AUCKLAND, NZ: Week 13 was Mother’s Day round, my Mum spent the weekend freaking out that I’d been concussed because I tried to tackle a guy with my head in our game yesterday. X-rays revealed no damage due to the hit, but the doctor did give me some tackling advice. Thanks Doc! Hope you all had slightly less painful experiences over the weekend, watching footy is far safer so let’s recap what happened there:
Last week the Blues made a statement by pounding the Reds. On Friday night in New Plymouth however, the Chiefs made a statement of their own by putting a beatdown on the Blues. The champs shot out a warning of their capability by rolling a heavily favoured Blues outfit, and doing it in style. They ran in four tries, including two by prop Ben Tameifuna while the Blues wasted a good start by letting the home team win the set piece and dominate the rest of the game. A massive blow for the Blues was a serious injury to star fullback Charles Piutau, who will miss the All Blacks June test matches. The Chiefs will welcome back first five and captain Aaron Cruden next week, so they’re only going to get better. Will that put a smile on coach Dave Rennie’s face? Probably not, seeing as he is the grumpiest man in world rugby.
Chiefs 32 (Ben Tameifuna 2, Tim Nanai Williams, Tom Marshall tries, Gareth Anscombe 3 con, 2 pen) Blues 20 (Lolagi Visinia, George Moala tries, Simon Hickey 2 pen, con, Ihaia West con)
Man of the match: He’s not built like a modern-day crash and bash centre, but Tim Nanai-Williams keeps proving that he’s got more than enough skills to make a difference at this level.
Later on Friday night the Hurricanes put in a text-book display of how to avoid a potential banana-skin game by clinically dispatching the Rebels in Melbourne. While it wasn’t the high-scoring affair it could have been, the Canes showed they can grind out a close victory which will be a useful trait if they make the playoffs. They only scored one try, but it was enough to win the coveted try-of-the-week award (see below). The Rebels pushed hard and probably deserved better, but are making what must be an annoying habit of hanging around in games but never doing enough to get a win. The Canes will be sweating on an injury to All Black hooker Dane Coles, who is having a strong run of form lately. They’ll return to a series of crucial derby matches and hopefully Wellingtonians will get out and give them the support they deserve. As for the Rebels, time to start looking forward to next season unfortunately. Their policy of taking players the Hurricanes didn’t want almost worked, with Jason Woodward and Tamati Ellison scoring two thirds of their points.
Hurricanes 25 (Conrad Smith try, Beauden Barrett 6 pen, con) Melbourne Rebels 15 (Bryce Hegarty, Tamati Ellison tries, Jason Woodward pen, con)
Man of the match: Hurricanes prop Reggie Goodes made the most of his starting cap with a strong showing across the park.
Saturday night kicked off in Dunedin, where a strange game played out between the Highlanders and Lions. Strange because the Highlanders forgot that rugby has two halves and only bothered to play one. Up 23-0 at halftime, the home team completely switched off for the rest of the game and let the Lions come within a point of snatching a major upset. Normally reliable Lions first five Maritz Boshoff had a shocker with the boot, only landing one conversion, which unfortunately proved the difference in the end. The Lions could feel a little hard done by as they appeared to have a legitimate claim to getting a re-kick on the last conversion, but yet another dodgy ref’s call ruled it out. Unfortunately there’s been a few of those this year.
Highlanders 23 (Richard Buckman 2, Gareth Evans tries, Hayden Parker pen, con, dg) Lions 22 (Faf de Klerk, Lionel Mapoe, Armand van der Merwe, Courtnall Skosan tries; Marnitz Boshoff con)
Man of the match: Highlanders winger Richard Buckman might have cut off his flowing mullet but it didn’t stop him from scoring a couple of excellent tries.
The big game of the round was straight afterwards in Canberra, where the Brumbies downed the Sharks in a clash of the top two teams. This could be a pre-cursor to the final, or playoff at least, so both teams played like it. There was only one try in the game scored by inform Brumbies lock Sam Carter and ultimately that’s what decided this game, the rest being shots at goal. The kicking wasn’t just confined to being off the tee, this one was so dominated by the boot you’d have been forgiven for thinking you were watching a game of force-back. While this is standard fare from the Sharks, it was a pretty disappointing path to victory from the otherwise entertaining Brumbies outfit. If these two teams do get to the final let’s hope it’s a better game than this was.
ACT Brumbies 16 (Sam Carter try, Christian Leali’ifano con 3 pen) Sharks 9 (Francois Steyn 3 pen)
Men of the match: The ball-boys.
Over in South Africa the action started in Bloemfontein, where the Force came off their bye and dispatched the Cheetahs. This was a pretty important win for the Force, who are in an incredible position of being playoff contenders at the expense of the Waratahs if they can keep up this sort of form. The game itself was close, with the Cheetahs throwing everything at the Force in the dying stages. However, building an early lead and defending your way to victory is a championship quality trait and that’s what the Force displayed. Unfortunately for those watching it wasn’t a Cheetahs trademark defensive disaster, the men in orange have been showing a bit of fortitude in the tackle lately which is great for their for and against record but terrible for my joke repertoire. How inconsiderate of them. The Force have one more game in SA before their run home on their breakout season. The Cheetahs aren’t going anywhere other than up one place on the table to second-to-last.
Western Force 23 (Nick Cummins, Jayden Hayward tries, Sias Ebersohn 2 con 3 pen) Cheetahs 16 (Boom Prinsloo try, Johan Goosen con 3 pen)
Man of the match: Force first five Sias Ebersohn came back to bite his former team on the ass with a kicking display that ultimately proved the difference in this game.
Two more South African sides squared up in Pretoria next, where the Bulls took out the Stormers in a clinical performance. The home team did what they do best, kicking and tackling their way into a tactical advantage and waiting for the other team to make a mistake. That was, however, after they’d made a couple of mistakes themselves and gifted the Stormers a couple of tries. They regathered their composure and ground out what might be an important win, although it’s highly likely no matter how well they do they won’t be able to make the wildcard criteria. The Stormers drop back down below the Cheetahs to last place, their miserable season starting to feel like one of those memories you where you give yourself a face palm and change the subject when mentioned.
Bulls 28 (Akona Ndungane try, Handre Pollard conversion, 5 pen dg, Jacques-Louis Potgieter pen), Stormers 12 (Kurt Coleman, Juan de Jongh tries, Coleman con)
Man of the match: Bulls first five Handre Pollard has a 100% day with the boot, adding to an impressive season so far for the former Springbok U-20 player. Higher honors this season maybe?
Sunday night in Brisbane was a welcome change to the schedule when the Crusaders put an absolute beatdown on the hapless Reds. It was a slow-burning execution for the home side, the Crusaders even let them lead at halftime by a point but then turned on the blowtorch to score at will in the second half. In a way this game really reflected the Crusaders season so far, showing glimpses of promise early then coming good later on. They crossed for six tries overall and entertained the big crowd in at Suncorp Stadium, who wouldn’t have expected much from the Reds, really. Two weeks in a row now the Crusaders have destroyed Australian teams and the rumblings coming out of their camp are sounding like they can only get better. It’ll be a massive match when they meet the Hurricanes in a few weeks, the way the conference is going that may decide one playoff spot. The Reds all better start worrying about if they are going to make the Wallabies now because their playoff hopes went up in smoke weeks ago.
Crusaders 57 (Nemani Nadolo 2, Johnny McNicholl 2, Wyatt Crockett, Luke Whitelock tries, Colin Slade 6 con 5 pen) Queensland Reds 29 (Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, Dom Shipperley, Rod Davies, Rob Simmons tries, Quade Cooper pen 3 con)
Man of the match: Nemani Nadolo keeps giving reasons why he could be the find of the season, especially considering the two tries this week were against his Dad’s old team.
The Waratahs had the week off and instead of chilling out at Bondi beach were probably nervously watching a few other results that could have ramifications for their playoff hopes. It looks like it’ll come down to them or the Force coming in behind the Brumbies in the Australian Conference. Rumour has it if they don’t make the playoffs Nutbar coach Michael Cheika will flip out and spend the rest of his life punching things.
Here’s the weekly awards:
Try of the week: The Hurricanes only got one against the Rebels, but it was a classic. Great work by Andre Taylor followed by a pinpoint cross-kick.
Performance of the week: While the Crusaders dazzled their way to a 50-pointer, the Chiefs reminded everyone that they are very much alive and on top of the table on Friday night.
Idiot of the week: Sadly I have to give this one to the man in the middle this week, with the muddled way the Lions loss to the Highlanders was handled. The Lions can feel pretty ripped off here, the Highlanders all advanced before Elton Jantjes kicked his ultimately unsuccessful conversion attempt. You’d think this would be a pretty easy call given that it happened so recently in a test match. Referee Angus Gardner, give yourself an uppercut.
Standings after round 12:
- South Africa: Sharks 36 points
- NZ: Chiefs 35
- Australia: Brumbies 34
- Crusaders 31
- Force 27
- Hurricanes 26
- Highlanders 30
- Waratahs 29
- Bulls 28
- Blues 25
- Lions 18
- Rebels 17
- Reds 17
- Cheetahs 16
- Stormers 15
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@:RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Jaime Loyd, DJ Eberle, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.