AUCKLAND, NZ: One paragraph is all it took to set off a fair bit of reaction among a lot of fans out there in my last column, it seems not everyone (even fellow Kiwis) agree with my sentiments regarding the upcoming All Blacks/US Eagles match at Soldier Field on November 1. I’ve addressed most of that in the comments section and on the RWU Facebook page, but please feel free to air your opinions on what is a bit of a hot topic at the moment. I will get one thing straight though – I have a massive amount of respect and admiration for American sports culture and the amount of effort and ingenuity that goes into sports coverage there. This game will be played in an amazing stadium and should sell out, making for a pretty unique atmosphere. So, as I said to correspondent Karen Ritter, please get along and enjoy the team I’ve had the good fortune of being able to support my whole life.
But that’s in the future, right now we’re dealing with Super Rugby, which is still in full swing. A weekend of upsets started in Wellington on Friday when the Highlanders pipped the Hurricanes in Wellington. Boy, what a hard one this was to watch for Hurricanes fans. Plenty of kicking, one dodgy try and an injury to arguably the form first five in the country meant this game isn’t going to be getting any replays in Hurricanes territory any time soon. Some more questionable refereeing saw TJ Perenara score possibly the cheekiest try of his career by slapping the ball out of Aaron Smith’s hands and collecting to dive over, the TMO felt his hands hadn’t touched the ball. However, the Highlanders might feel a little bit of justice was served with 10 minutes to go when TJ was denied by the man upstairs for an obstruction in the lead up to what would have been the winning try. The Highlanders simple game plan paid off, their forwards winning enough territory for Hayden Parker to slot enough shots at goal to get them home. Beauden Barrett was subbed in the first half with a hip injury, the Canes will be hoping he can get back ASAP as Andre Taylor’s role as a back-up goal kicker turned out to be embarrassingly ineffective.
Highlanders 18 (Hayden Parker 5 pen dg) Hurricanes 16 (TJ Peranara try, Beauden Barrett 2 pen, Andre Taylor con pen)
Man of the match: Highlanders first five Hayden Parker is probably going to get a call from immigration services after he sealed the victory with a drop goal, which is about as un-New Zealand as you can get.
The biggest result of the weekend happened on Saturday night in Christchurch, when the Sharks not only beat the Crusaders, but did so with 14 men for the majority of the game. To make it even harder for themselves, they were down to 13 at one stage. This is a massive result for the competition leaders, for those who are unaware winning away from home has consistently the biggest setback for South African teams during Super Rugby’s history. In fact, this result marks the first win for an SA side in Christchurch for over 10 years and the Sharks first ever success there. One guy who won’t be having fond memories of it is flanker Jean Deysel, whose Riverdance recital on top of Crusaders flanker Jordan Taufua’s head earned him a walk of shame after only 16 minutes. What was even dumber than that was the inability of the Crusaders to cash in on their numerical advantage, despite another big display from first five Colin Slade. The Sharks, despite all predictions, played some enterprising footy and scored three good tries to one and must now be firming as title favorites. This win will surely mean one pretty firm hand on home field advantage, which for them is massive. The Crusaders will be left ruing a poor performance which is totally out of the blue considering their strong form lately, however all is not lost for them.
Sharks 30 (Sibusiso Sithole, Cobus Reinach, Lourens Adriaanse tries, Frans Steyn 2 con, 2 pen, Tim Swiel con, pen) Crusaders 25 (Colin Slade try, con, 6 pen)
Man of the match: Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis had a huge game, leading from the front and inspiring his troops with some legally dubious breakdown work.
Incredibly, that wasn’t even the only red card of the night, over in Brisbane the Reds went down to the lowly Rebels on the back of an eye-gouging claim that saw Queensland lock Ed O’Donoghue sent from the field. That call ultimately gave the Rebels the three points they needed to scrape home on top of a pretty gutsy performance. They weren’t without discipline problems of their own, flanker Scott Higginbotham possibly setting a record for the quickest yellow card in Super Rugby with a foolish late charge after only 48 seconds. Both teams matched each other try for try throughout the game, but the biggest ramification of this one will be the injury to Reds first five Quade Cooper, which will see him miss the Wallabies test series against France next month. The Rebels can take a bit of heart out of their first win over the Reds ever, while if the Reds were to write a book about how their 2014 season has been going so far it’s be filed in the ‘horror’ section of the library. Oh yeah, this result also means they are now last.
Melbourne Rebels 30 (Luke Burgess 2, Tom Kingston tries, Jason Woodward 3 con 3 pen) Queensland Reds 27 (Michael Harris, Greg Holmes, Ben Lucas tries Harris 2 con 2 pen, Quade Cooper con)
Man of the match: Rebels halfback Luke Burgess had a huge game, dotting down twice but unfortunately suffering a nasty injury in the process.
Another upset happened in Cape Town, where the Stormers made use of their home field advantage to knock over the high-flying Force. Maybe it was the fact that both teams uniforms looked very similar but the Force never got out of first gear and effectively handed the home side an easy win. This was highlighted when a sinbinning and penalty try occurred late in the first half, which really showed how little interest the Force really had. The Stormers can be pretty proud of their effort, the Force have knocked off more than a few good teams this year. They’ve reminded everyone that they are still a tough task at home and could be a spoiler for anyone coming to visit them in the coming weeks. The Force meanwhile probably are wondering where all their form went and how quickly they can get it back, otherwise their fairytale season will disappear quicker than Nick Cummins can spout bizarre Australian slang.
Stormers 24 (Penalty try, Ruan Botha, Juan De Jongh tries Peter Grant 3 con pen) Western Force 8 (Matt Hodgson try Sias Ebersohn pen)
Man of the match: Stormers centre Juan De Jongh reminded everyone of why he became a Springbok with a strong display.
If the Sharks thought their weekend couldn’t get any better, the match in Bloemfontein gave them an extra reason to smile as the Cheetahs knocked off the Brumbies in yet another upset. That means the Sharks open up a decent lead on the Brumbies at the top of the table. After being down a point at halftime the Cheetahs rallied to lead in the dying stages, with victory being sealed with a drop goal. The Cheetahs will be wondering where this sort of performance has been all year, if they could’ve played like this a bit more then they’d have more than one win against non-South African opposition. The Brumbies will be spewing about this result, they would’ve been targeting this weekend as the point where they moved on top of the table. Now with the Chiefs back in form they may slip out of the top two next weekend.
Cheetahs 27 (Willie le Roux try, Johan Goosen try, 4 pen, con, dg) Brumbies 21 (Robbie Coleman, Stephen Moore tries, Nic White 3 pen, con)
Man of the match: Cheetahs first five Johan Goosen finally got back into the form that saw him pull on a Springbok jersey last year.
Normal service finally returned in Sydney, where the favoured Waratahs lived up to their billing with a thrashing of the Lions. The visitors did pick up where they left off last week against the Highlanders and started strongly, however faded badly in the second half to get trounced. Perhaps someone ought to tell them the an 80 minute performance should be in one game, not spread over two. The Tahs were ruthless coming off their bye and showed they may be coming back into the form that saw them lead the comp in the first two rounds. Israel Folau didn’t cross in this game but played his part in a number of back line movements. The Lions have one last chance to salvage something out of their tour next weekend in Perth otherwise it’s it’ll be a long, sad trip home.
Waratahs 41 (Rob Horne 2, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale tries, Bernard Foley try, 5 con, 2 pen) Lions 13 (Jaco Kriel try, Marnitz Boshoff con, 2 pen)
Man of the match: Tahs first five Bernard Foley gave the Wallaby coaching staff a bit of a breather after Quade Cooper’s injury the night before with an excellent display.
The Chiefs, Blues and Bulls all had the week off, the men from Hamilton probably the most happy with all the results from the weekend. They’ll be gunning for second overall after the Brumbies slip-up. Time for this week’s awards:
Try of the week: This break out and flick pass from Frans Steyn to set up Sibusiso Sithole was awesome. Even more awesome is that I’ve figured out how to make gifs.
Performance of the week: Again, has to go to the Sharks. Playing with a man down is tough, doing it for almost the whole game should be near-impossible. Did I mention they did it against the form team of the competition too?
Idiot of the week: Out of the two players sent off this week, Ed O’Donoghue actually cost his team the game, so Jean Deysel is off the hook.
Here’s how the points table looks after Round 14:
- SA: Sharks 40 points
- Australia: Brumbies 35
- NZ: Chiefs: 35
- Waratahs 34
- Highlanders 34
- Crusaders 32
- Force 31
- Hurricanes 31
- Bulls 28
- Blues 25
- Rebels 21
- Cheetahs 20
- Stormers 19
- Lions 18
- Reds 18
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.