Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (8/6/11)

The Drawing Board (8/6/11)

Welcome to another installment of The Drawing Board, Who’s Playing Who?’s one stop rugby shop. The focus in now almost exclusively on Super Rugby as the European domestic scene has finished with the Top 14 final. Heading into the final two rounds of competition, there are still realistically 8 teams in line for the top 6 spots, with only the Reds having secured themselves a spot. More on that later, but to start here is the news.

News

  • Carisbrook is shaping as the Crusaders’ new “home” if they host a Super finals match.
  • Ma’a Nonu will leave the Hurricanes at the end of the Super Rugby season in the first big move of new coach Mark Hammett’s tenure. It is rumoured that he is going to move to the Chiefs for next season.
  • Richie McCaw’s foot injury has returned to plague him and he will miss the Crusaders’ final two crucial matches ahead of the playoffs.
  • Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell believes a shift in rule interpretations by referees is playing into South Africa’s hands in the run-up to the Rugby World Cup.
  • Stade Francais have signed former New Zealand scrumhalf Byron Kelleher.
  • Melbourne Rebels coach Rod Macqueen wants troubled English star Danny Cipriani to stay with the Super Rugby franchise. His suspension was lifted earlier this week.
  • SANZAR is investigating expanding the use of television technology to help match officials get it right, referees boss Lyndon Bray revealed on Monday.

North of the Border

With the European domestic season officially ended, the focus in the northern hemisphere now turns into World Cup preparations. Most teams will be taking a bit of a break before beginning their preparations, but some will have their ‘A’ sides playing against teams like the USA and Canada in the Churchill Cup. Firstly though, congratulations are in order for Toulouse who won the Top 14!!

Toulouse beat Montpellier 15-10 to clinch their 18th French title. They were made to work for 80 minutes by a side, whilst lacking championship pedigree made up with it through lashings of heart and a team spirit that has eluded many of the Top 14’s big-spending clubs in recent years. Toulouse’s hopes of a first Top 14 championship since 2008 appeared to be compromised at several points in a gritty contest, with Montpellier stealing a half-time lead thanks to the only try of the game. However they managed to stay composed and grind down Montpellier with four second half penalties sealing the deal.

Wales lost to a thrilling encounter to the Barbarians on the weekend, going down 31 – 28 thanks to a last minute try to the Baa Baa’s. Of note to all league fans will be the appearance of a certain Willie Mason off the bench of the Barbarians. In Churchill Cup results, the English Saxons beat the USA by 87 – 8 whilst Canada down Italy ‘A’ 26 – 12.

Super Wrap

This week could prove vital in the lead up to the title race as the race for the top six spots suddenly got a whole lot more interesting. As mentioned earlier, the Reds are the only side to have qualified for the top six at the moment. This is as a result of the Waratahs loss to the Bulls, leaving them with an 11 point difference with only a maximum of 10 available to them. So, the Australian conference leader is known, and you can just about bank on the Stormers winning the South African one, but the NZ conference is proving the most interesting with the Crusaders and Blues fighting out for  top spots. There were several shocks however, with both the Blues and Reds dropping vital points. This has allowed the Stormers to go to second (1 point behind the Reds) and the Crusaders to move within striking distance of the Blues.

Highlanders 14 – 21 Western Force

The Highlanders failed to give Carisbrook a fitting farewell as they fell to a couple of late tries to the Force. The result now leaves the Highlanders playoffs hopes dependent on other results. Sporting a controversial new strip (pictured above), the Highlanders looked comfortable at the break, leading 14 – 3 through a try and three penalties. However, the Force stormed back late in the second half, with a couple of tries to David Smith added to a conversion and a couple of penalties to James Stannard. This is a big result for the injury depleted Force, as they need to try and salvage something out of this season.

 Rebels 3 – 40 Stormers

The Stormers completed their Australasian tour with a thumping of the Rebels. Whilst their defence was superb on the night, their attack came in fits and bursts, with some superb play mixed with periods of inactivity. They did manage to secure a valuable bonus point, albeit late on in the game. The Rebels were never really in the game, but did put in a spirited display to deny the Stormers for as long as they did. A first half try and a couple of penalties to the Stormers had them leading 16 – 3 at the break. After that it was one way traffic, with the Stormers scoring four more tries to increase their advantage atop the South African conference.

Bulls 23 – 17 Waratahs

The Bulls did their title aspirations the world of good with a hard fought win against the Waratahs allowing them to trade places on the log.  The Waratahs were on top for long periods of time, but failed to adequately convert this into points. The Bulls, however, can count themselves fortunate. After a tense and tight first half, the Bulls scored a try just before the break to take a 13 – 6 half time lead. This lead was doubled four minutes into the second half with a breakout try to the Bulls. The Waratahs managed to come back into the game with a try of their own, and a couple of penalties. A highly dubious red card to replacement lock Pat O’Connor for an alleged head butt with 13 minutes left robbed the Waratahs of their momentum and could well cost them a place in the top 6

Hurricanes 38 – 27 Lions

A strong second half display from the Hurricanes allowed them to overcome a spirited display from the Lions. The Lions managed to claim a shock 20 – 8 lead in the first half through a two converted tries, but let the Hurricanes score a converted try just before the break. The Hurricanes would have been concerned with some sloppy defence in the first half, but came out and addressed the issue in the second, only letting the Lions score a try late in the second half. This came after a couple of converted tries and three penalties gave the Hurricanes an 18 point lead, a lead that they would not surrender.

 Blues 11 – 16 Chiefs

The Blues opened the door in the New Zealand conference after being shocked by the Chiefs at home. The Chiefs produced a superb first half display, and were unlucky not to take a greater lead into half time. Playing into the wind, the Chiefs scored their only points of the half through a converted try to the Tanasaurous. With the second half being a tighter affair, the Chiefs could only manage to score a few penalties, but it was enough to overcome the Blues with the aid of some superb defence.  The Blues when they review this match will find they were their own worst enemies, too slow to come into the match, well off the pace early on, and just not up to scratch at set piece, or in their ball retention.

Reds 14 – 22 Brumbies

The Reds missed an opportunity to take complete control of the Super Rugby championship when they went down to the Brumbies. A kicking master class from Matt “shut the F!@k up I’m captain” Giteau and a try allowed the Brumbies to claim a shock 19 – 11 half time lead against a fatigued looking Reds side. The Brumbies showed a ferocious fighting spirit, which has been lacking so far this season, as their aggressive and relentless defence held the Reds’ star backline at bay. The second half saw the teams’ trade penalties apiece, with the last kick of the game denying the Reds a bonus point.

Cheetahs 18 – 23 Sharks

The Sharks had to dig deep to keep themselves in the playoff hunt with a come from behind victory over the Cheetahs. They produced a superb second half display, scoring 17 points before the Cheetahs managed to get a consolation try.  In contrast to the second half, the Sharks looked like they would be part of another upset this weekend after they trailed the Cheetahs 11 – 6 at half time. Some harsh words at half time seem to have done the trick, as after the break they were a team transformed. The Cheetahs, whilst disappointed, still managed to walk away with a bonus point.

Bye: Crusaders

Tips

Huge round of Super Rugby this week, with three very important games in terms of the playoff. All could have significant bearing on the makeup of the top six, with several other games that could also have a big bearing on the playoffs.

Chiefs v Hurricanes – Whilst this may not be consequential to the playoff race, both teams would dearly want a win here. Both are coming into a bit of from with wins last week. The Hurricanes will be a bit concerned about their defence, letting the Lions score a fair amount of points. The Chiefs are my pick to win this game, by 12 points or less. 

Brumbies v Rebels – A battle of Australia strugglers. The Rebels and the Brumbies have not had the greatest season. The Brumbies, however, will be on a high after a win against the Reds and will be looking for revenge after being part of the Rebels first win.  My pick is that the Brumbies will be able to take this one by 12 points or less.

Crusaders v Blues – This is the game that will decide the New Zealand conference, and it is shaping up to be a cracker. Both teams have had a great start to the year but have slipped a little in recent weeks. They are both renowned for their attacking prowess, but I’m picking that best defence will win this game. The Crusaders are generally good in these games, and generally hit good form this time of year. This should be a great game, but I think that the Crusaders will take this out by 12 points.

Waratahs v Highlanders – A must win for both teams, and both teams will probably be looking for a bonus point as well. The Waratahs and Highlanders are not in the best of form, dropping several of their recent games. The Highlanders have seemed to lose their focus after the bye, but with their season on the line, it could do wonders. The Waratahs also have concerns after their South African tour, but I think that they should be good enough to win this one at home by at least 12 points.

Force v Reds – The Reds will be looking for a win here to try and keep their standing at the top of the ladder. This should be a good game as the Force are coming off a couple of good performances without some of their big stars. My pick is that the Reds should be good enough to win by less than 12 points, even with their injuries.

Lions v Sharks – The Sharks are coming into some form and will be looking to make certain of their top six position. This is another derby that looks easy on paper, but will be tougher on the field. My pick is that the Sharks should overrun the Lions in the last half, winning by less than 12 points. 

Stormers v Bulls – Another huge game in the context of the playoff race, with the Stormers second on the log and the Bulls lying in sixth position. Both will be looking to win to further their positions in the top 6. Both teams are hitting form at the right end of the competition. They have big packs and classy backlines, but this will come down to a battle of attrition. The Stormers, though, have the better defence and their attack is beginning to function well. On the other hand, the Bulls are getting their mojo back. For me, I’m going to pick the Stormers to take this one out by 12 points or less.

Super XV for Week 15:

15. Kurtley Beale (Waratahs) 14. Sitiveni Sivivatu (Chiefs) 13. Tyrone Smith (Brumbies) 12. Ma`a Nonu (Hurricanes) 11. Hosea Gear (Hurricanes) 10. Aaron Cruden (Hurricanes) 9. Sarel Pretorius (Cheetahs) 8. Radike Samo (Reds) 7. Ashley Johnson (Cheetahs) 6. David Pocock (Western Force) 5. Victor Matfield (Bulls) 4. Kane Douglas (Waratahs) 3. Werner Kruger (Bulls) 2. Keven Mealamu (Blues) 1. Jamie MacKintosh (Highlanders).

Should be another entertaining and important week in the Super Rugby universe, so, until next time, have a good week and we will catch you next week for another instalment of the Drawing Board.

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