15 Apr 2012
Super 15 Review - Round 8 (Video Highlights &Team of the Week)
Blues 23 - 29 Sharks
Force 18 - 23 Waratahs
Crusaders 31 - 24 Stormers
Brumbies 37 - 6 Rebels
Cheetahs 33 - 39 Chiefs
Lions 18 - 32 Bulls
Byes - Highlanders, Hurricanes, Reds
Dumptackle Team of the Week
There were some difficult selections this week as I didn't feel many wingers shone, but a fair few centres did; hence Juan DeJongh gets moved out to the wing after an impressive performance against the Crusaders making room for none other than Sonny Bill in the centres. Francois Houggard and Tawera Kerr Barlow also gave good performances from scrum half but for me it was Piet Van Zyl who helped give the Cheetahs such a fast tempo and they were a joy to watch at times. As always if you disagree with any of the selections, please comment!
1. Arizona Taumololo (Chiefs), 2. Craig Burden (Sharks), 3. Charlie Faumuina (Blues), 4. Scott Fardy (Brumbies), 5. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs) 6. Keegan Daniel (Sharks), 7. Liam Messam (Chiefs)(Crusaders), 8. Kieran Reid (Crusaders), 9. Piet Van Zyl (Cheetahs), 10. Tom Taylor (Crusaders), 12. Pat McCabe (Brumbies), 13. Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs)11. Bryan Habana (Stormers), 14. Juan DeJongh (Stormers), 15. Andrew Horrell (Chiefs)
Player of the Round
Tom Taylor (Crusaders) - It's pretty hard to displace Dan Carter, but Tom Taylor has given coach Todd blackadder some food for thought. It had seemed that the selection of Carter at inside centre was more a case of alleviating some of the pressure off him (as he found his game following a long injury break), but it may now be a long-term strategy for this season. You can't argue with Taylor's steely approach in front of goal and with no player really demanding the inside centre spot at the moment, Carter and Fruean could develop a useful partnership. For his 31 points against the Stormers, Tom Taylor gets the player of the round for Round 8. Watch this space.
REVIEW OF THE ROUND
Blues vs Sharks
After a media frenzy had surrounded topics such as Pat Lam's coaching credentials, Piri Weepu's belly and racism in New Zealand during the week before the game, the Blues were looking to get the focus back on rugby with a home victory over the Sharks at Eden Park. A dreadful week for the Blues got even worse though, with the Sharks keeping up their good record against the Blues by winning 29 points to 23; their 8th consecutive victory over the Blues in Super Rugby.
Pat Lam insisted that he was happy and proud of the resolve and spirit shown by the Blues, but when you concede two intercept tries early on like they did to Stephen Sykes (after captain Keegan Daniel had initially intercepted) and speedy hooker Craig Burden, they were always facing an uphill battle. It was just the kickstart the Sharks needed too after being dismantled by the Hurricanes young tyros the week before. The Blues did manage to fight back though, with returning All Black Tony Woodcock inching over for a try after a powerful surge by prop Charlie Faumuina. A drop goal by Gareth Anscombe and another five pointer from Benson Stanley who latched onto a loose pass from the Sharks on the ground to race between the posts gave the Blues a surprising lead. The Sharks responded by upping the tempo though and scored two good tries for their reward. Keegan Daniel continued his good form, darting past two defenders on his way to the whitewash after a good offload by Craig Burden and then Tim Whitehead juggled the ball before dotting down after a superb linebreak by pivot Pat Lambie. Blues fly half Gareth Anscombe added a penalty 15 minutes from time to cut the lead to 6 points, but the Sharks defence held strong to give them their fourth victory in eight games. The Blues meanwhile have only pride to play for. The produced another error riddled performance and one thinks that if they are to get some wins under their belt, they need to strip their game back down to the basics. All Blacks arriving late and unfit such as Nonu, Woodock and Weepu have not helped their cause, and neither have long term injuries to Jerome Kanio and IsaiaToeava. More is expected from such a great squad of players though.
Force vs Waratahs
The Waratahs maintained their record of having never lost a game in Western Australia with a narrow 23 points to 18 victory over the Force on Friday night. The 'Tahs opened the scoring with a try to Tom Kingston, who crossed over by the right touchline thanks to a super counter-attack from young fullback Bernard Foley, followed by good hands from Tom Carter. A yellow card card shown for indescretions by Force prop Salesi Ma'afu was then capitalised on by the 'Tahs, as Dave Dennis received a lineout at the front, before a nice 'show and go' as he sprinted past 3 Force defenders to the line. The Force responded by scoring 15 unanswered points. Firstly, scrumhalf Brett Sheehan sneaked over for a try after a series of pick and drives and a yellow card for Bernard Foley led to another Force try as they failed to stop a sea of Force attackers down the right touchline, fullback Alfie Mafi ending up with the ball in his hands. A penalty from Dave Harvey gave the Force an 18-17 lead momentarily, but the Waratahs showed enough composure to take control over the game, with Wallaby Berrick Barnes converting two penalties to win the game for the sydneysiders. The Waratahs now lie in 3rd place in the Aussie Conference but have a strong chance of getting into the playoffs. The Force though remain bottom and captain David Pocock will be left to lament the lack of composure shown by his team mates in the last 20 minutes of the game.
Crusaders vs Stormers
The Crusaders bounced back from their controversial defeat to the Bulls last weekend (see here) with a 31-24 victory over the table topping Stormers. The Stormers, who were previously unbeaten and had started their tour of Australasia with a powerful performance against the Highlanders last weekend, were undone by a virtuouso display by young fly half Tom Taylor (son of 80's AB stalwart Warwick Taylor). He scored all 31 points for the Crusaders equalling the Super 15 record for points scored in a match by an individual, tieing him with Meyer Bosman and Morne Steyn.
The Crusaders got off to a bad start after Carter showed his unfamiliarity with the 12 position, spraying a pass onto the floor after pressure from Jean deVilliers, with Juan DeJongh able to kick the loose ball forward and outpace DC to score the first try of the game. However the Crusaders hit back thanks to good hands down the left touchline from Israel Dagg, Kieran Reid and Corey Flynn who set up Tom Taylor for a stroll under the posts. Further penalties from Taylor helped build a healthy lead for the Crusaders before the Stormers hit back with a superb (albeit controversial) try from Bryan Habana. The Stomers showed a lot of physicality and went through the phases and seemingly knocked the ball on at one point, before the ball swung back to the left and Dewalt Duvanage put a clever chip kick through which Habana collected to score five points.
The game was on a knife edge and one felt it vould go either way, especially as the Crusaders seemed to be copying the Stormer's approach, with a pre-meditated game plan from Todd Blackadder to kick the ball out of hand far more often than usual (sometimes pretty aimless). Tom Taylor though was able to keep the Stormers at bay, who were smelling blood, steering them into the right positions and duly converting penalties from Stormers's infringements. Each side had a player yellow carded for high tackles in the game and although both were dubious, it didn't really have much impact on the game. The Stormers were able to salvage a losing bonus point in the dieing minutes to take something away from the game and their next stop is Brisbane to take on the Reds.
The Crusaders meanwhile have put themselves in contention for a playoff place and with Richie McCaw likely to return in the next 3 weeks or so, they will be looking to build some momentum after this impressive result.
Brumbies vs Rebels
The Brumbies came off successive narrow losses to overcome the Rebels in Canberra, who had pulled off a famous victory over the Blues the week before. In truth it was one way traffic for most of the game, with the Brumbies scoring 4 tries in the first half to secure a bonus point early on. The 37 points to 6 win took them to the top of the Aussie conference and in contention to secure a home semi-final. The Rebels though look unlikely to wreak much havoc at the top of the table. Their was much optimism at the start of the season due to the signings of James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale from the Force and 'Tahs respectively, but their pack has been overwhelmed on many occasions and quite simply, their quality in the backline hasn't been able to tell. Their defence has also been atrocious.
For the Brumbies, they will have a smiles back on their faces once more. The stuck to their structures and reaped the benefits. Many individuals also stood out. Pat McCabe had a strong game, steamrollering over his Wallaby opposite James O'Connor from a set-piece move for a try and also setting up another. Scott Fardy also nabbed two tries with a stellar performance in the engine room, burrowing over from a few inches and then making a strong run ti break through the tacles of High Pyle and Nic Henderson. Bright spark Michael Hooper and captain Ben Mowen also added to their impressive performances to date this season with a try each.
Cheetahs vs Chiefs
The chiefs travelled to the Freestate stadium in Bloemfoentain, South Africa to face the free-flowing Cheetahs. It was their first outing on South African soil this season and a real test of the credentials this year. The Cheetahs meanwhile were able to place with the handbrake off, free from pressure and looking to build on their suprise start to the season.
For much of the first half, the Chiefs outmuscled the Cheetahs pack, but the boys from the Bloem managed to hang in there, keeping the scoreline tight. Lelia Masaga continued his electric form from hus last outing, scoring a try thanks to some ellusive running from fullback Andrew Horrell (a surprise selection over Robbie Robinson). However despite the Chiefs dominance, the boot of Sias Ebersohn and and intercept try from Ashley Johnson gave the Cheetahs the lead. The Chiefs stuck to their principles though and a Taumololo double along with a try from Sonny Bill Williams, and a superb team try from Richard Kahui (after a wrap around by Aaron Cruden) gave them an unassailable lead. The Cheetahs fought back in the dying minutes to secure a bonus point thanks to a consolation try from sub Johan Goosen and a penalty after the hooter.
The Chiefs will be delighted with the result as a match away to the Cheetahs was a possible banana skin, but them came through it well. The loose forwards kept the opposition defence honest, with Liam Messam in particular having a busy night in the loose while prop Arizona Taumololo kept up his remarkable try scoring record this season notching up his 5th and 6th tries so far. The Chiefs now lead the NZ conference as well as the Super 15 itself.
Lions vs Bulls
This fixture always looked like a tough won for John Mitchell's Lions and it proved to be so, with the Bulls completing a 32 points to 18 bonus point victory over the Lions in Jo'burg. The Lions have not beaten the Bulls since 2005, when they were playing in the formerly known Super 12 and it was their sixth consecutive loss this year, leaving them rooted to the bottom of the table. The suits at Jo'burg will be worried as it looks like they will be the franchise who suffer from relegation and replacement by Matt Sexton's Southern Kings from the Eastern Cape area.
For the Bulls though, the result left them level with the Stormers on points at the top of the South African Conference, but below them on the table thanks to the Stormers having won more games.
The 3 times champions of Super rugby were rampant with a 25 minute spell before and after half-time which lefts their hosts trailing in their dust.
Lions scrum half Tian Meyer had charged down Morne Steyn's kick early on and beat Zane Kirchner to the ball to open the scoring, but the Bulls replied through tries from springbok backs Akona Ndungane, Francois Houggard and Zane Kirchner before the break. Flanker CJ Stander and former Northampton Saint Juandre Kruger also dotted down for tries after the break to give the Bulls a strong lead. Lions captain Joshua Strauss scored a consolation try to make the score look slightly more respectable but in truth, the Lions were completely outclassed and looked rather toothless once more.