Convincing Wins for Hurricanes and Highlanders in Super Rugby Round 13

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Over the weekend, there has been a flood of rugby matches. This includes European competitions, club rugby across the Southern Hemisphere, and includes Super Rugby Round 13. It was forecasted to be another entertaining eight games. And two matches on Saturday certainly were.

Convincing Wins for Hurricanes and Highlanders

The New Zealand conference is no doubt the strongest of the four that make up Super Rugby. With the Crusaders dismissing the Chiefs in Suva, the competition leading Christchurch team made advances toward a top placed finish.

In third and fourth place respectively, the Hurricanes and Highlanders are chasing for the security of a wildcard berth in the finals series. With the unbeaten Crusaders set to play both those sides, they were wanting to maintain a winning edge; which they each achieved on Saturday night.

Hurricanes Pummel Cheetahs

The team with the best kicking accuracy, faced the team with the highest points/tries scored aggregate. You could be forgiven for not guessing what the outcome would be.

And when Vice Aso crossed for his third try (13 so far this year) and normal service resumed at Westpac Stadium.

Hurricanes 61 – Tries; V. Aso (3), V. Fifita, A. Savea, T. Perenara, J. Toomaga-Allen, B. Lam, L. Apisai; Conversions: B. Barrett (5), O. Black (3)
Cheetahs 7 – Try: F. Zeilinga; Con: Zellinga

If anything can be taken from this match, it is that Beauden Barrett can defend, attack, organize the backline from fullback and inject his skillset when required. Otere Black was a clear talent, but eyes always re-focused on Beauden more often.

And the forward pack rebounded from their failure in Christchurch. They had less blunt force opposing them yes, but it was cathartic. To look inward, and then to outwardly express their confidence as a unit–and that resulted in a route of the Cheetahs. Nine tries to one, and TJ Perenara led his team to another high-scoring victory (see main photo).

In terms of the competition, Canes fans will be pleased that they have jumped level with the Chiefs. Actually, considering their huge points difference, they outclass their Waikato neighbours by +187 points.

The Cheetahs can be happy with some sensational footwork by winger Sergeal Petersen. His kick-pass may have Beauden looking at some new moves.

The Hurricanes have departed New Zealand today for a match against the Bulls in Pretoria, before returning en route via the Western Force on June 3 (see below).

Note: The Hurricanes franchise held a minutes silence pre-match, in memory of Daniel Baldwin who sadly passed away after an incident in junior-grade Wellington Rugby.

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Highlanders Outpace Humble Force

Many rugby commentators have applauded the attitude of the Western Force. Under interminable stress [due to SANZAAR ruling on the future layout of the competition] they had won in South Africa. Looking good, most expected that to provide a tough test for the Highlanders.

The fourth placed NZ side adjusted best to the conditions (wet and windy) and seized on any Force mistake. Over the match, the territorial advantage increased–two yellow cards assisting them considerably. At one stage, it was 13 defending against 15 players. The result seemed imminent, and Force fans were left frustrated.

Force 6 – Penalties: I. Prior (2)
Highlanders 55 – Tries: T. Li, A. Seiuli (2), P. Osborne, R. Thompson (2), D. Hunt, R. Buckman; Conversions: M. Banks (6); Penalty: Banks

Eight tries to zero, it was an example of attack and considered defense. And while they conceded five penalties. gratefully only two cost them points. And in holding their discipline while the Force capitulated, they will gain more confidence.

Force player Curtis Rona seemed to be the only man to break the opposition line.  Aki Seiuli had his best game for the Highlanders with two tries, and making his size a weapon. The pack did the hard work; like they did in Pretoria, but after the first half, it this Super Rugby Round 13 match opened up.

The most positive news was the return of Lima Sopoaga. When the bench was cleared. he was joined by Aaron Smith and Rob Thompson, and the foot went down on the throat of the hosts. The instinct to punctuate an advantage is what this side will need to practice more….as will Sopoaga’s conversion attempt.

Heading home, the Dunedin-based team have the Waratahs next before the expected ‘clash of the Mainland’ on June 3. LWOR will report live from AMI Stadium, and hope to see another epic local derby match: CRUvHIG. These 50 point games are just warm-ups for the real bone crunching matches back in New Zealand.

The Landers have suffered three losses only, and all have been to teams above them. To redress those results will prove if the 2015 champions have what it takes to achieve a semi, or finals place again.

And Ben Smith is yet to return, so they are looking to be peaking at the right end of the season.

New Zealand Conference standings: Crusaders 54 | Hurricanes 43 | Chiefs 43 | Highlanders 41 | Blues 31

 

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“Main photo credit”