AUCKLAND, NZ – After a first round that could be best described as all over the show, Super Rugby (almost) resumed to normal programming this week with most games going to form. That was great for my reputation as a Super Rugby pundit – after the absolute hammering the last round’s shock results took to it. Before we rip into the recap, there’s a big story going on right now regarding new Reds recruit Karmichael Hunt. Here’s what we know:
Turns out Hunt wasn’t actually arrested, he was served with a notice to appear in court regarding drug trafficking allegations. Two players from the Gold Coast Titans NRL side (Beau Falloon and Jamie Dowling) were served with notices as well. Hunt has been stood down from the Queensland Reds and is unlikely to have any involvement in Super Rugby while the case is going on. You don’t need to be a legal genius to know that proceedings like these don’t resolve themselves quickly, so this may be the end of Hunt’s Reds career after one forgettable game. Since it’s a matter that’s before the courts, details are scarce but a lot more will be revealed after the court date of March 5. While it’s been bad news for Hunt, it’s been a productive weekend for Internet meme-makers throwing around cocaine puns like crazy.
So, should we talk about some footy now?
At Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth: Chiefs 19 (Charlie Ngatai try, Aaron Cruden 4 pen, con) Brumbies 17 (Scott Sio try, Christian Lealiifano 3 pen, Nic White pen)
The irony in the manner of which this game was won might have even raised a wry smile from the visitors, but probably not – seeing as they did quite enough to get a valuable away win against the Chiefs. The Brumbies spent 79 minutes embarrassing the home team’s scrum, gaining penalty after penalty after forcing the Chiefs’ front row to pop, collapse or just simply go backwards at a great rate of knots. But in the last play of the game, Brumbies flanker Jordan Smiler was pinged for leaving early, giving Aaron Cruden the chance to put the Chiefs in front… Earlier, the Chiefs opened the scoring with a great try to Charlie Ngatai, which was matched by a close range effort from Scott Sio. The game was nice and open in the first half, despite only having two tries. The highlights were the impressive inter-play between the Chiefs forwards. Sadly, both sides went into their shells in the second. The Brumbies should have taken a few more shots at goal given that every scrum, no matter whose feed it was, resulted in them getting a penalty while the Chiefs hands went missing.
Man Of The Match: Charlie Ngatai seemed to be beating the first tackle with ease and was well rewarded with a try. His presence in the midfield made up for the late withdrawal of SBW. Replay-Worthy? The first half was good, but the second should only be for those who enjoy watching one scrum murder another.
At AAMI Park, Melbourne: Waratahs 38 (Taqele Naiyaravoro 2, Kurtley Beale, Stephen Hoiles tries, Bernard Foley 3 con, 3 pen, Beale pen) Rebels 28 (Luke Burgess, Scott Higginbotham, Sefanaia Naivalu, Lopeti Timani tries, Mike Harris 4 con)
The Tahs bounced back to their winning ways in Melbourne in an entertaining match against a plucky Rebels side. While the end scoreline looks comfortable, the visitors had to battle all the way for their win, especially after half-man/half-monster Scott Higginbotham bashed his way over for the opening try. Now, usually when you get a chip kick embarrassingly plucked out of the air by a replacement prop in the previous game, you think to yourself, ‘I might put that one away for a while.‘ Not Kurtley Beale, who pulled off what he was trying to do last week properly and set up Stephen Hoiles to answer. The Rebels didn’t lie down and the teams went try-for-try deep into the second half. Winger Taqele Naiyaravoro picked up two impressive efforts but then getting himself sent to the bin for a professional foul. This opened up space for Rebels winger Sefanaia Naivalu to close the gap up to two points. However, Bernard Foley combined with Beale to seal the deal (see what I did there?) with a try to push the game out of the Rebels reach. Michael Cheika will be happy at the composure shown by those two and also the fact that the Tahs looked about a million times better than last week.
Man Of The Match: Kurtley Beale had a great game, putting a poor performance behind him. Replay Worthy? Absolutely, this game was punch and counter punch from start to finish.
At Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria: Hurricanes 17 (Julian Savea try, Beauden Barrett 4 pen) Bulls 13 (Handre Pollard try, con, 2 pen)
Yes, you are reading that right. The Canes are two from two, having toppled the Bulls and clocked their South African tour. It took the X-factor of All Black winger Julian Savea and some amazingly bad finishing by the Bulls (making the Idiot Of The Week a very easy selection), but the truth is the Canes deserved this win, having had the greater share of possession and territory for the whole game. In fact, the Bulls try was completely against the run of play; a very poor tackle attempt by Ben Franks off a kickoff led to a very good run upfield by Jesse Kriel. A couple of rucks later and Springbok first five Handre Pollard crashed over and converted. However, the Canes shook it off and went back to effectively managing the ball and even looked like they were going to win it all on Beauden Barrett’s boot. Pollard chimed in with a penalty to put the Bulls back in front before a moment of daring from Savea. Taking a tap five metres out, the man they call ‘The Bus‘ barged over for the winning try, taking Springboks Victor Matfield, Francois Hougaard and Bjorn Basson with him. That crucially made the points gap four, taking Pollard’s goal kicking threat out of the equation. The Bulls very nearly stole it back, but a misplaced hand by Grant Hattingh meant their winner was snuffed out by the TMO.
Man Of The Match: Canes blindside Brad Shields didn’t take a backward step against a very physical home pack. Replay Worthy? While the score was low, there was enough good play to give this one a look.
At Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin: Crusaders 26 (Scott Barrett, Johnny McNicholl tries, Colin Slade 4 pen, 2 con) Highlanders 20 (Aaron Smith, Malakai Fekitoa tries, Lima Sopoaga 2 con, 2 pen)
It was always going to be tough to match the epic played between these two at this ground last year and this game wasn’t actually as close as the scoreline suggests. That’s being a little unfair on the home side, who were desperately unlucky on a couple of occasions and could have made it a lot more interesting – had at least one pass by Lima Sopoaga not traveled forward. But it was the visiting Crusaders who started and finished better, building a 20-7 lead at halftime that was always going to be a tough ask to peg back. It would’ve been more, except first five Colin Slade was showing uncanny accuracy for hitting the uprights rather than guiding the ball through them. And Johnny McNicholl made up for a performance last week that could be best described as ‘invisible’ with a very well taken try. However, the Highlanders did manage to get on the board through star halfback Aaron Smith. The second half was all penalties; Slade edging the Crusaders out to an unassailable lead before Sopoaga banged one over on the last play to make sure the Highlanders at least went away with a bonus point.
Man Of The Match: Scott Barrett. Yeah, who? The new Crusaders lock took his opportunity with both hands, scoring a try, going close to getting another and generally being a workhorse all over the field. Keep an eye on this guy. Replay Worthy: Yes, even though the result was beyond doubt well before the final whistle.
At Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane: Reds 18 (Penalty try, Lachie Turner try, 2 pen, con) Force 6 (Sias Ebherson 2 pen)
So your team has had one of their player nicked for dealing coke, there’s a cyclone hitting the area you represent and you lose your star first five 20 minutes before kick off. Oh, plus one of your Wallaby reps gets knocked into next week and another exits with a hand injury not long into the game. How do you respond? If your the Reds last night, you dig deep and gut out a victory that may be the catalyst for turning around a franchise that’s had more than it’s share of troubles, not even including the ones last week. With bench halfback Nick Frisby starting in the 10 jersey, the Reds plunged headlong into both the Force – and the forces of nature that 15,000 brave supporters endured along with them – at Suncorp. A couple of early penalties by Lachie Turner were followed up by a a great team try that Turner himself finished. The second half saw the Reds complete their dominance by hogging all the ball and territory and, in a move that surely shows that the rugby gods feel appeased at whatever it was the Reds did to make them angry, were awarded a penalty try to close out the game after demolishing the Force’s scrum.
Man Of The Match: Nick Frisby didn’t have the flashiest game at first five, but considering the last time he played there was in a club match five years ago and that he got the job when James O’Connor pulled out just before kickoff, it was a remarkable effort. Replay Worthy? Yes, because this is one of those backs-to-the-wall kind of efforts that makes rugby such a great game.
At Newlands Stadium, Cape Town: Stormers 27 (Nic Groom, Dillyn Leyds tries, Demetri Catrakilis con, 4 pen, Kurt Coleman pen) Blues 16 (Jimmy Cowan try, Ihaia West con, 3 pen)
Both teams were in a giving mood at the start of this game, gifting each other penalty shots from handy angles to put each other on the board. However, the nice guy act finished after yet another Blues penalty set up perfect field position for the Stormers to set up camp in the Blues 22 and halfback Nic Groom to wriggle over for the opening try. Stormers number 8 Duane Vermuelen was playing his 100th Super Rugby game and was in a celebratory mood. Perhaps that’s why, in a fit of excitement one of his elbows connected with Hayden Triggs’ nose, to which Triggs responded to by launching two punches into Vermuelen’s head. Unfortunately for him all the touch judge saw was the retaliation and referee Craig Joubert had no choice but to give him a red card. The game should have been over from then on, however the Stormers couldn’t quite put the Blues away despite an excellent try to Dillyn Leyds. The Blues fought back admirably in the second half with Jimmy Cowan scoring the easiest try of his career when Luke Braid passed the ball to him, despite having already crossed the line himself. After that the Stormers seemed content to grind out the win and force as many time-consuming scrums and line outs as possible. One odd feature of this game was the successful Blues tactic of not even engaging the Stormers mauls, which led to a ridiculous situation of both teams standing around dead still waiting for the ref to do something.
Man Of The Match: Stormers fullback Cheslin Kolbe looked dangerous with the limited opportunities he got, if they can give him some more ball he will be a real threat. Replay Worthy? Not really aside from Leyds’ try, however fans of Blues winger Ben Lam should keep a copy of this as he had to pack down at flanker when Triggs was given an early shower.
At Kings Park, Durban: Sharks 29 (Marcell Coetzee 2, Odwa Ndungane, Cobus Reinach tries, Pat Lambie 3 con, pen) Lions 12 (Marnitz Boshoff 4 pen)
The Sharks got their season back on track with a win over the hapless Lions in a rain-effected match. Pat Lambie showed his class and decision-making ability by utilizing an effective kick-pass to returning winger Odwa Ngdungane to open the scoring. Cobus Reinach then extended the lead and the impressive cheekiness of South African halfbacks over the weekend by darting over following a five metre scrum. Even though the deficit was only nine points at half time, the writing was on the wall for the Lions, who simply just couldn’t get anything going and were never going to win on Marnitz Boshoff’s boot alone. The home side saved it’s brutish best till last; big flanker Marcell Coetzee the beneficiary of two well-executed line out drives. By now they were chasing the four try bonus point but the awful weather meant it was a bridge too far when SP Marais couldn’t quite hang on to another Lambie cross-kick.
Man Of The Match: Pat Lambie put on the second good display by a first five in tough conditions, laying on the first try and kicking well. Replay Worthy? It was a tough watch given the constant rain, so not really.
SA: Stormers 8 points
NZ: Hurricanes 8
AUS: Brumbies 6
Waratahs, Rebels, Sharks, Force, Cheetahs 5
Crusaders, Reds 4
Bulls, Blues, Highlanders 1
Try of the Week: Even though it was a game blighted by a red card, Dillyn Leyds still lit up the Stormers win over the Blues with this stunning kick return
Performance of the Week: Has to go to the Reds. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything that DIDN’T happen to them in the lead up to this game, so to come out and beat a team that had just knocked off the defending champs is praise-worthy indeed.
Idiot Of The Week: To all kids out there: this is why you shift the ball into the arm closest to the touchline. Replacement loose forward Grant Hattingh should have won the game for the Bulls, but foolishly led with his left hand went he dove in to score. Problem was his hand hit the touch in goal line first. Whoops.
A sense of normalcy back into Super Rugby in week two, what did you make of it? I’ll be back during the week to preview round three.
That’s it for now. Feel free to add your thoughts below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Jamie Wall, Junoir Blaber, James Harrington, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Scheenagh Harrington, Jake Frechette, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd, Karen Ritter and Declan Yeats, respectively.