Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (12/4/12)

The Drawing Board (12/4/12)

Welcome to Who’s Playing Who?’s weekly rugby blog. Another week goes by and another round of action continues in this year’s Super Rugby competition. The shops may have been closed for Easter, but the rugby continued unabated.  The general trend of this competition continued, with close matches and few genuine thrashings. Of concern is that the new conference system is not promoting the best teams into playoff contention. My concern is based on the fact that the best Australian side (the Brumbies on 19 points) would not be in the top 6 if it was done under the previous system. However, there is a long way to go in this competition and this may correct itself.  It is still interesting to note though, that the Australian conference is not as strong as it was last year. Granted that the Brumbies, Reds and Waratahs are still right in the mix of things, they are failing to consistently beat South African and New Zealand sides. To back this up with some stats, they have lost 10 out of the 14 matches played against foreign teams. This will need to be addressed quickly by the Australian teams if they want to be in contention come playoff time.

Super Wrap

This weekend saw a rare Thursday night game being played, most likely to keep in line with the long weekend. There was a bit of biff this weekend as well, with a couple of tiffs occurring in this round. The table is still quite tight and congested in the middle, but there is a bit of a breakaway forming now at the top of the table.

Rebels 34 – 23 Blues

The Rebels caused a bit of an upset as they managed to beat the more fancied Blues on the Thursday night game. The short turn around did not affect the Rebels, with James O’Conner playing a starring role.  Starting at inside-centre, the Wallabies international bagged a crucial try as well as five penalties and a brace of conversions.  The defeat now leaves the Blues in a really bad place, as they are now at the bottom of the NZ conference table.  Kurtley Beale got the hosts underway with an 80-metre interception after 10 minutes and the Rebels led 11-9 at the break after Gareth Anscombe’s three penalties for the Blues.

Inspired by an outstanding defensive effort, the Rebels continued the good work in the second half. There was an early setback for them though, as Rudi Wulf rounded off good work by Rene Ranger for the Blues’ first try. O’Connor waltzed over after a strong run by Mark Gerrard and good support from hooker Ged Robinson, with skipper Gareth Delve’s close-range try at the death enough to secure victory after Blues flanker Chris Lowrey had set pulses racing with a 76th-minute score off a solid scrum.

Hurricanes 42 – 18 Sharks

The Hurricanes made a real statement of intent as they punished the Sharks. They effectively had the Sharks out of the game by half time, with some well taken long range tries and one from the forwards. Andre Taylor and Julian Savea showed superb pace to finish either side of an effort from flanker Jack Lam, one of two contentious TMO decisions to go the way of the hosts.

The Sharks bit back immediately after the break with a well-taken JP Pietersen try but Conrad Smith, the All Black centre, dived in out wide five minutes later to seal the bonus point, again with a little help from the video referee. Tim Bateman extended the Hurricanes’ lead after re-gathering his own chip ahead to beat Riaan Viljoen, before hooker Craig Burden, in for Bismarck du Plessis, crashed over in the corner to further cut the deficit for the visitors. A stunning piece of skill from Smith then allowed Jeremy Thrush to crash over at the death, setting the seal on a good display.

Reds 20 – 13 Brumbies

The Reds managed to salvage something out of a disastrous tour as they managed to keep the Brumbies in check at the top of the Australian conference. Wallabies back-rower Scott Higginbotham was the star of the show in the first-half, twice popping up on the wing to score tries as the Reds established a 14-0 lead at the interval. Starting at No.8, the 25-year-old showed pace and power to finish on both occasions, the second after a miracle pass from Rod Davies.

Reds fly-half Sam Lane, on debut and under guidance from water boy Quade Cooper, slotted both conversions and a brace of second-half penalties to secure victory, although the latter stages were struggle for the champions. With Liam Gill’s sin-binning after an hour came a Brumbies fightback, Joseph Tomane crashing through two tackles to score, but the visitors could not find a killer blow as Lane knocked over his last kick on the hooter.

Force 12 – 20 Chiefs

The Chiefs managed to keep atop the New Zealand conference with a valuable away win against the Force. The Force made a game of it though, as they kept it tight for most of the game. However, the Chiefs are looking really good this year, and have shown that they can grind out wins if they need to.

One-cap All Black Lelia Masaga scored the only try of the first-half, darting over off a good angle, with two penalties from Force fullback David Harvey enough to ensure a tight 7-6 lead for the visitors at the break. Seven minutes into the second-half the lead was extended with Tim Nanai-Williams’ well-taken score but a lack of discipline at the breakdown hurt the Chiefs, who conceded two more penalties to Harvey before closing out victory with some rugged defence and a couple of kicks from Aaron Cruden.

Highlanders 6 – 21 Stormers

The Stormers managed to get their tour underway in the best possible way with a solid victory over the Highlanders. Tries from Gio Aplon and Joe Pietersen helped them on their way with Pietersen and Peter Grant also adding points from the boot. Pietersen got the scoreboard ticking over after just five minutes with a penalty. And they stretched their lead in the 12th minute through Springboks flyer Aplon who dotted the ball down. Chris Noakes pinned the Stormers back with a penalty for the home side but their joy proved to be short-lived. Pietersen’s score in the 31st minute for the Stormers was one of the scores of the season as he started and finished a length-of-the-field move.

Noakes’ 38 minute penalty proved to be the Highlanders last score of the match with the boot of Grant stretching the Stormers’ advantage in the second 40. They had hooker Tiaan Liebenberg sin-binned in the 65th minute but the home side failed to get any points on the board with the loudest cheer of the second 40 saved for Jimmy Cowan who came onto the field for his 100th appearance for the home side in the 56th minute.

Cheetahs 26 – 5 Lions

The Cheetahs maintained their surge up the table with an impressive win over the lowly Lions. They did most of the damage in the first half, with their replacements failing to keep up the attacking momentum. However, they managed to put up a superb defensive effort to keep the Lions out, which bodes well for the future.

Centre Robert Ebersohn scored twice in the first half as the Cheetahs raced into a 23-0 lead by half time with fly-half Johan Goosen converting both tries as well as landing three penalties. The hosts’ momentum was hindered by a raft of changes early in the second half but their defence remained tight as they gave up a solitary try to the Lions’ Cobus Grobbelaar. Replacement Sias Ebersohn added a further penalty for the Cheetahs.

Bulls 32 – 30 Crusaders

The Bulls and Crusaders played out a thrilling encounter in which the Bulls just managed to hang on, despite a brave comeback by the Crusaders. Morne Steyn kicked 22 points to lead the Bulls to victory.  The Bulls trailed 13-6 minutes before half time after Dan Carter landed a penalty and a drop goal as well as converting No.8 Kieran Read’s seventh-minute try. However Steyn slotted a penalty just before the break – adding to his previous two successful kicks – to send the Bulls in with their tails up and just for points behind.

Two minutes after half-time Steyn added his fourth penalty of the game before prop Dean Greyling barged over to put the hosts ahead, with the Springbok fly-half adding the conversion. Replacement Tom Taylor landed a penalty second after taking the field to reduce the Bulls’ lead but Steyn responded by smashing over two further three-points. Wynand Olivier dotted down for the Bulls with 11 minutes remaining and Steyn converted to all-but seal the victory. The Crusaders though fought back with wing Zac Guildford darting over for the visitors and Carter adding the conversion. Crusaders’ hopes of a remarkable comeback heighted when replacement Tom Marshall touched down and Carter converted with two minutes left. But the Bulls held on to seal their fourth victory of the season and maintain their pursuit of the Stormers. While the Crusaders slumped to their third defeat, leaving them struggling near the bottom of the New Zealand conference.

Bye: Waratahs

Congratulations to:

  • Jimmy Cowan – who played his 100th game for the Highlanders this weekend.
  • Jason Rutledge, Duanne Vermeulen and Zac Guildford – who all ran out for the 50th time for their respective franchises.
  • Johan Goosen – who became the first player to score 100 Super Rugby points this season.
  • James O`’Connor – whose 24 points in the game against the Blues is the Rebels’ new franchise record.

Tips:

Blues v Sharks – The Blues and Sharks will be desperate for a win. The Blues are in the middle of a bad start, whilst the Sharks will be looking for another away win. The Blues have not gelled as a team yet, and are up against it this week. The Sharks should be too good for this one for mind.

Force v Waratahs – The Waratahs are fresh off a bye and will be looking for a win to keep their title hopes on track. They run into a Force side that is still trying to find consistence. They have the forward pack to do the job, but not the backline. They managed to pull a victory off last time these two met, but I can’t see the Waratahs losing twice to the Force.

Crusaders v Stormers – The game of the round promises to be a cracker, with the Stormers travelling well and the Crusaders coming back from a long haul flight. The Crusaders have shown much promise, but have yet to deliver. The Stormers have been on top of their game so far this season. I think that the Stormers should just edge this.

Brumbies v Rebels – On form, the Brumbies should take this one quite easily. Form has not made a difference in this competition though, so don’t be surprised by the Rebels. They have been steadily improving and are looking better than last year. Brumbies should take this one for me though.

Cheetahs v Chiefs – This is a game that should be worth staying up for. They’re both playing some attractive rugby and the Cheetahs know they have everything to gain from this one, so expect them to throw the ball around again. The Chiefs should take this one in my books, as much as I would love a Cheetahs victory.

Lions v Bulls – The Bulls are playing really good rugby and should take this one with ease.

Bye: Highlanders

Super XV for week seven:
15. Andre Taylor (Hurricanes) 14. Lelia Masaga (Chiefs) 13. Nick Cummins (Force) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs) 11. Zac Guidford (Crusaders) 10. Aaron Cruden (Chiefs) 9. Francois Hougaard (Bulls) 8. Kieran Reid (Crusaders) 7. Scott Higginbotham (Reds) 6. Siya Kolisi (Stormers) 5. Andries Bekker (Stormers) 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) 3. WP Nel (Cheetahs) 2. Andrew Hore (Highlanders) 1. Arizona Taumalolo (Chiefs).

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