AUCKLAND, NZ – On a weekend where all eyes in this part of the world are focused on the cavernous Melbourne Cricket Ground and the impending Cricket World Cup Final, Super Rugby snuck past with some reasonably predictable results. The Canes kept winning, the Lions claimed another road victory and the Blues…let’s not talk about the Blues, OK?
At Westpac Stadium, Wellington: Hurricanes 36 (Nehe Milner-Skudder 2, TJ Perenara, Cory Jane, Callum Gibbins tries, Jason Woodward 4 con, pen) Rebels 12 (Mike Harris 4 pen)
Six from six. Yes, read that again if you can’t believe it. The team whose modus operandi for the past 19 years has been inconsistency keeps rolling on, producing one of their most clinical displays in hammering the Rebels. Although they crossed for five very well-worked tries, the most important thing the Canes can look back on this performance for was their defense. The Rebels spent long periods in possession and all they could come away with was four Mike Harris penalties, with the home team ruthlessly snuffing out any attacks. The Canes rested a host of their stars but that didn’t stop the fill-ins from lighting it up, James Marshall had a good game at first five and flanker Callum Gibbins was well-rewarded with a try. Man Of The Match: Nehe Milner-Skudder is a mouthful for the commentators but he’s more than a handful for opposition tacklers, gashing the Rebels for two tries. Replay Worthy? Yes, the Canes scored some excellent tries.
At Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane: Lions 18 (Harold Vorster, Warwick Tecklenburg tries, Elton Jantjies 2 pen, con) Reds 17 (Samu Kerevi, penalty try, Quade Cooper 2 con, pen)
Seems like if you’ve got a team name that was obviously thought up by someone with the creative ability of a doorknob then you’re having a tough time of it in 2015. Like the Blues, the Reds have found another way to disappoint their fans by not just losing to the lowly Lions, but doing it at home as well. Unlike the Blues encounter, where they were just the least worst team on the field, the Lions showed some real guts and initiative in this one, gaining the lead early through a spectacular Harold Vorster effort. They did lose Ruan Combrinck to the sin bin in the second half and conceded a penalty try off a scrum, but maintained their composure to keep the scoreline low. The Reds did get in front for a brief period, but this was snuffed out by the winning Elton Jantjies penalty. Man Of The Match: Lions flanker Warwick Tecklenburg was the pick of a very efficient loose trio. Replay Worthy: Yes, it wasn’t all pretty, but still worth a look to see an unfenced team getting the job done.
At Waikato Stadium, Hamilton: Chiefs 37 (Michael Leitch, Liam Messam, Sam Cane, Andrew Horrell tries, Aaron Cruden 4 con, 3 pen) Cheetahs 27 (Heinrich Brussow 2, Boom Prinsloo tries, Joe Pietersen 2 con, 2 pen Willie du Plessis con)
Remember a few weeks back there was all that confusion around whether or not you can simply not defend a lineout drive? The Chiefs and Cheetahs combined to show the rugby world how definitely NOT to incorporate the tactic into their game plan, with both attempts to stand off and draw a free kick hilariously resulting in easy tries being scored against them. The most amazing thing is that after the Cheetahs watched Liam Messam stroll up the middle of the field after they didn’t engage the maul, the Chiefs did exactly the same thing close to their line allowing Boom Prinsloo to walk over. So who’s more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows them? The rest of the game saw some pretty good footy in patches, but the Chiefs should be pretty concerned at the amount of penalties they leaked in this game because against a better team they probably wouldn’t have come away with a win. Man Of The Match: SBW announced his return to field with a nice display, including a trademark offload to set up Michael Leitch’s try. Replay Worthy: Yes, but mainly for referees to sit around and finally come to a consensus around not engaging rolling mauls.
At Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin: Highlanders 39 (Aaron Smith, Waisake Naholo 2, Patrick Osborne, Dan Pryor tries, Lima Sopoaga 4 con, pen, Marty Banks pen) Stormers 21 (Juan de Jongh 2, Michael Rhodes tries, Demetri Catrakilis con, Kurt Coleman 2 con)
Poor Cheslin Kolbe. The brave little Stormers fullback had a pretty full-on night in Dunedin, although there’s a chance he may not remember any of it after Waisake Naholo laid him to waste on his way to the try line in the first half (see Try Of The Week). As well as that, Naholo managed to give him a sprigs-up challenge that would’ve been a straight red-card if they were playing soccer that left most people watching amazed that he hadn’t broken his leg. Despite the Stormers bookending proceedings with a couple of very good Juan de Jongh tries, this game was dominated by the home team. The Highlanders delighted their home fans with some excellent play, especially from the Smiths, Aaron and Ben. Aaron showed why he’s epitome of a cheeky halfback by doing the sneaky ‘score against the goalpost pad’ trick and Ben’s defensive effort showed why Forsyth Barr Stadium should have warning signs around the outside warning anyone entering that they’re liable to get tackled by a guy who looks more like a librarian than a first choice All Black. Man Of The Match: Although the dread-locked flanker look is a little 15 years ago, Dan Pryor had a very good game operating as a second fetching loosie. Replay Worthy? Yes, good game to watch.
At Allianz Stadium, Sydney: Waratahs 23 (Nick Phipps, Peter Betham tries, Bernard Foley con 2, pen 3) Blues 11 (Francis Saili try, Daniel Bowden 2 pen)
At least the Blues sort of have an excuse this week. It’s been no secret that the performances of number 8 and captain Jerome Kaino has been pretty much the only positive thing to come of their wretched season so far, so when he was sinbinned in the 70th minute for a highly debatable penalty (see Idiot Of The Week) you’d have to start wondering what the Blues have done to anger the fates so badly. At that point they were only trailing by 5 in a scrappy game that could have gone either way, but without their talismanic captain they fell to bits, conceding the dagger to Peter Betham moments later. Earlier it looked like it was going to be a cakewalk for the Tahs after Nick Phipps went over early, but to their credit the Blues muscled up in defense and held the scoreline low till they hit back through Francis Saili. For those of you that are still keeping up with the carousel-like procession of first fives for the Blues, Dan Bowden was a non-event, getting hammered twice and throwing a forward pass in the first 10 minutes. The Tahs were actually pretty disappointing, they really should have put this one away easily. Man Of The Match: Tahs flanker and captain Michael Hooper had a big game, setting up the first try and tackling well. Replay Worthy? Not really, unless you want to see a guy get binned for something that shouldn’t have even been a penalty.
At King’s Park, Durban: Sharks 15 (SP Marais, Lwazi Mvovo tries, Fred Zeilinga con, pen) Force 9 (Sias Ebersohn 2, Luke Burton pen)
When they make a list of the greatest rugby games ever played, there is absolutely no chance this one will make it. Unless that list goes up to a billion and even then it may struggle. For the seventh straight week, the Sharks seemed determined to be an even more boring team than they were last year…and last year they were coached by Jake White. At least they’re an effective boring team, the Force certainly can’t make that claim as they blundered their way to yet another loss. SP Marais struck for the Sharks after Sias Ebersohn had put the visitors in front, after that the home side didn’t relinquish the lead. Even though they would’ve put anyone who was watching to sleep. Man Of The Match: No one. Replay Worthy? Hell no.
At Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria: Bulls 31 (Francois Hougard, Burger Odendaal, Grant Hattingh tries, Handre Pollard 2 con, 4 pen) Crusaders 19 (Nemani Nadolo try, Dan Carter con, 4 pen)
Although Dan Carter will be pretty pleased with his goal kicking in this game, he probably won’t look back on this one with any fond memories. That’s because his pass with 15 minutes to go went to Bulls lock Grant Hattingh instead of Nemani Nadolo. Hattingh then made up for his monumental blunder against the Hurricanes by gassing 55 metres upfield to ice the game for the home team, who, up until then, had been run around by a very game Crusaders side. Richie McCaw found himself on the end of a few penalties that he probably would’ve gotten away with if he were wearing an All Black jersey, so that means Todd Blackadder can join Sir John Kirwan in the club of coaches that probably won’t be buying any referees a beer any time soon. The Bulls were pretty efficient and deserved victory though, both Francois Hougaard and Burger Odendaal’s try were a ruthless result of charged-down kicks. They are looking the form team of the South African conference, while a bit of head-scratching might be going on when the Crusaders get home. Man Of The Match: Bulls second five Burger Odendaal was rushed in as a late replacement for Jan Serfontein and made every post a winner. Replay Worthy? Yes, both teams showed up to play and gave the ball plenty of air.
The Brumbies had the week off, but speaking of the men from Canberra, I implore you to read Jamie Loyd’s excellent piece on the actions of flanker David Pocock last week. It’s great to know that there’s some men with the courage to stand up and do what’s right at the top level of our game.
Here’s the table after seven rounds:
Try of the week: Once again Waisake Naholo made Blues fans wonder why he was ever allowed to move south to the Highlanders with this brutal effort.
Performance of the week: The unfancied Lions head back to Johannesburg with an slightly unbelievable 3 wins from 4 overseas games. Sure, their wins have been against teams of dubious quality (Blues, Rebels, Reds), but this is still a great achievement.
Idiot of the week: Referee Jaco Peyper and TMO Peter Marshall combined to send Jerome Kaino to the sin bin for what anyone who has eyes can see was an accidental head clash with Dave Dennis. How they came to that conclusion is anyone’s guess, although this is the same band of officials that can’t figure out whether it’s OK to contest a maul or not.
Super Rugby round seven, done! Given that the Cricket World Cup will officially finish tonight expect to see a bit more emphasis on footy from NZ from now on, but until then #BackTheBlackCaps!
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.