LIVE: Crusaders vs Hurricanes

The Real Michael Pulman brings you live, play-by-play blog coverage of the highly anticipated Super Rugby clash between the Crusaders and Hurricanes from Christchurch.

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Charlie Ngatai Still Sidelined With Concussion

Charlie Ngatai continues to be sidelined from playing rugby as symptoms from a concussion sustained nearly two months ago continue to linger.

The midfielder took a knock in the latter stages of the Chiefs’ Round 11 loss to the Highlanders in Hamilton and has been sidelined ever since. Despite being named in the All Blacks, Ngatai was sent home after just a week of training with the squad.

Speaking to the media three weeks ago, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said that the prognosis on Ngatai’s return to rugby was unknown.

Fans will have to wait at least another week to see the standout midfielder back on the park. Ngatai hasn’t made the Chiefs travelling squad for Friday’s clash against the Crusaders in Suva, an historic night for Super Rugby, marking the first time a game has been played in the pacific.

The Chiefs currently sit second on the New Zealand Conference table in Super Rugby.

Tana Umaga Takes Big Gamble Ahead Of Crusaders Clash

The bravery of Blues head coach Tana Umaga has to be admired after six changes are made to the starting squad for week two.

The Blues will face the Crusaders, a side that lost to the Chiefs last week, but also a group of players that didn’t look all that much better than the Highlanders in the opening week of Super Rugby, but that is beyond the point.

When was the last time a head coach made six changes to the starting line up after coming off a victory in a game that many predicted the side to lose?

You’d be scratching your head in all truth, it seems that Tana Umaga could find himself in a situation where he has more guts than sense.

Such a number of changes can be expected at the level of provincial rugby.

But if you look at the experience in the forward pack, such a statement could be somewhat unfair. Steven Luatua, Patrick Tuipulotu, the returning Jerome Kaino, all regular All Blacks, will feature as part of Umaga’s run on side against the Crusaders.

Perhaps the six changes is perceived to be all the more surprising because of the amount of star power Umaga left on the bench last week.

With the six changes, the biggest surprise comes in the pairing of the halves.

Both Ihaia West and Bryn Hall have been replaced, both performed strongly against the Highlanders and will be left scratching their heads following this afternoons’ announcement. Hall in particular should be feeling angry, he was by far the best scrum half of Super Rugby’s opening weekend, and his demotion should be questioned, even so early into the season.

Rene Ranger will start in the midfield, so the Blues will pack more strength and power in the backline, and if the pre season trials are anything to go by, NRL convert Matt Duffy is more than capable at fullback.

The Crusaders won’t be an easy beat for Umaga’s Blues, and the result will answer a lot of questions about the success of his approach to coaching in Super Rugby.

Chiefs Beat Crusaders 27-21 In Nail-Biter

The Chiefs are off to a winning start in the 2016 Super Rugby competition after scoring a narrow victory over the Crusaders 27-21 in Christchurch.

Key performances by Damian McKenzie and Taleni Seu contributed to the win.

McKenzie scored his first try at Super Rugby level and also converted a kick from the sideline to put the Chiefs into the lead late in the game.

Returning to rugby, Aaron Cruden impressed, leading the Chiefs backline around the field while getting into a few scuffles with Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis.

On his debut, Shaun Stevenson scored in an individual moment of brilliance, but his season could be over after suffering what could be a serious shoulder injury early in the second half.

Also under the injury cloud is Tom Sanders who limped from the field.

The full story:

A dangerous Chiefs backline was completely neutralized in the opening 25-minutes, and any ball the Chiefs did have was kicked away quickly. The Crusaders held possession and managed to keep themselves deep in Chiefs territory, winning the crucial set-piece battle early on.

Damian McKenzie kicked the Chiefs first three points with a long-range kick from halfway.

Shaun Stevenson couldn’t believe his luck when he ripped the ball from the hands of Crusaders fullback and had a clear run to the tryline.

Down by 7-points, a massive shunt at the shunt saw Kieran Read find the ball in his hands. Read handed off to an unmarked Richie Mo’unga, and the Crusaders scored a crucial try on the hooter to put them back in the lead.

At halftime, the Crusaders led 13-8.

Seta Tamanivalu scored to put the Chiefs back in the lead after several phases of attack to kick off the second half.

Meanwhile, Chiefs youngster Shaun Stevenson left the field with what appeared to be a broken arm or serious shoulder injury.

David Havili made up for his earlier mistake on the night with a try in the corner, putting the Crusaders back into the lead, a lead that Mo’unga later extended to 6-points when the Chiefs were penalized for obstruction.

McKenzie scored his first Chiefs try, and put the Chiefs in the lead by successfully landing the conversion, making the score 22-21.

Referee Chris Pollock called a halt to play after Crusaders replacement Reed Prinsep Suffered a major concussion following a big head clash in the act of making a tackle. Prinsep’s head knock caused a lengthy delay to play as medics followed all protocols for such a serious injury.

Sam Cane scored from a lineout drive to put the icing on the cake, sealing victory in the 78th minute.

The Chiefs held on to win 27-21, and secured their first win of Super Rugby.

Score Centre

Crusaders 21 

(David Havili, Richie Mo’unga 1 try, 3 pen)

Chiefs 27

(Shaun Stevenson, Seta Tamanivalu, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden 1 con, Damian McKenzie 1 try, 1 con, 1 pen)

Shaun Stevenson To Debut For Chiefs On The Wing

Rookie Shaun Stevenson has done enough at training to earn a debut for the Chiefs in the opening round of Super Rugby.

Stevenson, 19, impressed in his debut ITM Cup season, scoring four tries for Waikato, but his place on the wing for the Chiefs is somewhat of an unknown position.

Stevenson has previously played most of his rugby at fullback, but the youngster is just one of five debutants for the Chiefs on Saturday night.

Japanese prop Hiroshi Yamashita makes his debut after only arriving in New Zealand a fortnight ago as cover for the injured Nepo Laulala, and after impressing head coach Dave Rennie during scrum sessions, Yamashita will get his first taste of Super Rugby going up against Owen Franks for the Crusaders.

Loose-forward Taleni Seu will start on debut, and no.8 Tom Sanders has also done enough to warrant a start on debut.

Aaron Cruden will also make his long-awaited return to Super Rugby against the Crusaders, returning to the very ground where he suffered a season-ending injury in the corresponding fixture last year. Chiefs coaches say Cruden is ready to go after being involved in full contact at training for the past month or so.

The Chiefs play the Crusaders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday night at 7.30pm.

The Chiefs squad for Round #1 against Crusaders:

  1. Pauliasi Manu (45)
  2. Rhys Marshall (22)
  3. Hiroshi Yamashita**
  4. Michael Allardice (7)
  5. Brodie Retallick (59)
  6. Taleni Seu**
  7. Sam Cane (65) co-captain
  8. Tom Sanders**
  9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (56)
  10. Aaron Cruden (56) co-captain
  11. James Lowe (21)
  12. Charlie Ngatai (31)
  13. Seta Tamanivalu (6)
  14. Shaun Stevenson**
  15. Damian McKenzie (16)      

RESERVES:

  1. Nathan Harris (12)
  2. Mitchell Graham (11)
  3. Siate Tokolahi (17)
  4. Maama Vaipulu (10)
  5. Johan Bardoul (8)
  6. Brad Weber (24)
  7. Anton Lienert-Brown (9)
  8. Latu Vaeno**

 

“Mean” Brodie Retallick Ready For The Real Stuff

With their opening match of Super Rugby just days away, Brodie Retallick has a mixture of nerves and excitement ahead of a season where he knows many will be looking at him as the ‘go to’ guy.

At 24 years of age, Retallick is arguably the best lock in world rugby and his performances in the field prove it, almost on a weekly basis.

A vital cog in the All Blacks RWC victory in 2015, Retallick has had a good rest over the summer and is looking forward to another busy year of rugby.

Retallick played in both pre season trials where the Chiefs beat the Waratahs before falling to the Blues in an ordinary performance last Friday. On reflection, Retallick said the team has sat down and looked at individual performances in order to get gremlins ironed out.

“There is still a few things we are working on but it is exciting to get into the real stuff now that the trial games are out of the way,” Retallick said.

In Saturday’s opener, Retallick will go up against good friend and All Black teammate Sam Whitelock. The winning of the game, according to Retallick, isn’t just determined by the battle between the two forward packs.

“It is always good to go up against quality opposition, they have a great pack, but if we can get our tight five going forward it will help a long way to winning, hopefully we can assert a bit of dominance and let the backs to their work,” Retallick said.

Likely to partner with Michael Allardice in the opening round, Retallick has been impressed with his understudy.

“He is a great player, and with Dominic being injured, him and others have had to take over a lot of the workload and push themselves hard,” Retallick said.

Retallick made his debut for the Chiefs back in 2012 and has since gone on to amass 59 caps with four tries scored in four years of Super Rugby.

Critics would say that just one try per year at Super Rugby level isn’t enough to warrant continual selection for the All Blacks, but it is Retallick’s role as a leader that has been the biggest noticeable aspect of Retallick’s game.

On the field, Retallick is a powerhouse at set piece time and a constant threat at the breakdown and in lineouts.

Part of the 2012 and 2013 back-to-back championship winning Chiefs side, Retallick realises the thirst that rugby fans in the Waikato region and beyond for a return to the top of Southern Hemisphere’s flagship domestic competition.

Retallick knows there is a long season ahead, and as an integral part of the side, Retallick knows a lot of the onus is on him to help the Chiefs back to the top. This is all being done while adapting to the new setup in Super Rugby, including a new bonus-point system where a team is required to score three more tries than the opposition to secure an extra point, something that has been a big talking point by players and media alike.

“We are trying our best, what will be will be, but we have two new coaches on board with Dave so we are just trying to work together as a team and put what we have been doing in training out on the field in pressure situations,” Retallick.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says that Retallick doesn’t need to do anything special for the Chiefs in 2016, just go out on the field and deliver the same performances that has saw the 24-year old lock be crowned IRB World Player of the year in 2014.

“Hopefully he can be as mean as normal,” Rennie laughed, “Brodie will be the instigator of the physicality up front that we need but we really just want him to deliver what he normally does,” Rennie said.

Retallick, and the Chiefs, get their season underway on Saturday night in Christchurch against the Crusaders.

Crusaders ready to turn pre season form around

The Crusaders, like always, will be one of the teams to beat in the 2015 edition of Super Rugby.

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It is becoming more and more of a common occurrence that Todd Blackadder and his Crusaders get off to slow starts in Super Rugby before finding form mid season.

So far 2015 hasn’t gotten off to the best start, three straight losses in the warm up trail games.

That includes a hefty 35-12 defeat to the Reds in the last of the warm ups.

According to FairFax Media, three All Blacks will be available in the Crusaders camp for Friday’s competition opener against the Rebels in Christchurch.

Those being All Black captain Richie McCaw, Ryan Crotty, and Wyatt Crockett.

All of these men are expected to get some game time on Friday night at AMI Stadium.

But with some All Black regulars set to return to the squad this week, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that perhaps the losing ways for the Crusaders are behind them as the competition begins proper.

The Crusaders are the most successful club in New Zealand’s Super Rugby history.

The men in red will always be tough to beat, on any ground and in any country.

The Crusaders were due for a title last season, they came within minutes of winning it, and if 2015 isn’t the time for a return to the top, when will be?

It is Daniel Carter’s last season with the Crusaders, a team he made his name before All Black days playing for, it is fitting to send him out on a high.

Three straight losses for the Crusaders isn’t something that happens all that often, and the fact that it has occurred in Super Rugby’s pre season is a good thing for fans in the south.

From Friday against the Rebels – results do matter.

Out of all the games for the first few rounds of Super Rugby, the opener against the Rebels looks to be the one most likely for a Crusaders victory because if pre season has showed us anything, both the Highlanders and the Chiefs won’t be easy beats for an understrength Crusaders outfit.

Two major injuries in Super Rugby pre season

The Queensland Reds and Canterbury Crusaders have been hit with major injury blows during pre season.

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During training yesterday, Quade Cooper went down with a fractured collarbone and will be sidelined for up to 12 weeks.

The Wallabies playmaker said he was gutted to be out of the early stages of the season but remained confident, stating he had come back from worse injuries before.

Depending on how the Reds go, Cooper’s return could tie in well with the Super Rugby playoffs.

Finalists in 2014, the Canterbury Crusaders have also suffered a major injury blow, after halfback Willi Heinz broke his leg during a trail game against the Otago Highlanders in Timaru today.

Heinz will be out for the entire Super Rugby season in 2015.

The Crusaders now face a big problem in the halfback position as Andy Ellis is unavailable for selection as he is currently playing club rugby in Japan.