Sunday, July 20, 2014

As you were, Brumbies and Sharks!

 
 Heny Speight (picture http://bit.ly/1nLvrGg)

No major surprises this weekend as home advantage proved crucial in the Super Rugby play offs. The only major surprise for me was finding I’d recorded a super league match instead of the Sharks/Highlanders. Doh!

I did, however manage to record the Brumbies v Chiefs, and what an enjoyable match that was. Great, potent, high tempo rugby. I thought Henry Speight was outstanding, he has Wallaby superstar stamped all over him. The Brumbies built up a good early lead, and although the Chiefs fought back to even Stevens with 10 minutes to go, I always thought the Brumbies would win it. They now go on to face the Tah’s and although the Sydneymen are favourites, anything can happen in a good old derby match. The Chiefs took way too long to get into the match, they are missing a bit of the X-Factor, and Sonny Bill Williams should sort that out for them next year.

Can’t say too much about the Sharks Highlanders match for obvious reasons, but the Sharks did what they had to do, coming from behind twice to seal the win. They head off to Christchurch, knowing at least that they have already won there this season.

Meanwhile in Ireland, rugby somehow got dragged into the Garth Brooks circus, with Paraic Duffy wondering why nobody said anything when they wanted to host 7 World Cup games, but when they wanted to host 5 Garth Brooks concerts, everyone jumped up and down. Hmmm.

Finally, French internationals Benjamin Kayser, Julien Pierre and AurĂ©lien Rougerie have been hospitalised following an attack in Millau. The Clermont trio were attacked by a dozen individuals "armed with machetes, knives, swords" on Saturday night as the players returned to their hotel, according to the club's website. What the hell! Here’s hoping they all get well soon, especially Pierre, who needs surgery.

Super Rugby
Saturday , July 19
Brumbies 32 - 30 Chiefs 
Sharks 31 - 27 Highlanders

Friday, July 18, 2014

I'm going Brumbies and Sharks this weekend!

 


As the play offs begin, I was having a look at some stats. Super Rugby in the last 10 years has only been won by a side finishing first or second. So while 4 sides toil away this weekend, the winners are probably sitting at home in Sydney and Christchurch. Also, the Crusaders haven’t played the Tah’s yet, although with the alchemy of the of how the playing schedule is decided, they probably had an easier run in than the other NZ sides.

Putting all that aside, we have some great games to look forward to this weekend. The Chiefs haven’t quite found their form of the last two years this season, while the Brumbies have done better than expected after Jake White left them in the lurch in the off season. There are two great backlines coming up against each other, and although semis are normally cagey affairs, I reckon this could be something special, neither of them is going to leave anything on the filed. I’m going with home advantage to see the Brumbies home.

The other match takes place in Durban, with the Sharks out to prove a point, after the Highlanders caught them on the hop at home early in the season. The Sharks have an awesome starting team, a great bench, but seem to blow hot and cold. The top spot was theirs for the taking mid-season, then they lost their way. The Highlanders meanwhile, are the only side in the top 6 to have a negative points difference, so while we know they are fairly handy on attack, their defense is not exactly watertight. I’m expecting no great pyrotechnics, and for the Sharks to grind out the win.

In Ireland, the big news is the signing of Simon Easterby to replace John Plumtree in the Ireland set up. Plumtree will be missed, he certainly seemed to have made improvements in the Irish scrum in his brief time there, but Easterby no doubt has a great deal to contribute himself.

Super Rugby
Saturday , July 19
Brumbies vs Chiefs 
Sharks vs Highlanders 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tiny Super Rugby round up

 

The pool stages of Super Rugby are a wrap with the play offs starting next weekend. The Tah’s finished with a flourish, thumping the Reds, and get their feet up for next weekend. Likewise, the Crusaders put in a crushing performance against the Highlanders, getting a bonus point win that was enough to secure 2nd spot.

The Sharks had a tough match against an up for it Stormers side in Cape Town, but ground out a good win, in a way they’ve found difficult of late. They finish in third, and welcome the Highlanders next weekend, while the Chiefs will travel to Canberra to take on the Brumbies.

Saturday , July 12
Stormers 10 -34 Sharks
Reds 3 - 34 Waratahs
Lions 60 - 25 Cheetahs
Crusaders 34-8 Highlanders

Friday, July 11, 2014

This and that from Super Rugby, Ireland, Wales and the Guinness PRO12

 Boston Irish Pub Challenge guinness 2013

So I’m a bit slow to the party this week, with the Chiefs and Brumbies having already secured their play off spots. Can The Chiefs make it 3 in a row? Probably not as they’ll be travelling. The rest of the teams are the Tahs, Sharks, Crusaders and the Highlanders. Still potentially quite a few moves up and down possible, with the key matches being the Crusaders Highlanders clash, and Stormers V Sharks to see if the Sharks finish 2nd or 3rd.  Out of those, I’d go with the Crusaders and the Sharks.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Leinster have announced plans to upgrade their the RDS from 18500 to 25 000, following extensions in the last few years to Ravenhill and the Sportsground. Irish rugby is on a roll!

While in Wales, Regional Rugby Wales have pulled out of their Participation Agreement with the Welsh Rugby Union. I have very little understanding of what that means, but it doesn’t sound good.

Finally, Guinness are the new PRO12 sponsors, and the opening round sees Leinster travel to Glasgow, Ulster to the Scarlets, and Munster and Connacht host Edinburgh and the Dragons.

Super Rugby
Friday , July 11
Blues 8 - 11 Chiefs 
Brumbies 47 - 25 Western Force 
Bulls vs Melbourne Rebels 
Saturday , July 12
Crusaders vs Highlanders 
Reds vs Waratahs 
Lions vs Cheetahs 
Stormers vs Sharks 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hardly anything on Super Rugby...

 Dan Carter Clothes
(picture  http://bit.ly/1m6DLoq)

Super Rugby is drawing to a close, and the big news I guess is the Tah’s topping the whole show for the first time ever. If you come top, you normally win the whole thing, and men from Sydney are due a title after coming close a number of times.

The Crusaders have put themselves in pole postion for top of the NZ conference, after a pretty epic win over the Blues, coming back from behind, and not even giving the Blues a point. Dan Carter is still The Man.

The Sharks looked odds on to come first at one stage, but have hit some pretty uneven form, and lost to the Cheetahs to leave finishing second in doubt. Jake White nearly did with the Brumbies, and looks like he’ll nearly do it with the Sharks. Nearly is not enough though…

All the log positions wrap up next weekend, with teams down to 9th in contention for the six spots. Only one of those is South African, reflecting a dismal showing for them.

Super Rugby
Sunday , July 6
Waratahs 44 - 16 Highlanders 
Saturday , July 5
Crusaders 21 - 13 Blues 
Western Force 30 - 20 Reds 
Stormers 16 - 0 Bulls 
Cheetahs 27 - 20 Sharks 
Friday , July 4
Chiefs 24 - 16 Hurricanes 
Lions 34 - 17 Melbourne Rebels 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ulster, Mark Anscombe and bits and pieces of Super Rugby

 
( picture  http://bit.ly/1qsa3LK)

Mark Anscombe made an abrupt exit this weekend from Ulster, on his first day of work for the new Season. Give him a one year extension, then tell him to sling his hook. It follows the resignation of David Humphries last month. It’s said Anscombe had ‘lost the dressing room’.  I don’t rate the Ulster lads as prima donnas, far from it, so things must have been pretty bad. Hopefully, they’ll pick up a good coach and go forwards again – Wayne Smith or Robbie Deans would be perfect for the job, if they can get either. There’s going to be some testing times ahead though, the new coach is going to need to stamp his authority pretty quick – player power is all vey well, but someone has to be in charge.  It all just seems a real pity, UIster have come up such a long way, and it needs a lot of patience to get the big results – Leinster played second fiddle to Munster for ages before they finally broke through.
 
Otherwise, there’s still a lot of Super Rugby going on. The Kiwi derbies will probably be the most entertaining, with a very competitive conference, and Crusaders/Blues should be something awesome. In South Africa, Sharks/Cheetahs probably won’t be a thriller, but the Sharks need that one badly. And finally, the Tahs are riding high with Leinster’s old boss, Michael Cheika, and will have a tricky task taming the Highlanders to maintain their good run.
 
Super Rugby
Friday , July 4
Chiefs vs Hurricanes 
Lions vs Melbourne Rebels 
Saturday , July 5
Crusaders vs Blues 
Western Force vs Reds 
Stormers vs Bulls 17:05
Cheetahs vs Sharks 
Sunday , July 6
Waratahs vs Highlanders 16:05

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Scotland 0, International travel and injuries 1

 Lood de Jager
 Lood de Jager (picture http://bit.ly/1ofjwEk)

It was Scotland 0, International travel and  injuries 1 in the Scots final tour match. Even against a slightly experimental Springbok side, Scotalnd would have needed a full rested team to even get close. As it was, they were blown away for 20 minutes, made a comeback for 20 minutes, but then surrendered the second half completely. 

For the Boks, Pollard had a good solid debut, de Jager was great with great with 17 tackles and 2 tries, Burger made 19 tackles and Fourie du Preez is the best distributor of the ball in world rugby. But, really, they were all good. For Scotland, Pyrgos looks like their best option at 9 now by a long way. Rob Harley made 16 tackles and looks like one to watch.

Tough end to the season for the Scots, but 20 minutes on top against the Boks isn’t too shabby, I think Vern Cotter has a lot more to get from these guys.

Saturday , June 28
South Africa 55 - 6 Scotland