With Australia and South Africa having started their international seasons, and the Lions tour of New Zealand underway, there was just the one Super Rugby match this week. As with last week’s lone un-Australian match, though, it was a case of quality over quantity.
Chiefs 17-7 Hurricanes
With neither side able to secure a home quarter final, both were looking to improve their chances of only having to travel to Canberra rather than Cape Town. That’s not so much about preferring to play the Brumbies than the Stormers, as the improbability of winning in South Africa one week and back in Australasia the next.
The Hurricanes came out firing and were soon on the board through lock Vaea Fifita who powered over from a series of rucks after the ‘canes had pushed the Chiefs off their scrum feed to win an attacking reset. Jordie Barrett added the extras from a handy position for 7-0 with five minutes gone.
The Chiefs then launched multiple raids, two of which came up just short of the line with a lost ball and forward pass, respectively, while the Hurricanes continued to push up hard in defence and pounce on any loose ball on offer. Entertaining stuff but nothing to trouble the scorers.
The Chiefs’ opening try came from an unusually aimless Beauden Barrett kick with No. 8 Liam Messam and centre Charlie Ngatai combining to put their 5/8 Aaron Cruden in. Fullback Damian McKenzie made it 7-7 after 25 minutes.
A monster Chiefs scrum in the 35th minute earned them a turnover reset 5m from the ‘canes line and adjacent to the posts but their “lefto” was snuffed out by some solid D and the ‘canes swung back onto attack with a series of short-passing rushes. Halfback TJ Perenara made what should have been a try-assist break but his prop Chris Eves couldn’t reel in what was a fairly catchable pass.
Half time: 7-7
A ruck penalty just outside the ‘canes 22 gave McKenzie a chance to break the deadlock with half an hour remaining, but he hooked it left. Numerous Hurricanes raids also came to nought through a mixture of superb Chiefs defence, some ‘canes handling yips, and some rather odd refereeing such as Chiefs lock Dominic Bird winning a turnover whilst clearly seated upon another player.
A sensational break from centre Anton Lienert-Brown carried the Chiefs deep into ‘Canes territory but a stupidly dangerous and unnecessary cleanout from lock Michael Allardice undid the good work as he was yellow carded on the 60 minute mark.
Chiefs wing James Lowe finally broke the impasse with a nicely taken try from a scrum move and a superb step from replacement midfielder Shaun Stevenson. McKenzie’s conversion went in off the post for a vital 14-7 lead with 15 minutes remaining.
An excellent James Lowe kick forced Jordie Barrett to carry into the teeth of a concerted Chiefs chase that isolated him and forced a penalty that McKenzie nailed to extend the lead to 17-7. Almost immediately the ‘canes won a penalty of their own and engineered a try to wing Wes Goosen, converted by Jordie Barrett to close the gap to 17-14 points into the last three minutes.
The match ended with the Chiefs hot on attack and winning a penalty they could easily have kicked but, the siren having sounded and unlikely to deny the ‘canes a losing bonus point, they opted to tap it and kick it out.
For the Chiefs: tries Cruden, Lowe; con McKenzie (2); pen McKenzie
For the Hurricanes: try Fifita, Goosen; con J Barrett (2).
The result sees the Hurricanes, who have the Crusaders left to play, maintain second place in the New Zealand Conference but by just a point from the Chiefs who have the Brumbies as their final opponent.
LIONS TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND
Lions 16-22 Blues
The Lions dominated at set piece and carried well but were undone by a poor kicking game that turned possession over too often and for too little gain, and two quintessentially Blues tries.
The first came from a missed penalty rebounding off the posts, being propelled back in-goal by a Lions hand, and Sonny Bill Williams winning the race to the ball. The second came from a bolt-from-the-blue Steven Luatua break, a trademark Sonny Bill offload, and a weaving Ihaia West run to the line for the clincher.
Match report & highlights: https://www.greenandgoldrugby.com/british-irish-lions-v-auckland-blues/
Lions 12-3 Crusaders
It was far from pretty but the Lions ground out a 12-3 win over the Crusaders in Christchurch and will likely feel their tour is back on track, after threatening to derail with the midweek loss to The Blues and unconvincing win over the Provincial Barbarians.
The scoring was all from the tee, Owen Farrell kicking four in the 12th, 16th, 30th and 70th minutes, and having one appear to go over the top of the upright in the 45th. Richie Mo’unga got the Crusaders only points of the night in the 24th minute.
Match report & highlights: https://www.greenandgoldrugby.com/lions-pride-restored-in-christchurch/
Un-Australian Activities will be back at the end of June when the African Group resumes. Until then, enjoy the international season.