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Super Rugby Review: Round 10

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Sunday, April 21, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Only the Crusaders, out in front on 34, and the Sunwolves, at the bottom on 11, are outside the ten-point band the others are in.

QUICK TAP: ROAD FAILURES STILL AN ISSUE FOR BLUES

If the playoffs were contested this weekend they would see: Crusaders v Blues, Hurricanes v Lions, Rebels v Waratahs, Bulls v Sharks.

New Zealand Conference

In a heavyweight forward game poured on by a side like the Lions in Hamilton on Friday, it pays to have Brodie Retallick to call on. But that wasn't the case for the Chiefs and they found themselves on the wrong side of a 0-20 scoreline. That proved a more than acceptable challenge for the Chiefs who unleashed one of their barn-storming runs home to score three tries to wing Sean Wainui, prop Nepo Laulala and centre Tumua Manu, to give the Lions a right royal shake-up in the final stages of the game. But Marty McKenzie wasn't able to find the goal-kicking accuracy of Lion Elton Jantjies, missing all three conversions and landing only a penalty goal, while Jantjies slipped over a late dropped goal to secure the final 23-17 win for his side.

Heading to Japan without the Barrett brothers and Ardie Savea was always going to be a risk for the Hurricanes. But it was also a chance to throw responsibility on the lesser lights in the squad against a Sunwolves team that drew energy from their supportive crowd to give the Hurricanes a genuine contest before they could claim their 29-23 victory. As much as flying wing Semisi Masirewa entertained with his two tries, it was first five-eighths Hayden Parker who maintained his outstanding kicking record to keep the pressure on. But second five-eighths Ngani Laumape demonstrated his class under pressure to play big hands in tries to wings Ben Lam and Wes Goosen while TJ Perenara sniped their opening try with Chase Tiatia on the spot when Isaia Walker-Leawere managed a key chargedown.

Failing to maximise their chances in the first quarter, the Blues fell into something of an old hole when increasing the risk factor in the way they played the game, and that told in the end with interceptions allowing the Highlanders back into a game they had looked shut out of. The strength of the Blues start, if maintained, would have forced the Highlanders to feel the effects of a demanding defensive game. Instead, they were able to shrug off the early heavy tackle load and turn the pressure back on the Blues. It is true there are fine lines in this year's competition between success and failure and it was reward for the Highlanders to come out on the right side 24-12 this time around. Their loose forwards were outstanding and out-muscled the Blues at the breakdown.



Australia Conference
Thriving on quick ruck ball, the Reds struck early in Durban on their way to a 21-14 win. Records show the Brisbane-based side have the poorest record of all the traditional members of Super Rugby when playing in South Africa, but they gave their winning average a boost with an impressive showing. Their first try came after three minutes following a break by hooker Alex Mafi which created a chance for fullback Bryce Hegarty. With the Sharks looking to apply their lineout drive with kicks to the corner, the Reds held on and in the 20th minute scored a second try through centre Chris Feauai-Sautia's try set up from a second five-eighths Samu Kerevi burst. While the home scored before the break, it was the Reds' ability on the off-loads which saw halfback Tate McDermott score what proved the matchwinner.

Never under-estimate the value of a goal-kicker. Hayden Parker's unerring boot gave his side every chance of reeling in one of the bigger fish in the tournament, the Hurricanes in Tokyo before they finally went down 23-29 to a stronger finishing New Zealand unit. Parker now sits third on the points scoring list in the competition with 82 points behind only Handre Pollard (110) and Quade Cooper (84). And wing Simisi Masirewa has seven tries, one behind Will Jordan, Jack Maddocks and Rieko Ioane who have eight each. But it was another encouraging display from the home side who have the chance to go one better this week against the Highlanders.

Failing to build on a 20-7 lead at halftime, the Rebels found themselves on the end of a 23-20 loss at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday. Penalties conceded proved the bane of the Melbournites. Handling conditions were difficulty as the dew took effect while the Rebels penchant for getting offside with the referee eased the path back for the Waratahs and they took their chance although it wasn't always the result of attractive rugby. That was seen in the mistake-ridden try scored by second five-eighths Billy Meakes in response to the opening try scored by Waratahs centre Adam Ashley –Cooper. Two penalty goals to first five-eighths Bernard Foley early in the second half set up the home team and it was Foley who ran onto untidy Rebels lineout ball to race into a gap and away for the try which equalised the scores at 20-20. Foley added three more before the Rebels lost prop Sam Talakai to the sin-bin with nine minutes of the game left.

Knowing they faced a Stormers side keen to apply the lessons learned from their disappointing Australasian tour, the Brumbies struck early in Cape Town en route to a 19-17 win. No.8 Pete Samu and loose forward Rory Arnold were in the thick of the early action, Samu scoring the opening try in the seventh minute and then Arnold charged down a box kick from halfback Herschel Jantjies to pick up the ball and score a second. In a tighter second half, an orthodox Brumbies backline movement created space for fullback Tom Banks and he didn't waste the chance to claim a welcome win on the road for the Canberra side.



South Africa Conference
All sorts of excuses might have been acceptable for the Lions had they not failed to achieve a 23-17 win in Hamilton on Friday. Coach Swys de Bruin had to return home for personal reasons before the game while the side were attempting to come to grips with their loss to the Brumbies a week earlier. But they went about their work in typical fashion by turning on the forward power to get out to a good lead. Elton Jantjies, who like hooker Malcolm Marx, was added to the publicised starting side before the game, Jantjies at second five-eighths. He landed two conversions, two penalty goals and a dropped goal. The Chiefs tried everything but ultimately they had left their run too late.

For a side who have been seen as one of the more able units when on their game, the Sharks had no answer to the Reds, going down 14-21 at Durban on Friday. Storing their running game away, the Sharks tried to dominate with their lineout drive and while it produced one try for hooker Kerron van Vuuren, it wasn't enough to eliminate errors and mishandling which allowed the Reds to counter with their attacking game to complete a three tries to two win that had them momentarily sitting in second place in the Australian Conference. They're now back in fourth while, given the up and down nature of the South African Conference, the Sharks are in second place still on the points table.

The Stormers had a mixed afternoon at the hands of the TMO at Newlands before eventually losing 17-19. After the Brumbies got out to a 10-3 lead the home team thought they had scored through lock Salmaan Moerat but it was adjudged there had been a knock-on in the build-up play by prop Wilco Louw. Then after halftime had been blown by Nick Briant, the TMO decided a tackle by wing Toni Pulu on halfback Herschel Jantjies warranted a look. When it was deemed to have been a high tackle, Briant awarded the Stormers a penalty try. In the second half Louw redeemed himself with a try and hopes of another try were ruled out when a Stormers player had stepped into touch. That allowed the Brumbies to put fullback Tom Banks in and with solid defence there was no opening for the Stormers to exploit.