Around the grounds
The Hurricanes remain winless after the Brumbies came from behind to win in Wellington on Friday. The visitors displayed the sort of pluck befitting their injured flanker David Pocock, but they had to recover from a slow start that saw them 13-3 down after TJ Perenara pinched an opportunist’s try. A fine effort from Jesse Mogg set the the Brumbies on their way though, and they added three more to win 29-21.
Over in Brisbane, four tries were scored in eleven minutes of madness at the start of the Cheetahs’ terrific tussle with the Reds. Chris Feauai-Sautia could have had a hat-trick were it not for the TMO awarding a penalty try, and Rod Davies looked back to his electric best as both teams forgot how to tackle and launched all out attack. After four more tries, it ended up 43-33 and the much-improved Cheetahs ended the Australian leg of their overseas tour without a point.
On Saturday, Western Force sprung a surprise by thumping Melbourne Rebels 32-7 in Perth. The home side had their bonus point within 26 minutes as Angus Cottrell crossed following scores from from Alby Matthewson, Luke Morahan and Matt Hodgson. After flying out of the blocks last week against the Cheetahs, the Rebels were desperately disappointing, only managing 25 per cent of possession in the game’s first 30 minutes and, despite stemming the flow in the second half, only troubled the scorers after the hooter sounded.
The Rebels’ opponents next weekend the Crusaders, left it late to scrape to their first win of the season, a Kieron Fonotia try and a Tom Taylor penalty in the last 12 minutes carrying them to a 14-13 win over the Stormers in Christchurch. This marked the Crusaders 33rd consecutive win over South African opposition in New Zealand, a run that stretches back to 2001.
In South Africa, the Sharks downed the Lions in a high-scoring encounter that saw Francois Steyn, playing fly-half, return to form in style and his star-studded team return to the top of the table. The Lions posted a spirited fightback in the second half after finding themselves 30-9 down, but to no avail as Marcell Coetzee’s last minute try cost them a bonus point.
The Bulls overcame the Blues 38-22 in soggy Pretoria on a pitch that had been waterlogged just 24 hours earlier. The Blues were full of mistakes and eventually lost 38-22, with the hosts securing a bonus-point with a controversial try in the final minute.
Pocock has had that second knee reconstruction and remains the talk of the town. Eddie Jones believes he’ll need to adjust his technique at the breakdown if he wants to extend his career, while George Smith has turned down a short-term contract to replace him at the Brumbies in favour of a bit of downtime before he heads to France.
Meanwhile, Tana Umaga is being tipped to take over as Hurricanes coach as Mark Hammett faces a battle to keep his job in the wake of their third loss of the season. Francois Pienaar has become the latest big name to attack the proposed expansion of the competition, claiming “there is too much rugby to watch”.
Week to remember for
“I think that’s the best 30 minutes we’ve played at the club in its entirety.”
So said Western Force captain Matt Hodgson after his side found themselves four tries to the good and 32-zip up after 27 minutes against the Rebels. For a club short on happy history, he may not be wrong. It was a remarkable turnaround after the schooling they received from the Brumbies seven days earlier; the forwards were full of zest, the running was direct and the support play exceptional. This is a timely dose of ravishing rugby for the Force and hopefully one that can kickstart their season.
Week to forget for
It’s no fun saying this, but Will Genia was once again off the pace against the Cheetahs on Friday. He had a sluggish box-kick charged down by Willie le Roux for the visitors’ first try and his passing was slack all night, too. After Luke Burgess’s outstanding display last weekend and strong starts to the season for Nick Phipps and Nic White, Genia faces a battle for his Wallabies shirt. Right now, a Test No.9 he does not look.
Try of the week
There were four in the first 11 minutes at Suncorp, but the Reds-Cheetahs clash made fans wait until the brink of the half-time hooter for the best of the lot as one-cap Wallaby James Hanson bagged a beauty. Caught in heavy traffic, Quade Cooer flicked a floaty no-look pass over the top and Hanson gathered it on the bounce before bullocking his way down the wing, stepping one man and handing off another couple to score in the corner. Hookers aren’t meant to score tries like this….
A rugby ball bounces strangely. We know this. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything we can do about it. Western Force’s Alby Matthewson launched a speculative box kick towards the Rebels 22 and chaos ensued as two Rebels and a Force player descended on the pill only for it to evade their grasp. The ball finally bounced kindly and Matt Hodgson was on hand to clear up the mess, crossing for the Force’s fourth try.
A real mixed bag. Burgess and Scott Higginbotham, so impressive last week, were hushed by the Force’s excellence, but several Brumbies strengthened their selection cases. Pat McCabe, fortunately unscathed after departing on a stretcher last week, was outstanding, running directly and offloading nicely, while Scott Fardy was also impressive and the elusive Jesse Mogg scored a fine try and went on an outstanding run from the kickoff that followed. With his half-back partner off colour, Quade Cooper served up a hotchpotch of good and bad; some lovely touches were interspersed with an ugly intercept pass in that mad opening ten minutes in Brisbane.