Sunday, July 28, 2013

Super Rugby results this weekend - Bulls fans look away now!

The Southern Kings and the Lions got things going in PE with a pretty decent match. It was the typical bone crunching contest you’d expect from two SA teams. Handling and a few other basics weren’t always great, but it was exciting end to end stuff. If the Lions had played like this all last season, or the Spears like this all this season – they’d have both avoided the situation they’re in. The match made a good case for 6 SA teams in Super Rugby.
Next up was the Chiefs and the Crusaders. I tipped the Chiefs, and got that one right – they tore into the Crusaders from the whistle, never let them settle, kept putting in eye watering hits, and their back line threatened all the time. The Crusaders are masters at dominating teams physically, but they don’t know how to respond when it happens to them. It’s such a classy team though – Carter is still the master, Dagg showed good touchs and Read is in the middle of everything. The final is the Chiefs to lose now.
The other semi final saw the Brumbies sneak out of Pretoria with a win. The Bulls play with the mantra that the perfect game plan was invented by Naas Botha and Northern Transvaal in 1981, and who are they to tamper with perfection. Or to use their heads – thinking is not really that masculine is it, beating the other team to a bloody pulp is the aim, and if you have to think to win – let’s not go there… They had the game wrapped up when they were camped on the Brumbies 22 in the last 10 minutes, but made the head scratching decision to go for a try  three times instead of taking the points. Fair play to the Brumbies, they have their work cut out in the final – but at least they’re in the final.
Super Rugby
Saturday , July 27
Chiefs 20 - 19 Crusaders 
Bulls 23 - 26 Brumbies 
Friday , July 26
Southern Kings 19 - 26 Lions 

Friday, July 26, 2013

This weekend- I'm going Kings, Chiefs and Bulls!

The Lions and the Southern Kings kick the Super  Rugby off on Friday, with the first of a two match series to work out who gets the 5th SA Super Rugby spot. It’s a pretty desperate affair, whoever loses is basically fecked for the next year. You only have to look at the Lions team to see the names missing without the lure of top class competition. At the start of the year I’d have said the Lions would walk back into the competition, but now I’m going with the Kings because they’ve had a better build up.
Saturday the real action gets underway with the Chiefs looking to keep their hopes of retaining their title alive. The chiefs missed  SBW this season..but they still topped the log, and apart from a few wobbles – and a big loss to the Crusaders – they have been chugging along nicely. The Crusaders are overwhelming favourites, after chewing up and spitting out the Reds, and their recent run of form. You’d figure though, that if anyone’s going to beat the Crusaders, it’s going to be the Chiefs. They are going to meet the physical onslaught from the Crusaders with absolute brutality, and have a backline that can hurt the Crusaders. The key to this match is Dan Carter – the Chiefs have to shut him down if they’re going to win. I’ve just stalked myself into a Chiefs win, just, just just!
The Bulls and the Brumbies round things off in Pretoria. The Brumbies closed a close game last weekend, but this weekend – I’d say they all be happy to get out alive, never mind with a win! I know the Aussies are good at outsmarting the Bok teams, but at home, with a spot in the final as the prize, I think the Bulls are going to win emphatically. So I’m predicting a final in New Zealand then. Enjoy the rugby.
Super Rugby
Friday , July 26
Southern Kings vs Lions 
Saturday , July 27
Chiefs vs Crusaders 19:35
Bulls vs Brumbies 17:05

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Crusaders demolish the Reds, and the Brumbies scrape home.

The Super Rugby semis got underway with the Crusaders stomping all over the Reds. They lifted them up, shook them in their teeth and threw them aside. It was about as emphatic a win as you can get, and they have ‘form team’ written all over them. Next up they are going to take on the Chiefs, who they demolished the last time they played. If they win that, they’ll still be on the road to the Bulls or the Brumbies, and it’s only travel that’s probably going to beat them now.

The other Semi was way more entertaining. It was an open match, end to end stuff, with great tries and a kick to draw the game in the final minute. With better kicking either team could have won it easily. I don’t think that the Brumbies were lucky to win the match, they have structure and discipline, but I do feel that the Cheetahs were unlucky to lose. The Brumbies, while streets ahead of where they were, are nowhere near the heights of the Gregan/Larkham flowing rugby era. The Cheetahs meanwhile, have it all really, they just need more experience, a better kicker and a bit of luck and they’ll be right up there. The Brumbies now travel to Pretoria to take on the Bulls – hard to see them winning that, but if they do, boy are they going to battered and bruised by the time they get home!

Super Rugby
Sunday , July 21
Brumbies 15 - 13 Cheetahs 
Saturday , July 20
Crusaders 38 - 9 Reds
Super Rugby
Saturday , July 27
Chiefs vs Crusaders 19:35
Bulls vs Brumbies 17:05

Friday, July 19, 2013

I'm going Crusaders and Cheetahs!

'mon the Cheetahs!

First up in the play-offs is the Crusaders entertaining the Reds at home. These are two seasoned campaigners – the Crusaders have won the thing umpteen times – not recently though – while the Reds won it two years ago.  The Crusaders have put together a good run of results to get into the final, including thumping the Chiefs and they  have a big advantage being at home, but the win is by no means a foregone conclusion. This is like New Zealand taking on France – half of the Crusaders are All Blacks anyway, and the Reds take on Frances role – they are going to have to bring something completely leftfield to win this. Messer’s Cooper and Genia and are going to decide this match I think, if the Crusaders shut them down, the Crusaders will win easily, but if  the Red’s playmakers get a free hand, the Reds will win. On balance, I think the Crusaders aren’t going to let this one slip. Great to see McCaw on the bench too.

The other match is lot more up in the air. The Brumbies haven’t been contenders for ages, and the Cheetahs never have! Jake White has drilled discipline in the Brumbies, so that all their set pieces are excellent, their defense is sound, and they have a great kicker.  They have some good attacking backs too, Lealiifano, Speight and Mogg, their game plan doesn’t generally give them much scope but they are potent on the counter attack. The Free State is frankly the last place you’d expect innovation and flair from, but they are delivering that in spades this season, and they have confidence too. Their pack is massive and will test out all the Brumbies weaknesses, and their flair is going to cause problems for the Brumbies defense. It’s a hell of a long way to travel for a match though, and I don’t know if they have the self belief to win this one, but I’m going with a Cheetahs victory against the odds.

Super Rugby
Saturday , July 20
Crusaders vs Reds 
Sunday , July 21
Brumbies vs Cheetahs 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Super Rugy semi semi finals, and South African play offs.

I watched the Reds and Tah’s match. Quade Cooper must be in the driving seat to be the Wallaby 10 now, but while he’s dynamite on attack, if everyone isn’t on his wavelength, things can go wrong as with the intercept try. The Waratahs have some good players – but how many times did they drop the ball, or kick it aimlessly away. And their place kicking was shocking – it lost them the match.

The next round of super rugby will be play offs between the Crusaders and Reds, and Brumbies and Cheetahs. Home advantage is everything, so it’s hard to look past the Crusaders and Brumbies. I suppose the big news is that the Bulls carelessly let slip their home advantage – probably handing the title to the Chiefs in the process.

Also coming up is the South African play offs between the Lions and the Southern Spears. The spears weren’t as terrible as me or anyone thought they were going to be, and they probably have the advantage over the Lions with the quality of warm up games they’ve had for the match. It’s the oddest thing, with the losing team surely losing money hand over fist. Only in South Africa!

Super Rugby Qualifier A
Crusaders v Reds
Date: Saturday, 20 July, 2013
Super Rugby Qualifier B
Brumbies v Cheetahs
Date: Sunday, 21 July, 2013
Super Rugby
Saturday , July 13
Blues 16 - 26 Chiefs 
Waratahs 12 - 14 Reds 
Western Force 21 - 15 Brumbies 
Stormers 30 - 13 Bulls 
Sharks 58 - 13 Southern Kings 
Friday , July 12
Crusaders 25 - 17 Hurricanes 
Melbourne Rebels 38 - 37 Highlanders 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Bits and bobs of Lions and Super Rugby

Just bits and bobs today after an epic Lions test. Robbie Deans has slung his hook, and Ewen McKenzie is in the hot seat. Wallaby fans will be hoping he repeats his excellent results with the Reds, and not his so so stay at Stade Francaise. His first job would seem to be enforcing an attitude adjustment among the prima donna brigade. He’s the man for the job though. As part of the fall out from the tour, the Rebels have booted James O’Connor, and brought in Tony McGahan from the Wallaby back team.  Let’s hope they  get early not late Munster from him.

Find of the tour for me was the form of Connor Murray – he’s sharpened up his game a lot, and stepped up into the big time. Quote of the tour was Jonny Sexton – ‘I’m so proud to get my first Welsh cap’
It’s not like the rugby has stopped completely, there’s still Super Rugby going on, with the final round robin matches taking place this weekend.  The Bulls, Chiefs and Brumbies are in poll position to win their conferences, and the Bulls to top the whole thing. It’d be hard not to see the Bulls not getting another title from there. The Cheetahs make the next round of the competition for the first time – and have done it playing attractive rugby too!

Enjoy the sun this weekend!

Super Rugby
Friday , July 12
Crusaders vs Hurricanes 
Melbourne Rebels vs Highlanders 
Saturday , July 13
Blues vs Chiefs 
Waratahs vs Reds 
Western Force vs Brumbies 
Sharks vs Southern Kings 
Stormers vs Bulls 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Lions sang last night!

After a pretty average test match last weekend, the series was put to bed with a proper rugby match. The Lions started with a bang after a fumble from Genia, built up points, wobbled a bit around half time...then blew the Wallabies away. The foundation for this victory to me was built around the selections of Corbiserio and Hibbard, and the reffing of Romaine Poite. The Lions finally asserted the scrum dominance they’d had all series, and it provided a constant flow of points. They also kicked less, and attacked more, and the tries came. I wish they’d played more like that last weekend!
All the selection controversies are dimming, to me Roberts and BOD would have got the job done just as well as Roberts and Davies, but be that as it may, the men selected came up with the goods. Gatland had a hard time even from the Wallaby press for leaving out BOD, but that’s the territory he’s in, and he needs to work on his PR skills if he wants to carry on taking on big jobs.
Robbie Deans could well be gone soon after the series loss – he’s never been able to allow the Australian flair to develop, certainly not on Saturday. O’Connor did nothing for them at flyhalf,  Their front row is an ongoing issue. They hung on in through the series through sheer bloody mindedness, playing their part in a brilliant series, and nearly winning it. They had a good few injuries to players like Pocock that could have tipped the balance even more.
The Lions as a concept is back in rude health!
British & Irish Lions
Australia 16 - 41 British & Irish Lions

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Has Gatland panicked?

My Aussie stay is nearly over - the kids have an obligatory boomerang and a suitcase full of Tim Tams. I managed to plan a trip from Ireland to Australia where we were in the wrong city each weekend for 
the Lions.

Be that as it's still been great to be over here, and soak up a bit of the atmosphere, also to see the Aussie attitude change from self confidence to respect for the Lions.

The big talking point this week is the dropping of BOD. As an Irish blogger, I'd feel that Heaslip would be more aggrieved to be dropped on form. Not that I think dropping BOD is right, but Heaslip is a quiet grafter - I think he was the leading carrier in the whole of the Heineken Cup, notwithstanding Leinsters early exit. As far BOD goes - Gatland has come to win, and he's putting out the team that he thinks will do the job. I think he's gone with Roberts and Davies mainly because they play together more and their defence it stronger, and he's gone with Roberts to punch some holes. I think it's the wrong move - It's easer to run round a brick wall than through it, d BOD is genius at making space, and that's completely overlooking his leadership skills.

What's done is done - Gatlands strategy now, as it's probably always ben, is to let Halfpenny win for them. The contest of the match is going to be Sean O'Brien V George Smith - SOB starting now when he probably should always have.

I'm behind the Lions all the way, the momentum is with the Walalbies now, but !'m going with a one point Lions win!

British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones (c), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Alex Corbisiero.Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Manu Tuilagi.Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 George Smith, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 James Horwill (captain), 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 James Slippper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Michael Hooper, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Jesse Mogg.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Even Stevens....

16-15 in Melbourne, one all, is about right for the series. But.... The Wallabies should have won in Brisbane with better kicking, and the Lions should have won this with better defence.

I watched it in Como in Perth, where rugby still comes second to NFL, but there was some good craic in the pub between rival supporters.

I think the Lions should have squashed out the series in this match, picking the Wallabies up like George North did with Folau, and smashing them. Their pack has the upper hand, and they should keep it more in there, kick it less and then run the ball with more confidence. Easy! I'll have to get on to my man Warren and set him straight. The Lions are unlucky to have lost their captan, but the replacements are lining up. I thought Lydiate and Bowe really stepped up to plate on Saturday.

The Wallabies should really be losing their Horwill now, for his footwork in the first test. Otherwise, O'Connor still looks fragile, and Beale looks like he could either way.

The Lions let that one slip, they had that game, and if they'd been a bit less conservative they would have got it. The momentum has swung back to the Wallabies ever so slightly...