Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (15/6/11)

The Drawing Board (15/6/11)

Welcome to the Drawing Board, Who’s Playing Who?’s one stop rugby shop. It’s been another important weekend in Super Rugby. A couple of draws destroyed my picks for this week, but has made the table a lot closer. The Highlanders are now out of the running, but the Waratahs are most defiantly still in this. More on that later, but first, here is the news.

News

  • The Crusaders have decided that they will play any home Super Rugby semifinal in Nelson, with the final (assuming they make it and host it) going to be played at Eden Park.
  • Graham Henry has left the door open on his coaching career past the World Cup, saying he will make a decision on his future in November. Apparently the World Cup will have no bearing on it (yeah right!!).
  • Berrick Barnes’ Rugby World Cup dreams are in jeopardy as the Wallabies and NSW Waratahs five-eighth struggles to get his head around a sequence of career-threatening concussions and migraines. He will play no part in the rest of the Waratahs season.
  • The Crusaders trainings have been interrupted by a series of big earthquakes.
  • Rebels coach Rod Macqueen is set to stand down following the club’s final Super Rugby match of the season against Western Force this weekend.
  • The halftime interval will be extended from 10 to 12 minutes in this season’s Tri-Nations tournament to allow teams to prepare for a longer break at this year’s World Cup.
  • Dan Vickerman has rejoined the Waratahs for this week’s game against the Brumbies.
  • Luke Morahan and Rene Ranger both have injuries and should be out for this week and possibly longer.

Super Wrap

As mentioned above, there are only seven teams in the line for the top six spots. The Highlanders fairytale has now come to an end, but they can still have a big bearing on the outcome of the top six. As a result of the weekend’s results, the Stormers can now not drop out of the top six. In fact they are now guaranteed South African conference leaders, with the Sharks and the Bulls only able to draw level with them. Neither will win in the tie breaking scenarios (most wins followed by point’s differential).  The Reds have got a top 2 spot as well, whilst the Crusaders are now also in the top 6 for sure. Each nation has a shot at getting a couple of teams in the top six, with the New Zealand conference looking as the most likely to get the two teams in.   Just as a note, the winners of each conference get trophies!!!

Chiefs 18 – 18 Hurricanes

The Chiefs and the Hurricanes played out a draw, leaving the wooden spoon in the New Zealand conference wide open. The Chiefs started well, scoring a try in the second minute of the game. They had the better of the first half, outscoring the Hurricanes two tries to one. This allowed them to take a valuable 15 – 5 lead in wet conditions. However, a Hosea Gear try just after the break tightened things up. Penalties were then traded as the game drew to a close. A late Aaron Cruden penalty leveled the scores, which is where they stayed.

Brumbies 32 – 17 Rebels

Matt Giteau starred in his last match at home, scoring a try and setting up three more.  The Brumbies dominated the first half, scoring three unconverted tries and a penalty to lead 18 – 3 at the break. They went further ahead just after the break with a converted try.  The Brumbies then proceeded to take their foot off the gas, allowing the Rebels to make a comeback into the game. They scored a couple of converted tries to bring the score back to 25 – 17. The Brumbies managed to score a late converted try to secure their second consecutive win.

Crusaders 23 – 16 Blues

This game had the intensity of a test match as the Crusaders grinded out a victory against the Blues. The game see sawed as momentum frequently changed hands as both teams tried to run the other off the park.  An unconverted try and a penalty gave the Blues the perfect start to the game. However, the Crusaders scored an opportunistic long range try to get themselves back in the game. A couple more penalties gave the Crusaders a 13 – 11 half time lead. Another opportunistic try just after the break gave them some breathing space, but not for long. The Blues came back with a try to tighten the gap, but Zac Guildford scored his second try late in the game to seal the game.

Waratahs 33 – 7 Highlanders

In a game that was critical to both teams’ chances of progressing, it was the Waratahs that came out on top. The Waratahs defense was superb as they managed to continuously repel multiple Highlanders raids on the line.  They were on top early, with Tom Carter scoring the first of his hat trick of tries. There was another Waratah try soon after, but they then proceeded to let the Highlanders in with a sniff, letting them score a try to make the score at half time 12 – 7. The Waratahs were much more clinical in the second half, making the most of their opportunities to score a further three more tries to boost their playoff hopes.

Force 21 – 24 Reds

The Reds showed their class again, managing to engineer a great escape against a fired up Force side. The Force dominated the first half with centre Rory Sidey scoring two tries. The Reds managed to stay in the contest by notching a couple of tries totally against the run of play. The 16 – 14 belied how dominate the Force were. A try in the second half looked to have given the Force a winning lead, but the Reds managed to find a way over the line for the winning try.

Lions 30 – 30 Sharks

The Lions did many in the top six a favor by holding the Sharks to a draw. In what was a highly entertaining game, the Lions showed that they still cannot close out games well.  Three tries and some good kicking from Butch James allowed the Lions to take an improbable 30 – 9 lead.  The Sharks managed to fight back though, with Patrick Lambie proving the spark that they needed.  Three second half tries allowed the Sharks to draw level, but they ran out of time to secure the victory or get a fourth try.

Stormers 16 – 19 Bulls

The Bulls managed to cause somewhat of an upset when they managed to beat the Stormers.  As a spectacle, this didn’t have the quality of tries scored in the other big game of the round, but was just as intense. The Stormers played badly for 72 minutes, allowing the Bulls to gain a match winning lead before they came back into the match. It was a kicking duel for much of the game, with the score favoring the Bulls at the break 6 – 3.  This was level 10 minutes into the second half, before the Bulls added a penalty and their only try off a lineout mistake by the Stormers.  The teams traded penalties before the Stormers scored what turned out to be a vital converted try to seal the bonus point.

Bye: Cheetahs

Tips

After 17 exciting rounds, the Super Rugby competition heads into its final round with positions in Top Six far from certain. Only the current top three sides have qualified, and it will take until the final whistle of the final game to decide who is in what spot. Remarkably, there is only one game that will not have an impact on the Top Six positions. The conference system seems to be working, but time will tell if it is truly great.

Blues v Highlanders – Both teams are coming off losing streaks, after looking really good earlier on in the season. The Highlanders will be playing for pride, but the Blues could seriously do with a win here to seal their Top 6 spot. Out of the two teams, the Blues have displayed the better form, so I will back them to take this one by 12 points or less.

Rebels v Force – Not much at stake here but pride and World Cup places to play for. The Force will try and continue their good form of late, whilst the Rebels will like to end their season on a high. Nathan Sharpe and James O’Connor are out of this game, but the Force have shown that they are still a threat without these two. For me, the Force should win by12 points or less.

Chiefs v Reds – The Chiefs have nothing much to play for, but could do other teams a massive favor by upsetting the Reds. That’s an injury depleted Reds, just to let you know. They managed to dodge a bullet last week, and will have to try and do the same against a Chiefs side determined not to take the last spot in the NZ conference. My pick is that the Reds should be able to just take this game by 12 points or less.

Crusaders v Hurricanes – A ‘home’ game for the Crusaders, this game will be played in Wellington. On paper this looks like an easy game for the Crusaders, but the Hurricanes are hitting a bit of form late on in the season. The Crusaders have shown that they can win ugly, and are almost at full strength. On the back of this, I’ll give them a victory by 12 points or less.

Waratahs v Brumbies – A massive game for the Waratahs, but they will have to do so without Berrick Barnes. They have had an up and down season, which compared to the Brumbies season looks amazing. The Brumbies though do have the potential to play party poopers and should not be underestimated. I’m going to take a bit of a punt here and say that they will claim a surprise victory by 12 points or less.

Bulls v Sharks – the game of the round features two heavyweight South African teams in what potentially could be a knockout game. A Waratahs and Blues victory will mean that only one of these teams can progress to the playoffs. The Sharks have made a habit of getting out of tricky situations, with the last three games featuring second half comebacks. Speaking of second half comebacks, haven’t the Bulls made a good one in the second half of the season? Six wins on the trot (including one against the Sharks) is nothing to be laughed at, and it will take a massive effort to stop them progressing. For me, the Bulls have looked the better team in pressure situations and know how to win knockout rugby. This will not be a high scoring affair and as a result the Bulls should only take this by 12 points or less.

Cheetahs v Stormers – A game that seems not to have much riding on it, but for the Stormers it will be massive. By the time they get to kickoff, they will know exactly where they sit and what they need to do to get into the top 6. A win is vital, with a bonus point probably being needed to finish first. The Cheetahs will want to finish on a high, and will want to attack. They are coming up against the best defense in the competition, so it should be a great battle. The Stormers are my pick to win this game, by 12 points or less.

Super XV for week 17:

15. Kurtley Beale (Waratahs) 14. JP Pietersen (Sharks) 13. Tom Carter (Waratahs) 12. Pat McCabe (Brumbies) 11. Zac Guildford (Crusaders) 10. Dan Carter (Crusaders) 9. Francois Hougaard (Bulls) 8. Kieran Read (Crusaders) 7. David Pocock (Western Force) 6. Schalk Burger (Stormers) 5. Victor Matfield (Bulls) 4. Danie Rossouw (Bulls) 3. Owen Franks (Crusaders) 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Waratahs) 1. Ben Franks (Crusaders).

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 installment of the Drawing Board.

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