Blues discipline equals Chiefs delight
The Chiefs bagged their second win of the 2017 campaign on Friday night downing the Blues 41-26. The Blues took the early advantage with Ihia West knocking over 3 penalties to give the visitors a 9-5 lead after the first twenty. They seemed to be in the derby for the majority of the first half but when Steven Luatua wrapped his arm around Tim Nanai-Williams’ neck just before the break, he received his marching orders and the Blues were down to 14 men for the remainder of the game.
The Chiefs scored a try from the resulting red card penalty and it was game, set, match when they scored after the hooter to take a 22-9 lead into the break. They added insult to injury when they added three more tries making it 41-9 with the last twenty still to be played. It was the Blues who would have the final say scoring three unanswered tries and adding some respect to the scoreline. Luatua deservedly copped himself a 4 week ban and will be back in action for the Blues come April 8 when they face the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Bulls struggle, again
The Bulls suffered their second loss in as many weeks in another high scoring local SA derby. The Bulls who lost to the Stormers last week, made the trip up to Bloemfontein trying to salvage some points before the enjoy the tournaments first bye week. Unfortunately this was not the case, as they could only muster up a mere losing bonus point, going down 28-34.
It was their pack that once again let them down. They struggled for the majority of the game against a dominant Cheetahs pack, and only got out of first gear in the last twenty minutes. Another case of too little too late for the Pretoria boys. The Cheetahs dominance upfront meant the Bulls’ backs were always on the back foot, which saw them leave the Free State Stadium disappointed, again. Pollard has yet to find his feet in Super Rugby but at the same time he cannot perform miracles. Unless the Bulls’ forwards start giving their skip some go forward ball, they could relinquish their play-off hopes sooner rather than later. The bye could not come at a better time and will give them some time to regroup before they play host to the Sunwolves in their first game at Loftus on Friday, 17th of March.
Crusaders snatch southern derby
Another disappointing loss for the Highlanders sees them go 0/2 in two games they would of seen as wins a fortnight ago. It looked as though the Landers had learnt from their mistakes against the Chiefs as they took a compelling 27-6 lead in the final half hour of the clash. However as most teams experience the hard way, the Crusaders cannot be written off until the final whistle blows. With just eight minutes to play and the hosts up 27-18, it was a Malakai Fekitoa yellow card for a dangerous hit on Kaetau Havili that swung the game in the 7 time champions favour. Fekitoa’s departure saw Whetu Douglas cross the chalk, and with Marty McKenzie’s converting, it was a two point game with three minutes to play. Seta Tamanivalu put the game to bed going over in the corner, and despite a missed conversion, the Crusaders walked away 30-27 victors.
The Highlanders will be able to hold their heads high after this titanic battle. There was some individual brilliance from the boot of Lima Sopoanga and Aaron Smith and they managed to convert pressure into points this time round. The draw means its their third New Zealand derby in three weeks when they take on the Blues at Eden Park this weekend, where they will be hoping to avoid a third straight loss and look to claw their way out of last place in the New Zealand conference.
Sharks leave it late for first win
The Sharks ended off their Australia tour with an incredible 81st minute try to secure a valuable victory of the ACT Brumbies. The Sharks disappointingly missed out on taking home the spoils in Sydney last week and they needed a victory in Canberra if they were to challenge the Lions in the Africa 2 conference.
With the scores at 22 all, Brumbies replacement flyhalf pushed an attempted drop goal wide in the 79th minute which meant the Sharks had one last gasp at claiming their first win on 2017. They went through five odd phases from 50 meters out, before Curwin Bosch broke the first line of defence and put through a neatly crafted kick which Lukhanyo Am gathered to stun 8000 home fans at the GIO Stadium. The win sees the Sharks leave Australia with five points and the Brumbies suffer back to back losses. Their next opportunity to open their account will be on Friday night when they host the impressive looking Western Force. The Sharks will turn their attention to the Waratahs who are searching for their first win of their two leg SA tour when they host the 2014 champs in Durban on Saturday.
Kings secure first win
The Southern Kings claimed their first victory 37-23 over the Sunwolves in Singapore on Saturday. With this being the tournament’s weaker sides, who finished last and second last in the 2016 season, it was never going to be the prettiest game to watch as handling errors and turnovers were aplenty. Both teams would of seen this game as the one they wanted to win but it was the Kings who prevailed outscoring the Sunwolves by four tries to three.
The hosts will be disappointed as they enjoyed more possession and territory throughout the contest but lacked patience on attack and their defence was found wanting. The game was essentially wrapped up by Malcolm Jaer dotting down the Kings’ fourth try of the game to lead 37-18 with a couple of minutes left to play. The Sunwolves, however, had the last say and it was a moment of brilliance from Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, who threw an insane offload which nearly bewildered Takaaki Nakazuru, before he juggled the ball to score and give the forever faithful Sunwolves fans something to cheer about. SBW, eat your heart out.
By Tristan Renaud