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Daily Archives: March 17, 2017

Chiefs stay unbeaten with win over Rebels

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The Chiefs had to work hard on Friday to keep their unbeaten record when they beat the Rebels on Friday 27-14.

The scoreline does not really give a true story of the game and most Chiefs players and supporters would have been very worried with 10 minutes to go.

The win means the men from Hamilton return to the top of the New Conference while the Rebels are still languishing at the bottom of the Australian Conference without any points from three matches.

It was the best performance this far for the Rebels this season and mistakes on crucial stages in the game was a huge problem for the Rebels. It almost looked that they were running out of steam and the Chiefs took full advantage of it.

The opening half was characterised by several handling errrors from both sides and both Chiefs goalkicker Damian McKenzie and Reece Hodge of the Rebels missed shots at goal which would have given their side the lead in the opening quarter.

The visitors eventually took the lead, albeit in bizarre fashion when Dominic Bird dotted down after scooping up a loose ball close to the Rebels’ try-line.

The Rebels made a superb start to the second half when, three minutes after the restart, Garden-Bachop glided through a gap in the Chiefs defence before throwing a splendid long pass to Marika Koroibete, who dived over in the left-hand corner.

The Rebels increased their lead 10 minutes later courtesy of another Garden-Bachop and they received a shot in the arm shortly afterwards when Alaimalo was yellow-card for a tip-tackle on Sefa Naivalu.

The Chiefs did well to soak up the pressure on defence during this period and the visitors upped the ante on attack when Alaimalo returned from his spell on the sidelines and were rewarded in the 66th minute when Brodie Retallick barged over from close quarters.

Damian McKenzie’s successful conversion meant they now held a three-point lead but the Rebels drew level when Garden-Bachop slotted his third penalty in the 70th minute.

The Chiefs finished stronger, however, made sure of the win when Cane dotted down after showing great leg strength in the build-up in the 77th minute.

Despite having the game in the bag, the visitors did not stop playing and secured the bonus point when Stevenson rounded off a flowing move in injury time.

The scorers:

For Rebels:
Try:
Koroibete
Pens: Garden-Bachop 3

For Chiefs:
Tries:
Bird, Retallick, Cane, Stevenson
Cons: McKenzie 2
Pen: McKenzie
Yellow Cards: Messam, Alaimalo

Sunwolves made Bulls work hard for first win

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The Bulls made hard work on Friday night when they beat the Sunwolves at Loftus 34-21.

It was the first win for the Bulls outfit for the season and the best result they could wish for after the two first losses against the Stormers and Cheetahs away.

The task got a little bit harder for the Bulls when Renaldo Bothma was send off with a red card in the 42 minute of the game for a dangerous high tackle. Their can be no complaints from the Bulls on that decision.

Jan Serfontein got a double on his return to the rugby field after a long layoff due to injury. Pierre Schoeman and Jason Jenkins also scored tries for the Bulls with Pollard and Schoeman adding the extra points with the boot.

The Sunwolves as they did last week gave the Bulls a hard time throughout the match and even though they played with an extra man in the second half showed that they have improved allot since that first game against the Chiefs.

The Bulls struggled in the collisions and at the breakdowns which did not create or gave the backline enough good ball to lay with. The lineouts was not perfect and at with the scrums they never really dominated.

Defense was again poor from the Bulls and the Sunwolves exposed it when they scored just before the break.

The Sunwolves finished strongly and nearly claimed a losing bonus point when Liaki Moli scored after full-time, but the TMO ruled that the ball had been lost forward.

With the Bulls going on tour now, they will have to improve a hell of allot if they want to win against the New Zealanders on the road.

The scorers:

For Bulls:
Tries: Serfontein 2, Schoeman, Jenkins
Cons: Pollard 3, Schoeman
Pens: Pollard, Schoeman
Red Card: Bothma

For Sunwolves:
Tries: Fukuoka, Quirk
Con: Ogura
Pens: Cripps 4

 

Preview – RBS Six Nations

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It is the final weekend of this years RBS Six Nations with England crowned champions last weekend already. They have also equel New Zealand record of 18-in-a-row wins against major test playing nations last week and all that is left is the small matter of the back-t-back Grand Slams and breaking the All Black record.

 

England stand on the verge of Six Nations history in Dublin this Saturday, as they face Ireland, looking to claim back-to-back Grand Slams.

Few would have predicted the English to be in this position following their World Cup exit in 2015, but under the tutelage of Eddie Jones and a new coaching team they have grown into a dangerous animal that also is one victory away from a Tier 1 record of 19 successive wins.

Reaching that number at the Aviva Stadium will be no mean feat, however, especially against an Ireland side hurting after losing to Wales.

Yes they are missing scrum-half Conor Murray and full-back Rob Kearney due to injury, but write off Joe Schmidt’s charges at your peril as whether they deny it or not, they will be determined to spoil the English party on Saturday.

England meanwhile will be desperate to avoid another 2001 scenario when they lifted the Six Nations silverware at Lansdowne Road but missed out on the Grand Slam after a 20-14 defeat.

They look the real deal at the moment and slack Scottish midfield defence or not, the English threw down a marker at Twickenham last week. The George Ford-Owen Farrell partnership came of age while Jonathan Joseph looked almost embarrassed at how easily he claimed a hat-trick.

In Dublin they have the boost of naming Billy Vunipola in their starting XV for the first time this year while from 1 to 23 it is fair to say that none of their players are struggling for form.

That is where England have the edge as confidence in their game appears sky high.

For Ireland they enter on the back of that poor performance in Cardiff, which was a game not dissimilar to this as now it will be them who are under pressure to shine after a loss.

If they are to hit back and end on a high they must concentrate their frustrations on upsetting the English fluidity whilst imposing their own high-paced physical style on their rival. Keeping their discipline in check is also vital.

England though should possess a touch more in their arsenal and even in what promises to be a hostile environment, it’s looking like being more 2003 than 2001 for this Six Nations finale. That would mean all smiles with the silverware, something Ireland will be eager to avoid.

 

Previous results:

2016: England won 21-10 in London
2015: England won 21-13 in London
2015: Ireland won 19-9 in Dublin
2014: England won 13-10 in London
2013: England won 12-6 in Dublin
2012: England won 30-9 in London
2011: England won 20-9 in Dublin
2011: Ireland won 24-8 in Dublin
2010: Ireland won 20-16 in London
2009: Ireland won 14-13 in Dublin

The teams:

Ireland: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadgh Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Cian Healy, 18 John Ryan, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Andrew Conway

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell

Date: Saturday, March 18
Venue: Aviva Stadium
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

Scotland will have a point to prove when they host Italy in Edinburgh on Saturday after their disappointing exit from Six Nations contention.

Vern Cotter’s men will be reeling after their Six Nations hopes were snuffed out by a massive 61-21 loss to England last weekend where they conceded a demoralising eight tries.

Scotland looked as though they were heading for a fairy-tale ending to the European premier competition after beating Ireland 27-22 in the first round and then Wales in third after a 29-13 victory at Murrayfield.

So the extent of the loss to England would have added insult to injury. This will also be Cotter’s last game in charge of the side which will add extra gravity to their desire for a big win.

Cotter has turned his side from a predominantly forward orientated side playing negative rugby to a dynamic, exciting team for their spectators to enjoy.

After dismantling old foes like Wales and Ireland, beating Argentina and pushing Australia close at the end of last year, the Scotland rugby public will be sad to see him go.

Italy will be desperate for a win themselves after a poor showing in the Six Nations in 2017. Out of their four games Italy have failed to pick up even a single losing bonus point after being thrashed by their opponents week after week.

Their closest game was against England where they lost 36-15 and were ahead at half-time and still managed to concede five tries. There is no way Italy can avoid the wooden spoon in this game and will be playing for their pride more than anything else.

History is on Scotland’s side after claiming victory in the last three fixtures, winning 16-12 in Turin, then 48-7 in Edinburgh and most recently 36-20 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome where tries from back row duo John Barclay and John Hardie along with a late effort from wing Tommy Seymour saw the Scots come out on top.

The home side will also take solace in the fact that they have won both of their home games this season which makes it three in a row after their 19-16 victory over Argentina last season, while Italy traditionally have not travelled well; their last win away was in June last year after sneaking a 24-20 win over the United States in San Jose.

Scotland have made one change to their side with Ross Ford coming in at hooker. The number two will add some physicality to the Scottish pack but more importantly his vast experience in the royal blue jersey will be important.

Cotter has dropped Fraser Brown to the bench after his transgression last week where he lifted England winger Elliot Daly above the horizontal angle to cop a yellow which led to speculation among many pundits saying that it should have been a red.

The Italians have made four changes to their side with Tommaso Benvenuti replacing Michele Campagnaro at outside centre, Maxime Mata Mbanda’ comes in for Simone Favaro on the flank, George Biagi takes Andries Van Schalkwyk place in the locks while up front Ornel Gega is in for Leonardo Ghiraldini as hooker at Murrayfield.

 

Previous results:

2016: Scotland won 36-20 in Rome
2015: Scotland won 48-7 in Edinburgh
2015: Scotland won 16-12 in Turin
2015: Italy won 22-19 at Murrayfield
2014: Scotland won 21-20 in Rome
2013: Scotland won 30-29 in Pretoria
2013: Scotland won 34-10 at Murrayfield
2012: Italy won 13-6 in Rome
2011: Scotland won 23-12 at Murrayfield

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Gordon Reid Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Cornell Du Preez, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Matt Scott

Italy: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Maxime Mata Mbanda’, 5 George Biagi, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ornel Gega, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Francesco Minto, 22 Marcello Violi, 23 Luca Sperandio

Date: Saturday, March 18
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

France and Wales will be determined to finish their respective campaigns on a high when they face off in what promises to be a thrilling encounter in Paris on Saturday.

With England securing their second successive championship with their win over Scotland last week, both France and Wales are amongst the tournament’s also-rans.

They will however be desperate to finish the tournament on a high as both sides know that victory will secure them second position in the standings if England beat Ireland in their final match in Dublin.

A top four Rugby World Cup seed is also on the horizon for Wales if they can win in Paris, and if England defeat Ireland later in the day.

Although both les Bleus and Wales have delivered impressive performances, they are still some way off the standard set by England who claimed narrow wins over these sides earlier in the competition.

France have impressed throughout this year’s tournament but still lack the killer instinct of a great side – like England – and although they have come on in leaps and bounds they are very much a work in progress.

The play of les Bleus‘ forwards has been particularly impressive in this year’s tournament with players like the talismanic number eight Louis Picamoles and flanker Kévin Gourdon combining brilliantly throughout, and their showdown – alongside Fabien Sanconnie – with Wales’ back row of Ross Moriarty, Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric will be one of this Test’s highlights.

France secured their first bonus-point win of the tournament last week when they beat Italy 40-18 in Rome but they still committed to many handling errors – something which they can ill afford against Wales, who will be quietly confident as they have won the last five encounters between these sides.

Wales delivered arguably their best performance of the championship in their 22-9 triumph over Ireland in Cardiff last weekend and France’s head coach Guy Novès knows his side will have to be at their best if they want to beat Rob Howley’s charges.

“When you see the intensity, the rigour, the pragmatism, the lucidity and the accuracy in all their movements, their defensive physicality… you saw the Irish, who are one of the best teams in the world, fell apart and couldn’t put in place their game,” he said.

“We still have a lot of work to do. If we play and make as many mistakes (as we did against Italy), we won’t survive against Wales. That’s for sure.”

Meanwhile, Warbuton has put the result against Ireland behind him and feels Wales must improve on their performance from that match if they want to beat their hosts.

“Home advantage has a massive part to play in this championship because the teams are so close together that home advantage is another to take you over the finish line,” he said.

“So we know that if we are to win in Paris we will have to produce our best performance.

“We are pleased with the way we played against Ireland but there weren’t a lot of pats on the back. Because there were a lot of times when, in the second half, we made errors where we shouldn’t have, and we could have lost that game.

“So we’ve still got a bit of an edge about us, because we want to put those things right and put in a better performance against France.”

 

Previous results:

2016: Wales won 19-10 in Cardiff
2015: Wales won 20-13 in Paris
2014: Wales won 27-6 in Cardiff
2013: Wales won 16-6 in Paris
2012: Wales won 16-9 in Cardiff
2011: France won 9-8 in Auckland
2011: France won 28-9 in Paris
2010: France won 26-20 in Cardiff
2009: France won 21-16 in Paris
2008: Wales won 29-12 in Cardiff

The teams:

France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Rémi Lamerat, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Fabien Sanconnie, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Uini Atonio, 18 Eddy Ben Arous, 19 Julien Le Devedec, 20 Bernard Le Roux, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 François Trinh-Duc, 23 Yoann Huget

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Jamie Roberts

Date: Saturday, March 18
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)

Thanks to 

Crusaders win remarkable game against Blues

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One can never get tired of seeing the comeback wins from the Crusaders and they did it again on Friday against the Blues at home when they beat them at the end 33-24.

At a certain stage in the second half it almost looked like the Blues have hit the self-destructed button and one has too feel for them after a brilliant first half that gave them a 21-5 lead.  The seven-time champions overturned a 19-point lead into to a 9 point win after they were totally dominated by the blues.

It was 28 unanswered points during that last 30 odd minutes in the second half that gave the Crusaders a remarkable win.

The Blues started the match great and enjoyed above 80% in territory and possession in the first quarter of the match scoring the first try of the match through George Moala.

The Crusaders worked their way back into the clash and cored from one of their few attacking opportunities through Manasa Mataele to reduce the deficit to two points.

The Blues still dominated the game in both attacking and defense and they went into the break with a deserved lead of 21-5.

Piers Francis put the first points of the second half on for the Blues with a penalty , but then the Crusaders Pete Samu was awarded a contentious try from the back of a lineout drive.

A few minutes later replacement, Ben Funnell, went over from a driving maul to help make it just a five-point ball game.

It was at this point the Blues pressed that self-destruct bottom. The Crusaders did it again with Mitchell Hunt darting over for a well-taken try in the 72nd minute, with Mitch Drummond scored with the final play of the game to complete another incredible comeback.

The scorers:

For Crusaders:
Tries:
Mataele, Samu, Funnell, Hunt, Drummond
Cons: Hunt 4

For Blues:
Tries:
Moala 2, Pulu
Cons: Francis 3
Pen: Francis

Geduld ruled out for rest of the season

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Springbok Sevens playmaker Justin Geduld has been ruled out of the remaining four tournaments of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens, after picking up a foot injury at the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens earlier this month. Geduld underwent surgery on Wednesday and will be out of action for at least six months, according to Springbok Sevens team doctor, Leigh Gordon.

“Justin had surgery to his foot and ankle and is expected to be out for six to nine months,” said Gordon.

She also confirmed that Stephan Dippenaar will have to undergo surgery for a foot injury he sustained in Vancouver last weekend.

“Stephan Dippenaar’s foot injury requires surgery and he is seeing a surgeon tomorrow (Friday).  He is expected to be out of action for between three and six months.”

Gordon also ruled out Rosko Specman for the next two HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in Hong Kong and Singapore respectively next month.

“Rosko picked up a hamstring injury and will not be fit in time to travel to the next two tournaments, but if all goes well with his recovery, he should be able to play in Paris and London in May.”

Gordon is awaiting scan results from Branco du Preez on Friday, which could also rule the player out for a number of weeks.

“Ruhan Nel is also doubtful due to bone bruising to his ankle. He requires rest and the expected time of recovery is between three to four weeks,” said Gordon.

“The same applies to Cecil Afrika, who has a hamstring strain.”

Carel du Preez was earlier ruled out of the next tournament due to a back injury.

Tim Agaba has been cleared to train with the team when they return to their Stellenbosch base next week.

The squad will assemble again on Wednesday, 22 March, to start their preparations for the Hong Kong tournament from 7 to 9 April, which will be followed by the HSBC Singapore Sevens on 15 and 16 April.

The team will depart to Hong Kong on Sunday, 2 April.

The draw for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens was done earlier in the week. South Africa will face France, Kenya and Canada in Pool B.

Ackermann in talks with Gloucester

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Gloucester have moved to replacing Laurie Fisher by approaching Lions boss Johan Ackermann, the South African admitted this week.

Ackermann is highly regarded both in South Africa and beyond after guiding the Lions to Currie Cup titles and the Super Rugby final in 2016.

The former Springbok discussed the approach from Gloucester ahead of his side’s meeting with the Reds at Ellis Park.

“I have been offered an opportunity to go there and I am in the process of examining all the pros and the cons,” Ackermann said.

“I will make a decision sooner than later because I don’t want the team to be distracted. We have a tournament to perform in, but I will obviously make the call when the time is right.”

Asked whether he had set a deadline to make a decision on Gloucester’s offer, Ackermann revealed one was not in place.

“I don’t want the players to be in two minds and worry about my future. I want them to focus. For now, we have got a Reds game to win,” he added.

“If you put a timeframe to it, then the players will start guessing – Is it this week, is it next week?

“At this stage I can only say there is an offer on the table and it is something I am looking at.”