Super 14 - Round 9 Review
Brumbies battle past Stormers
April 11, 2009
The Brumbies' Tyrone Smith tackles the Stormers' Schalk Burger during their clash in Canberra © Getty Images
Cheetahs 31 - 6 Sharks New South Wales Waratahs 6 - 20 Bulls Brumbies 17 - 10 Stormers Highlanders 24 - 19 Queensland Reds Force 27 - 28 Hurricanes Blues 36 - 12 Lions
The Brumbies honoured the memory of former team mate Shawn Mackay with a 17-10 victory over the Stormers in an emotional clash in Canberra.
A minute's applause preceded the game and the players wore black armbands in tribute to the lock forward who died this week of injuries sustained when hit by a car on the Brumbies recent trip to South Africa.
On a rain sodden Canberra Stadium surface, both sides struggled with the greasy ball and were forced to rely on a strong kicking game in order to make inroads into the opposition's half. The boot of fullback Mark Gerrard provided four penalties with a try from Patrick Phibbs getting the hosts home. The Stormers' Jean de Villiers crossed for a converted try early in the second half but a Peter Grant penalty was the only other score they could conjure.
Brumbies head coach Andy Friend said his side showed a lot of spirit to come away with the four points. "I'm very proud of the boys," he said. "They showed a lot of character again, it's been a difficult week but they were always going to turn up tonight and they did that. Tonight we didn't talk much about Shawn, not because we didn't want to but because we'd done a lot of talking and thinking about him during the course of the week; tonight was a night to play rugby."
The Cheetahs upset the Super 14 form book by thrashing the Sharks 31-6 at Free Stade Stadium, who have set the pace in recent rounds. The Cheetahs chose an opportune time to strike, their first win of the season coming against South Africa's leading side and building on their fragile morale for the final weeks of the tournament.
The home crowd in Bloemfontein was treated to a raft of Cheetahs tries, with Springbok wing Jongi Nokwe contributing a brace and further scores from flanker Kabamba Floors and fullback Hennie Daniller wrapping up the bonus-point. Jean Louis-Potgieter and Meyer Bosman were on target with all of the conversions. The Sharks, who are under added pressure with the Bulls and Hurricanes registering wins and possessing games in hand, could only register two penalties from scrum-half Rory Kockott.
The Bulls climbed back into the Super 14 play-off picture with a 20-6 victory over the Waratahs at the Sydney Football Stadium. Click here for the full report from our Game of the Week.
Elsewhere this weekend, the Hurricanes snatched a last-gasp 28-27 victory over Western Force at the Subiaco Oval in Perth.
A try after the fulltime hooter from fullback Cory Jane saw the Hurricanes rise from the dead to topple the hosts who had dominated much of the match and outscored their visitors four tries to three. The Force had looked in control but two tries in the final five minutes to David Smith and Jane capped a remarkable turnaround.
The Hurricanes looked down and out at 16-27 in the 77th minute after a series of handling errors before Smith raced across down the left to give them hope. Trailing 23-27, the Hurricanes showed composure with several phases before they finally went wide to reserve Tamati Ellison to feed his fullback who broke two tackles to score the matchwinner.
It was the Hurricanes' fifth win from eight matches and put them firmly in top-four territory with three consecutive home matches looming while for coach John Mitchell's shattered Force it almost certainly spelt the end of their season.
"We certainly needed this win, it's very tough here especially with the travel. The boys only had one training run but they really stuck to it today and I'm very proud of them," captain Rodney So'oialo told Fox Sports.
In the first game of the round, the Blues kicked powered to a 36-12 victory over the struggling Lions at Eden Park in Auckland.
The Blues cut loose against the Lions, who haven't won in New Zealand since 2001, to win a hopelessly one-sided match where the South Africans barely fired a shot against the error-prone hosts. The visitors crossed twice late against a Blues side who possessed the worst defensive record in the competition before this game.
Despite dominating all facets in the first half, the Blues led just 12-0 at halftime, not helped by a swag of handling errors on a slippery surface. That facet improved after a halftime blast from coach Pat Lam and they powered in for four of their six tries, including two to winger Rudi Wulf, playing his first game of the campaign after overcoming a wrist injury.
The bonus point win lifts the Blues to fifth early in round nine and eyeballing a crucial match at the same venue in a week against the Highlanders.
The Reds's southern rugby curse continued when they went down 24-19 to the Highlanders at Invercargill in a match that could have gone either way.
A superior tight five effort and the rub of the green won the day for the Highlanders, who conceded a try after 25 seconds but bounced back to record a third straight win. Both teams scored three tries at Rugby Park but nine points from the boot of first five-eighth Matt Berquist proved decisive, keeping the Highlanders firmly in the playoff hunt with a four win-four loss record.
A Reds side who have been hammered by the Chiefs and Western Force in their last two outings, produced a far more sustained effort. They were the more enterprising side but couldn't shake the history books as they suffered a seventh loss from seven matches away to the Highlanders. It was also their 22nd loss in 23 visits to New Zealand since 1999.
"Our defence has been great all year and it showed in those last five minutes. I couldn't ask for anything more," Highlanders captain Jimmy Cowan said. "Credit to my boys for hanging in there and getting the win but it was messy.
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