Rugby’s Saturday of surprises

2011-04-11 00:00

A WEEK is an age in Super Rugby – as the Sharks, Stormers and Bulls will tell you.

Last Monday the Sharks were suffering, beaten for the third time on successive weekends and by the log-leading Stormers. They were lying third on the South African log and second were the Bulls, who were celebrating an important win in New Zealand over the Hurricanes.

But today it is all very different. The Sharks are back on track following a bonus point 27-3 win over the limited Lions at King’s Park, the Stormers have lost their unbeaten record — and their place at the top of the log — after being beaten 19-6 by the Reds in Cape Town and the Bulls were blown away 27-0 by the pace-setting Crusaders in little Timaru.

It was the most productive of weekends for the Sharks who made considerable ground while the Stormers and Bulls marked time and were well beaten.

The Sharks were never under real threat as the Lions regularly punctuated their play with handling errors, many well behind the gainline. The Sharks were also untidy at times, but they did score three first-half tries. Two excellent sweeping movements and deft handling following turnovers resulted in first Louis Ludik and then Willem Alberts, after JP Pietersen had done much of the running, scoring.

The third try — after the half-time hooter — went to Pietersen after Jacques-Louis Potgieter’s pinpoint cross-kick released him down the left. Potgieter missed four of his five kicks at goal but the Sharks still led 17-3 at the break. They then had to wait a full 40 minutes before scrumhalf Charl McLeod darted over for the bonus point try after the final hooter.

The Lions had much of the possession and territory in the second half, but they seldom looked like scoring and they were comfortably closed down by the Sharks.

The Crusaders and Reds, now at one and two on the log, were the other big weekend winners.

It has been many years, well 12 to be exact, since the Bulls have been whitewashed in Super Rugby and there was an ominous warning for, among others, Springbok coach Peter de Villiers and the overplayed Bulls captain Victor Matfield.

In other action the Brumbies edged out the Hurricanes 17-16 in Canberra while the Waratahs went to Perth and blew away the Force 31-3.

The Crusaders outmuscled the limp Bulls, scoring three tries. The Crusaders’ dominance was so pronounced that it was only after 37 minutes that the Bulls’ Morne Steyn had his only (unsuccessful) kick at goal.

The Stormers were hammered for their indiscipline with two forwards sin-binned — Duane Vermeulen for punching and hooker Deon Fourie for tripping,

The Reds scored 10 points while Fourie was off the field in the closing minutes.

Reds coach Ewen McKenzie says it was his side’s kicking game that was decisive after attempts to run the ball had failed.

“We came into the match feeling confident about our set-pieces and apart from a few lineouts, I’m pleased with the way things went.”

Coach Allister Coetzee said the Stormers “did not play” and were beaten by the Reds’ superior kicking game. “The Reds played very well and we were surprised by their intensity and we were forced into mistakes.”

Schalk Burger, the Stormers captain, said his team was never able to strike up cohesion in the match.

“We were a few percent off our game and when that happens in this competition you get punished… We’re hurting after this defeat.”

 

Saturday’s scores and scorers (home team first):

Crusaders 27 Bulls 0: Crusaders - Tries: Sonny Bill Williams, Israel Dagg, Tom Marshall; Penalties: Matt Berquist (4).

Brumbies 17 Hurricanes 16: Brumbies – Tries: Henry Speight. Penalties: Matt Giteau (4). Hurricanes – Tries: Aaron Cruden. Conversions: Cruden. Penalties: Cruden, Daniel Kirkpatrick (2).

Force 3 Waratahs 31: Force – Penalties: James O’Connor. Waratahs 31 (17): Tries - Tom Carter, Drew Mitchell (2), Kurtley Beale. Conversions: Beale (3). Penalties: Beale

Stormers 6 Reds 19: Stormers: Penalties: Peter Grant (2). Reds: Try: Mike Harris. Conversion: Quade Cooper. Penalties: Quade Cooper (4).

Sharks 27 Lions 3: Sharks - Tries: Louis Ludik, Willem Alberts, JP Pietersen, Charl McLeod. Conversions: Meyer Bosman, Jacques-Louis Potgieter. Penalty: Potgieter. Lions - Penalty: Elton Jantjies.

Played Friday

Highlanders 24 Cheetahs 21

Byes: Blues, Chiefs, Rebels .

 

NOTES

— The two conference (RSA, NZ and Australia) winners with highest total points qualify for semi-finals

— The other conference winner qualifies for play-offs with three teams who have highest total points apart from conference winners

— A team receiving a bye gets four points

 

This weekend’s fixtures (SA times, home team first):

Friday

Chiefs v Crusaders 0935

Rebels v Highlanders 1140

Saturday

Blues v Waratahs 0935

Reds v Bulls 1140

Lions v Stormers 1705

Cheetahs v Hurricanes 1910

Sunday

Brumbies v Force 0810

Bye: Sharks

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