Waratahs hit the top spot
April 3, 2010
The Waratahs' Rob Horne is congratulated on scoring a try by team-mate Kurtley Beale during their victory over the Cheetahs in Sydney © Getty Images
The Waratahs climbed to the top of the Super 14 table with a 40-17 victory over the Cheetahs in Sydney.
At a wet and windy Sydney Football Stadium the home side took a deserved lead through the boot of fly-half Daniel Halangahu and they came close to stretching their lead when a clever chip through from Berrick Barnes was scrambled away by the visitors. Halangahu doubled his side's lead midway through the half with his second penalty and their continued dominance was rewarded with the first try of the game through centre Rob Horne who dotted down after a smart break.
Further pressure at scrum time allowed Halangahu to edge his side further ahead but Cheetahs fly-half Naas Olivier reduced the arrears almost immediately with a penalty after the Tahs were penalised for obstruction at the re-start. But back came the Waratahs with Benn Robinson burrowing over on the stroke of half-time with Halangahu's conversion putting the hosts in firm control.
Prop Al Baxter celebrated his 100th Super Rugby appearance with his first try soon after the break and the bonus point was in the bag just two minutes later when Kurtley Beale intercepted a loose pass before racing away to score. The Cheetahs, who were repeatedly punished for missed tackles, rallied in the last ten minutes with WP Nel forcing his way over from close with scrum-half Tewis de Bruyn adding the extras.
The Tahs responded with the fifth try from replacement Josh Holmes that was converted by Barnes but the Cheetahs had the last say with a well-worked try from Corne Uys with the conversion from de Bruyn bringing the curtain down on the game. The Waratahs face a daunting trip to the Crusaders next weekend while the Cheetahs continue their away leg against the Brumbies.
A round of upsets continued at Eden Park on Saturday as the Blues became the first team to topple the Bulls this season, the hosts coming out 32-17 winners. The Bulls enjoyed an unbeaten run on home soil before struggling past the Western Force in Perth last week, and the trip to Auckland proved a bridge too far as they succumbed to tries from Isaia Toeava and Joe Rokocoko, plus 22 points from Stephen Brett's boot.
The backs scored the points but it was the forwards, led by heroic front rowers Charlie Faumuina and Keven Mealamu, who laid the foundations for the win. The Bulls scored the first try of the match after speedy No.8 Pierre Spies picked up a loose ball on halfway and made good yards towards the left hand corner. A few phases later the ball was cycled right where Spies had repositioned to eventually slam the ball down backwards over his head while being tackled in the corner.
Toeava responded soon after to help make it 16-11 at half time thanks to Brett's sideline conversion. The Blues' No.10 out-kicked his points-machine counterpart Morne Steyn, who missed a number of kicks despite landing his first drop of the season.
The undisciplined Bulls had Pedrie Wannanburg sin-binned not long after coming on in the second half, and they survived his absence fairly well before a suicidal quick line-out led to a turnover on their own line. The ball spread to Rokocoko for a try in the right corner, extending a lead the Bulls would fail to make a dent in.
Elsewhere on Saturday, the Sharks continued their revival with a narrow 30-28 win against the Reds in Durban. Second half tries from Odwa Ndungane, Jacques Botes and JP Pietersen carried the hosts to victory but the Reds came away with two points thanks to their own four-try haul through inspirational Quade Cooper, a brace from Will Chambers and Greg Holmes.
The home side trailed 21-9 early in the second half after Cooper and Chambers had put the Reds in control but the Sharks battled back into the contest to lead 30-21 with a little over ten minutes left in the game with scrum-half Ruan Pienaar weighing in with three conversions to add to his hat-trick of first half penalties. However, the Reds raised their game again with some fine work from Digby Ioane setting up Holmes for his score that was converted by Cooper who was again in superb form and also added the extras for the three previous scores. But they were unable to overhaul the Sharks and follow up their win over the Cheetahs last weekend.
The victory was the Sharks' third in a row after opening with five straight defeats but their reward is a by next week while the Reds, who climbed to fifth in the table as a result, face the Lions in Johannesburg.
The Highlanders missed a chance to upset the Chiefs at Bay Park as replacement flanker Tim Boys dropped a pass with the line in sight late on, leaving the Waikato outfit with a 27-21 advantage. The Chiefs' new midfield partnership of Mike Delany at flyhalf and Stephen Donald moved out to No.12 worked a treat as the pair cut through the up-and-in Highlanders defence, helping their side to a three tries to two victory.
The Highlanders did get off to a bright start and their scrum caused problems, with and without the feed. Kenny Lynn scored in the corner after bustling through two Chiefs front rowers and Fetu'u Vainikolo scored one of the tries of the season, taking a high kick on halfway before launching a counterattack featuring many of his fellow Highlanders backs and wrapping around to finish it off out wide.
Donald split those first half efforts with a try of his own to keep the Chiefs in touch at half time, and further scores by Sione Lauaki and Sona Taumalolo in the second half helped take the Chiefs into a six-point lead.
As the Highlanders rolled the dice, Mat Berquist had some luck when his low kick through bounced off a Chief and straight back into his grasp. He released a slightly wayward pass that would have had Boys in untouched, but the flanker's missed catch denied Israel Dagg the chance to kick for the win.
The Western Force are off the mark for 2010 after fly-half David Hill dropped a goal after the hooter had sounded to stun an under par Stormers side with a 16-15 win on Friday. The Stormers will be doubly disappointed after the Crusaders were held to a draw in the New Zealand derby with the Hurricanes, but took second place in our Game of the Week.
It was a deserved win for the Perth franchise who scored the game's only try, but looked to be ending with just a losing bonus point to show for their efforts. But No.8 Matt Hodgson made a huge carry to establish field position, allowing replacement scrum-half Justin Turner find Hill who delivered the goods with a well-struck drop-goal which split the posts.
This was the Stormers' first match of the Australasian leg of the Super 14, and they failed to spark despite coming into the game with five wins from six matches. Peter Grant kicked them ahead after four minutes, but they failed to build on that score and were behind nine minutes later as David Pocock finished an excellent move. It was a brilliant try, James O'Connor and Scott Staniforth combining to create space for the returning openside who touched down. O'Connor converted, but two Grant penalties either side of the break edged the visitors back in front.
A 65th minute O'Connor effort put the Force back into the lead, but Grant stayed cool to nail his fifth penalty to re-establish the Stormers' lead and they then set about defending their territory. Stern defence seemed to have seen Schalk Burger's men home, but after missing a long ranger just a minute earlier, Hill stepped up to send the locals into ecstacy.