Round 14 Super Rugby round up
This was the round that was going to sort the pretenders from the contenders. But after this round, no pretenders were found.
Every team in contention performed well with possibly the exception of the Stormers. Every game this week bar the Hurricanes v Rebels was decided by seven or less.
First off the rack was top of the table clash between the Chiefs and the Bulls. The Chiefs’ first half was rusty they and the Bulls got the jump on them.
Throughout the game the Bulls use of the rolling maul was impressive. They got close to 100 metres out of rolling mauls and despite the fact the Chiefs forwards were very strong in the set piece scrums, they had no answers for the rampaging Bulls when they got their mauls rolling.
After a lack lustre first half, the Chiefs woke up in the second half and led by some Sonny Bill Williams brilliance they got back in the game and secured a great 28-22 come from behind win, cementing their place as a genuine contender this season.
They now sit three points clear on the top. As for the Bulls, despite the loss, they lost no admirers. It was their fourth game on a long road trip and something had to give. It did in the second half as they began to fade ever so slightly.
They have a massive game next week against the Stormers, which they need to win to stay in the race for the South Africa conference. A loss there could see them drop to third spot in the South Africa conference.
Hurricanes and Rebels were next. I thought this would be a high scoring game, but I thought the Rebels would show more heart. They surrendered meekly and were smashed by a rampaging Hurricanes side 66-17 in the worst loss in their two year history.
To make matters worse they lost Kurtley Beale and without Beale, O’Connor and Cipriani, they are sorely lacking creativity.
The Blues versus Highlanders went the way of the visitors 27-20, despite an awful record on the ground. It was a game where the best and worst of the Blues were on display for all to see.
First 20 minutes and final 20 minutes the Blues were arguably the better side on the ground. The other 40 minutes though was a clear example of why they sit where they are on the ladder, after they displayed some of the most pathetic rugby seen this season.
The heavyweight battle of the Australian conference was next and as they have done in a lot of recent games, the Reds flew out the blocks with a converted try in the opening minutes.
That was it for tries scored for the game as it turned into a tight defensive error ridden encounter. It was billed as the showpiece of the Australian conference and if this was the showpiece I already feel for fans of the Wallabies.
It came down to the new kid on the block on the very last play of the game to decide it. Josh Holmes who was four from four stepped up to take a shot from 40 metres out on the angle to snatch a 15-13 win for Brumbies.
If successful he would have put the Reds aspirations of winning the Australian conference out of reach. The kick just sailed wide and the Reds survived 13-12 in an unflattering win, keeping their slim finals hopes alive.
The Force and Lions were next in the battle for the bottom. The Lions got the early jump in this and looked good early on.
After around 20 minutes, the Force started getting their hands on the ball and despite a massive dominance in possession and territory if wasn’t until midway in the second half they were able to cross the Lions line.
The skills of both sides were very poor and a 17-11 full time result to the Force ended a boring contest from two sides low on confidence.
Cheetahs and Waratahs were next up in the most entertaining match of the round. A nine try one point thriller which the Cheetahs won 35-34.
After a week of criticism about their stagnant play, finally the Waratahs opened up their backline and they looked great. They just failed to get the win but they lost no admirers with their performance.
The Cheetahs continue to finish the season off well. They could be the smokey in the South African conference that could upset one or more of the top fancies and shape who wins it.
The South African blockbuster finished off the weekend and the Sharks dominated the Stormers everywhere except the scoreboard. They still got the win but when the margin was 25-6 early in the second half, they looked set to run away with a four try bonus point win.
To the Stormers credit they did fight back well and managed two tries against the trend, one an intercept from Aplon and the other a beautiful set piece play where Aplon again scored off a pass that went a good two metres forward, much to the disgust of the Shark’s crowd.
The final margin was 25-20, but the five point margin did not reflect the total dominance the Sharks had over the Stormers this contest.
With the Lions away next game for the Sharks you could pencil in a potential bonus point win.
The Stormers, with their ordinary form the last three weeks, face off against a Bulls sides on the rebound in Loftus this week and after holding a dominant spot at the top of the South African conference they could find themselves back in third spot behind the Bulls and Sharks after round 15.
In the conferences, the Chiefs went a long way towards sealing the New Zealand conference, maintaining a seven-point lead over the Crusaders.
The Brumbies with their loss now hold just a five-point advantage over the Reds but they are benefited by a nice run home with the Rebels, Blues and Force among their final opponents.
The South African conference is game on. The Sharks are now nipping at the feet of the Bulls and Stormers who play each other next week.
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