Super Rugby Rebooted Round 13 Waratahs’ gripes only mask horror capitulation

Rugby


Just when things seemingly couldn’t get an worse for Australia, the Reds were embarrassed by the previously winless Sunwolves in Tokyo. Hours later, the Waratahs gave up a 29-0 lead to lose by two points to the Crusaders.

Elsewhere, the Hurricanes ensured the Blues remain winless against fellow Kiwi opposition for a 16th game while the Chiefs and Highlanders bounced back from losses with wins over the Stormers and Lions respectively.

The Bulls and Rebels were the other Round 13 winners.

Read on for some of the big talking points from the weekend’s action.

Australian Conference

Tahs can feel aggrieved, but no excuse for blown lead

The streak should be over. But the trans-Tasman horror show will continue for at least another week after the Waratahs gave up a 29-0 lead to lose 31-29 to the Crusaders in a dramatic 80 minutes on Saturday night.

The Waratahs had more than just a little cause to feel aggrieved however after the officials somehow missed a blatant obstruction, and raised forearm, from Joe Moody before the prop himself scored under the sticks to set the Crusaders’ record-breaking comeback in motion.

How referee Ben O’Keeffe, his two assistants and the Television Match Official missed the incident beggars belief and the Waratahs can only take cold comfort from the fact Moody was later handed a two-game ban for foul play. Deemed a “red card” offence, Moody’s suspension was reduced from four weeks to two because of an early guilty plea and a clean record.

There were also suggestions of a tip tackle on Waratahs No.8 Michael Wells much later in the piece while the 17-7 penalty count in favour of the Crusaders won’t have O’Keefe’s name high on Daryl Gibson’s Christmas card list.

But even considering the change in momentum Moody’s try created, the Waratahs should never have let this one slip. The usually reliable Bernard Foley missed a couple of very kickable penalties, including one which would have regained the lead at 29-31 down. The visitors also had two players sent to the sin-bin and gave up a penalty try as the scrum struggled throughout.

With the streak now sitting at 39 games, the Waratahs get another chance to bring it to an end when they welcome the Highlanders to Allianz Stadium on Saturday night. Given the Reds’ performance against the Sunwolves earlier on Saturday, it’s hard to see them challenging the red-hot Hurricanes in Round 14, a day before the Waratahs and Highlanders do battle.

If there’s one thing the devastated New South Welshman can take from the Christchurch defeat, it’s that they can mix it for periods against the Kiwi teams. But until they can perform for closer to the full 80 minutes, they’re always going to keep opposition teams in the contest.

The fact that a blatant act of foul play was missed again raises issues with the use of technology and the role of the host broadcaster in replaying vision. NSW can certainly gripe about that, but a better pursuit would be focusing that rage on the Highlanders this week. Saturday’s game is gone and the streak, for now, continues.

New Zealand Conference

Boyd brought belief to Canes, and it may yet yield a second title

They have arguably the most talented backline in the history of Super Rugby, but it’s Chris Boyd’s coaching and the culture he has helped build in Wellington that has the Hurricanes primed for another run deep into the playoffs.

Given the distractions surrounding Brad Shields’ Test eligibility and the fact the Blues had welcomed back some genuine X-factor in Sonny Bill Williams, Friday’s night’s game in Auckland was the kind of clash the Hurricanes, pre-Boyd, could well have struggled with. But even with some SBW magic, the Hurricanes never looked in any real danger.

An Ofa Tu’unagfasi try had given the Blues the lead at 15-14 with 30 minutes to play, but tries to Nehe Milner-Skudder, Sam Lousi and Matt Proctor not only ensured the Hurricanes recorded a comfortable victory but also an invaluable bonus-point.

Take Lousi for example. In his time with the Waratahs, Lousi was often used off the bench with little to no effect. At times, it honestly looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but playing rugby in a blue jersey. Under Boyd however, Lousi has grown into a bustling performer in both defence and attack. He also has an offload.

Lousi is reflective of this modern-day Hurricanes who don’t seem to get fazed by any situation; they simply steady and go on to complete the job. After dropping their first game of the year against the Bulls, the Canes have since won their last nine and have showed few signs of fracture.

Superbly led by Shields, who will be a fine addition to Eddie Jones’ England squad, and directed by Beauden Barrett, the Hurricanes should have little trouble in accounting for the Reds this Friday. The only concern is the rotten luck Nehe Milner-Skudder continues to suffer; the winger has been in and out of rugby since his breathtaking performance at Rugby World Cup 2015.

Milner-Skudder appeared to suffer yet another injury in scoring midway through the second half, but there is no news yet as to its seriousness and whether it may cruel him of a return to the All Blacks squad next month. For rugby fans the world over, let’s hope it’s not enough to deny him a start against France.

Back at the Hurricanes, though, it’s full steam ahead for the Super Rugby playoffs. The knowledge that they can win when not at their best is a credit to Boyd and his staff. A second Super Rugby title before he heads off to Northampton later this year would be a fitting farewell present.

South African Conference

The Lions’ poor tour Down Under, combined with the Jaguares good run in New Zealand and the Bulls’ bounce-back victory over the Sharks this past weekend have thrown the South African Conference wide open.

The Lions still lead the South African Conference with 31 points from 12 matches despite going to down the Highlanders on Saturday. However, the three defeats in Australia and New Zealand have given the Jaguares, Sharks, Bulls and possibly even the Stormers a bit of sniff at conference honours.

The Jaguares, Bulls and Sharks have have 24 points on the board, but have played one less match than last year’s Super Rugby finalists. Most of the teams still have to play each other before the end of the round robin phase as well.

The Jaguares are currently in eighth place — the final wild card position — but on the same number of points as the Bulls (ninth place) and the Sharks (10th) respectively. The 11th-placed Stormers are also on 24 points, but they have played one game more than other three teams after they lost to the Chiefs at home.

The next two weeks will be crucial, with a couple of big matches coming up. The Bulls take on the Jaguares on Saturday night, while next weekend will see the Sharks playing the Jaguares and the Stormers hosting the Lions in Cape Town.



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