After their ‘Black Friday’ loss against the reigning champion Highlanders last week, the ‘rebound’ was important for the Kieran Read led Crusaders. The match against the Waratahs is more often a tougher challenge when played in Sydney, so the common trend prevailed in the rain at AMI Stadium last night. Only a taste though of all the remaining games being played on this Super Rugby Saturday. A feast of seven matches this weekend gives fans games across all three continents, and who knows–Round 13 maybe Lucky for Some.
If one thing can build a teams resolve, that can lift them from where the table see’s them placed. Pretty much all sides must be aware of complacency at this time of the season. It occurs more often in European Football, but also in competitions like the TOP 14 in France. Over such a long season, a loss or two can be redressed over the course of nearly 20 matches. That may not apply so true in Super Rugby though, the loss of possibly five points might take time to recover, and time is running out.
In our SANZAAR title race, you run hard for 14 rounds, gaining all the points available. When the International window appears, teams catch a breath while their representative players display their skills at the highest level [All Blacks] then franchises rejoin the fray for another three weeks until we know the Quarter finalists. It has been a great 12 weeks so far of this increased conference system. And true, the local derby is often the ‘gold standard’ although a game like the Crusders v Waratahs has a in-built rivalry–the established trans-tasman clash was actually the best start possible to Round 13. The game might have been affected by weather, it was still a grueling challenge to be overcome.
Crusaders 29 Waratahs 10
A win it was. A full house too and the only let down was the weather and a slack second half that neither the Saders or Tahs could claim to be entirely happy with. The former more so, as the precious Super Rugby bonus point was removed when ex-player Zac Guildford crossed after 63 minutes. His loss ‘bit them in the bum’ in a way the franchise had never anticipated, but the same applied for the Tahs as well. Mike Alaalatoa played for the New South Wales side before beginning a new chapter with the Christchurch team, so the movement of players brings benefits and [last night] some negatives.
The game had a great start though, with prop Joe Moody having a superb run that set-up a try out wide for Johnny McNichol. That set the flavour for the first half, with Richie Mounga mirroring Lima Sopoaga in a nice cross-field kick that McNichol incredibly managed to feed Israel Dagg for the second try. Offloading skills in the conditions to begin with were top-shelf.
It took the Waratahs a long time to set in good ball protection and when they were near the Crusaders 22 metre line after 25 minutes, suddenly Israel Folau showed some of his magic, and then a h’hard to see’ red player tipped the ball that landed for Rob Horne to score. The TMO read it well and it gave them a glimmer of hope. As they improved, the Crusaders responded when a lineout move worked well and Mounga had a clear run to the line. 22-5 at halftime.
The second half was not of the same quality, even as Jordan Taufua continued his run of tries–three in as many matches. That made a bonus point possible, the Crusaders with a very good try conversion rate but even as the game carried on, the momentum seemed to swing. Replacements worked for the Waratahs, Guildford proving that right. It raised their expectations and the team that almost repealed a 0-30 scoreline when they hosted the Highlanders, looked to ruin the party.
In the end, even Michael Hooper at his best couldn’t better a strong Crusaders team who have only lost to their conference partners. A good history against all comers gives the Todd Blackadder coached side a good boost and four points will mean they might still stay at first place unless the Chiefs run up a huge score [possible, not probable]
Andy Ellis celebrated his 150th Super Rugby match, in the same week he announced this would be his final Crusade. A great way to round out the emotional week, a polar opposite to another Crusader who took a place alongside Keven Mealamu of the Blues, in playing 164 games for this franchise. Wyatt Crockett is a great ambassador for the one-club-man character. A standout man, solid as a rock, Crockett was a part of the squad that claimed the World Cup, so he knows what being a team player is all about.
The two men did little wrong tonight, each knowing the teams goals and it will be an annoyance that a lost bonus point will cost them. Not that it is points alone, but like some Rugby analysts have concluded–the winning side will need over 50 competition points and the Crusaders now hold 38. They are in a good place and playing in the wet was a new element, as this Indian Summer continues in the Mainland, with record dry conditions. A drop of rain is good for players to adapt, and good for the agriculture. ‘Two birds’ as they say.
— Fox Sports Lab (@FoxSportsLab) May 20, 2016
Here at Last Word On Sports, we are all about rugby equality. Based in New Zealand, this weekly feature is dedicated to bringing a full content. So all fixtures will be listed now leading up until the final round. The full 18 sides will soon have completed their final bye round [Brumbies, Cheetahs, Hurricanes and Highlanders this week] so fans can now see all of their teams match details here.
Super Rugby Saturday
FIXTURES: Saturday 21 May – Queensland Reds v Sunwolves, Brisbane | Chiefs v Melbourne Rebels, Hamilton | Force v Blues, Perth | Lions v Jaguares, Johannesburg | Sharks v Kings, Durban | Bulls v Stormers, Pretoria
That is one full draw, and all six matches will be worth the wait. It would be hard to single out any one, as the Chiefs will be hellbent on breaking recent results [a loss to the Highlanders at home] and unless their opposition can bring a huge challenge with them, it will be business as usual in Hamilton where Dave Rennie will have a target. Score enough points tonight, and they can ‘wipe out’ any points differential and it will be an interesting match on many levels.
Sam Cane will have two goals over this weekend. (1) Tighten the setpiece and have accuracy in his teams offensive offloading. The ball was dropped in play far too many times against the Highlanders, it cost them greatly. (2) Personally he will want to have a big game in the ruck/maul areas so that it is his name of the lips of the decision makers this week, but if you asked him, Cane would deny the second factor. A humble guy from Rotorua, it is more about us than him. Team first, and that is a value where people still notice your actions. All good Sam.
When the Blues were behind in their last match against the Lions, it was a testing point. A comeback would have been a sensational example of their resolve, but in the end they seemingly capitulated. Horrible for fans and the organisation at home. Being positive is one thing, but this clash against the Force in Perth is a chance to make it two out of three on the road. That should be the biggest motivation for the visitors.
With respect, the Force are no pushovers. They have a record to be proud of, halting many teams on their way back to New Zealand, and the Blues are on that list. To stop their names being written again, James Parsons will want the entire squad to contribute. From Ihaia West to Josh Bekhuis; returning after an injury. They need all their experienced men to shine but for LWOS, they need to play an open game. Run the ball, as they really have little to lose
Lions v Jags and Sharks v Kings could be as easy to pick as the ‘Fish of the Day’ meal at your favourite local but to be honest, results have been unsettled recently. A safe time to pick 12 or under in your rugby predictions, and the South African groups have certainly not had the firepower as the NZ teams do. For some, a bit of good fortune would help, who knows. Round 13 maybe Lucky for Some.
Only the Bulls v Stormers clash gets my full attention and the traditional rivalry here also makes for some decent competition. Might the Bulls return from a few floggings in Australia, desperate for success and in their hometown of Pretoria, ready to face an upset Stormers team that were almost toppled by the Sunwolves. Their last minute win came with a sour taste, giving up a place to the Lions in the standings and that will be the stronger motivating factor for me. The single spot given to each of the four conference winners is vital overall. If the Stormers can achieve a bonus point win, then (maybe) all will be forgiven.
Lose, and [teams like] the Stormers, Blues and Rebels can just about only have mathematical chances of being the final Wildcard entry into the qualifying rounds. No side has a win guaranteed and Round 13 in deed maybe Lucky for Some. The only guarantee is that fans and followers of rugby (and @LWOSSouth) will have another great weekend, no matter the weather.
I for one will be out in the garden early Saturday, I’ll watch some Club rugby before settling in for another Super Rugby Saturday.
“Main photo credit”