This week’s edition of UN-AUSTRALIAN ACTIVITIES takes us to Dunedin, Bloemfontein, Buenos Aires and Hamilton for four quality Super Rugby matches.
The Highlanders’ returned with a vengeance and looked good doing it against the Stormers in our Match of the Round.
Match of the Round: Highlanders 57 Stormers 14
South Africa’s most expansive side took on New Zealand’s most natural entertainers under the roof at Dunedin’s Forsyth-Barr Stadium but were shown up 57-14.
The Highlanders rolled to their biggest ever win in classic Kiwi fashion, punching nine scintillating tries through the Africa One conference leaders.
An electric first half roared into life in the seventh minute as Stormers skipper Siyas Kolisi popped a sublime offload around the corner for No.8 Nizaam Carr to score.
From there, it was all the home side.
It took just four minutes for the Highlanders to respond as Patrick Osborne capably finished an overlap.
Ben Smith set the Stormers onto the back foot with a jinking run; perfect conditions for winger Waisake Naholo to glide through a scattered defence in the 17th minute.
It seemed everything the Highlanders touched turned to gold as a speculative offload set in motion Osborne second try within 21 minutes.
The forwards rumbled home a 29th minute try before the Highlanders’ backs again stole the show.
Osborne took contact in midfield with the ball clutched precariously in one hand, waiting patiently before delivering a peach of an offload to Rob Thompson to snatch the bonus point upon half-time.
A kind bounce handed the Highlanders’ Naholo his second try in the 54th minute before Dillon Hunt and Greg Pleasants-Tate both added close range efforts.
The Stormers hit back with one 74th minute try in consolation but the Highlanders had saved their best for last.
Substitute lock and club icon Joe Wheeler grubbered ahead a perfectly waited through ball for Matt Faddes to chase down in goal.
The win marks the Highlanders fifth on the trot with the side now just five-points behind the third-placed Hurricanes on the NZ Conference leaderboard.
Highlanders 57 (Tries: Osborne (2), Naholo (2), Squires, Thompson, Hunt, Pleasants-Tate, Faddes; Cons: Banks (5), Smith) defeated Stormers 14 (Tries: Carr, Duvenage; Cons: Du Preez (2)
Chiefs 27 Sunwolves 20
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie rung the changes for Round 10’s clash with the Sunwolves and it nearly came back to bite him as his charges won ugly, 27-20.
The Sunwolves showed immense ticker after humbling defeats at the hands of the Crusaders and Highlanders to deny the Chiefs a bonus-point while earning one themselves.
If not for the irrepressible class of fullback Damian McKenzie the Chiefs would almost certainly have found themselves with egg on their face in Hamilton.
McKenzie created 20 of his side’s points with two tries, a key hand in another and five-pts from the boot.
With the Chiefs on their doorstep as time expired, the Sunwolves were dealt a yellow and a red card in the same passage of play but held firm to return from their three-game tour of New Zealand with a single competition point.
Chiefs 27 (Tries: Elliot, Alaimalo, McKenzie (2); Cons: McKenzie (2); Pens: Mckenzie) defeated Sunwolves 20 (Tries: Tanaka, Carpenter; Cons: Taulagi (2); Pens: Cripps, Taulagi)
Cheetahs 21 Crusaders 48
The Crusaders defended their status as Super Rugby’s final undefeated team with a powerful 48-21 win in South Africa.
The 24-hour journey from Christchurch to Bloemfontein on South Africa’s highveld couldn’t shake the Crusaders momentum as the Cantabrians extended their winning streak to nine in a row.
2017 recruit Seta Tamanivalu beat one defender to send fullback David Havili over in the 12th minute but the Cheetahs hit back with an exceptional counter-attacking effort finished by Raymond Rhule.
The Crusaders snapped the match out of stalemate with a two-try blast from winger George Bridge in the 10 minutes before half-time.
Bridge did it all himself in the 34th minute by twisting out of a tackle to score before running down a pin-point accurate cross field kick in the 39th to enter the sheds ahead 22-7.
Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga added another seven-points to his side’s lead by wandering through weak defence and kicking his own conversion in the 47th minute.
Cheetahs big man Ox Nche scored a running try to keep his side in the hunt but three further tries to the Crusaders’ David Havili, Mitchell Drummond and George Bridge would seal the win.
Winger Sergeal Petersen scored the Cheetahs third and final try in consolation.
Cheetahs 21 (Tries: Rhule, Petersen, Nche; Cons: Marais (3) defeated by Crusaders 48 (Tries: Havili (2), Bridge (3), Mo’unga, Drummond; Cons: Mo’unga (5); Pens: Mo’unga
Jaguares 25 v Sharks 33
The Sharks came out on top over the Jaguares in a high-scoring nail biter in Argentina, 33-25.
A key penalty goal from budding superstar Curwin Bosch denied the Jaguares a losing bonus point in the race for Africa Two conference glory and a potential playoff berth.
The 19-year-old Bosch kicked 18-points for the match from flyhalf to steer his side to a key win.
The Sharks were able to capitalise on their early territory advantage as captain Philip van der Walt opened their account with a pick and drive try.
The sides traded a number of penalties until Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez produced a spark of playmaking magic to set free Joaquin Tuculet on the right wing to equalise scores at 13-13.
More playmaking skill, this time from centre partners Jeronimo de la Fuente and Matias Orlando, sent the latter crashing through under the posts in the 33rd minute to open up a seven-point lead.
Poor defence would soon blow that as Sharks fullback Rhyno Smith split the Jaguares on kick-return, setting the stage for lock Coenie Oosthuizen to fall over the line.
The Sharks momentum would continue into the second half as prop Thomas ‘The Tank’ du Toit charged onto a short ball for a 20 metre try that is sure to grow longer with each retelling.
A Bosch penalty edged his Sharks ahead 30-20 but again the Jaguares returned, this time through winger Felipe Ezcurra.
An intentional knock-down as the clock wound down gifted Bosch a chance to deny the Jaguares.
Bosch’s kick sailed through, opening up an eight-point buffer between them both for this match and on the Africa Two conference leaderboard.
Jaguares 25 (Tries: Tuculet, Orlando, Ezcurra; Cons: Sanchez (2); Pens: Sanchez (2) defeated by Sharks 33 (Tries: van der Walt, Oosthuizen, du Toit; Cons: Bosch (3); Pens: Bosch (4)