Weekend of ups and downs

2013-05-06 00:00

THE Bulls went to the top of the South African confederation in style and the Cheetahs rested up in Bloemfontein, but for the Sharks, Kings and Stormers it was an another painful, agonising Super Rugby weekend.

In the only game played yesterday, a high-profile clash in Canberra, All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter pulled the strings as the Crusaders beat the Super Rugby-leading Brumbies 30-23.

The Bulls, bruising and controlled, were seldom threatened by the Hurricanes as they ran in six tries, leading 27-0 at the break and finally winning 48-14 at Loftus.

The Bulls’ tries went to centres JJ Engelbrecht and Wynand Olivier, flank Deon Stegmann, wing Akona Ndungane, prop Dean Greyling and replacement back Lionel Mapoe. Flyhalf Morné Steyn was successful with five conversions as well as two penalties for 16 points.

The Hurricanes could not handle the Bulls’ constant forward pressure and were forced to play far too much rugby in their own half. They also lost their excellent and composed All Black centre and captain Conrad Smith to concussion and for long periods appeared rudderless.

But the real carnage took place in Port Elizabeth where the Kings were brought roughly to earth by the Waratahs, leaking 11 tries and losing 72-10. The Waratahs were up 46-10 at the break, toying with the Kings’ defence, which lacked intensity and organisation.

The Kings improved marginally in the second half when flank Luke Watson came on and showed some neat touches. For the rest, it was one-way traffic and the darkest of days for the Kings. They next play the Highlanders in Port Elizabeth while the Waratahs travel home to face the touring Stormers in Sydney.

In New Zealand, both the Stormers (in losing to the Blues by one point on Friday) and the Sharks (by three to the Highlanders on Saturday) had their opportunities to win.

The Sharks’ 22-25 loss to the Highlanders has left them in a similar position to last year where they had to rely on an extraordinary late season flourish to reach the final.

They could have settled for a draw on Saturday as the Highlanders, under severe pressure on their own line for the last five minutes, conceded a string of goalable penalties. But the Sharks wanted a fourth try and five log points — rather than two for the draw — and on half-a-dozen occasions were within stretching distance of the win. But a combination of excellent Highlanders defence, using means both fair and foul, a series of unforced Sharks’ errors and the inconsistent refereeing of New Zealander Steve Walsh at the breakdown, denied them.

After a frantic, often untidy first half, the Sharks appeared well-placed as they led 15-7 at the break with two well-worked tries. The first followed a neat offload by Frans Steyn to midfield partner Meyer Bosman after a sustained build-up.

Bosman, in one of his most productive games, was also involved in the second as he caught Pat Lambie’s excellent chip into space and sent wing Lwazi Mvovo on a 50 metre run to the line. But the match turned in the third quarter as the Sharks, losing focus and battling with Walsh’s breakdown rulings, hardly touched the ball and the Highlanders ran in 18 unanswered points.

Derrick Minnie, a loose forward replacement for Tera Mtembu (shoulder), was blown up time and again by Walsh at the breakdown and eventually he gave way to the influential Jean Deysel. But it was the loss of the improving centre Steyn to an ankle injury after 50 minutes which proved even more damaging to the Sharks’ attack.

In an entertaining second half there were sublime tries by both teams as Highlanders flyhalf Colin Slade rounded off a superb counter-attack while a 30-phase movement ended with Bosman scoring his second for the Sharks.

The Sharks, trailing by three points, were all over the Highlanders in the closing five minutes and, when All Black lock Brad Thorn was yellow-carded for a professional foul, the Sharks seemed certain to score from the attacking line. But time and again the Sharks were denied on the line by the Highlanders and the haughty Walsh who at least had the decency to apologise to Keegan Daniel after one of his cock-ups.

There were suggestions in the Sharks camp that a penalty try should have been awarded in the frenetic closing moments when there were five Highlanders’ infringements in the red zone. But it would have taken a brave New Zealand referee to make that call in front of vocal locals who were baying for the Highlanders’ first win after eight successive defeats.

The Sharks now cross the Tasman Sea to face the Reds in Brisbane and the Force in Perth over the next fortnight. These two Australian teams played to an 11-11 draw in Perth on Saturday.

WEEKEND SCORES AND SCORERS

Highlanders 25 – Tries: Shaun Treeby, Aaron Smith and Colin Slade; Conversions: Colin Slade 2; Penalties: Colin Slade 2. Sharks 22 – Tries: Meyer Bosman 2 and Lwazi Mvovo; Conversions: Patrick Lambie 2; Penalty: Patrick Lambie.

Southern Kings 10 – Try: Sergeal Petersen. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalty goal: Catrakilis. Waratahs 72 – Tries: Cam Crawford (3), Israel Folau, Kane Douglas, Michael Hooper, Peter Betham (2), David Dennis, Ben Volavola, Tom Kingston. Conversions: Brendan McKibbin (5), Matt Lucas (2). Penalty goal: McKibbin.

Bulls 48 – Tries: JJ Engelbrecht, Deon Stegmann, Akona Ndungane, Dean Greyling, Lionel Mapoe, Louis Fouché. Conversion: Morné Steyn (5), Fouché. Penalty goals: Steyn (2). Hurricanes 14 – Tries: TJ Perenara (2). Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2).

Other weekend results

Brumbies 23 Crusaders 30

Force 11 Reds 11

Played Friday

Blues 18 Stormers17

Rebels 33 Chiefs 39

Bye: Cheetahs

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

Friday: Chiefs v Force 9.35 am.

Reds v Sharks 11.40 am.

Cheetahs v Hurricanes 7.10 pm.

Saturday: Blues v Rebels 9.35 am.

Waratahs v Stormers 11.40 am

Kings v Highlanders 5.05 pm.

Byes: Brumbies, Bulls, Crusaders

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