Super Rugby - Round 1 Review
Reds snatch victory at the death
February 25, 2012
Reds scrum-half Will Genia is smashed by the Waratahs' Rob Horne © Getty Images
The Reds stole a derby victory in Sydney on Saturday night, beating the Waratahs 25-21 thanks to a Dom Shipperley try after the hooter.
The winger broke through two tackles to run in from halfway, snatching victory for the reigning champions despite a patchy start to their title defence.
The Waratahs stormed into a second-half lead thanks to a try from new recruit Sarel Pretorius, but the scrum-half's smart finish was rendered academic by Shipperley's late intervention. Wycliff Palu had scored the only try of the first-half for the hosts, to reward their dominance of the scrum, but their discipline was an issue throughout.
Reds fly-half Mike Harris - deputising for the injured Quade Cooper - slotted six penalties in an excellent kicking display, upstaging 'Tahs skipper Dan Halangahu from the tee.
South Africa's top team last season, the Stormers, recorded a 39-26 victory over the Hurricanes at Newlands. Fullback Joe Pietersen kicked 21 points, including three conversions and five penalties, as the hosts ran away with the contest in the final 30 minutes.
The Hurricanes had pulled level in the 47th minute when Beauden Barrett converted his own try to add his earlier three penalties and conversion of Tim Bateman's touch down. Barrett landed a further penalty in the 61st minute but Pietersen kicked three penalties of his own as well as converting a penalty try to take the win for the Stormers. Gio Aplon and Siya Kolisi had claimed first-half tries for the hosts, who were losing semi-finalists last year.
At Ellis Park, Elton Jantjies kicked 27 points as the Lions edged out the Cheetahs 27-25. The 21-year-old slotted nine penalties as the hosts came from 22-12 down to claim the win.
The Cheetahs, who had Andries Strauss and Johan Goosen sinbinned during the match, built up a strong lead thanks to a try from WP Nel and a conversion and four penalties from Goosen. Goosen added another penalty but Jantjies reeled the Cheetahs in with four penalties - to add to four in the first half - before landing the decisive strike with seven minutes remaining.
Also on Saturday, the Highlanders showed steel and determination to see off a star-studded Chiefs side, pulling through 23-19 at Waikato Stadium.
The hosts led 19-9 thanks to a 13th minute Lelia Masaga try and 14 points from returning All Black fly-half Aaron Cruden - signed in the off-season from the Hurricanes - but the Highlanders fired the game's decisive shots just after the hour mark.
Scrum-half Aaron Smith began the comeback after rounding off a patient move, snaffling a good offload to wriggle over close to the posts. Jason Rutledge then made an impact with a well-timed charge-down, the hooker regathering to put centre Phil Burleigh over in the corner.
Fly-half Chris Noakes kicked both conversions and three penalties, while England flanker James Haskell made his Super Rugby bow from the bench to secure the game-winning turnover.
The Crusaders kicked off their latest campaign with a narrow 19-18 victory over the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland.
A new-look Blues side, featuring high-profile recruit Piri Weepu on the bench, made a blistering start to their campaign with two tries inside the first ten minutes with flanker Chris Lowrey and then winger David Raikuna crossing the whitewash either side of a penalty from Crusaders fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal.
Dan Carter's deputy reduced the arrears with a second penalty soon after and his conversion of a Robbie Fruean try midway through the half saw the visitors take the lead for the first time in the game. Bleyendaal's boot cemented their advantage before the break but his opposite number Michael Hobbs swung the game back in his side's favour with two second half penalties to add to his conversion in the opening period. But Bleyendaal struck what would prove to be the match-winning penalty just past the hour mark to cap his 14-point haul.
In Friday's second game, the Brumbies also squeezed home with a 19-17 win against the Force in Canberra. A battle of the boots between Force fly-half James Stannard and Brumbies scrum-half Nicholas White saw the visitors claim a 12-9 lead at the break but the hosts would take control of the game with two tries within ten minutes of the re-start. First winger Jesse Mogg crossed and he was followed over the line by fullback Robbie Coleman. The Force rallied with a try of their own through Stannard but that would be as close as they would get with a losing bonus point their only reward.
The Bulls survived a late fightback from the Sharks to start their Super Rugby campaign with an 18-13 victory at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium. The Bulls led 18-6 with ten minutes remaining but a try from replacement Jacques Botes, which was converted by Patrick Lambie, inspired the Sharks as they searched for a potentially match-winning try. The Bulls' defence, though, held firm in the face of some feverish attacking from the Sharks to record a narrow victory.
The teams went into the break scoreless after competitive yet error-strewn opening 40 minutes in which the Bulls' Morne Steyn and Sharks' Lambie and Riaan Viljoen missed kicks at goal. The Bulls in particular struggled to secure the solid platform without the likes of Victor Matfield in their pack.
After 40 minutes without a score, both teams opened their accounts in the early moments of the second half with Steyn and Lambie finding their kicking accuracy. The Bulls tightened up their forwards play after the break and the pressure they exerted on the Sharks allowed Steyn to build a twelve-point lead with four successful strikes at goal in eight minutes.
Lambie lifted the Sharks' spirits with a long-range penalty with twenty minutes remaining and, after a drop-goal from Steyn, Botes pierced the Bulls defence to score the only try of the match. Lambie added the conversion but the Bulls held on to win in front of their home fans.
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