Rugby Super 14 2010: Week 1: Bulls and Crusaders Will Be Hard to Beat!
The opening round of the 2010 Super 14 did not produce the high number of tries expected, but did produce some strongly contested results.
The new interpretations at the breakdown set the tone for how the remainder of the season will be reffed, and as Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said in an interview with Bob Skinstad on 94.7 Highveld Stereo, the referees take longer to adapt than the players ever do.
I still don't believe the new interpretations are the way to go. I'd like to see the tackler able to contest the ball; otherwise it makes it too hard to get possession back.
I fear as sides get better they'll be able to hang on to the ball until they score. I don't think you should ever be rewarded just for having the ball and not being able to consistently do something with it.
The first round highlighted for me the difference between the contenders and the also-rans. Once again the form teams of recent times showed the value of patience and experience as almost all the games were still in the balance heading into the final quarter, but the more experienced sides showed they know how to close games out.
Crucially there were minimal bonus points, and the Bulls and Crusaders will be gleefully accepting their full log haul.
A few of these will make a major difference at the business end of the season. Even after one week, the log already has a familiar feel to it. I don't see things changing too much in the coming weeks ahead.
Blues (20) v Hurricanes (34)
The Blues dominated the scoreboard early on whilst the Hurricanes had the better of territory. The Blues looked dangerous going wide and were able to construct two well worked tries.
However, this competition is about more than fleeting moments of brilliance, and the Hurricanes showed good patience and discipline to wear the Blues down and capitalise on errors.
I thought Willie Ripia showed the Hurricanes will miss a good general, whilst for the Blues Jerome Kaino looks big and strong. He seems to have bulked up, and may be one to watch this season.
The refs will come under great scrutiny this season, and Stu Dickinson's interpretations were fine for the better part of his game, it was just inaccurate far too often. The quality of reffing plays a big part in determining how much of a spectacle the game will be.
The Hurricanes will be happy to have won this one, and critically neither side were able to earn a bonus point...something most teams struggle with at this stage of the season for some reason.
Force (15) v Brumbies (24)
Many in Australia are rating the Brumbies' chances, but they took 70 minutes to put away a side who don't really have a decent flyhalf and hooker.
The game was littered with errors, and the 3 try to 0 scoreline was not as emphatic as many would have you believe, despite the fact that the Force rarely ventured into the Brumbies 22 or constructed anything likely to bring about a try.
The Brumbies will welcome back Matt Giteau and Rocky Elsom, so they'll be happy to have won their first game on the road, but next stop for them is Pretoria. For the Force, it's going to be a long season!
Cheetahs (34) v Bulls (51)
An emphatic victory in the end. For a full match report, click here .
The Cheetahs had talked up their scrum and aimed to take the game to the Bulls up front. However, the Bulls dominated upfront and laid the platform for their backs to run rampant, and Morne Steyn to show he has not lost any of his accuracy from last season.
The Bulls will only get better considering a few players are rusty and they haven't had a big preseason. Good signs!
Crusaders (32) v Highlanders (17)
The Crusaders started off fairly well, dominating the first half through territory. At half-time it was only 10-0 and probably not a fair reflection of the domination.
A try early in the second half opened up a 17-0 advantage and one could be forgiven for thinking it was all over.
However, it appears to be the strength of the Highlanders to keep trying no matter what, and they were able to work they way back into the game with two tries.
With 10 minutes to go the Crusaders only led by 1 point, and it was anyone's game. A try to Zac Guilford seemed to seal the game for the Crusaders and the desperation from the Highlanders gifted the Crusaders a 4 try bonus point right at the end of the game.
Reds (28) v Waratahs (30)
The Reds have not beaten the Waratahs since 2003, and for 77 minutes it looked like this would change. The Reds had dominated most of the match and led 10-6 at half-time.
Matches between these two sides often turn a bit ugly and controversy occurred when Reds lock Adam Byrnes was accused of biting. This incident will surely be taken further.
Even in the second half, the Reds dominated the majority of the match, it was just the boot of Berrick Barnes that kept the Waratahs in touch.
Dean Mumm was sinbinned with about 10 minutes to go, and the Waratahs behind by 10. Two late tries, including the decider by Wycliff Palu sealed an unlikely victory for the Waratahs. It shows the Reds, at this level, you've got to play for the full 80.
Lions (13) v Stormers (26)
A scrappy game that showed plenty of promise, but poor execution. The Stormers dominated the first half, enjoying greater territory and possession. They were helped by the Lions willingness to run from deep in their own territory on too many occasions.
Bryan Habana and Jaque Fourie played massive roles in creating two tries that opened up a 20 point lead towards the end of the first half.
The Lions at that stage appeared to have no answer. Carlos Spencer controlled the Lions possession poorly, and the Lions midfield lacked any penetration.
The second half, however, saw a role reversal. The Lions were the more desperate side and massive personnel changes helped create numerous chances. Unfortunately at least 2 promising moves were undone by poor handling.
For the Lions, Burton Francis and replacement scrumhalf Jacques Coetzee played really well, and controlled proceedings for the Lions much better. They just need some more thrust in midfield, and I'd play Francis at flyhalf and Spencer at inside centre.
Earl Rose was also at the centre of almost all the Lions more positive moments, and needs to be involved as much as possible.
The Stormers showed they can be a massive threat, however their lack of intensity and falling off in the second half will be concern for coach Alistair Coetzee.
Sharks (18) v Chiefs (19)
After five days of sunshine, the rain hit Kings Park in Durban to produce damp, wet conditions. No doubt it affected both sides, but adaptability is not a strength I see in the Sharks.
The Sharks felt the wrath of Kiwi ref Keith Brown, unfairly given a warning I thought after 20 minutes for repeated infringing. 5 Penalties was hardly excessive and John Smit was sinbinned for a transgression at the ruck.
The Chiefs made most of the play in the first half, and the Sharks lacked any thrust with ball in hand or the boot.
The Sharks were also struck by a serious injury to Gerhard Mostert, who was on the field replacing Johan Muller at the time. Both appear to be in doubt for next week, and the Sharks have major headaches now at lock.
The second half saw the Sharks open up a 9 point lead due to penalties and a chance to close the match out with 15 minutes to go.
However, the Chiefs finished the stronger of the 2 sides and looked more dangerous after the lead was changed multiple times in the last 5 minutes.
Another loss at home to the Sharks and their season will be over...whilst the Chiefs picked up valuable points away from home.
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