Grinding Out A Win
Grinding Out A Win
Grinding Out A Win
NOT spectacular, but with the international season looming, New Zealand’s four functioning Super Rugby teams underlined the importance of being able to find a way win when you’re not having a great night, or when you strike a stubborn opponent whom you’re supposed to beat easily or when you’re down with just seconds left, or when you get a couple of blokes sinbinned at the same time.
There’s value in that.
New Zealand Power Rankings
1) Crusaders: Started well and built a good lead, which they needed when the cards started to fly. Showed championship quality in the way they muscled up when down to 13 players, and toughed out a worthy four pointer.
2) Highlanders: The specialists of the last minute escape in South Africa, they showed true grit on a paucity of possession. Seriously, how are you supposed to win with less than 20 percent of the ball and territory in the first half, and not much more in the second? Ask them, they know.
3) Hurricanes: A few frustrations along the way, tries ruled out, uncooperative opponents and an inability to get out of their own territory. Still had it when they needed it and with a game in hand and the best winning streak in the comp they are beautifully placed on the shoulder of the pace setter, as they head down the back straight on the last lap.
4) Chiefs: Didn’t have to do anything to stay right in the hunt, except rest up and get a few bodies closer to a return.
5) Blues: Look, you have to consider that they have the equivalent of an entire team and half a reserve bench out of action right now, but they are completely lost in the fog and the only losing streak they are going to be involved in ending this weekend is an Australian one.
At least this week they managed a win, and it was a good one, with the Reds getting their wild ride back on track against the heavily fancied Lions. But the Rebels were comfortably swatted by the Stormers and the Brumbies again showed their ingrained limitations on attack when everything was in their favour. If the Rebels can’t beat the Crusaders on their return from South Africa they could be down to one team in the top eight.
South African Conference:
The movers are the Jaguares. Three on the road in Australasia is a fair grab, regardless of the state of the opposition. If they make the playoffs, it would be good for the competition. The Bulls were a real mixture, creating some good tries, but still too inclined to go to a lineout drive that was readily nullified, playing too far behind the ad line in back play and making silly errors when it counted. And after their good win in Sydney, the Lions losing in Brisbane was not a great move ahead of their trip further east.
Five Star Performers:
1) Lydia Ko: I know, not a rugby player, but I’ll use one of Buddha Handy’s to give it some sort of rugby context….Ko, you good thing!
2) Vince Aso: Four touchdowns, only two tries, still not a bad night. The call-back for a forward pass was fair enough, but the next was ruled out for something more sausage roll than neck roll.
3) Lima Sopoaga: Nailed seven out of seven including a nerveless winner to deny the Bulls. Stood up on D too, like everyone else in his team. Solid.
4) Wyatt Crockett: The days of “Crocky” having to play anything more than 50 minutes are supposed to be long gone, but he had no choice. Looked a bit puffed at times, but did a great job holding together an undermanned scrum and did his stuff round the track as well.
5) Guido Petti : The Pumas lock seems to save his best for Kiwi opposition and he was at the heart of a Jaguares pack that upped its game at both scrum and lineout time, and drove the ball effectively through the thin Blue line.
Ben Skeen was under fire for getting just a bit too involved in things Friday, and wisely took a back seat at Eden Park. It beggars belief that the Canberra media are complaining about Jaco Pyper being tough on the Brumbies, when he allowed himself to be talked into a yellow for Chance Peni after a shot that ticked every box for a red. The deciding penalty whistled by Glen Jackson in Pretoria looked a pretty close thing.
Singapore Slingers: After the golden glory on the GC, normal service was resumed for the All Black Sevens in Singapore. Should have beaten Fiji in the quarters but had to make do with fifth. Kurt Baker has been given a late career opportunity after being dumped by Sir GT, and made two bad blunders, a loose carry on the line allowing a coast to coast try for the Fijians, and then failing to find touch from a penalty with just over a minute to play and a two point lead on the board.
Pictured: Jordan Taufua from the Crusaders looks to break a tackle in the clash against the Brumbies (Photosport)
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