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Rugby Union - by Craig Hill

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November 27th 2011 01:04
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TheAustralian Schools Championship kicked off today in Sydney

A visit by the Qantas Wallabies highlighted an entertaining first day’s competition at the Australian Schoolboys Championship at Knox College in Sydney.

The Wallabies trained in the morning in front of an enthralled audience of representative schoolboys from across Australia before the young players themselves hit the field in the afternoon to try and replicate their heroes.

In the opening non-competition match NSW II defeated Combined States, a selection of the best players from Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia, 47 – 10 with Prariewood High School’s Josh Tanuvassa crossing for two tries.

In the second match, a powerful Queensland I line up, featuring Wallabies scrumhalf Will Genia’s younger brother, Nigel, defeated ACT 69 – 7, after leading 38-0 at half time.

Southport School’s Simon Morahan and Chris Sautia from Brisbane State High Scholl both crossed for doubles for the young Maroons while for ACT St Edmunds College’s Jake Holland hit the line at pace and was rewarded with the side’s only try.

In the hard fought final match of the day NSW I overcame stern resistance from Queensland II with Damien Cooke from Illawarra Sports High School scoring two tries and landing a conversion and Tom Kingston from St Aloysius also scoring two five-pointers.

In tomorrow’s matches, also at Knox College in Wahroonga, Queensland II meet Queensland I at 11am followed by NSW 1 vs Combined States at 1pm and NSW II meeting ACT in what should be a tight contest at 3pm.

Australian Schoolboys Championships

Results Day 1

Game 1 – non Comp

NSW II 47 (Zack Fell, Nick Curtis, John Tanuvassa 2, Tyson Frizell tries, Lim Walker try, 4 Con, 3 Pen) defeated Combined States 10 (Ray Buchannan, Keith Wicks tries)

Game 2 – Pool B

Queensland I 69 (Simon Morahan 2, Chris Sautia 2, Luke Beauchamp, James May, Jordan Turapou, Kimami Situata, Ruka Hanlon, Liam Gill tries Rohan Saifoloi 1 try, 7 Con) defeated ACT 7 (Jake Holland, Billy Chaulker Con)

Game 3 – Pool A

New South Wales I 22 (Damien Cook 2 tries 1 con, Tom Kingston 2 tries) defeated Queensland II 10 (Junior Rasolea try, Mitchell Felesman 1 con 1 PG)

Draw for Day 2 – Thursday July 9th

Knox College, Pacific Highway, Wahroonga

Non-Comp 11:00 am Queensland II v Queensland 1

Pool A 1:00 pm NSW I v Combined States

Pool B 3:00 pm NSW II v ACT
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Super 14 Round 8 Results

April 6th 2009 06:26
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Super 14 Round 8 Results



Super 14 Round 8 Table


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Super 14 Round 7 Results

March 30th 2009 06:16

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Super 14 Round 7 Results


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Super 14 Round 6 Results

March 23rd 2009 06:07

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Super 14 Round 6 Results


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Super 14 Round 5 Results

March 16th 2009 05:58

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Super 14 Round 5 Results


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Super 14 Round 5 Preview All Games

March 9th 2009 08:54
The Brumbies welcome the NSW Waratahs on Friday night in a keenly-anticipated match up which helps to kick off the fifth round of the 2009 Investec Super 14. With the Bulls of South Africa off duty due to the bye, New South Wales could claim top spot in the rankings if they can register their fifth straight win. They will not find this an easy assignment given that they’ve only won once previously in Canberra since Super Rugby began. Fellow Australian sides the Western Force and the Queensland Reds also face intriguing match-ups as the championship ladder starts to take shape. The Reds could do the Waratahs a big favour by bowling the unbeaten Sharks of South Africa in Brisbane on Saturday night. Earlier in the evening, the Western Force confront the Crusaders in Christchurch, bidding for their first ever win over the seven-time champions.

Blues v Cheetahs

Venue: North Harbour Stadium, Albany
Kick-off: Friday 13 March, 7.35pm (local), 5.35pm (AEDT)
Referee: Keith Brown

Last year: Blues 50, Cheetahs 26 at Bloemfontein

The Blues have lost at their last two appearances on the northern side of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Two years ago, they lost 25-32 to the Sharks at North Harbour. Last season, their conquerors were the Force, 17-27. The twin defeats came after the Blues had enjoyed a six-year unbeaten run at the ground between 2001 and 2006, where their victims included Queensland (39-35) in 2001, New South Wales (22-20) in 2002, and the Crusaders (39-5) in 2003. Overall, the Blues have won seven, lost three and drawn one at the ground – although they were not the home team for their maiden appearance, which was a winning one, against the Chiefs in 1997. At that stage, North Harbour was part of the Chiefs franchise, so the Blues’ 26-16 win wasn’t warmly greeted by the locals! Pat Lam’s men lie in fifth place on the standings, but head into this match with a 50 percent record in ’09 as a result of last weekend’s thrilling four-point loss to the Sharks. The four tries conceded at Eden Park took the total they have let in to 15, which is three more than have been conceded by the Cheetahs, who have the second leakiest Super Rugby defence. The Sharks’ defeat was compounded by the injuries suffered by winger Paul Williams and flanker Josh Blackie, which has seen them join flyhalf Tasesa Lavea, lock Anthony Boric and wingers Rene Ranger and Rudi Wulf on the unavailable list. Perhaps the biggest positive was the strong return of All Black lock Ali Williams, in his first match for the Blues since 2007. The Cheetahs relocated to Auckland having performed a little better than the 17-point losing margin indicated during last weekend’s loss to the Hurricanes at New Plymouth. Showing 10 changes from the line-up which melted in Brisbane the previous week, the South Africans scored two tries and could easily have had a couple more but for dropped balls, which will have given them some confidence as their arduous overseas tour draws to a close. Having fielded 25 players in his starting XV through the last two weeks, Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske will be looking to run with his top XV for the final two weeks of the trip, which should see the return of inspirational skipper Juan Smith. The Cheetahs, who are now the only team still register a win in this year’s championship, face the Blues and the Highlanders in their final two weeks away and will give themselves some chance of improving their diabolical touring record.

In round four – The end of tour ‘Blues’ got the Auckland-based side for the seventh time in 13 seasons, as they lost their first home game back from the South African tour. The Cheetahs could sympathise. The 17-point loss in New Plymouth dropped their touring record to 0 & 16.

Brumbies v Waratahs

Venue: Canberra Stadium
Kick-off: Friday 13 March, 7.40pm (AEDT)
Referee: Mark Lawrence

Last year: NSW Waratahs 24, Brumbies 17 at Sydney

Al Baxter becomes just the fifth player to surpass three figures in state caps for New South Wales as the Waratahs travel down the Hume Highway bidding for their fifth straight win of the championship. In hitting the 100, Baxter will move one appearance ahead of his good mate Matt Dunning, who was left languishing on 99 after a snapped Achilles ruled him out of this year’s competition. In surpassing Dunning, Baxter will complete a notable career double, having become Australia’s most capped Test prop last year when he moved beyond Ewen McKenzie. The Waratahs will be desperate to celebrate Baxter’s milestone with a victory which would take them to the top of the table, as the Bulls have the bye this weekend. New South Wales maintained their winning sequence at the Sydney Football Stadium by fending off a determined Queensland Reds outfit last weekend, although the win may have cost them No 8 Wycliff Palu, who sustained an injured hand. While there has been plenty of discussion surrounding the ‘Tahs playing style, the quality of their defensive work is unarguable. Only the Crusaders have been as mean as New South Wales, whose six tries conceded is five less than the 11 let in by the Brumbies, who have played one game less. The Brumbies skipped last weekend with the bye, although a number of squad members were released to play on Sunday for the Brumby Runners against an Australian Barbarians XV, including Test prop Ben Alexander and last year’s Qantas Wallabies Spring tourist Peter Kimlin. The bye has provided mixed blessings for the Brumbies in the past. Last year, they lost at home to the Chiefs coming off the break, but beat the Crusaders two years ago. The Brumbies, who depart for a three-match tour of South Africa after the game, have won five of the six previous meetings against the Waratahs in the capital, and are bidding for their 99th win in all Super Rugby matches.

The last time – The Brumbies have had two weeks to mull over a loss to the Force where they leaked four tries, and needed the aid of the referee to post one themselves, via a penalty try. The Waratahs extended their unbeaten run at the SFS to 10 matches last Friday night, defying the Reds.

Fortress Canberra
Prior to the visit by the Western Force two weeks ago, the Brumbies had lost just once at home against a fellow Australian side in the 14 years of Super Rugby. That defeat occurred when New South Wales called in 2005. The Waratahs won 10-6 en-route to that year’s final. Winger Lote Tuqiri, flanker and skipper Phil Waugh and prop Al Baxter are the only survivors from that winning side who will return on Friday night, although Stephen Hoiles was also on their team bus. The Randwick loose forward started on the blindside flank for New South Wales four years ago, but will this time skipper the Brumbies from the back of the scrum. Ben Batger, who was with the Brumbies then, is now a Waratahs’ squad member. Mark Gerrard, Stirling Mortlock, George Smith, Mark Chisholm and Nic Henderson are the Brumbies players from that match set to feature again, while Owen Finegan and Bill Young both played then, but are on the coaching staff now. The Waratahs’ success of 2005 is one of just two matches from 16 that the Brumbies have lost at home against Australian opposition in Super Rugby.


Crusaders v Western Force

Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: Sat 14 March. 5.30pm (local), 3.30pm (AEDT)
Referee: Marius Jonker

Last year: Crusaders 29, Western Force 24 at Perth

The Crusaders are one of only two teams the Western Force has yet to beat – the Waratahs are the other – and they may never get a better chance to lower the seven-time champions, than this weekend. While the Force paid the price for missing 14 first half tackles as the Chiefs built up a match-winning 21-6 halftime break last Friday; the West Australians did at least improve their performance in the second term, despite losing 13-31. The same cannot be said for the Crusaders who laboured without reward in Dunedin, as the Highlanders advanced from a scoreless first half to kick the only points of the game in a 6-0 victory. That defeat has left the Crusaders on the edge of unchartered territory: the most successful franchise in Super Rugby has never before lost four games in a row. Todd Blackadder’s problems have been compounded by young Colin Slade’s goal-kicking struggles, with only four of his 12 shots on goal successful so far, as well as a chronic injury toll which has rubbed skipper Richie McCaw out for the next month at least due to a medial ligament strain in his knee. McCaw joins centre Casey Laulala as well as wingers Jared Payne and Kade Poki on the injured list, while prop Ben Franks and lock Brad Thorn are also struggling on that score. Fullback Leon MacDonald may finally return from the shoulder injury he suffered in round one against the Chiefs. The Western Force is without Qantas Wallabies No 8 Richard Brown, who is aiming to return from his injured shoulder in next week’s home game against the Sharks. The visitors will also be aware that, despite their troubles, the Crusaders still boast the stingiest defence in the league, having conceded four less tries than the Force. Both teams have scored nine tries to date in their four matches.

In round four: It was bad enough being beaten, but the Crusaders’ ill-fated visit to Carisbrook also saw them held scoreless for the first time in their 172-game history. The Force had surrendered their game in Hamilton by halftime, although an improved second half performance at least offered some promise for the trip south to Christchurch.

Exorcising the Demons
It was the venue of the Western Force’s greatest disaster in Super Rugby. Week five takes the West Australians back to the scene of the biggest humiliation in their short history, when thrashed 53-0 by the Crusaders in Christchurch two years ago. The Force had arrived in the South Island that year, having won five of the opening eight, with another drawn, to sit in the top four. The team departed 80-minutes later almost totally demoralised, after conceding eight tries without reply, which matched the number they had let in through their previous eight matches! The players won’t need any reminding this week of the catastrophic consequences of that experience. It threw their season into such a tail spin that the Force fell away to lose four of the last five, missing the playoffs in the process. Thirteen players from that galling night at the then Jade Stadium – Drew Mitchell, Cameron Shepherd, Haig Sare, Ryan Cross, Junior Pelesasa, Matt Giteau, Chris O’Young, David Pocock, Matt Hodgson, Nathan Sharpe, Troy Takiari, AJ Whalley and Tai McIsaac – are part of the Force travelling party in New Zealand, and will return to AMI Stadium seeking redemption. They will find a vastly different background to what they experienced two years ago. Not only is the ground under a major reconstruction, so too are their opponents! Such has been the combination of off-season departures, and now injury problems, that have shaken up the Crusaders - they will have just eight players from that night left for the ‘re-match’. This number includes lock Ross Filipo, who scored three of the Crusaders’ tries, and flanker Kieran Read, who got two. The win, which was the Crusaders’ first over the Force, was memorable for the Super Rugby heavyweights in more ways than one: not only was it the franchise’s 100th in Super Rugby, at their 148th attempt; it was also coach Robbie Deans’ 100th match in charge.


Highlanders v Chiefs

Venue: Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill
Kick-off: Sat 14 March. 7.35pm (local), 5.35pm (AEDT)
Referee: Matt Goddard

Last year: Chiefs 39, Highlanders 24 at Hamilton

It might be, geographically, the fartherest away venue for them nationally, but drawing the Highlanders in Invercargill is not a bad get for the Chiefs. The Waikato-based side has appeared twice previously at the home of Southland Rugby and has triumphed both times – 22-5 in 1996, and 29-24 six years later. The wins are two of four that the Chiefs have enjoyed away from home against the Highlanders. They also won 38-34 at Queenstown on their most recent southern jaunt two years ago, after winning for the first time at Carisbrook in 2004. Both sides picked up their first wins of the year last weekend. The Chiefs could be further boosted by the timely return from a back injury of All Black fullback Malili Muliaina, who has been absent since the opening weekend. His understudy, Sosene Anesi, injured his shoulder during last week’s win over the Western Force. The Highlanders’ defence was superb during last weekend’s historic shut-out of the Crusaders and it will need to be again to hold the Chiefs. History suggests the Highlanders will need to keep close tabs on the Chiefs wingers. Sitiveni Sivivatu scored a hat-trick against the Highlanders three years ago, while Lelia Masaga has scored twice in each of the last two games against the Southern men. While the Highlanders have won this contest five times, the Chiefs have prevailed on eight occasions, including the last five.

In round four: The victory songs were out for the first time in 2009, with the Highlanders shutting out the Crusaders 6-0, while the Chiefs picked up maximum points at home to the Western Force


Highlanders v Crusaders

Venue: Carisbrook, Dunedin
Kick off: Saturday 7 March, 7.35pm (local), 5.30pm (AEDT)
Referee: Ian Smith

Head to Head: Played 16: Crusaders 11, Highlanders 5
Last year: Highlanders 26, Crusaders 14 at Christchurch

The Highlanders’ shock 12-point win over the Crusaders in Christchurch last year, snapped a seven-game losing streak against their South Island rivals dating back to 2001. That memory will offer this year’s outfit plenty of hope this week, even though only 11 of that match night playing staff remain on the Highlanders roster. While the Highlanders failed to secure a consolation point for the first time during last week’s loss in Sydney, they were again competitive, and may fancy their chances against a Crusaders side suddenly under pressure. Excluding playoff matches, the Crusaders have not lost three regular season matches in a row in Super Rugby since the inaugural season in 1996 – when it occurred twice. That is the scenario facing Todd Blackadder’s men after last week’s 24-30 loss to the Hurricanes. That defeat has potentially come with an associated cost; leading try-scorer Casey Laulala (shoulder) and winger Kade Poki (ankle) are both in doubt, while lock Brad Thorn (heel) and prop Ben Franks also hobbled from the field. All Black fullback Leon MacDonald should return, and bring a calming presence with him. This may necessitate a change at flyhalf, with Stephen Brett a chance to takeover there from Colin Slade. Draft hooker Jason MacDonald, who became the Crusaders’ first choice when Corey Flynn broke his arm again, will head south well motivated to prove a point after being omitted this year following 32 games for the Highlanders over the previous three years. The Highlanders departed Sydney last Saturday with coach Glenn Moore confident that his skipper Jimmy Cowan would make a return from the elbow injury he suffered in round one. Experienced Otago lock Tom Donnelly should also be back from the broken thumb he sustained in the pre-season. Although the Crusaders won 38-3 last time they visited Carisbrook two years ago, scoring five tries (two by Laulala); that was just the seven-time champion’s fourth win from seven appearances at the ground. One of those wins was in the 1999 final, where Blackadder led the visitors to a 24-19 win which also featured his two current assistant coaches, Mark Hammett and Daryl Gibson. Overall, the Crusaders have won 11 and lost five in all matches against their southern neighbours.


In round three – The Highlanders showed their usual grit, but were flattened by tries either side of halftime, and couldn’t recover as they fell 16-34 to New South Wales. In Christchurch, the Crusaders were beaten at home by a New Zealand rival for a third year in a row, as the Hurricanes got up by six.

Reds v Sharks

Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: Sat 14 March, 7.05pm (local), 8.05pm (AEDT)
Referee: James Leckie

Last year: Sharks 22, Queensland Reds 10 at Durban

The Sharks may be unbeaten from four thus far in 2009, but it would be totally understandable if they approached their Brisbane appointment with an ounce of trepidation. Prior to the Durban outfit’s record 59-16 win in the city two years ago, during a season where the Reds finished with the wooden spoon; the Sharks had lost on five consecutive visits to Queensland. In-form winger JP Pietersen, who scored his fourth try of the season last weekend at Eden Park, scored twice when the Sharks were last at Suncorp Stadium, while hooker Bismarck du Plessis has scored in each of the team’s last two matches with the Reds. The Sharks’ success in Brisbane two years ago is the only win the South Africans have had from their last 14 matches in Australia – an incredibly poor return, given that they have notched up 13 wins on New Zealand soil during the same time-frame. Although last year’s 12-point win in Durban was the Sharks’ third success in a row against the Reds, the ‘streak’ followed a run of seven years where Queensland had won every match between the two. Prior to their win in 2007, the Sharks only other win in Brisbane had occurred during Super Rugby’s inaugural season in 1996 where the South Africans, as the fourth qualifiers, bowled the top of the table Reds 43-25 at Ballymore in the first ever Super Rugby semi-final. Last weekend’s thrilling 35-31 win over the Blues made it two from two on the road for the Sharks, who now have two more matches in which to complete their most successful Super Rugby tour of Australia and New Zealand; as the most games they have ever won in this part of the world previously is two – a figure they have achieved on five previous occasions. Ominously for the Reds, Sharks coach John Plumtree was expecting his troops to improve for the Australian leg of the tour, having been given a light training regime at the resort town of Taupo ahead of the Auckland match. This was designed to allow the players to overcome the twin rigours of travel fatigue and the physical stress that was created by their taxing match with the Chiefs. Plumtree is expected to start Bok skipper John Smit at tighthead prop, after utilising the Test hooker off the bench in that role last weekend. The Reds returned from Sydney last Saturday frustrated after their third narrow loss from four outings. The four-point defeat at the SFS has also left lock Van Humphries and prop Greg Holmes in doubt for this weekend due to injury.

Virtual tipsters should be aware that eight of the last nine matches between these teams have been determined by margins of 12 points or less.

In round four: The Reds’ inter-state anguish stretched to five seasons, as they fell by four against the ‘Tahs, while the Sharks made it four from four with a valuable win at Eden Park

Stormers v Lions

Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: Sat 14 March, 5pm (local), 2am (Sun, 15 March, AEDT)
Referee: Craig Joubert

Last year: Stormers 22, Lions 13 at Johannesburg

The Johannesburg-based Super rugby side hasn’t beaten the Stormers since 2001. The year in question is significant, as it was the last time the Cats featured in the semi-finals, with their 29-24 win at Newlands in the opening round of that season providing a significant spring board for the then Laurie Mains-coached team. The Cats also beat the semi-final bound Stormers 18-16 at Cape Town in 1999, but have lost eight of 11 against their arch rivals from the coast in total. The Lions’ only wins against fellow South African teams since re-emerging in Super Rugby in their own colours have been home & away against the Cheetahs over the last two seasons. Prior to then, you have to go back to 2002 to find the last instance of the Johannesburg-based side winning at any other non home South African venue. That was in round one of 2002 when the Cats beat the Bulls 44-31 at Loftus. The Lions travel to Cape Town fresh from the bye while the Stormers sank deeper into the mire after losing a hard fought match at Loftus, which has left the highly-rated Capetonians one from four in the championship. While the Stormers revived their fortunes dramatically on tour last year, they run the risk of leaving themselves with simply too much to do in the five games upcoming on their travels, should they drop another game at home. This is especially so given that they have the next round off with the bye, which will concede further ground to the championship pace-setters. Regardless of which way you go, be aware that history says this one will be close: only one of the last 10 matches between these two sides in Super rugby has not finished in a 1-12 result. That was two years ago at Newlands when the Stormers won 30-8.

The last time: Both were competitive, but their gallantry was not enough against the unbeaten Bulls, with the Lions coming up short by seven, while the Stormers missed out by five in front of 50,000 at Loftus Versfeld.


The Try Trail
If you’ve found yourself spending quite a bit of time on the edge of your seat lately, don’t fret. You are not alone. After the opening four weeks of the Investec Super 14, the competition is on-track to set a record for the number of tries scored. Through the 27 matches played so far, 131 tries have been scored. That is five fewer than the same stage last year, but from one match less. By this stage of the first Super 14 in 2006, 114 tries had been scored. In 2007, the first four rounds yielded 106 tries. For those of you out there in virtual tipster land, be aware that the games are generally getting closer too. Of the 27 games played to date in the competition, 20 have been determined by margins of 12 points or less. This compares favourably to the same stage of last year’s tournament, where the number was 16. In 2006, just 14 of the 27 matches to this juncture had yielded 1-12 results. In 2007, 21 of the 27 games over the first four weeks were decided by 12 points or less.


Tries Scored

13 Bulls
13 Hurricanes
12 Sharks
12 Blues
10 Queensland Reds
10 Waratahs
9 Chiefs
9 Crusaders
9 Force
8 Highlanders
7 Brumbies
7 Stormers
5 Lions
6 Cheetahs


Tries Conceded

15 Blues
12 Hurricanes
12 Cheetahs
11 Brumbies
11 Highlanders
10 Force
8 Chiefs
8 Queensland Reds
8 Sharks
8 Stormers
7 Bulls
7 Lions
6 Crusaders
6 Waratahs


Leading Point-scorers

53 Morné Steyn (Bulls)
40 Daniel Bowden (Highlanders)
39 Rory Kockott (Sharks)
32 Mark Gerrard (Brumbies)
29 Kurtley Beale (Waratahs)
28 Jacques-Louis Potgieter (Cheetahs)
27 Jimmy Gopperth (Blues)
27 Peter Grant (Stormers)
25 Matt Giteau (Western Force)
22 Piri Weepu (Hurricanes)
21 Stephen Donald (Chiefs)
20 Pierre Spies (Bulls)
20 Casey Laulala (Crusaders)


Leading Try-scorers

4 Pierre Spies (Bulls)
4 Casey Laulala (Crusaders)
4 JP Pietersen (Sharks)
3 Hosea Gear (Hurricanes)
3 Peter Hynes (Queensland Reds)
3 Ashwin Willemse (Lions)
3 Wynand Olivier (Bulls)
3 Cameron Shepherd (Western Force)
2 Mark Gerrard (Brumbies)
2 Richard Kahui (Chiefs)
2 Brendan Leonard (Chiefs)
2 Lelia Masaga (Chiefs)
2 Stirling Mortlock (Brumbies)
2 Fourie du Preez (Bulls)
2 Lote Tuqiri (Waratahs)
2 Isaia Toeava (Blues)
2 Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
2 Jason Shoemark (Highlanders)
2 John Smit (Sharks)
2 Timana Tahu (Waratahs)

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Super 14 Round Four Wrapup

March 8th 2009 08:18
Three teams remain unbeaten after the fourth round of the Investec Super 14 concluded this morning.

The Bulls of South Africa rounded out a perfect start to their campaign, heading into the bye on the back of a hard fought 14-10 win over the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld, which maintained the Pretoria outfit’s hold on top position on the standings.

The South Africans, who won the title two years ago, shade the Waratahs on point’s differentials, with both sides having collected two try-scoring bonus points alongside their four championship wins.

New South Wales made it four from four during a rugged inter-state struggle with Queensland on Friday night, scoring a try in each half through prop Benn Robinson and replacement centre Timana Tahu to grind out a 15-11 win.

With the Bulls on the sidelines next weekend, the Waratahs have the chance to go top when they travel to Canberra on Friday night to face the Brumbies who are themselves coming off the bye.

Queensland, whose Friday night try was supplied by Qantas Wallabies winger Peter Hynes, are next in line for the third of the unbeaten teams – the Sharks of South Africa – who edged the Blues 35-31 in a pulsating Saturday afternoon clash at Eden Park.

The Sharks scored four tries to three, and held out a late rally by the home side, to complete the New Zealand section of their overseas tour with back-to-back wins.

Their next stop is Brisbane, where they have won just twice since Super Rugby began.

With the Lions also enjoying the weekend off with the bye, the Cheetahs were unable to complete an undefeated round for the South African teams, being over-run 29-12 by the Hurricanes in New Plymouth.

The maximum-point win, which was achieved despite an error-ridden performance, has allowed the New Zealand side to move into fourth place on the standings, with three straight wins after their opening round loss to the ‘Tahs.

While the Hurricanes always appeared to hold the upper hand, and led 17-5 at halftime, they were not always entirely convincing against a Cheetahs outfit that performed a lot better than their 17-point margin of defeat suggests.

The same could be said of the Western Force, who looked like they would be swamped at one point, but came back resolutely on Friday night against the Chiefs.

Although the Chiefs prevailed 31-13 to register their first win of the year, the Force enjoyed much the better of the second half, after two quick tries just before halftime had left them staring at a 6-21 deficit.

The Force missed 14 tackles in the first half, but tightened up significantly after the break, and would have denied the Chiefs their try-scoring bonus point had they not tried to run it out from behind their goal-line after the final siren, only to turn possession over in a prime attacking position for the home side.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the championship after four weeks is the plight of the defending champion Crusaders, who have now lost their last three after falling 0-6 to the Highlanders at Dunedin last night.

Todd Blackadder’s men have just five teams below them on the standings.

At Carisbrook, they were held scoreless for the first time in their 172-game history in what was also Super Rugby’s lowest scoring match, eclipsing the 6-3 game between the Brumbies and the Reds two years ago.

The Crusaders woes were added to by the medial ligament injury that was suffered by their skipper, Richie McCaw, which could see him sidelined for an extended period of time.

His absence is good news for the Force, who visit Christchurch on Saturday night.

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In the men’s competition, Australia finished runners up in the Plate competition for sides outside the top eight after going down 21-17 to Scotland in the final.

Australia narrowly missed out on the Cupquarter finals despite placing second in their pool from the opening two days of preliminary competition.

However, on finals day, Australia strung together two victories to qualify for the Plate decider.

Coached by former dual international Michael O’Connor, the Australian men’s team defeated USA 24-14 in the Plate quarter finals and followed up with a 22-19 win over Tonga in the semi finals.

In the final, Australia and the Scots scored three tries apiece but three conversions to one gave the Europeans victory.

Scotland led 21-7 with just two minutes remaining. Tries to Jono Jenkins and Damon Murphy reduced the deficit to four and the Australians also mounted a last attack inside the last 15 seconds in a bid to snatch victory.

But an indiscretion at the final ruck of the game allowed Scotland to hoof the ball into touch and bring the contest to a close.

“We’re playing some good footy,” said Australian captain Damon Murphy.

“We’re just lacking that bit of experience at the moment.”

Coach O’Connor added: “They played well. It was just one of those things . . . we could have won it in the last play.

“There was nothing in the game, we came back from a bad start and we were right in it at the end.

“It was a good effort. We had a lot of injuries and were basically down to a squad of nine.

“I was pleased with the effort.”

The major event in the men’s division – the Cup competition – was taken out by Wales after the top four seeded teams all crashed out in the quarter finals.

The fancied sides fell in quick succession with Wales downing New Zealand, Argentina toppling South Africa,Kenya knocking out defending Rugby World Cup Sevens championsFiji and Samoa advancing at the expense of England.

In the first semi final, Wales edged out Samoa and Argentina was too strong for the giant-killing Kenyans, scoring the only two tries to win 12-0.

Wales was crowned Rugby World Cupchampions in the men’s competition after accounting for Argentina19-12 in the title decider.

MEN’S CUP COMPETITION

Quarter finals

Wales 15 New Zealand 14

Samoa 31 England 26

Argentina 14 South Africa 12

Kenya 26 Fiji 7

Semi finals

Wales 19 Samoa 12

Argentina 12 Kenya 0

Final

Wales 19 Argentina 12

MEN’S PLATE COMPETITION

Quarter finals

AUSTRALIA 24 (Luke Morahan 2, Shaun Foley, Damon Murphy tries; Richard Kingi, William Bishop conversions) def USA 14

Tonga 24 Tunisia 7

Scotland 21 France 19

Portugal 12 Canada 5

Semi finals

AUSTRALIA 22 (Luke Morahan 2, Jono Jenkins, Ed Jenkins tries; Richard Kingi conversion) def Tonga 19

Scotland 29 Portugal 7

Final

Scotland 21 def AUSTRALIA 17 (Ed Jenkins, Jono Jenkins, Damon Murphy tries; Richard Kingi conversion)

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Australia has been crowned in Dubai as the first ever winners of the women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens title.

The Australians triumphed 15-10 over New Zealand in sudden death extra time with Shelly Matcham scoring the decisive try after both sides ended regulation time locked at 10-10.

“This is unbelievable,” said Australian captain Cheryl Soon before lifting the IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens trophy.

“Words can’t describe this moment.

“We made it happen, we believed in ourselves, we did make history.

“I’m just so happy, so excited. I’m elated.”

Australia made a strong start to the final with 20-year-old Nicole Beck, one of several recruits from touch football, crossing in the second minute.

Debby Hodgkinson powered across four minutes later to put the Australians ahead 10-0.

The loss of Rebecca Tavo to the sin bin left the Australians one short for two minutes and, in her absence, New Zealand capitalized.

They scored moments before half time through Justine Lavea and again 17 seconds after the resumption when flyer Carla Hohepa swooped on a kickoff mishandled by the Australians.

There was no further scoring in regulation time, leaving Matcham to collect the Golden Point try that delivered the greatest moment in the history of Australian Women’s Rugby.

WOMEN’S CUP COMPETITION

Quarter finals

AUSTRALIA 17 (Tobie McGann, Nicole Beck, Rebecca Tavo tries; Tobie McGann conversion) def England 10

USA 19 France 0

New Zealand 33 Canada 12

South Africa 15 Spain 7

Semi finals

AUSTRALIA 19 (Rebecca Tavo, Bo de la Cruz, Tricia Brown tries; Tobie McGann, Tricia Brown conversions) def South Africa 10

New Zealand 14 USA 12

Final

AUSTRALIA 15 (Nicole Beck, Debby Hodgkinson, Shelly Matcham tries) def New Zealand 10.

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