This week’s Un-Australian Activities reviews four close games comprising three entertaining games of rugby and one fairly dull one. If you haven’t already seen it, make sure you track down a replay of the Stormers v Chiefs game, it was an absolute beauty.
Sunwolves 21 – Bulls 20, Prince Chichubu, Tokyo
A good crowd turned out to Price Chichibu Stadium in Tokyo to watch the cellar dwellers in the ‘Africa 1′ conference derby. The Bulls were the raging favourites however the locals opened the scoring with a Warren-Vosayaco try in the 6th minute. Odendaal scored for the Bulls in the 12th minute and the Sunwolves held an 11-10 lead at oranges. The Bulls looked to have it won after a Travis Ismaeil try gave them a 9 point buffer with 15 minutes to play. However the Sunwolves saw an opportunity when Serfontein was shown a yellow in the 68th minute, Nakazuru scored a try a minute later which was converted leaving the hosts trailing 20-18. Tamura took the hosts to a one point lead with a penalty goal in the 74th minute, a lead they held to bravely until the final whistle, giving the Sunwolves their first win of the season much to the ecstasy of the players and their long suffering supporters.
Highlanders 26 – Blues 20, Forsyth-Barr, Dunedin
To Forsyth-Barr stadium in Dunedin for another bottom of the conference clash. The Highlanders had the home advantage and started slight favourites over the Blues, whose fans were excited about the return to Super Rugby and Blues debut of Sonny-Bill Williams. The Highlanders opened the scoring with a Banks penalty goal, but wouldn’t see the lead again in the first half with the Blues out scoring them 2 tries to 1 and going to the sheds with a 20-10 lead. Banks opened the scoring again for the Highlanders early in the second half with a penalty goal, followed by a Fekitoa try a few minutes later. Two more penalty goals, the final one emanating from a major SBW passing blunder at the other end of the field, and the Highlanders had secured a 26-20 home town win over the Blues.
Sharks 18 – Jaguares 13, Growthpoint, Durban
The Sharks hosted the Jaguares in Durban in what turned out to be an unentertaining, error ridden match up. It’s difficult to see either of these sides hoisting the trophy at the pointy end of the season, however they are both in contention for the finals via the ‘best runners up’ slot. The Sharks scored first with a Reinach try which was unconverted. Two Sanchez penalty goals followed but that would be the only time the Argentinians would have the lead in the game. Esterhuizen scored a try early in the second half for the Sharks, to go out to a 15-6 lead. Sanchez was yellow carded for an early tackle, and Creevy was able to score a try which was converted. It was too little to late for the visitors and the Sharks sealed the 18-13 win with a Bosch penalty goal in the 77th minute.
Match of the round
Stormers 34 – Chiefs 26, DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Both teams ran out onto Newlands early on Sunday morning in front of a great crowd of 34,700 looking to maintain their their undefeated 2017 records. The Stormers had acquired a reputation for some bold attacking rugby this season and started the game with this in mind, with flanker Notshe crashing over within 3 minutes of the opening whistle. Shortly after, discipline let the Stormers down with Wiese sent to the bin for a lazy off the ball tackle. The Stormers conceded 10 points while they were a man down, including a spectacular try that will surely be in contention for the try of the season – started by Mckenzie from a Stormers miskick, the Chiefs countered at full speed, support runners and offloads aplenty down the left hand tryline, with Pulu eventually claiming the meat.
Once back to full strength, the Stormers responded almost immediately with other flanker Kolisi finding the paint from a pick and drive. The Chiefs responded with a penalty goal and then another try started by Mckenzie from a poor Stormers kick and again finished by Pulu, this time after a weaving Mckenzie run, giving the visitors an 18-14 lead. The Stormers were to fight back strongly with a penalty goal and a 40th minute try to fly half du Preez and went to the break in front 24-18.
The Stormers extended their lead momentarily early in the second half with a Marais penalty goal, however the Chiefs responded minutes later with one of their own by Cruden. In the 51st minute Kolbe cut through the Chiefs defence from an intercept, and then passed to Lleyds who, after a freakish display of ball handling, offloaded to Marais to go over. Chasing down a 13 point deficit, the Chiefs threw everything at the hosts and managed to narrow that to 8 points through a James Lowe try. That margin held for the remaining 20 minutes, with the Chiefs getting more and more desperate as full time approached, and the Stormers responding with some incredible, accurate defence.
Stormers win 34-26 showing they are the real deal in 2017, in an extremely high quality match which has to go down as one of the best of the competition so far.
Stormers – Tries: Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Siya Kolisi, Robert du Preez, SP Marais. Conversions: Du Preez (4). Penalties: Marais (2).
Chiefs – Tries: Toni Pulu (2), James Lowe. Conversion: Aaron Cruden. Penalties: Cruden (3).