We now know our Super Rugby playoff contenders and the Junior Rugby World Championship completed their second round. Here is my review of all the action.
Hurricanes 56 – 20 Highlanders
Force 20 – 33 Brumbies
Rebels 21 – 20 Bulls
Blues 11 – 34 Crusaders
Reds 3 – 24 Chiefs
Cheetahs 33 – 58 Waratahs
Stormers 19 – 19 Lions
6 from 7, the only one I didn’t get was the draw! So close to my first clean sweep of the season and there is only 1 chance left…..
The Canes were good at spotting a mismatch and used that get their first try. Poor tackling from the Landers let in another couple and really it was all over. The Landers did pull back a couple of tries with a trade mark steal in the air for one. However the Canes showed good hands knowledge of where the sideline was to slip in a couple more and rack up a big statement win. The Canes managed an amazing 894 meters running with ball in hand which is more than most games rack up from both teams!
This was a win for the forwards or should we say the rolling maul, the Brumbies did show good ball retention for their second try. The other three all came from rolling mauls and trying to get a lineout near the opposition line is a tactic that will only take you so far. In this case to the playoffs but it won’t get them much further. The Force did grab a couple of tries back in the last ten minutes but it was all too little too late.
The Bulls took an early lead using their forwards to good effect to grab two tries from rolling mauls. But the Rebels revived an old art and got their first two tries from first phase moves off the back of the scrum. The scrum is supposed to tie in the forwards and make space but so few teams use the opportunity now-a-days. The Bulls lack of discipline hurt them as they gave up too much territory and if your forwards orientated that’s a long way to the try line. The Rebels scored the only try of the second half to win the game but the Bulls were also unlucky with the officials as the TMO ruled out a try that looked perfectly fine.
The Blues looked good early on as they scored two penalties but after that they couldn’t get any territory to apply pressure. Carter pulled the strings and Nadolo did the damage along with the forwards. It was typical flat track bullying that the Crusaders have been doing all season. When the Blues did get the ball and any breaks they would also throw a miss pass or give the ball away some other way.
The Reds drew first blood with a penalty but after that it alone way traffic on the scoreboard. The Chiefs used the miss pass to great effect for their first try and poor defending around the ruck allowed another. The Reds did fight back but great defence stopped them just short. In the second half the forward platform along with lovely hands and skip passes secured the TBP and a comfortable win. The Chiefs though will need to sort out their scrum as they lost nearly half their own put ins! For the Reds the tricks weren’t enough this week and you have to wonder what they will have next year once the tricksters have left.
The Cheetahs Waratahs game was a total end of season party try fest. With over a point a minute it was fun to watch but was it a real game? To be fair it was in the balance until the hour mark at which point the Tahs ran away with it and secured their playoff place.
The tie of the round was always going to be the last game as it decided who was going to win the South African conference. The first try came from a great break but there was still lots of work to do as the Lions scrambled in defence. The Lions forwards evened things up with a rolling maul only for the Stormers backs to pull a head again. But the Lions forwards did it again so that they went into the break all square. Early in the second half a great bit of individual skill to kick and gather gave the Stormers the lead for the third time. But a late driving maul for the Lions drew them level and that is how it was going to end. If you were to say how the tries were scored you would have switched things round, with the Lions having built a reputation for un-South African rugby. Now it’s all over for the Lions as they have run out of games. The Stormers can prepare for the playoffs even if it looks like they will miss out on second place.
France 47 – 7 Japan
Ireland 24 – 20 Scotland
New Zealand 32 – 29 Argentina
South Africa 40 – 8 Samoa
Australia 31 – 15 Italy
England 30 – 16 Wales
6 from 6, another perfect round but as I dropped 4 places in my prediction league it clearly wasn’t a difficult set of results to predict. Looking at the details though there were some very close games.
As expected France comfortably beat Japan, but after scoring two converted tires in the first ten minutes France were held scoreless for the rest of the first half. Japan scored their own try to go in only 7 points down at the break. It wasn’t really until the last twenty minutes that France were able to cut loose and score 28 points.
Ireland gained revenge for their defeat in the 6 nations this year. It looked like it was going to be comfortable when they went in 12 points a head at half time. But Scotland got back within one score with 20 minutes to go. Ireland opened the gap back to 2 scores with the boot and needed it when Scotland got a converted try with time having already run out.
Argentina very nearly repeated what their senior side did to France in the November internationals. A combination of penalties and a drop goal meant that they nearly went into halftime with the lead. A late try meant it was a slim advantage to New Zealand. Another penalty kick to Argentina evened things up with 20 minutes to go only for the Baby Blacks to score two converted tries. But the Pumas came back with 2 converted tries of their own to again even things up with 5 minutes left. The All Blacks got the important TBO win with a late penalty as they were pushed all the way and forced to make 122 tackles, which was twice as many as Argentina. This was a win for their defence not running rugby as we have come to expect.
South Africa showed their potential to win this whole tournament, the game was won by half time with a 21-3 lead. They wrapped up the TBP early in the second half with two more tries. With the game effectually over the last half hour petered out.
Italy drew first blood and took an early lead. It wasn’t until the 25th minute that Australia could get on the board but from there they dominated. 24 points in the 15 minutes to halftime decided the game. The fourth try for the bonus point eventually came in a much quieter second half. Australia now go into their crunch match with South Africa with the group lead at stake and the loser might not make the finals.
Another repeat fixture from the U20 6 Nations and another reverse of the result. England lost in Wales by 6 points earlier in the year. This time England dominated the first half to lead 25-10 at the break. Wales did comeback in the second half and England were looking tired. However the 4th try for the bonus point also sealed the victory and sees England go on to face France to decide who will top the group.
We can expect New Zealand to beat Ireland and top their group, but the other two groups are looking very tight. Not only that but as the best second place also makes the finals the bonus points and scores in the two games could be all important. So expect two good clashes between England v France and South Africa v Australia.