AUCKLAND, NZ: Things went to form this weekend in Super Rugby, how else can I explain how I managed to predict every result and even a few of the players I told you to watch came good? Now that I’ve given a plug for my psychic abilities, let’s go to our Round 9 Super Rugby Review:
First up on Friday night we were in Dunedin where the Highlanders hosted the Bulls. The Highlanders are enjoying playing at home at the moment, as they’re fashioning a handy record in their roofed stadium. The real story of this game is the breakout performance of centre Malakai Fekitoa, who set up one try and scored one himself. With the sun probably due to set on Conrad Smith’s international career in the next few seasons, we may be seeing his successor to a black jersey right here. The duo of Aaron and Ben Smith were again outstanding for the home team as well, Ben pulling off probably the cover tackle of the season so far. The Bulls will be pretty disappointed with a loss here, they dominated large parts of this game and scored a couple of good tries. Senior citizens Brad Thorn and Victor Matfield both managed to get through the match without their pacemakers failing, which was good to see.
Highlanders 27 (Lima Sopoaga, Gareth Evans, Malakai Fekitoa tries, Sopoaga 2 pen, 3 con) Bulls 20 (Bjorn Basson, Marcel van der Merwe tries; Jacques-Louis Potgieter 2 pen, 2 con)
Man of the match: Malakai Fekitoa was outstanding. Since the Blues had the bye they had plenty of time to watch the guy they cut from their squad put in a classy all round performance.
The late game on Friday was in Brisbane, where the Reds took on the Brumbies. The Brumbies got out of the blocks early in this one and it proved costly for the hosts, who found themselves down 17-0 early on. Two well taken tries and some accurate goal-kicking set the platform for a strong defensive effort in the second half as the Reds threw everything at the Brumbies. Unfortunately this game will be remembered for a controversial non-call by referee Steve Walsh, who decided that Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore’s 49th minute punch of flanker Ed Quirk for holding him in a ruck was not only legitimate, but Quirk did enough to be penalized and therefore resulting in a try by Will Genia being disallowed. Given that the game came down to 3 points, there’s little wonder the home fans were incensed enough for the local broadcaster to abandon their on-field interviews after the game for fear of Moore being pelted with beer bottles, snakes, koalas and whatever else angry Queenslanders like to get their hands on.
Brumbies 23 (Scott Fardy, Joe Tomane tries, Nic White 2 con, 3 pen) Reds 20 (Ed Quirk, Beau Robinson tries, Quade Cooper 2 con, 2 pen)
Man of the Match: Brumbies flanker Jordan Smiler had an industrious night, being part of a loose trio that laid the foundation for the big early lead.
On Saturday night the action started in Hamilton, where the Chiefs met the Rebels. The Chiefs got the win that’s been eluding them for a month, but definitely not the way they wanted. They were frustrated by a Rebels side who hung around like a bad smell and took the game right to full-time, without actually looking like they were any chance of winning. Two players dominated this game, the Rebels Jason Woodward and another Blues reject Gareth Anscombe. They both sent a fair share of shots through the uprights and made sure the linesmen had sore arms the next day. Both sides got a try each, but this match about as forgettable as Hangover Part 3.
Chiefs 22 (Michael Fitzgerald try, Gareth Anscombe 5 pen, con) Melbourne Rebels 16 (Shota Horie try, Jason Woodward 3 pen, con).
Man of the Match: Filling in for Aaron Cruden, Chiefs first five Gareth Anscombe had a perfect night with the boot. In fact, watching him kicking was the highlight, that’s how boring this game was.
Later on Saturday the big game was in Perth, where the Force went into battle against the Waratahs. The Force stormed to their 5th straight win of the comp in front of a packed home crowd, stunning the Tahs who were already reeling from having to sideline star fullback Israel Folau due to a direct ARU order. The Force unleashed their own, very different star back Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins, who dotted down three times and made sure he’s not just known for absurd aftermath interviews. The big winger had two very long range efforts off Tahs mistakes and another set up by halfback Alby Mathewson for good measure. Things aren’t quite at panic stations yet for the Tahs, but they’ll be fuming at having to rest their best player. Bad news for the Bulls is he’ll be back next week. The Force are firmly now the fairytale team of this season, hopefully it’s one with a happy ending.
Western Force 28 (Nick Cummins 3 tries, Sias Ebersohn 2 con, 3 pen) NSW Waratahs 16 (Kurtley Beale try, Bernard Foley con, pen, Beale 2 pen)
Man of the Match: Has to be ridiculous Force winger Nick Cummins. Because he’s ridiculously good.
On Sunday morning attention turned to Bloemfontein, where the Cheetahs took on the Crusaders. It’s not much of a prediction to say that any game this year involving the Cheetahs will see a lot of points scored, so I’m not going to brag about calling this one early. However, I am pretty pleased my man to watch Crusaders wing Nemani Nadolo got the second hat trick of the weekend here, his three tries being the difference in what was a much closer game than the scoreline suggests. The Cheetahs were in front 31-26 with 15 to go before Nadolo got his hands on the ball and shot the scoreline over the 50-point mark. This is a pretty important result for the Crusaders, who proved they win the arm wrestles last week, now they came out on top in a shoot out. The Cheetahs should probably start figuring out a new thing to be known for, I’m running out of jokes to describes their awful defense.
Crusaders 52 (Nemani Nadolo 3, Tom Taylor, Israel Dagg, Colin Slade tries, Slade 4 con, 4 pen, Tyler Bleyendaal con) Cheetahs 31(Cornal Hendricks, Sarel Pretorius, Teboho Mahoje, Willie le Roux tries, Elgar Watts 4 cons, pen)
Man of the Match: One of the forgotten men of NZ rugby, Colin Slade had a massive return to form in this one. That’s great to see, given that we’re all just happy to get through a match without sustaining a serious injury.
The weekend wrapped up in Johannesberg with the Lions meeting the Sharks. Sadly this was a pretty drab ending to week 9 as these two teams unfortunately put on a South African derby so boring it made the Chiefs/Rebels match look like high drama. One try in this one to Lwazi Mvovo, who seems to be enjoying his time at fullback, was as good as it got in this snorefest. The Sharks climb back up the top of the table thanks to this result, while the Lions are going to have to start targeting which games they need to win to avoid being an afterthought this season.
Sharks 25 (Lwazi Mvovo try, Frans Steyn 4 pen, con, Fred Zeilinga 2 pen) Lions 12 (Marnitz Boshoff 4 pen)
Man of the Match: Whoever figured this game was a waste of time to watch and left early.
The Blues, Hurricanes and Stormers had the week off, which gave Mark Hammett time to browse the situations vacant section. Here’s the weekly awards:
Try of the week: Nick Cummins’ second try against the Waratahs was from a standing start and ended with him fighting his way over the line.
Idiot of the Week: Anyone who bothered to sit through the entirety of the Chiefs/Rebels or Lions/Sharks games.
Another week down in Super Rugby! I’m looking forward to making some more predictions on Thursday when I’ll have the week 10 preview up. If anyone did actually make some monetary gain out of my advice, spend it wisely…on beer.