Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (8/3/12)

The Drawing Board (8/3/12)

Hello and welcome to Who’s Playing Who?’s weekly rugby blog. Last week I mentioned that I was unhappy with the lack of tries being scored and the bore-fests that had dominated Round 1. Well it seems someone was reading my blog! Round 2 still contained the drama and tight finishes, with the major point of difference being there were far more tries this round. What is more impressive is the manner in which they were executed. Maybe it was rustiness that prevented this being shown in the opening round, but this is what we have been waiting for ever since the end of the World Cup.

 

Super Wrap

This round of action produced several good games, and gave us a couple of upsets in the process. A thrashing was dished out, along with a tight and low scoring game with a close finish.  In related news, the south of the south island of NZ is going to move three minutes ahead of the rest of NZ in order to correct the clock at their new stadium. It’s not the clocks fault, it was everyone else’s for being three minutes late (cough cough).

Chiefs 29 – 14 Blues

Whoa, did I get this one wrong or what? All the indicators were stacked in the Blues favour (good game the prior week, no injuries, heaps of injuries for the Chiefs, Chiefs on bad form etc.), and yet they got smacked. The Chiefs proved me wrong as they managed to bounce back to winning ways with a brilliant first half display. Prop Sona Taumalolo grabbed the first five-pointer with just four minutes on the clock and he was followed over the whitewash by winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma, scrum-half Tewera Kerr-Barlow and then winger Tim Nanai-Williams in the following half hour. It all looked too easy for the Chiefs

Fly-half Aaron Cruden converted three tries and also landed a penalty as the hosts built a commanding 29-6 lead at the break. Blues fly-half Michael Hobbs notched two first-half penalties and would also claim a conversion after replacement Sherwin Stowers grabbed a late consolation try for the Blues who have now suffered back-to-back defeats.

Rebels 19 – 35 Waratahs

The Waratahs also managed to bounce back from last week’s defeat to record a rather comprehensive victory over the Rebels. The Rebels took an early lead through the boot of centre James O’Connor, who finished the game with 14 points, but they were soon chasing the game with centre Tom Carter grabbing two tries and prop Sekope Kepu adding another before the break.

To be honest, the Waratahs never really looked like losing the game and sure enough they secured a bonus point in the second half with fullback Bernard Foley grabbing a try and fly-half Daniel Halangahu getting another before the end of play. A penalty try gave the Rebels some respect on the scoreboard, but this was not the start they were expecting. In saying that though, this is better than last year when they didn’t even score a point in their opening fixture against the Waratahs.

Lions 28 – 30 Hurricanes

The Lions showed that they are still stuck in last season’s habits as they failed to close out a tight game at home to the Hurricanes.  They stormed back into the lead through an unconverted try to Jaco Taute, after Beauden Barrett kicked the Hurricanes into an early lead. Penalties were traded with Elton Jantjies before a try to fullback Andre Taylor gave the Hurricanes a 14 – 8 lead at the half time break.

Franco van der Merwe gave the Lions the lead mid-way through the second half, with Jantjies managing to convert the try. However, a couple of quick fire tries to Dane Coles and Cory Jane put the Hurricanes in the driving seat. This was until Butch James crossed on the 70th minute to restore the Lions to a one point lead. Rather predictably though, they could not hang on as Barrett was given a chance to be a hero with a late penalty, which he duly took.

Highlanders 27 – 24 Crusaders

The Highlanders have a new hero, with Hosea Gear scoring a late try to seal the game against their big rivals, the Crusaders. This was a really good match, played in the new Dunedin stadium in front of 23,000 supporters. It looked as if they were going to go home disappointed as the hosts were trailing by four points with only ten minutes left before Gear intervened to finish off a slick move from the backs. Lima Sopoaga added the conversion to ensure the Highlanders went to the top of the New Zealand conference after beating the Chiefs in their opening fixture.

The Highlanders had established a 20-10 lead after tries from Andrew Hore and Phil Burleigh and two conversions and three penalties from Sopoaga. The Crusaders, though, clawed their way back into the contest with a try from Andy Ellis and three penalties from fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal, to add to an earlier converted try from Israel Dagg and penalty from Bleyendaal.

The Crusaders still had chances to grab a draw following Gear’s score with Bleyendaal slicing a drop-goal attempt wide and landing a penalty effort a metre short. Malfunctions with the clock at the stadium caused all sorts of havoc at the end of the game as the Highlanders booting the ball out of the park twice thinking that it was the end of the game, when in fact they had to be told the game was still live.

Reds 35 – 20 Force

A great kicking display from Mike Harris allowed the Reds to overcome the Force.  The Reds pivot landed two conversions and seven penalties for a game high personal haul of 25 points. So in effect he beat the Force by himself.  Filling in for Quade Cooper, who is still a couple of months away from returning to action, “Aussie Mike” as he has been referred to in the NZ media, proved a sure source of points and a pragmatic option in attack for the Reds.

He landed an early penalty before Will Genia created the opening try with a sharp dart down the blindside and terrific offload to Ben Tapuai, who sprinted in at the corner. Harris added the touchline conversion. The Force kept in the game with two penalties from James Stannard. But that accuracy was undone when the fly-half threw an inside ball into the grasp of Radike Samo and the Reds’ No.8 out-ran the cover to touch down. Harris continues his faultless kicking display to establish 26-6 lead. The visitors fought back with converted tries from Stannard, who ended with 15 points, and Captain David Pocock but Harris had the final say with three further penalties.

Cheetahs 19 – 51 Bulls

The Bulls managed to provide the first thrashing of the year and the first 50 point haul as well as they managed to demolish the Cheetahs. The three time champions ran in six tries in the rout, and just to show off they did so without all their players on the field with scrum-half Francois Hougaard deciding it was a good time to get a red card. The Springbok was sent-off for a tip tackle, but his team-mates were able to close out the game with the last of their scores despite the numerical disadvantage.

Props Dean Greyling and Werner Kruger scored the visitors’ first tries from close range, with the Cheetahs coughing up two further scores – to Bjorn Basson and Zane Kirchner – just before the break. Morne Steyn – who finished with 21 points – extended the lead before Hougaard left the scene, when Adriaan Strauss crashed over for the Cheetahs’ sole try. Immediately after there was a crucial breakdown in communication, with JJ Engelbrecht’s intercept try killing the comeback dead. Kirchner showed fine skills to kick ahead and gather for his second, leaving the hosts with nothing.

Stormers 15 – 12 Sharks

Peter Grant returned from his travels to kick the Stormers to a victory over the Sharks. Really that is just about all you need to know about this game. The fly-half, who has spent recent months playing in Japan, came on as a replacement and took over the kicking duties from the misfiring Joe Pietersen. The fullback had landed three successful kicks but sent four wide over the course of the game.

Grant kept his nerve in the 77th minute to angle in a brilliant penalty from the touchline, adding to an easier effort on the hour mark when Sharks lock Ross Skeate saw yellow for not rolling away. The visitors – who lost to the Bulls last weekend – managed four penalties from fly-half Pat Lambie in a game heavy on physicality but light on attacking invention.

Bye: Brumbies

 

Congratulations to:

  • Morne Steyn, who became only the third player (after Dan Carter and Stirling Mortlock) to pass the 1000-point mark in Super Rugby (SR).
  • The Hurricanes, whose win on Friday was their 100th in SR. It coincidentally happened in their 200th match.
  • Doppies la Grange, who played in his 50th game for the Lions. (He also has 17 caps for the Cats)

 

Tips

Let’s hope I go well this week.

Crusaders v Chiefs – One of the games to watch this week will see the Crusaders try to bounce back from last week’s loss against a Chiefs side that is fired up after a commanding performance. This game should be a really good one, as both sides have talent aplenty. The Crusaders though should have the edge in the pack and should be able to stop the impressive Cheifs backline getting into gear. This should allow them to squeak home.

Force v Hurricanes – fans from both sides will be wondering which of their sides will turn up. Both have been good and bad in the last two rounds and will need to sort out these issues soon. The Hurricanes will be confident of a win, but you cannot write off the Force as you just don’t know what side will turn up. For me, the Hurricanes should take this one by a few.

Brumbies v Cheetahs – the Brumbies will be looking to avenge their loss from last year against the Cheetahs. They have already looked a bit better than they did last year, but you cannot fully judge them on one game. The Cheetahs really are not a good touring side but can surprise. Just not this time.

Highlanders v Waratahs – This one should also be a cracker. The Highlanders have been playing well this year and have been very passionate. Their off field acquisitions seem to be paying on field dividends. They will run into a Waratahs side that is not that bad and have impressed recently. They pushed the Reds all the way and managed to dominate the Rebels. Expect a good game, with tough forward exchanges and some good back play to boot. The Highlanders are going to be my pick for this game.

Reds v Rebels – the Reds will be looking to secure a bonus point victory against the Rebels. They have not had the attacking flair that they showed last season, but these are early days yet. The Rebels should welcome back Kurtly Beale to their starting line-up. Hopefully this is tighter than it looks on paper, as the Reds should be able to take this one quite comfortably.

Sharks v Lions­ logic would dictate that the Sharks should take this one easily, but the Lions have been playing better this season and tend to do well against other South African teams. Last year these two played out a 30 all draw. This should be a good game as both are more suited to attacking, but the Sharks should come out the best.

Bulls v Bluesanother game that should be a cracker, this is an important one for both sides. At the start of the season, I would have said that the Blues should be favourites to take this one out. This is not the case anymore as they have injuries and have lost a couple of games. Added to that is the fact that the Bulls are getting up a head of steam. They are starting to get their points machine into gear, and the best way to stop it is to score tries, something that the Blues can do with ease. Whether they will or not is a different question. The Bulls should take this one out for me.

Bye: Stormers

 

Super XV for Week Two:

15. Bernard Foley (Waratahs) 14. Corey Jane (Hurricanes) 13. Ben Tapuai (Reds) 12. Phil Burleigh (Highlanders) 11. Hosea Gear (Highlanders) 10. Mike Harris (Reds) 9. Sarel Pretorius (Waratahs) 8. Radike Samo (Reds) 7. David Pocock (Western Force) 6. Adam Thomson (Highlanders) 5. Juandre Kruger (Bulls) 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) 3. Pat Cilliers (Lions) 2. Andrew Hore (Highlanders) 1. Sona Taumalolo (Chiefs).

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