Had it not been for their hard working forwards, the Hurricanes might well have become the second New Zealand team to go down to the Force. The Hurricanes actually looked set to accumulate a pretty large score through tries scored by Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, Brad Shields and Tusi Pisi with 30 long minutes left on the clock. When Alby Mathewson sliced his way through a swathe of defenders to bring the Force back into play, there was still a quarter of the match to play, but unfortunately they couldn’t land the final blow and when the whistle blew, they were 22-16 behind. Not at all a great victory for the Canes and the lacklustre performance of their backline is a bit worrisome.
For the second week in a row the Chiefs were bowled over by an Australian side, this time one with far less class, but equally equipped to deny the visitors any advantage. Having been kept scoreless in the first half, the Chiefs noticeably upped the tempo and looked like they had the points in the pocket with five minutes to go. But a late try by replacement hooker John Ulugia put the Waratahs back in the lead and they merely had to keep the ball in hand for a couple of minutes and boot it into touch to seal a well deserved 25-20 victory over the defending champions. The Chiefs simply couldn’t get their backline to fire, whilst the Waratahs on the other hand, were simply on fire. Israel Folau made at least three try saving tackles and scored a try himself, showing some great athleticism.
The Highlanders’ miserable season continued as the Crusaders fumbled their way to another messy win as the score line read 24-8 in favour of the home team. While the Highlanders’ defence was outstanding, it is their malfunctioning lineout and patchy scrum that continues to keep them under pressure. The Crusaders themselves look far from their clinical best, their horrible ball control probably at the top of the list of concerns.
The only winner from the Reds-Brumbies clash, would be the Australian selectors. Even though nobody got the better on the scoreboard, the Brumbies might be considered the moral victors. They put in an exceptional defensive effort against a Reds side that seems to be in sublime form. For the Brumbies Jesse Mogg was back to his sparkling self, whilst all their points came from Christian Lealiifano who put in a very compelling audition for a Wallaby jersey. The Reds looked extremely dangerous as they played with width and adventure and in my opinion they were the better team on the day. The Brumbies will seriously have to check the increasing penalty count. At the end of the day, I suppose the 19-all draw was a fair result for a very intense battle.
For the umpteenth time the Sharks failed to cross the line and this time the boot of Patrick Lambie couldn’t save the day for them. Conditions in the Sharks’ tank were simply miserable and the slippery ball made for less than perfect handling. The Cheetahs manage to score two fortuitous tries by pouncing on errors made by the Sharks and defended like their lives depended on it every time the Sharks got in their 22. Willie le Roux didn’t have the best day out, but never stopped trying and his intercept try sealed the deal for the Cheetahs as they recorded another first for the season, beating the Sharks 6-12 away from home.
The Kings were jolted back to reality as a rampant Bulls team absolutely hammered them. The visitors struck hard and they struck quickly, leading 0-20 at half time. Midfielder Jan Serfontein is coming on in leaps and bounds, making life really tough for the Kings defence, an area that seem to slipping as the super season is seemingly starting to take its toll on the rookies. Something a little bothersome is the way the Bulls seemed to lose their sting for most of the second half after playing their best rugby yet in the first. However, they did manage to score twice in 5 minutes to get a valuable bonus point as their 0-34 victory lifts them to the top of the South African conference.
I’ve been really impressed with Waratahs fullback Israel Folau, and after the superb performance he put in to help the Waratahs beat the defending champs, he truly deserves to be called our Super Trooper.
At last an all Australian derby has provided viewers with an encounter that didn’t make you fall asleep. The Reds-Brumbies match-up might have not delivered a winner, but it was filled to the brim with passion and excitement, definitely this week’s Best Battle.
Persisting to go for the try when you haven’t been able to get those points the entire season, is silly, especially when your team is trailing. Howler of the Week is Keegan Daniel, had the Sharks gone for the posts instead of the sideline, they might have beaten the Cheetahs. The Sharks unsportsmanlike behavior throughout the match in addition to their reaction to the final intercept try spoiled an already messy affair even further.
by Jackie Smit