Super Rugby
Super Rugby round seven video review
ESPN Staff
March 31, 2013

Friday, March 29

Highlanders v Queensland Reds, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

The Reds made history with their first Super Rugby win in Dunedin (video available only in Australia)

Queensland Reds claimed their maiden Super Rugby victory in the far south of New Zealand, but they endured a nervy final 10 minutes after seeming likely to run away with victory.

The Reds led by 15 points when Quade Cooper converted Will Genia's try 13 minutes into the second half, the scrum-half sniping through a chasm in the hosts' defence from an attacking scrum, but the Highlanders then found pace and power that had been lacking in their performance.

Highlanders fans entered this season full of hope after signing big names such as Tony Woodcock, Ma'a Nonu and Brad Thorn in the off-season, but those experienced IRB Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks are each in the twilight of their career and the Dunedin-based hosts seemed to be slipping further off the pace each week.

The Highlanders seemed inspired by the thought they had nothing but pride to play for as their season disappeared from view just seven rounds into the campaign, and they improved collectively in the final quarter. They scored tries through Hosea Gear, one of their few shining lights this season, and Nonu to set Queensland nerves jangling, but the Reds withstood the surge to claim their history-making victory.

Saturday, March 30

Hurricanes v Southern Kings, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

The Hurricanes were flattered by a scoreline blown out by two late tries (video available only in Australia)

The Hurricanes overpowered the Southern Kings in Wellington to claim their third win of the campaign, achieving their bonus-point victory on the impressive power and go-forward of the tight five, but they were disappointed by the ill-discipline that would have proved more costly against more experienced and better rivals than the Super Rugby newcomers. And the 16-point margin flattered the hosts as the Kings, much improved from the team humbled by the Crusaders in round six, matched them in almost every aspect of the game.

The Hurricanes led by 13 points at the break, when coach Mark Hammett stressed the importance of "intensity", having to "tighten the screws" and "guarding against ill-discipline" in the second half, but they were soon aware - if they had not been already - that the Kings were not the same team dispatched the previous week by the Crusaders.

The home side lacked the intensity they had been alerted at the break to maintain and increase, and they continued to give away penalties. The Kings took advantage of pressure to launch a hard-running, straight-line backline move that put Ronnie Cook, on the left wing after Kiwi Hadleigh Parkes had been substituted with what was later reported to be an arm broken in three places, into space to cross for a converted try that reduced the margin to eight points.

The Kings at this point were on top, and they had a chance to close the margin furthe only for Demetri Catrakilis to pull his penalty attempt - his first miss of the day on his last action in the game - and they were never again to threaten the home side.

Chiefs v Blues, Baypark Stadium, Mount Maunganui

The Chiefs looked every inch the defending champions in defeating the Blues (video available only in Australia)

The Chiefs combined impenetrable defence with electrifying back play to claim their fifth win of the Super Rugby season, defeating the Blues 23-16 at Baypark Stadium in Mount Maunganui on Saturday. The hosts led 9-6 after a bruising and intense first 40 minutes before running in tries from Ben Tameifuna and Richard Kahui in the second half to claim a victory that could have been more comfortable.

The Chiefs were reduced to 14 men 10 minutes after kick-off, after centre Bundee Aki was yellow-carded for a careless lifting tackle on Blues counterpart Rene Ranger, but the visitors couldn't capitalise; indeed, the Chiefs looked more dangerous and Gareth Anscombe touched down only to have the try disallowed after Chiefs lock Michael Fitzgerald had been ruled offside in forcing the turnover at an earlier breakdown.

Winger Lelia Masaga's electrifying acceleration and pace also created plenty of opportunities, with a golden chance going begging when he sliced through the scrambling Blues defence only to spill the ball in the final tackle.

Tameifuna, on for an injured Ben Afeaki late in the first half, scored the first try six minutes into the second half, crashing over from close range to give the Chiefs a 16-6 lead. Kahui then scored to cap his impressive return to the starting team, rewarded with a try in the 63rd minute after charging down Francis Saili's clearing kick inside his own 22.

The Blues, starved of possession for much of the second half, finally breached the unrelenting Chiefs defence when winger George Moala dotted down after 78 minutes. Baden Kerr's successful conversion gave them a hard-earned bonus point.

Brumbies v Bulls, Canberra Stadium

The Brumbies won again despite letting slip an 11-point half-time advantage (video available only in Australia)

The Brumbies secured a dramatic victory over the Bulls at Canberra Stadium, Christian Lealiifano landing a controversial penalty goal after the siren, from 40 metres in front of the goal, just moments after the visitors had levelled the score with a converted breakaway try.

Bulls captain Pierre Spies remonstrated with referee Jonathon White after he had been penalised for not releasing the ball in a ruck, and television replays showed Brumbies scrum-half Nic White lying over the ball to indicate that the visitors should have been awarded the penalty. Lealiifano cared not, however, and he landed the goal to send the Brumbies back to the top of the consolidated ladder after they had been overtaken by the Chiefs.

The Brumbies led 14-3 at half-time, after Robbie Coleman had scored a try in time added-on at the end of the stop-start stanza punctuated by White's whistle, but they seemed to show in the second half the lagging effects of having returned from South Africa as the Bulls scored two well-worked tries to square the ledger.

Left winger Petrus Visser crossed the line out wide but dropped the ball in the process after a slick handling move across the back line, but the Brumbies' let off was short-lived as a misplaced pass in the very next attack freed Visser on the overlap for a well-taken try.

Morne Steyn and Lealiifano traded penalties before the Bulls produced a try of sheer simplicity, a break to halfway enabling the visitors to create space out wide where centre JJ Engelbrecht burst clear of the despairing cover to cross in the corner.

Steyn added a superb conversion from out wide and we seemed set for the first draw of the season, only for referee White to make his decisive decision.

Cheetahs v Melbourne Rebels, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

The Cheetahs maintained their winning run against Australian teams (video available in Australia only)

Melbourne Rebels couldn't claim the victory they craved so desperately, but they did deliver an improved performance in their 34-16 Super Rugby loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

The Rebels were looking to rebound from their franchise-record 64-7 loss to the Sharks in Durban and the subsequent suspension of Wallabies Kurtley Beale and Cooper Vuna for fighting in the hours after the game. The pair was sent home from South Africa, leaving their shattered team-mates to regroup for another tough challenge against the in-form Cheetahs at altitude.

But the Rebels regained some pride, as they were in the game until the 65th minute.

But three tries in the space of eight minutes - two while lock Luke Jones was off the field having received a yellow card, for a late shot on Willie Le Roux after the Cheetahs winger had put a kick through - blew the scoreline right out.

"It was a big improvement on last week, and for 60 minutes or so we were right in it," Melbourne skipper Gareth Delve said. "To leak a couple of tries late was disappointing. I can't fault the effort from the lads, it was a big step up from last week. "

Stormers v Crusaders, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town

The Crusaders defeated the Stormers with resolute defence (video available only in Australia)

Defensive class saw the Crusaders prevail over the Stormers at Newlands as they claimed a 19-14 win in a match that tested the very depth of New Zealand side's resources.

Already without All Blacks Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Keiran Read, the Crusaders lost the cornerstone of their pack, prop Owen Franks, 15 minutes into the game.

In a game in which the sides scored a try apiece by a flanker, Matt Todd for the Crusaders and Siya Kolisi for the Stormers, the goal-kicking Carter's stand-in, Tyler Bleyendaal, proved the difference: he landed a conversion and four of five penalty goals compared with three.from three and a missed conversion by Joe Pietersen

Bleyendaal also led his team well around the field, showing deft touches in his tactics.

Sunday, March 31

New South Wales Waratahs v Western Force, Sydney Football Stadium

The Waratahs' Adam Ashley-Cooper celebrates a try against Western Force in his 100th Super Rugby game, New South Wales Waratahs v Western Force, Super Rugby, Allianz Stadium, Sydney, March 31, 2013
Adam Ashley-Cooper marked his 100th Super Rugby cap with a try against Western Force © Getty Images

New South Wales Waratahs have claimed their third win of the season, and secured their first back-to-back victories in almost 12 months, beating Western Force to climb within one competition point of the top six despite gaining only 38% possession.

Israel Folau provided fans with the odd flash of excitement in a match dominated by the referee's whistle, the code-hopping recruit igniting the few attacking raids from either side, and he set up the Waratahs' lone and decisive try from Adam Ashley-Cooper. Folau made a clean break seven minutes after the interval, and the Wallabies utility's try in his 100th Super Rugby game, from the very next phase, shot the Tahs out to 23-9, a lead they refused to relinquish despite the Force narrowing the gap to four points.

"We didn't get much flow because once Force got the ball we couldn't get it back," Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said. "They were playing that one-pass game and picking and driving. We when did have the ball we spread it wide and we looked OK. We've still got a mountain to climb as far as teamwork's concerned, and being comfortable to keep the ball for longer periods of time, but we're growing every game."

Force coach Michael Foley said: "We had control of our game for long periods of time. It's just how we use the ball that's hurting us at the minute." Force captain Matt Hodgson agreed, saying: "When we play we're a good football side. It's just at the moment that we're not playing for 80 minutes. You saw in that last half when we turn it on we're one of the best sides in the comp. We just need to do that week in and week out for 80 minutes."

Western Force dominated the game everywhere bar the scoreboard (video available only in Australia)

Bye: Sharks

Watch all the video clips as a form guide before making your ESPN FootyTips selections for Super Rugby round eight

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