A couple of contrasting semi-finals and a good round of Super Rugby action. Here’s my review of the weekend’s action.
Northampton Saints 24 v 29 Saracens
Bath 47 v 10 Leicester Tigers
1 from 2, if I’d gone with my gut I would have got them both right.
If you look at the stats you would believe that Saints had won, up in territory, possession, 4 clean breaks to 1 and 15 defender beaten to 4 are just some of the stats in Saints favour. But at this level between equal teams it’s spotting and winning the moments that matter more than dominating the stats. That was shown in the second minute when Strettle noticed a player down injured and kicked deep, that turned into a try. On the day Saracens were better at spotting and executing those moments, just.
Talking of stats, they say the team that kicks and tackles the most will win the game. When you see a team score nearly 50 points you assume that they have been running the ball. Actually Bath kicked more than twice as much ball as Tigers and had to make over twice as many tackles. Bath took a strong lead in the first half but is was the last 20 minutes where they really pulled away scoring 26 points.
Saracens will be a different beast at Twickenham next weekend and it will be a game of moments. Will Bath or Saracens recognise those moments in front of such a large crowd under intense pressure?
Chiefs 34 v 20 Bulls
Reds 14 v 21 Sharks
Blues 5 v 29 Hurricanes
Waratahs 32 v 22 Crusaders
Force 3 v 23 Highlanders
Cheetahs 17 v 40 Lions
Stormers 31 v 15 Rebels
6 from 7, so close to my first clean sweep but I’ll have to wait at least another week.
The Bulls racked up another loss on tour. Early doors it looked like they might be able to disrupt the Chiefs as they picked up a couple of soft tries. However the Chiefs worked their way back into the game to level things by halftime. Then they dominated straight from half time to have the TBP and game wrapped up with a quarter of the game to go.
James O’Connor is going to be reminded of this game for the rest of his life. People are probably being harsh asking if it’s the worst ever kick on a rugby pitch but it’s definitely worth finding a clip to watch. Whist this moment will be held up as the reason they lost, giving up 23 turnovers to 9 was more the issue. Also reports of teammates having to be separated at halftime just reinforces the dysfunctional image of the Reds. If you haven’t guessed the Reds lost this rather than Sharks winning, so I don’t think this is a sign of their season turning around.
The Blues just could not get any territory and eventually the pressure told. In the second half as they chased the game when they did get into the opposition 22 they were too desperate. The Canes in the other hand kept their discipline much better and were patient waiting for the opportunities to come. Also their basics were better in the wet with their catching and general handling.
The Tahs ended the Crusaders chance of the playoffs but they should have been reduced to at least 14 if not 13 men after 17 minutes. The ref only gave a yellow card when it clearly was a red offence and Skelton was allowed to keep on offending. This is the third week that the officials have ended up in the press for the wrong reasons and it really needs to stop. Back to the rugby, the Tahs built their lead on the Crusaders errors and then gap was too far to drag back. The Tahs won’t find teams and refs so helpful in future.
The Highlanders sealed a win where the two defences were on top. The Highlanders though were more powerful and able to get a rolling maul try from a line out early in the second half. This was a victory for strong defence and good kicking to built a lead. A late try added gloss but they never allowed the Force the chance of winning.
The Lions dominated the first half to build up a big lead and so were able to hold off the Cheetahs in a more even second half. They continue to win in an un-South African way using offloading and flowing backs moves rather than kicking and powerful forwards. As they have played one more game than the others the playoffs are still very much an outside possibility.
I can’t believe that the Stormers and Rebels weren’t made to change shirts as from the front they looked very similar. That might have led to the two first half tries that the Stormers scored where interceptions were involved. Once they built up that lead they relied on their defence to win the day. Is that going to be enough in the playoffs? Because that is where they are heading.
European Rugby Champions Cup
Gloucester 40 v 32 Connacht
1 from 1, there are only two games in this “competition” can I get a perfect record?
Gloucester got the first try but this one went back and forth. Connacht were leading coming to the end of time but a late Gloucester try evened things up and led to extra time. There will be discussion about the decision as there will be over many officials performances this weekend. In extra time it was a tight affair and two late tries make the score line deceiving as to how close this really was. Maybe resting players last weekend against Bath was the difference in the end.
Glasgow Warriors 16 – 14 Ulster
Munster 21 – 18 Ospreys
It was also Pro12 semi-final playoff weekend. It’s not a league I follow much but I picked up an interesting fact so thought I’d put it in. No away team has won a Pro12 semi-final and so it’s not surprising that the two home sides won again.
Junior Rugby World Championship
The JRWC kicks off at the beginning of June and I’ll be doing my usual predictions and reviews for that as well. Please join in the fun with my SuperBru prediction league.
BTW The potatoes were being given out after the Blues v Hurricanes game.