This week Brent and Dru give us a run down of what happened in the other Super Rugby matches from the weekend, and what impact they had on the final standings.
NEW ZEALAND MATCHES – by Brent Craig
Sunwolves 48-21 Blues
The Blues, having beaten the touring British & Irish Lions in their last outing, made a bright start in hot and humid Tokyo to lead 21-5 after 25 minutes. Then it all went horribly wrong. Passes were dropped, kicks were charged down, and Jerome Kaino got yellow-carded for the second week in a row. The Sunwolves took full advantage, racking up 43 points unanswered in often spectacular fashion to avoid the wooden spoon.
Official SANZAAR match page: http://www.sanzarrugby.com/superrugby/match-centre/?season=2017&competition=205&match=517174
Alternative match review (content may disturb some readers): https://www.greenandgoldrugby.com/community/threads/super-rugby-2017-matches-not-involving-australian-teams.17375/page-51#post-953090
Hurricanes 31-22 Crusaders
The Crusaders 14-match winning streak finally came to an end in Wellington on Saturday night, overwhelmed by an aggressive and committed Hurricanes side.
After initially naming six All Blacks from the recent Lions series in their 23, the Hurricanes were forced to parachute Otere Black into the 10 jersey when Beauden Barrett fell ill. An injury during the warmups then saw Jordie Barrett move from fullback to centre, Nehe Milner-Skudder from wing to fullback, and Wes Goosen from the bench to start on the wing.
The Crusaders rested their starting All Black front row entirely and had lock Sam Whitelock on the bench. No. 8 Kieran Read, however, did back up from last week’s third Lions test as did fellow forwards Wyatt Crockett and Scott Barrett, both replacements in Auckland, and fullback Israel Dagg. With recent All Blacks Matt Todd (flanker), Luke Romano (lock) and Seta Tamanivalu (wing) also starting this was still a powerful lineup.
The match began with the Hurricanes kicking off but the Crusaders immediately going on the attack, wing Seta Tamanivalu crossing in just the second minute after lock Scott Barrett and flanker Jordan Taufua made initial inroads. 5/8 Richie Mo’unga threw a lovely last pass then added the extras from the right-hand touch line.
Tamanivalu was in again after 13 minutes, this time juggling a Mo’unga offload to score in the right-hand corner. Mo’unga was astray with the kick, but at 12-0 the Crusaders appeared on track for a resounding win.
Jordie Barrett, playing in the unfamiliar 13 jersey after a late backline rejig, had other ideas, however, latching onto an Otere Black short ball and blasting through the channel being defended by the Crusaders props. Barrett also nailed the conversion and despite having little possession or territory the Hurricanes were just five adrift at the break.
It was noticeable that the Hurricanes fortunes took a turn for the better mid-half when Brad Shields stepped in to relieve official captain TJ Perenara of dealing with the referee. The two seemed to be on a collision course, Glen Jackson clearly unhappy with the abrasive Perenara’s constant back-chat.
Half time: Crusaders 12-7 Hurricanes
A pinpoint Black kick-pass created the opening try of the second half for Julian Savea, who initially fumbled the ball before recovering it to touch down. A TMO review confirmed that the ball had gone back, or at least hadn’t gone forward, and Barrett’s conversion put the ‘canes ahead for the first time with around 30 minutes remaining.
Mo’unga regained the lead with a penalty from 45 metres, a great effort in greasy conditions, and Israel Dagg extended it with a try from a scrum move and after stepping Barrett who had flown up out of the line endeavouring to make a spot tackle. Even at 22-14 after the conversion, though, it was still very much anyone’s match.
The Hurricanes struck back almost immediately with a scrum-move try of their own, halfback TJ Perenara making the snipe and popping a ball up for his wing Wes Goosen. Barrett’s sideline conversion brought the gap back to a single point inside the last 10 minutes.
Flanker Vaea Fifita struck the decisive blow, scoring off the back of an excellent run by centre Ngani Laumape to regain the lead, Barrett again banging the conversion over from near touch. Barrett then made sure of the result with three from the tee after brother Scott was penalised.
Tries: Jordie Barrett, Julian Savea, Wes Goosen, Vaea Fifita Conversions: Jordie Barrett (4) Penalty: Jordie Barrett
Tries: Seta Tamanivalu (2), Israel Dagg Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2) Penalty: Mo’unga
The loss denied the Crusaders top qualifying position (as did a last-round loss to the Hurricanes last year), but as second seed they’ll take on the seventh-placed Highlanders at AMI Stadium on Saturday night. The Hurricanes, having moved ahead of the Chiefs into fifth, have avoided the long flight to South Africa and will instead take on the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday night.
SOUTH AFRICAN MATCHES – By Dru Spork
Kings 20 Cheetahs 21
The Kings scored three tries to the Cheetahs two but the Cheetahs took the game by one point in the end taking penalties when the opportunity presented.
The Kings chose the blind side from an attacking scrum and winger Mapimpi somehow managed to stay in, nothing in it but a blade of grass, to score in the corner. Their second try was also worked from set piece – an attacking line-out mall resulted in a penalty (illegally dropped) so they repeated the line-out. The second mall was also illegally dropped but the Kings played through the advantage for Mjekevu to find a hole to the try line.
The second half saw the Cheetahs work harder on territory and kicking with the Kings responding through possession and a running game. It was only three minutes after the restart for lock Mtyanda out in the train tracks with a clear run to score. The Kings looked to be in control.
At last the Cheetah territory game had the Kings pinned in their own quarter. Continued King infringements were starting to look like testing the referee before centre Swart repeated the first try of the game, making use of the very same blade of grass. It took the Cheetahs just two more minutes for winger Rhule to score to give a two-point game.
The Cheetahs kept the Kings pinned finally resulting in penalty to take the game by one point.
Let’s put out a special mention to Japanese referee Shuhei Kubo who had a solid day and let the game flow.
We farewell these two South African franchises from Super Rugby and wish them the best from 2018 playing in Pro12/14 in Europe.
Bulls 33 Stormers 41
Woulda-coulda-shoulda. Some of us, mea culpa, had suggested in the pre-season that this game might be a play off for the conference finalist. Not even close with the Bulls having a terrible season of near Australian proportions.
The game itself was (almost) close – if you grey-out a ten minute period with the Bulls down to 10 men. On the other hand there were at least four instances of high tackles from the Bulls, with three penalties and only one with a yellow card. You make your own luck in this game.
The Stormers might have approached the game resting key players, they didn’t. They did however choose to experiment with a couple of funky moves. Two examples: Firstly, a line out where Etzebeth faked a mall setup while handing the ball through for a blind side attack. It was interesting but achieved little. Secondly, an intentionally messy grubber kick off which did create a few problems.
A couple of episodes in the game caught my eye:
A try to the Bulls in minute 17 started with the halfback getting caught in the ruck and the fly half also having to commit. Hard to praise the pigs there, but what you will see in the highlights is lock Jenkins playing at halfback with tight head van Vuuren to first receiver in a lovely back line move to the try line.
Something like minute 21-23 where Etzebeth showed why he can be considered one of the world greats. The Bulls had an attacking line-out which they turned to mall. Etzebeth was pinged for coming in the side. The Bulls repeated line-out and mall, rather than going conservative Etzebeth attacked through the middle and claimed the ball as it was being handed off to the halfback. Nice work.
Both teams played with periods of enterprise and expression. And both showed occasional lax defence. This provided for a high scoring game. Five tries to the Bulls and six to the Stormers. It may prove to be a worthwhile hit out for the Stormers however if they are to challenge the Chiefs in the quarter final, even at home, the Stormers must improve starting with their defence.
Sharks 10 Lions 27
The cynic might suggest that neither team actually wanted the Sharks to win this game. The result means they get to play each other again next week in the quarter finals, albeit with the Lions having home game advantage. The alternative may have involved the Sharks travelling to Christchurch next week.
The opening ten minutes provided the usual shake down and some messy scrums, the first scrum penalty provided the first score of the game, the Kings potted three points.
The Sharks looked very good in the first half; early on the Lions had to defend Sharks getting over the try line, but no try. With some possession it was the Lions time to roar. A line-out was repeated after a penalty (attacking man in the air), and hooker Marx guides the mall before breaking off to score under the posts.
The Lions were winning the territory battle and gained enough turnovers to make it work – but the Sharks equalizer was the scrum, they created problems for the Lions leaving Marx unable to hook on the Lions own feed. A poor 22 drop out by the Lions provided a simple run to the line; try to the Sharks winger van Wyk.
The Lions scrum continued its (poor) form with loose head van Rooyen was simply not good enough. Referee van der Westhuizen tired of dictating the game with scrum penalties and actually instructed “use it 9” for Cronje to pull the ball out of a collapsed tunnel, after the half time siren. Not just unbelievable, but four phases later it allowed the Lions to score. Lovely work involving the outside backs and then the loose forwards. Try to Coetzee but the Sharks fans are entitled to feel aggrieved. The Lions led at half time.
Two minutes in to the second half, and guess what. Yes another failed scrum, looks like a Lions issue but it is reset for the Lions to win against a Sharks feed. Two minutes more and another scrum, this time the Sharks loose head has problems and a scrum penalty was awarded to the Lions.
The second half saw the game become increasingly scrappy and relied increasingly on scrums following messy play. Scrum penalty at minute 52. Minute 55 a scrum must be reset but actually worked on the second attempt. Minute 61, bugger, knock on (another scrum). Gradually though the Lions scrum is getting the rub of the green.
The final try started with the Lions half, Cronje, semi-fumbling at the base of a scrum. A simple but effective backline put captain Jaco Kriel in so much space that he nonchalantly touches down while walking.
On the basis of the scrum alone, the Lions did not deserve this game. No doubt the Lions will be favourites for the return leg at altitude in Johannesburg. Listen up Ackermnann – the Lions are pretty much everyone’s favourite team after their home team. But I can think of one fan at least, who will get jaded if you don’t resolve the fecking scrum!
Fortunately the scrums are not featured in the highlights video.