Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (1/6/11)

The Drawing Board (1/6/11)

Welcome to another installment of The Drawing Board, Who’s Playing Who?’s one stop rugby shop. In a major scoop for us, we have managed to bribe officials and the Rugby World Cup will now be hosted by Who’s Playing Who!! Only jokes, we don’t accept bribes in rugby.  Speaking of which, it’s been another important week in the rugby world. The major European domestic leagues have wrapped up (with only France still going) whilst it was a very important week in Super Rugby. On top of that there was the last round of the Sevens going on in Edinburgh. It’s becoming an important time for World Cup hopefuls, with not a lot of rugby left to put up a case for World Cup places.

News

  • The Highlanders are going to be swapping their traditional blue, gold and maroon colours for green!! No kidding!! Considering that none of the feeder provinces have ever worn green this is a big step for them to take.
  • The Sharks have announced the signing of former France international Frederic Michalak from Toulouse with immediate effect. This solves the halfback crisis they found themselves in.
  • The Waratahs are believed to be interested in All Blacks halfback Andy Ellis as their marquee import for the 2011 Super Rugby season.
  • Sonny Bill Williams will have a charity boxing match for Christchurch this weekend.
  • South Africa claimed the Edinburgh Sevens with a thrilling come from behind last gasp 36 – 35 victory over Australia in the final. NZ were already confirmed as series victors last week.
  • Several NRL players have already agreed to join a proposed second Brisbane team, and the consortium behind the bid is in negotiations to snare Wallabies play-maker Quade Cooper and All Blacks sensation Sonny Bill Williams from rugby.
  • Lions flanker Michael Rhodes has been banned for six weeks for a dangerous tackle on Highlanders winger Siale Piutau during the Super Rugby match in Dunedin on Saturday.
  • Sharks flanker Jean Deysel has been banned for two weeks for a similar tackle during the Super Rugby clash with the Waratahs last Saturday.
  • Andrew Hore looks set to be shunted out of New Zealand Rugby with no province or Super Rugby team interested in him next season.
  • That is because there are rumors doing the rounds that there is a rift between several senior players and coach Mark Hammett.

North of the Border

The European season is almost finished, with the Aviva Premiership and Magners League finished for this season. The focus will now be on the World Cup for these nations, as they now only have a couple of warm up games between now and the World Cup.

In the Aviva premiership, the Leicester Tigers played Saracens for the right to be crowned champions of England. Both teams came into the match on fine form, finishing the league phase first and second. Saracens completed their march to the summit of English rugby with a dramatic and gutsy 22-18 victory.  After being left heartbroken last year, they produced a performance replete with heart, skill and perseverance to see off the more fancied Tigers. 19 year old Owen Farrell showed he had an international future as he underlined his class by scoring 17 points.

In the Magners League, Munster managed to stop Leinster from gaining a notable double of Heineken Cup and Magners League triumphs. Munster, who were slight favorites heading into the contest were the better team on the day storming to a 19 – 9 victory.  Leinster fought back from being down 3 – 7 at half time to lead 9 – 7 mid way through the second half. A couple of late tries to Munster allowed them to retake a championship winning lead.

In France, they were playing their semifinals with Toulouse taking on Clermont and Racing Metro taking on Montpellier. Toulouse booked their place in the Top 14 final with a dominant display in a 29 – 6 victory over Clermont. The runaway season leaders had far too much for the reigning champions and dominated every facet of the game, notably gaining the upper hand at the scrum and dominating their rivals in defense. Montpellier progressed to the Top 14 final for the first time after upsetting Racing Metro 26 – 25. Montpellier led 13 – 6 at the break and continued their march in the early stages of the second-half, but were made to hang on for dear life at the close as the star-studded Racing side fought for all they were worth.

Super Wrap

This was an important week in the Super Rugby play off race. The Waratahs and Highlanders find their play off hopes hanging by a thread after losses on the weekend. By a quirk of the draw there are still quite a few important match ups ahead with most of the top 8 playing at least one of the other top 8. The battle between the conference leaders is heating up, with the 3rd placed conference leader getting a tough ride to the finals.

Hurricanes 34 – 28 Force

The Hurricanes managed to score a late try to overcome a determined, yet depleted, Force. The Hurricanes found it difficult to combat the visitors’ regimented and disciplined approach, with two first half Force tries leading them to a shock 18 – 10 half time lead. The teams traded tries after the break, before Hurricane Aaron Cruden taking control of the game by setting up a couple of late tries and having a flawless kicking game. This is a welcome win for the Hurricanes, with some of their stars starting to show a belated glimpse of form. The Force will not be too disappointed with the loss as they were deprived of their best stars.

Highlanders 22 – 26 Lions

The Lions managed to cause a big upset, and in the process put a major dent into the Highlanders top 6 aspirations. After a bye last weekend, the Highlanders looked rusty during the opening 40 minutes but they still managed to reach the interval 16-9 in front. However the Lions managed to draw level just after half time through a converted try. The Highlanders managed to get themselves into what looked like a match winning 22 – 19 lead. They, however, didn’t manage to put a late penalty out, allowing the Lions to launch a series of attacks, eventually leading to a late match winning converted try.  This is a severe blow to the Highlanders top 6 hopes, as they were banking on the points from this game.

Brumbies 3 – 16 Stormers

The Stormers maintained their ambitions for a top of the table finish with a hard fought victory over the Brumbies. The Stormers were clearly the better side, but were hampered by the fact that they were on their fourth choice fly half, leading to a lack of continuity. This, however, was not enough for the Brumbies, as they showed that they were really missing star play maker Matt Giteau. No tries were scored in the first half, with the Stormers leading 6 – 3. They then stretched their advantage six minutes into the second half when flanker Francois Louw powered through two tacklers on his way to the line. The Brumbies enjoyed plenty of possession thereafter but they just could not find a way through a superbly well-marshaled Stormers defense and the visitors sealed their maiden victory in the Australian capital.

Sharks 26 – 21 Waratahs

The Waratahs missed an opportunity to consolidate their top 6 position, letting a decent lead slip against the Sharks. The result of the hard-fought clash at Kings Park this morning meant the Sharks displaced the Waratahs from fifth spot with three rounds remaining. Down 13-11 at the break, the Waratahs hit back to lead 21-13 before the Sharks scored the last 13 points. Young Springbok fly-half Patrick Lambie was the hero for the home side, scoring 21 points. The decisive try came in the 55th minute, allowing the Sharks to regain the lead. Lambie then added a couple of penalties to seal the game. This ensures that the Sharks stay second in the South African conference, but leaves the Waratahs with a couple of must win games ahead.

Bulls 32 – 21 Cheetahs

The Bulls ended the Cheetahs run of wins, and in the process boosted their own playoff chances. The Cheetahs though, didn’t go down without a fight, repeatedly coming back into the match whenever the Bulls looked like pulling away. A try and a couple of penalties ensured that the defending champions lead 11 – 0 at the break. However the Cheetahs came storming back into the game with a try just after the break. This spurred the Bulls into action, with a couple of quick tries allowing them to pull out to what seemed to be a sufficient lead. However, the Cheetahs came back with a couple of converted tries to pull the Bulls lead back to four points. This proved to be too much for the Cheetahs to get passed. A late try to the Bulls ensured that the score didn’t properly reflect the closeness of the game.

Reds 17 – 16 Crusaders

The Reds pushed towards a home semi final as they managed to edge the Crusaders in a good but controversial game. A controversial late penalty from fly-half Quade Cooper sent a record Australian Super Rugby crowd of 48,301 home happy after an enthralling see-saw contest. By all accounts it was not a penalty, but that is life. The Crusaders managed to manufacture a 10 – 7 half time lead thanks to Dan Carter, who set up a long range try and kicked well. The Reds though, came back strongly in the second spell, taking the lead through a Will Genia try. This looked to have not been enough, as the Crusaders managed a couple of penalties (the second one was late on in the game) and looked to have sealed the game until Stu Dickenson decided that he would love to have the final say.

Bye: Rebels, Blues, Chiefs

Tips

This is another important week in the run up to the finals series. The Waratahs will be looking to try and keep their spot in the top 6, whilst the other teams will be looking to cement their spots. The Blues will also be looking to win to extend their lead at the top of the NZ conference.

Highlanders v Western Forceit’s do or die time for the Highlanders hopes of making the semi finals. They need to take this win against the Force, which will be no easy task, especially after they pushed the Hurricanes all the way. However I think that the Highlanders will be ready and fired up for this game, and will take it out by 12 points or less.

Rebels v Stormersthe Stormers will look to end their road trip with a win against a Rebels side coming off the bye. The Stormers have some injury concerns, but are still looking like the real deal. Their attack has looked like it may spark sometime on this tour, and this may be the game. They know how to win ugly and should be too good for the Rebels, winning by at least 13 points.

Bulls v Waratahsboth teams will be looking for a victory in this game, as a win for either side has them in the top 6. This is the game of the round as there is a lot riding on this game.  The Waratahs should find this tough going as the defending champions have their tails up and are playing at home. However, they should still be a threat, as shown in last week’s game against the Sharks. I’m tipping the Bulls to win this one by up to 12 points, as they will be able to overpower the Waratahs in the forwards.

Hurricanes v Lions both teams will be confident after wins in the last round, although the Hurricanes will be most pleased that they managed to have their best backline operating for the first time this season. They should be too good for this Lions side, but don’t be surprised if this is a close one. The Lions have a knack of losing close game, which is why I’ve chosen the Hurricanes by 12 and under.

Blues v Chiefs The Blues will want to win this game to keep a sufficient lead over the Crusaders in the New Zealand Conference. They should be too good for the Chiefs, who have been disappointing this season. The Blues should have enough firepower to overrun them, but I’ll still take 12 and under as these derbies have a nasty effect of being closer than one thinks

Reds v Brumbies – the Reds have been on fire this year, whilst the Brumbies have generally been trying to put them out. After the confidence gained from beating the Crusaders, the Reds should be able to take this game out with no problem. These games are, however, potential banana skins as they could be tired after expending so much energy last week. I’m tipping that the Reds will overcome this and thrash the Brumbies by 13 or more.

Cheetahs v Sharks on paper this looks like an easy game for the Sharks, but as we have seen the Cheetahs are playing really well in the second half of this season. Add into the mix that they generally have been a bit of a bogy team for the Sharks and you have an almost perfect storm.  As much as I want the Cheetahs to win, I think that the Sharks will have just enough experience to see them through by 12 points or less.

Super XV for Week 15:
15. Ben Smith (Highlanders) 14. JP Pietersen (Sharks) 13. Robbie Freuan (Crusaders) 12. Ben Tapuai (Reds) 11. Digby Ioane (Reds) 10. Quade Cooper (Reds) 9. Will Genia (Reds) 8. Victor Vito (Hurricanes) 7. Scott Higginbotham (Reds) 6. Schalk Burger (Stormers) 5. Andries Bekker (Stormers) 4. Brad Thorn (Crusaders) 3. Owen Franks (Crusaders) 2. Saia Faingaa (Reds) 1. Jamie McKintosh (Highlanders)

Have  a good week and we will catch you next week for another instalment of the Drawing Board.

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