Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (18/5/11)

The Drawing Board (18/5/11)

Welcome to another instalment of the Drawing Board, Who’s Playing Who?’s one stop rugby shop. It’s been quite a weekend of upsets in super rugby this week with the Lions, Cheetahs and Chiefs surprising most pundits. It’s been an exciting week over in Europe with the semis taking place in the Aviva Premiership and Magners League and the semi final qualifiers in the Top 14. Injuries continue to be of concern with this being a World Cup year, with all team anxious to get their stars through the season OK.

News

  • Dan Carter has announced that he will stay in New Zealand until 2015 with the All Black star being granted another sabbatical. The deal will reportedly make him the highest paid rugby player in NZ along with Richie McCaw
  • Not a good week for Blues lock Kurtis Haiu as he has been diagnosed with stage two cancer. As if that was not bad enough, he has been charged with assault and will appear in court soon.
  • Hurricanes prop Neemia Tialata and Brumbies lock Mark Chisholm have signed to play with French Top 14 side Bayonne.
  • In a massive blow to the Crusaders Israel Dagg, Sean Maitland and Adam Whitelock have all succumbed to serious and Super Rugby season-ending injuries.
  •  Former England World Cup-winning winger Ben Cohen has announced his retirement from rugby union.
  • Former Chiefs lock Toby Lynn has signed a two-year deal with the Force.
  • George Gregan will meet this week with incoming coach Brumbies Jake White to map out what his precise involvement will be with the Brumbies next season. However, all indications are that he will be used periodically as a coaching consultant to work specifically with the team’s halves.
  • Speaking of Brumbies coaches, Tony Rea has given the Brumbies players one hell of a serve after their shock loss to the Lions, calling them soft, among other things.

North of the Border

The semi finals of the Aviva Premiership were contested over the weekend with the Leicester Tigers playing Gloucester and Saracens playing the Northampton Saints. Not a huge amount of points were scored in both games, with only two tries being scored across both semi finals. The results went the way they were expected to, with both the Leicester Tigers and Saracens winning their games to set up a 1 v 2 on the table title. Saracens managed to beat Gloucester by 12 – 10 with all their points coming from the boot of Owen Farrell. Leicester Tigers on the other hand managed to score a try at least, as they beat the Northampton Saints by 12 – 6. Northampton will get a shot at redemption at the weekend with the Heineken Cup final to be played against Leinster from Ireland.

Over in the Magners League, it was a similar story as they two top qualifiers, Munster and Leinster won both the semi finals in low scoring games. Munster scored a couple of tries to overcome the Ospreys 18 – 11 in a game that was never in doubt. Leinster also dominated their game with a resounding 18 – 3 win over Ulster. So again, we see a 1 v 2 final in Europe. Leinster will be happy to take some momentum into the Heineken Cup final. It may be a big ask for them to bounce back the week after and play the final against what would be a fired up Munster side.

In the French Top 14 we actually saw some points being scored in the semi final qualifiers.  Clermont Auvergne snatched one of the semi final spots with a deserved 27 – 17 come from behind win over Biarritz. They were down 6 – 17 at the break but stormed home with three second half tries to set up a semi with Toulouse. In the other semi final play off Montpellier managed to sneak an 18 – 17 victory over Castres. This result means that they will play Racing Metro in the other semi final.

Super Wrap

Much to the surprise of well… everybody, this was a week chock full of upsets as the top teams stumbled. This has allowed other teams like the Sharks, Highlanders and Bulls a chance of cracking the top 6, with teams like the Chiefs and Cheetahs still a mathematical chance of making the finals. By my estimations, a team will need at least 53 points to be guaranteed a spot in the finals. This means at this point that the Reds are the only team close to this, with 50 points.

Highlanders 13 – 6 Hurricanes

The Highlanders picked up an important victory over the Hurricanes on a wet Friday night. In a display that typifies how the Highlanders have played this year, they mixed great defence and breakdown work with opportunism to condemn a disappointing Hurricanes side to the bottom of the NZ conference. It was a tight game, and the Highlanders made the most of their opportunities in the wet to grind out a win and keep their finals aspirations alive.  The Hurricanes were able to welcome back Piri Weepu from a lengthy injury break and Ma’a Nonu from a drastically shorter injury break.

 Reds 37 – 31 Blues

Last weekend’s game of the round proved to be a cracker of a game. The Reds defied predictions of a close game to jump out to a 24 point lead by the 32nd minute of the game. This was pretty much gone by the 57th minute as the Blues fought back to 27 -24. However the key moment in the game came in the 62nd minute when Reds reserve hooker James Hanson scored a converted try from a charged down kick. This robbed the Blues of their momentum and allowed the Reds some necessary breathing space. The Blues managed to get two bonus points out of the game with a late converted try, but will be disappointed that they spotted the Reds a 24 point lead. The battle of the colours has been sorted, for now at least.

Chiefs 30 – 23 Stormers

In the first of a series of upsets, the Chiefs overcame a poor first half to pull off a terrific comeback to beat the Stormers. The Stormers had built up a 20-3 lead by half-time thanks to some ferocious defence and ruthless finishing. But the Chiefs fought back superbly after the break with a five minute blitz that took them to within three points of the visitors. A 59th minute try allowed the Chiefs to take a decisive lead in a match that they looked down and out of at the break. The Stormers will be disappointed that they let this one get away from them as they played some fantastic rugby in the first half.

Brumbies 20 – 29 Lions

The Lions finally managed to close out a game and win in Canberra. The second shock of the round prompted a tongue lashing from Brumbies coach Tony Rea. After an impressive try gave the Brumbies a 10 point lead, they let their intensity slip to let the Lions back into it by half time. Two tries gave the Lions a 12 – 10 lead, with a further two after half time completing a famous victory. The Brumbies managed to score a late try to make the score look respectable, but lost concentration and were “soft” in the second half. Their supporters will be expecting more, with less and less turning up each week.

Bulls 47 – 10 Rebels

The Bulls welcomed the Rebels on their first tour to South Africa with a massive victory. The Bulls ran over the Rebels, especially in a superb first half display in which they racked up 6 tries. They took their foot off the gas in the second half, but the damage had already been done. Some extremely week defence allowed Wynand Olivier to probably the easiest hat trick he will ever score at this level. The Rebels lacked communication, especially in the first half and never looked like putting pressure on the defending champions.

Cheetahs 33 – 20 Crusaders

The Cheetahs managed to score a massive upset as they stormed home to their third consecutive victory this season. After leading 17 -16 at half time, the Crusaders could not break the Cheetahs line or prevent them from taking opportunistic tries. Both Ebersohn twins scored tries, with Sias producing another good kicking display.  The Crusaders dominated territory and possession, but the Cheetahs forward pack put in a huge effort to keep the Crusaders from running away with the game. A try to impressive loose forward Ashley Johnson in the 73rd minute sealed the deal for the Cheetahs.

Bye: Waratahs, Sharks, Force

Tips

A week of upsets has defiantly caused most punters (including myself) to have a look at a few teams again and start reassessing them.  Let’s see if this week we can pick those upsets this week.

Blues v Stormers Should be a cracking game this week between the top NZ and SAF teams. Both will be looking for an improvement on last week’s efforts. The Blues will not want to give the Stormers a lead like the one they gave to the Reds whilst the Stormers will be looking for an improved second half performance. Will have to go with the Blues on this one, but it should be close, so I’ll take them by 12 or less.

 Crusaders v Chiefsthe Chiefs had an improved game last week, and the Crusaders are coming off a loss and are back from South Africa. This should be a big test of the Crusaders depth, but I think that they should be able to take this one out by 12 points or less.

Waratahs v Lionsthe Waratahs are coming off their second bye and will be weary of the threat posed by Lions. I don’t think that there will be any repeat of the Cheetahs v Waratahs game but the Lions should be more competitive than first thought. Waratahs to win this one by 12 points or less.

Force v Brumbiesthe Force will be looking to take advantage of the Brumbies poor form of late to record a much needed victory. They should be too good for the Brumbies who have had the last remaining bit of self confidence knocked out of them by their coach. The Force should be able to take this one out by up to 12 points.

Cheetahs v Rebelsthe impressive Cheetahs will look to continue their good run and extended it to a fourth successive victory. The Rebels have shown little in the last few weeks to suggest that they will do much this season, but this may make the Cheetahs complacent. I don’t believe this will happen, with the Cheetahs managing to get a win by 13 points or more.

Sharks v Bullsbig game for both teams title aspirations. Both teams will look to get valuable points and catch up the Stormers in the race for the top spot. A typical grudge match, this match will be full of physicality and intense forward exchanges. The Bulls should be too good at home for me and should be able to take this game by 12 points.

Super XV for Week 13:

15. Ben Smith (Highlanders) 14. Joe Rokocoko (Blues) 13. Richard Kahui (Chiefs) 12. Wynand Olivier (Bulls) 11. Bjorn Basson (Bulls) 10. Quade Cooper (Reds) 9. Jimmy Cowan (Highlanders) 8. Fritz Lee (Chiefs) 7. Michael Rhodes (Lions) 6. Liam Messam (Chiefs) 5. Danie Rossouw (Bulls) 4. Anthony Boric (Blues) 3. Neemia Tialata (Hurricanes) 2. Andrew Hore (Hurricanes) 1. Jamie MacKinstosh (Highlanders).

Hope you enjoyed this week’s instalment of the Drawing Board. Please comment if you agree/disagree on anything that I have said.  Until next week, catch you later!!

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  1. Jeremy
    May 19, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Injured All Blacks my arse, they are taking anyone off the field with a slight niggle so we have a full strength team for the world cup. No excuses if they lose Mr Henry

  2. May 19, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Can’t argue with them being protective i guess. Its better then taking them out for half the season though. However that would probably work in the new expanded season, if they were only out for a few weeks.

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