Crusaders 24-13 Hurricanes
The much-depleted Crusaders, missing eight All Blacks due to injury and suspension, were too good for the Hurricanes on a very wet Friday night in Christchurch.
Those conditions meant that the match-up of the Round (some would say season to date) was never going to be the try-fest many had been anticipating. Tellingly, of the four tries scored on the night, only one came from a line break, and that after the result was beyond doubt.
Crusaders fullback David Havili would probably prefer to forget the first half, shelling three high balls – at least one of which should have resulted in a Hurricanes penalty after being played by an offside Crusader – but his were far from the only handling errors in a dour opening stanza.
The key moment of the half came in the 20th minute. With the Hurricanes hot on attack, Jordie Barrett, playing centre due to injuries, was adjudged to have hit Havili late as he cleared from almost his dead ball line. From the very next play, Barrett was again penalised, this time for a high shot on wing George Bridge. A lineout drive from close range ensued, lock Scott Barrett burrowing over for a try that 5/8 Richie Mo’unga converted for a 7-0 lead.
Barrett somewhat atoned for his indiscretions with a monster penalty from halfway after 27 minutes, an extraordinary effort given the slushy underfoot conditions.
Beauden Barrett scored next from in front, the Crusaders caught offside after Ardie Savea made a typically bullocking run, reducing the deficit to a point as half-time neared.
The Hurricanes were again guilty of conceding back-to-back penalties to gift the Crusaders field position in the 37th minute, but on this occasion were able to hold up the ball carrier over the goal line to end the half.
Halftime: Crusaders 7-6 Hurricanes
The Crusaders came out firing after halftime, wing Seta Tamanivalu arguably bombing a try by kicking it dead from inside the Hurricanes 22 when a contact and recycle play seemed the better option. Havili was then denied a try, rolled onto his back by Julian Savea and unable to ground the ball before going touch in goal. They were, however, under penalty advantage and Mo’unga extended the lead to 10-6.
Another penalty with 30 minutes remaining saw Mo’unga find touch just five metres out. Numerous drives at the line were made, prop Michael Ala’alatoa finally crossing. Mo’unga’s conversion made it 17-6 and left the Hurricanes with a mountain to climb.
Bridge had a chance to seal it but couldn’t hold centre Jack Goodhue’s final pass, but from the resulting defensive scrum replacement Hurricanes 5/8 Ihaia West shanked the clearance touch in goal. A try was ruled out when a knock on was detected but again it was under penalty advantage. The Crusaders took the scrum option, no doubt trying to “earn” a yellow card, with No.8 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis running over the top of TJ Perenara to score. Mo’unga was again on target, the lead was 24-6 with just 14 minutes remaining, and the Crusaders had picked up a try-scoring bonus point that few would have believed possible.
The Hurricanes attempted to turn on the razzle-dazzle but, inevitably, this proved impossible in the conditions and while they held the ball for lengthy periods, little or no forward progress was made until replacement flanker Reed Prinsep made a hole in the defensive line and cantered over. That negated the Crusaders’ bonus point and left the Hurricanes just enough time to go after a losing bonus point.
The Crusaders defence held firm, however, bundling Ngani Laumape into touch and then forcing Beauden Barrett to throw a desperation pass at Nehe Milner-Skudder that drifted forward to effectively end their night.
The Crusaders now hold a five-point lead at the top of the New Zealand Conference, although the Hurricanes do have a game in hand. Barring something catastrophic occurring, they seem destined to qualify top and fourth overall, but in which order is still far from certain.
Jaguares 29-13 Sharks
The Jaguares breakout season continued at home to the Sharks, a sixth consecutive victory taking their season tally to eight which is already more than in either of their two previous campaigns.
Wing Ramiro Moyano was the individual star with a hat-trick of tries, the first on the half-hour mark after an Emiliano Bofelli line break and Marcos Kramer offload. Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, who had earlier kicked a penalty, converted to make it 10-0 and leave the Sharks ruing having missed two penalties including one from dead in front.
Minutes later Moyano was in again from a tap penalty close to the line. Sanchez converted for 17-0 and the fans were dancing in the stands. A late try to Sharks lock Ryan Botha from a planned lineout move and converted by flyhalf Robert du Preez quietened them a little, but at 17-7 it was definitely the Jaguares half.
Du Preez closed the gap with a penalty ten minutes after the resumption, and another less than five minutes later. Previously we’ve seen the Jaguares fade badly in these situations but not this time, wing Bautista Delguy scoring next (after each side had had a try ruled out on TMO review) after Moyano split the defence. Sanchez converted for 24-13 with less than ten minutes remaining.
The Sharks slim chance of a comeback ended when Botha was red-carded for elbowing a player in the head as he hit a ruck. Moyano completed his hat-trick by finishing off a Martin Landajo short-side dab with time up to send the crowd wild.
The Jaguares are now second in the South African Conference and seventh overall, the Sharks third in the Conference but two points outside the playoffs and, having played an extra game than the eighth-placed Rebels, poorly placed to qualify.
Stormers 23-26 Lions
The Lions overcame a ten-point halftime deficit but it took a 76th-minute try with the Stormers down to 14 men to do it and the home side will likely view this as one that got away due to their indiscipline.
The Stormers scored first after just three minutes, scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage getting over from close range after hooker Ramone Samuels had come up just short. A Jean-Luc du Plessis conversion made it 7-0, and his penalty after 17 minutes 10-0.
The Lions got on the board courtesy of scrumhalf Nic Groom exploiting a bad defensive lapse by Samuels to score under the posts, flyhalf Elton Jantjies adding the extras to end a frantic first quarter at 10-7.
Wing Raymond Rhule scored next for the Stormers with a diving touchdown of a well-weighted kick from rookie Craig Barry, du Plessis taking the lead out to the halftime score of 17-7. A dangerous tackle by centre JJ Engelbrecht meant they finished the half a man down, however.
Ten minutes after the resumption Rhule needlessly flattened Lions wing Ryan Combrinck high and late, forcing him off to undergo a HIA, and was rightly red carded. Minutes later Engelbrecht could easily have joined him: penalised for dragging a player out of a maul around the neck, that probably should have resulted in his second yellow for the match.
Replacement hooker Corne Fourie powered over to bring the Lions within five points, then levelled the scores with 20 minutes remaining while the Stormers had another man in the bin, this time replacement Jaco Coetzee, who had been on the field only a minute or two, for a late hit on Jantjies. Both came from lineout drives as the Stormers ill-discipline began to cost them dearly.
Down to 13 men the Stormers played for territory and slowed the game down at every opportunity. Du Plessis even got them back in front 20-19, then 23-19 shortly after they were restored to 14 men.
With full time rapidly approaching the Lions set up yet another lineout drive from which Hacjivah Dayimani broke blind-side to send replacement wing Madosh Tambwe over in the corner. Jantjies converted from wide out, 26-23 with under two minutes left.
A late turnover inside the Lions 22 had the Stormers going all-in to snatch the win, but the red wall held them out to record a crucial win in the context of the South African Conference.
After losing most of a once-commanding Conference lead in recent weeks the Lions are again odds-on to win it. The Stormers have drifted further off the pace and it would take a convoluted series of results for them to qualify for finals footy.
SANZAAR match page: https://sanzarrugby.com/superrugby/match-centre/?season=2018&competition=205&match=518157
1. Crusaders 50 (played 13)
2. Lions 40 (14)
3. Waratahs 31 (12)
4. Hurricanes 45 (12)
5. Chiefs 37 (12)
6. Highlanders 36 (12)
7. Jaguares 34 (13)
8. Rebels 30 (12)
If that were the finishing order the quarter finals would be:
QF1 Crusaders v Rebels
QF2 Hurricanes v Chiefs
QF3 Lions v Jaguares
QF4 Waratahs v Highlanders
Note that this year Semi Final 1 is between the winners of QF1 and QF2, not the highest- and lowest-seeded quarter final winners as was previously the case.
One Round left before the June International window, and with no South African teams playing due to them starting a week early, this weeks Un-Australian Activities may be short on quantity but they’re big on quality (times are AEST):
Highlanders v Hurricanes 17:35 Friday
Chiefs v Crusaders 17:35 Saturday