And so the upsets continue. Taking into account the amount of matches that have gone against the odds, it’s safe to say that the smaller unions are catching up very quickly and not a single win can be taken for granted anymore.
Hurricanes 21 – 29 Brumbies
The weekend started off with the Brumbies’ eight point win over the Hurricanes. The home side had the early lead through a TJ Perenara try after the officials failed to spot a foot in touch, but instead of feeling sorry for themselves, this seemed to elevate the intensity among the Brumbies and they quickly struck twice through some individual brilliance by fullback Jesse Mogg and then again from the second half restart.
This period of play had the Hurricanes on the back foot and they looked incapable of stringing together enough phases to trouble the Brumbies defense. If I had to criticise the wild horses for anything, it’s that they should’ve won by a greater margin.
Reds 43 – 33 Cheetahs
The Brisbane battle ended on a bit of an anti-climax as both teams only managed to cross the whitewash once during the second forty, after entertaining us with six scintillating tries prior to the break. Both teams were on the receiving end of a thorough thumping the week before and they approached this contest with a lot more vigour. Players were gasping for air after an hour of delightful running rugby and superb scrambling defence.
Right up to the end there was always the chance of a draw as the scores were seldom more than a converted try apart, but the Reds held out through the dangerous last quarter and eventually got a penalty after the hooter to send the Cheetahs away empty-handed. It is impossible to single out any one player for their individual performance as it was a total team effort by both sides.
Crusaders 14 – 13 Stormers
Christchurch’s pride and joy were in a spot of bother heading into this clash. With two losses from two outings, the pressure was well and truly on to collect their first win. For the better part of the first half the Stormers defended their line brilliantly under tremendous assault from the Crusaders. The visitors made hit after solid hit, hardly ever missing their man and it seemed Kieran Read and his men became less and less likely to breach the blue and white line. Saders supporters got rather impatient with their team’s failed attempts and even though the home side had the majority of possession and territory, the crowd’s displeasure only served to strengthen the Stormers.
Their outstanding defence continued after the break and then a moment of brilliance by Schalk Burger put captain Jean de Villiers through a gap; he chipped, Damian de Allende collected and scored the first try. Fortunately, the Crusaders didn’t panic and replacement debutant Kieron Fonotia struck back a while later to bring the hosts within two points. An error in judgement by Michael Rhodes then gifted the Crusaders a penalty and therewith a one-point win they didn’t actually deserve.
Force 32 – 7 Rebels
Stunned is quite honestly the only way I can describe how I felt after the Western Force dismissed the Rebels this weekend. The wilderness warriors stormed out of the blocks at a hundred miles an hour, taking last week’s rampant Rebels by complete surprise and leaving them looking like deer caught in the headlights. One has often wondered why the Sea of Blue turn up week after week in support of such a struggling franchise. Well, the lads have answered that question by putting their bodies on the line for a well-earned victory.
A lot of the credit must go to the forwards, especially the loose trio who successfully shut down the visitors’ every attack and also carried the ball very effectively. The Rebels were unprepared and a touch big-headed about their recent result. At the end of the day the best team won and subsequently gave captain Matt Hodgson the perfect gift for his 100th match.
Bulls 38 – 22 Blues
We saw a much improved Bulls side get the better of the Lions last weekend, but many of us were still convinced that they’d fall short against the talented Blues. How wrong we were. Jacques-Louis Potgieter was again the catalyst and stamped down his authority not long after kick-off with a try and then shortly after a 50m drop goal. The Bulls demolished the Blues in the scrum and the Aucklanders were forced to feed off scraps and stayed in touch solely through the boot of Simon Hickey.
The Bulls had to work hard for their points, but never looked concerned or anxious. They say that you need a bit of luck in order to win this competition and a controversial call in the final minutes saw the Bulls score their fourth try and claim five log points.
Sharks 37 – 23 Lions
As expected, the Sharks won and they logged another five points to bring their tally to fourteen. What worries me are these little periods where they seem to take their foot of the pedal and leave themselves too much to in order to score that four-try bonus point. It again took just about 80 minutes to bag their fourth and they’ll be somewhat disappointed with their efforts in the second half.
Even though the Sharks were superior in every aspect, that did not stop the Lions from trying and two quick scores towards the end brought them within a converted try. Pat Lambie was side-lined with tick bite fever which saw Frans Steyn slot in at flyhalf and he did a stellar job, controlling the match like the 26-year old pro he is. A good win for the Durbanites, but as Jake White said, the honeymoon will soon come to an end.
By Jackie Smit (@JackieSmit1)