And so the regular Super season comes to an end.
Round 19 kicked off with the Blues looking to achieve mission impossible. The Aucklanders went for the jugular straight away but they missed four try scoring opportunities in the first quarter alone, and with every failed attempt, they became more flustered. The Chiefs weathered the storm, withstanding numerous attacks as well as the horrendous conditions to claim their play-off spot through a victorious 8-11 defensive effort.
We then headed to Canberra where the fairytale came to an abrupt end for Nick Cummins and the Force as Wallaby flyhalf Matt Toomua crossed the whitewash for a hat-trick to steer the Brumbies into the play-offs – 47-25 to the hosts being the final score.
Friday’s action concluded with the Bulls consigning the Melbourne Rebels to their second wooden spoon in four tournaments. The youngest of the current Super teams are steadily improving, but they were completely overpowered by the Pretorian side, losing the battle 40-7.
On Saturday morning the New Zealand conference was set to be decided and the Crusaders showed their ability to be clinical when it mattered most with a 34-8 victory over the Highlanders. The Highlanders now have the daunting task of revisiting the Shark Tank. The Waratahs then continued on their merry try-scoring way as they eased passed the Reds, keeping their momentum going with a 3-34 win.
Free State’s Cheetahs went to Jo’burg in the hopes of taking revenge on the Lions for their first round loss to their bottom-feeder buddies, but it was not to be. Records were broken in this match as the markedly more motivated Lions scored eight tries in beating their feline counterparts 60-25.
And finally the Sharks went on the hunt for a very important bonus point win against the increasingly confident Stormers. From the start it was clear that the Capetownians weren’t going to give the South African conference winners a piggyback ride into second spot, and as the clock ran down on the ding dong battle, that dream faded very quickly.
In the end they had to settle for a 10-34 victory instead and now have to make sure the Highlanders don’t trip them up at home for a second time this season.
Game of the Week: Brumbies vs Western Force
My match of the weekend goes to the Brumbies and Force. The Brumbies oozed pure class and scoring seven tries against the Force isn’t as common an occurrence as it used to be. The Force were brace, but obviously tired. They’ve improved a lot this season and now need to learn to manage players better in order to consistently be at their best.
The bye really counted in favour of the Brumbies who looked sharper than ever. They saw to it that the match was played at full speed right from the get go and never let up the pace. Their defensive line speed was so quick that the Force simply couldn’t get any go forward ball. And whilst the bench made an impact, it was too little, too late for the men from the West.
Brumbies’ flyhalf Matt Toomua was absolutely sublime, both with and without the ball. He did everything right. From surprising spot tackles and snappy decision making, to well executed kicks, great supportive play and and a well-earned hattrick as a result.
Player of the Weekend: Henry Speight (Brumbies)
What more do you want in a winger. He is big, strong and exceptionally fast. He’s been making a nuisance of himself on attack, making it very difficult for defenders to bring him down. This weekend the future Wallaby only scored one try, but had a hand in a couple of others as he got the crowd to their feet with numerous tackle breaking runs. It’s been a long time coming, but finally the flying Fijian will be eligible for national selection in September. Watch out world, the Speight-train is going international.
Try of the Week
With forty-one fantastic tries scored over the weekend, selecting a single one was practically impossible. There were crackers in almost every game, but the best of all was scored by Henry Speight of the Brumbies. Perfectly timed passes from Toomua to Jesse Mogg and then to Speight gave the winger more than enough time to get to full speed before he exploded through three potential defenders to score in the corner. Aussie rugby does look healthy at the moment.
Video credit: Intheloose
Team of the Week
15. Israel Dagg (Crusaders)
14. Henry Speight (Brumbies)
13. Ryan Crotty (Crusaders)
12. Kurtley Beale (Waratahs)
11. Francois Hougaard (Bulls)
10. Matt Toomua (Brumbies)
9. Ross Cronje (Lions)
8. Warren Whiteley (Lions)
7. Matt Todd (Crusaders)
6. Brynard Stander (Force)
5. Sam Carter (Brumbies)
4. Paul Willemse (Bulls)
3. Dean Greyling (Bulls)
2. Robbie Coetzee (Lions)
1. Pek Cowan (Force)
By Jackie Smit