Chiefs 36 – 20 Stormers
I live on the West Coast of South Africa and as a citizen of the Western Cape, I cannot find the words for how disappointed I am in the Stormers. The majority of punters were backing the Chiefs, but I thought that the touring team could draw on the positives from their sturdy performance the previous weekend and give this on an improved shot. How wrong was I.
The Stormers fumbled around, missed easy tackles and cut off their own space with lateral cross field running. An early try to James Lowe and another couple around the break saw the Chiefs take a comfortable 24-6 lead. Both teams then started bringing on their subs to get some fresh legs on the field. This tactic worked well for the visitors as they fought their way back to trail by four points with five minutes left on the clock. What happened next pretty much sums up their season thus far.
The Stormers needed a single touchdown to win the match, but instead dumb decision making and sloppy defence saw them concede two tries, the final nail in the coffin going to the Chiefs’ centurion Tanerau Latimer.
Rebels 19 – 25 Crusaders
For some unknown reason the Crusaders are still not quite settled as a team. The teams traded penalty goals right through the first half before Ben Funnell finally crossed the whitewash for the first try just before the hour mark. The players built phases but couldn’t see them through to the end. often dropping the ball, or spoiling a good passage of play with a wild pass.
It was easily the most boring match of the weekend – surprising, considering the firepower in the backs. The Rebels cannot seriously be considering themselves as title contenders, but if the Crusaders have any hope of reaching the play-offs, they’d better pull up their socks rather quickly.
Hurricanes 60 – 27 Cheetahs
It was labelled as a try fest beforehand and the match between the Hurricanes and Cheetahs didn’t disappoint as the home side outscored the visitors nine tries to three. The lead changed around a few times during the first half and the teams looked very well matched and up for a bit of running. And then a debatable yellow card reduced the Cheetahs to fourteen men as their playmaker Willie le Roux was sent to the sin bin. This indifferent moment of officiating was undoubtedly a major turning point in the game and two quick strikes by the Canes had the men in orange chasing the scoreboard.
Beauden Barrett controlled the match with plenty of silky touches, bagging a brace in the process and again indicating that there will be life after Dan Carter. Captain Conrad Smith must be elated with this confidence-building victory and even happier that they broke an eight match losing streak.
Highlanders 29 – 31 Force
For the second time in two weeks the Western Force have recorded a bonus-point win, something they’ve never before accomplished. Last week they stunned the Rebels and this weekend they shocked the Highlanders.
Coming off a bye, the Highlanders were lacking match fitness and didn’t look as sharp as they had done previously. Too many basic mistakes gave the Force that edge they needed to stay in the game. Sias Ebersohn is truly coming back into his own in Perth and a beautiful defensive read saw him make a flying intercept to dot down under the posts.
Even though Otago tried to keep the tempo up, they failed to finish their opportunities. Two yellow cards at the death reduced the Force to thirteen men, but they held onto their lead until replacement Hayden Parker worked his way over for a five-pointer. Unfortunately he couldn’t convert his own try and the home side ran out of time.
Brumbies 28 – 23 Waratahs
When it comes to grudge matches, it doesn’t get bigger than this. There was plenty of talk from both camps in the build up to this derby, but on the day only one really delivered the goods.
Canberra’s Brumbies were the smarter team and totally outplayed the visitors, denying them the space they needed even though they had most of the ball. When Tevita Kuridrani scored the hosts’ third try of the match, it all looked over. Then the final quarter produced two yellow cards for the Brumbies and on both occasions the Waratahs pulled back a try. The first was just reward for the Tahs’ flanker Michael Hooper and then just when you thought he’d miss out, Israel Folau scored his sixth of the season.
Michael Cheika’s boys have a few issues though, the first being their nowhere-to-be-seen captain, Dave Dennis, who had ample time to get the win and a numbers advantage, but stupid decision making cost the NSW team. Another concern is their fly-half. Bernard Foley is exceptional in attack, but he struggles to control the game effectively when the pressure is on. These things will need to be sorted if they have play-offs aspirations.
Lions 39 – 36 Blues
Who saw this one coming? Instead of kicking away possession as often as they have for the past two weeks, the Lions held onto the ball much better and showed offensive class. Faf de Klerk and Marnitz Boshoff have been a revelation and the halfback pair has crawled deep into Gauteng hearts. If Boshoff is pulled into the Springbok squad it would be justified – he’s miles ahead of any other South African flyhalf, and possibly the best in the competition currently.
The problems for the Blues started at the set piece, where they were outmuscled by the rookies. With less than half an hour to go, the Lions had established a well deserved 20-point lead through two tries and yet another brilliant performance by their pivot, including two very good drop goals.
But in the blink of eye the Blues scored five tries. More penalties by Boshoff and a controversial try only just kept the Lions ahead on the scoreboard, the extraordinary call by referee Stuart Berry suddenly being the difference between winning and losing.
Sharks 35 – 20 Reds
Spectators were subjected to endless minutes of aerial ping pong before the teams finally seemed to find direction at Kings Park. The Sharks engine room proved to have superior power and pack much more punch than that of the Reds and the Three Amigos were smothered by their opposite numbers. On the ground Marcel Coetzee was like a fox terrier as he again complimented his fellow forwards by stealing ball after ball, earning himself yet another Man of the Match award.
The problems for the Queenslanders started at the set piece, losing line-outs and being pushed back in the scrum, but numerous handling errors and wayward passes did nothing for their cause. However, they kept playing at pace and dominated territory in the second half, giving them some much needed momentum.
The Koalas were fighting back impressively only for replacement Beau Robinson to annoy the ref and earn himself 10 minutes of reflection. This halted their comeback and when Dale Chadwick forced his way over for the Sharks’ second try, the writing was well and truly on the wall.
By Jackie Smit (@JackieSmit1)