. Injuries had robbed them of some of their stars, but they managed to overcome a determined Force outfit. In a poor match the home side managed to fight back from a 6 – 9 half-time deficit thanks to the work of their pack and a piece of well-timed opportunism from former Force centre Ryan Cross. The Force were up 15 – 13 but the Waratahs pack managed to put hooker John Ulugia over in the 69th minute to seal the game.

Stormers 14 – 20 Crusaders

The Crusaders managed to overcome an injury crisis to win an epic of test match proportions to beat the Stormers. A Wyatt Crockett brace and a couple of penalties was enough for the Crusaders. The lead changed hands twice in the early stages of the second half as Matt Berquist and Lionel Cronje exchanged penalties once again but the Crusaders made the decisive breakthrough on 64 minutes when Crockett forced his way over the whitewash for a second time. The Stormers poured forward in the closing stages in search of the converted try which would have won them the game but despite the sin-binning of Crusaders replacement Tom Marshall in the dying seconds, the visitors held on to claim a priceless win.

Sharks 34 – 16 Brumbies

The Sharks managed to keep the pressure on the Stormers in the South African conference with a come from behind win over the Brumbies. The Brumbies hit the ground running, leaping out to a 13 point lead half way through the first half. However, the Sharks put in a strong second half display to score 28 unanswered points to overrun the visitors.  The Brumbies progressively got worse throughout the game.

Bye: Bulls

Tips

Highlanders v Hurricanesboth teams have come off losses and both teams will be looking for a win. A tough on to call but I’ll give it to the Highlanders this week. They seem to have this ability to grind out wins, as they will do with this one. Highlanders to win by anywhere up to 12 points.

Reds v Bluesthis is also another hard game to pick, but purely as both teams have been playing really well over the competition. The game of the round throws up the two top teams in the competition, with both playing good rugby. The Reds have a great record over the past two seasons at home, but the Blues are not too bad on the road. I think that the Blues have shown enough over the last few weeks to convince me to back them. They have finally learnt how to grind out wins, so for that I’ll give it to them by 12 points or less.

Chiefs v Stormersthe Chiefs are coming off a good win against the Highlanders but will run into a team that is in a different class. Despite their loss to the Crusaders on the weekend, the Stormers are still in really good shape and will still take a lot out of that game.  They might not be at home this week, but the Stormers should be able to take this game out by 12 points or less.

Brumbies v Lionsboth teams have been up to nothing much this season. However there is a key difference here, the Brumbies have experience winning over the last couple of seasons, the Lions have not. Whilst this will probably not rank as their greatest victory, the Brumbies will be grateful to come away with the points from this game, no matter the margin (I’m picking 12 points or less).

Bulls v Rebels the Bulls will be refreshed from their week off to take on a Rebels side that is not going too well. This will be their first visit to the republic, and will find the going tough. Whilst the Bulls have not quite been up to the standards of previous campaigns, they are still good and should take this game by 13 points or more.

Cheetahs v Crusadersshould be a high scoring game this one with both teams possessing the will for all out attack. The Crusaders though, poses a better defence and a classier team. Although the classier team has yet to be a real concern for the Cheetahs this season. Even with all the injuries going through the Crusaders at the moment, they should be good enough to take this game by at least 13 points.

Super XV for Week 12:

15. Riaan Viljoen (Cheetahs) 14. Lelia Masaga (Chiefs) 13. Jaque Fourie (Stormers) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (Crusaders) 11. Hosea Gear (Hurricanes) 10. Sias Ebersohn (Cheetahs) 9. Alby Mathewson (Blues) 8. Kieran Read (Crusaders) 7. Jerome Kaino (Blues) 6. Scott Higginbotham (Reds) 5. Andries Bekker (Stormers) 4. Josh Bekhuis (Highlanders) 3. Owen Franks (Crusaders) 2. Corey Flynn (Crusaders) 1. Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders).

Well that’s me signing off for another week. Catch you next week for another instalment of the Drawing Board.

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