Cruden puts boot into Reds
April 30, 2011
Neemia Tialata smashes Reds flanker Beau Robinson © Getty Images
Australia Blues Cheetahs Chiefs Crusaders Force Highlanders Hurricanes Lions Melbourne Rebels New South Wales Waratahs New Zealand Queensland Reds Rebels Reds South Africa Waratahs
A last-minute penalty by All Black playmaker Aaron Cruden secured a narrow 28-26 win for the Hurricanes over the Reds in Wellington on Saturday, denting the Queenslanders' push at the summit of the table.
Ewen McKenzie's side fought back from 22-5 down at half-time to lead 26-25 in the 79th minute, with the coach's rotation policy set to be brought into focus in the aftermath.
The Reds were on the board early as Scott Higginbotham crashed over in the opening minute, with Tasesa Levave biting back 10 minutes later. As half-time approached the hosts grabbed a stranglehold on the game, with Cruden sparking a blitz of tries with a solo score.
Fullback Andre Taylor then started and ended a move with five points in the corner and tight-head Neemia Tialata powered over out wide to secure a big cushion at the break. Quade Cooper and Luke Morahan combined to get the Reds back into the game in the second period, Morahan dotting down an inch-perfect cross kick for his first try and capitalising on a Cooper inside flick for another.
A Cooper penalty on 71 minutes gave the Reds the lead but they failed to safeguard possession, a Hosea Gear break setting up Cruden to win it with his second penalty of the half.
On Friday, the Blues brought the Highlanders down to earth after last weekend's win over the Crusaders by sneaking a 15-10 victory at Carisbrook.
Five penalties from the boot of former All Blacks midfielder Luke McAlister secured the Blues' sixth win on the bounce, one dedicated at fulltime to lock Kurtis Haiu, who was this week diagnosed with cancer.
The home side trailed 9-0 at the break and began the second-half with 14 men following the sin-binning of lock Jarrad Hoeata for a breakdown offence, but they nevertheless found an attacking spark to score the game's only try.
A midfield break by replacement centre Matt Saunders laid the platform and after multiple infringements by the Blues close to their line, Robbie Robinson crashed across the whitewash. He added the conversion and a penalty before the 50 minute mark, but two kicks by McAlister - who was forced off before the hooter with an ankle problem - secured the win and top spot on the overall log for Pat Lam's Blues.
The Crusaders came from behind to beat the Western Force 42-30 and deny them a famous victory in Perth on Saturday. The Force were in sight of the win as they led 30-25 going into the final 20 minutes. But Corey Flynn and Kahn Fotuali'I crossed for the Crusaders and fly-half Matt Berquist converted both tries as well as adding a late penalty to complete the comeback.
The visitors had eased into a 15-3 lead early on following two tries from fullback Israel Dagg but the Force rallied with Cameron Shepherd scoring two tries and fly-half Willie Ripia also touching down. And the boot of James O'Connor ensured that the Force were leading into the final 20 minutes despite a try from Sonny Bill Williams.
Richie McCaw's comeback for the Crusaders was marred by a second-half yellow card but he returned to last until three minutes from the end, while the Force's David Pocock played the full game on his comeback from injury.
The Stormers overcame the Sharks 32-12 in Cape Town on Saturday to leapfrog their rivals into top spot in the South African conference.
Centres Jean de Villiers and Jacque Fourie, along with wing Gio Aplon, scored tries in the first half with fly-half Lionel Cronje landing the three conversions and a penalty to give the Stormers a 22-9 half-time lead. Sharks fly-half Patrick Lambie slotted three penalties for the visitors.
Lambie reduced the deficit with a penalty after the break but Aplon landed a drop-goal in the 66th minute and Deon Fourie scored a late try, which Kurt Coleman converted, to seal the win for the Stormers.
Defending champions the Bulls revived their hopes as they poured on 40 unanswered points to secure a 43-27 bonus-point win over the Chiefs.
The Pretoria-based side had lost their past three to slip down the standings and looked set for another reverse to virtually end their title defence when they fell 20-3 behind in the first half. But they then went on a scoring blitz either side of half-time with Wynand Olivier twice touching down while Morne Steyn did not miss a kick as he added 23 points. Gerhard van den Heever and Pierre Spies also touched down to secure the bonus point.
The Chiefs had surged into their early lead thanks to tries from Mils Muliaina and Brendon Leonard as they both made full use of some poor tackling from their hosts. But the blitz of points from the Bulls meant that when Fritz Lee crossed for the Chiefs late on the game was already gone.
The Waratahs beat the Melbourne Rebels 28-9 at the Sydney Football Stadium to maintain the pressure on the Reds.
Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau barged over in the 14th minute with Kurtley Beale converting to put the hosts ahead. The Waratahs and Wallabies fullback added a further three penalties to keep the hosts in front while Julian Huxley landed three penalties for the Rebels.
Danny Cipriani entered the fray in the 55th minute, after being dropped to the bench following a poor defensive display against the Blues the previous week. But the England international had little influence as the Waratahs sealed the win with late tries from flanker David Dennis and lock Dean Mumm.
There was further positive news for the Waratahs, and Wallabies, as playmaker Berrick Barnes played 74 minutes on his return from injury and impressed throughout.
Sias Ebersohn kicked 21 points as the Cheetahs held off the Brumbies in a thrilling 47-36 contest at the Free State Stadium. With both sides securing their four-try bonus points before the half-time interval, it was the boot of fly-half Ebersohn that helped his side over the line after the Brumbies had fought back from 32-7 down.
The Cheetahs had raced ahead through two tries from Sarel Pretorius and one apiece from Coenraad Oosthuizen and WP Nel, as well as two drop goals from Riaan Viljoen and the place kicking of Ebersohn. The Brumbies, who announced that former South Africa coach Jake White would be taking over at the struggling franchise, reduced the deficit with tries from Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Francis Fainifo and Michael Hooper - all before the break.
Replacement Robbie Coleman scored the solitary try of the second half, and Matt Giteau continued to kick goals for the visitors, but Ebersohn's boot kept the Brumbies at bay.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker