CRUSADERS 33-14 BULLS
The Crusaders secured a potentially valuable bonus point victory on a wet Friday night in Christchurch.
The Bulls showed their hand in the opening 10 minutes, setting up four driving mauls inside the Crusaders 22 but coming away with no points to show for it. Conversely the Crusaders first two tries, to lock Scott Barrett after 16 minutes and hooker Codie Taylor after 28, both came from close-range driving mauls. Bulls wing Travis Ismaiel scored a solo stunner after 32 minutes but centre Jack Goodhue powered over in the 39th to restore the Crusaders lead to 14 at the break.
The second half followed much the same pattern, the Bulls falling further behind when Goodhue completed his double after 49 minutes and not scoring their second try until the 69th when replacement forward Marco van Staden re-enacted the parting of the Red Sea to go under the posts. Wing George Bridge regained the Crusaders the bonus point inside the last ten minutes.
Not a great spectacle and one wonders what might have happened had the Bulls kept the scoreboard ticking over in threes – neither side attempted a penalty during the match – and played a more traditional Bulls game than what coach John Mitchell has them playing this year.
SANZAAR match page: https://sanzarrugby.com/superrugby/match-centre/?season=2018&competition=205&match=518061
CHIEFS 61-10 SUNWOLVES
The Chiefs were utterly dominant in Tokyo, running in nine tries and at times scoring seemingly at will.
Four opening-quarter tries meant it was only ever a question of how much they would win by, a century looking a possibility until the home side’s forwards muscled up in defence. The Sunwolves have a handy pair of attacking wingers, but neither looked comfortable on defence and the midfield pairing wasn’t much more effective.
For the Chiefs, 5/8 Damian McKenzie and wing Solomon Alaimalo each bagged a double with locks Tyler Ardron and Brodie Retallick, hooker Nathan Harris, his replacement Liam Polwart, and replacement back Sean Wainui also dotting down.
The Sunwolves managed two tries, but there was more than a hint of a forward handoff in Masirewa’s effort.
SANZAAR match page: https://sanzarrugby.com/superrugby/match-centre/?season=2018&competition=205&match=518063
HURRICANES 29-12 HIGHLANDERS
It may go down as a 17-point victory, but the Hurricanes were made to work hard for it by a Highlanders side that, as we’ve come to expect, fought from whistle to whistle.
Six minutes in Highlanders centre Rob Thompson looked to have set his fullback Ben Smith up for a kick-and-chase try, only for the ball to sit up for Beauden Barrett who scooted 50 metres to score and add the extras.
Concerted Highlanders pressure on the goal line, including a Tyrel Lomax carry that went agonisingly close, eventually lead to wing Waisake Naholo exploiting an overlap to score in the corner.
Hurricanes wing Ben Lam scored next a superb effort in the left corner despite having three defenders trying to push or pull him into touch. The TMO almost made a howler, telling the ref to disallow the try for a foot in touch before realising (or more likely being told) that said foot belonged to a defender.
Halftime: Hurricanes 12-5 Highlanders
The second half had barely begun when Naholo bagged his second try, a brilliant kick-and-chase in which the ball again bounced wickedly but this time in the visitor’s favour. He had the presence of mind to feign dotting down before evading a defender in-goal and scoring closer to the posts. Sopoaga nailed the easy conversion to even the scores.
Having turned down kickable penalties earlier in the game, the Hurricanes decided that fullback Jordie Barrett would attempt one from a long way out. It always had the direction but the height was in some doubt until it finally made it over the bar for a 15-12 lead with half an hour remaining.
The teams went at each other hammer and tongs for the next 15 minutes without success before replacement wing Vince Aso scored one of the tries of the season. Knowing that Ben Smith stood an excellent chance of pushing him into touch he took the aerial route and touched down in the corner while almost vertical.
After that, the Hurricanes simply refused to relinquish the ball and made several multi-phase forays into the Highlanders 22. It was only a question of when the defence would break and with five minutes remaining Lam picked up his second try, landing short of the line but reaching out to touch the line before the ball squirted away.
TJ Perenara, therefore, got to celebrate his 100th Hurricanes cap with a win that may prove vital later in the season. As things stand the Hurricanes are now just a point behind the Crusaders at the top of the New Zealand Conference and have a game in hand. The Highlanders now sit equal third with the Chiefs, both of them also having played one game fewer than the Crusaders.
SANZAAR match page: https://sanzarrugby.com/superrugby/match-centre/?season=2018&competition=205&match=518064
JAGUARES 49-35 LIONS
The Lions confirmed many people’s suspicions that they’re not quite at their 2016-17 level in crashing to their second defeat of the year and leaking plenty of points in the process.
Down 0-10 early following a first-minute try and a penalty soon after, the Lions fought back to briefly lead 14-10 before the Jaguares scored twice late in the half to lead 25-14 at the break.
The third quarter would prove decisive, each side scoring twice but the Lions unable to peg back the lead, 21-28 being as close as they got. The Jaguares then added three more late tries to seal the victory.
The Lions remain on top of the South African Conference and second overall while the Jaguares are now fourth in the Conference and twelfth overall.
SANZAAR match page: https://sanzarrugby.com/superrugby/match-centre/?season=2018&competition=205&match=518066
Un-Australian activities next week (times are AEDT) are:
Chiefs v Highlanders 17:35 Friday
Blues v Sharks 17:35 Saturday
Bulls v Stormers 1:15 Sunday
Lions v Crusaders 22:30 Sunday