Woodward Chokes To Hand Chiefs Ugly Win

The Chiefs have survived a late scare to beat the Hurricanes 28-27 after fullback Jason Woodward blew an opportunity to snatch victory for his side on the final play of the game.

It will be a moment that Woodward will never forget, his knock-on with a clear run to the try line was the difference between the Hurricanes winning and losing what was a back-and-fourth exchange between two of Super Rugby’s best sides so far in 2016.

“Five-year olds could have caught the ball that Woodward dropped”, one media commentator said immediately after the full time whistle.

The Hurricanes will rue not capitalising when the big moments came, but Jason Woodward, an experienced rugby player, simply choked when the winning opportunity came. Continue reading Woodward Chokes To Hand Chiefs Ugly Win

47-9 win for All Blacks to end pool play

A commanding second half performance has helped ease the nerves of the New Zealand rugby public after the All Blacks beat Tonga 47-9 in Newcastle this morning. But only for now.

Credit: Guim UK

Ma’a Nonu scored in his 100th game as the All Blacks ran in seven tries, including five in the second half on the way to putting together their most solid performance in the World Cup so far.

Tonga dominated the physical battle and came up unlucky not to score in the closing moments of the first half.

The result isn’t enough to say that the All Blacks are back on track, but with a quarter-final looming against either France or Ireland in Cardiff, speculation over Steve Hansen and his men ‘holding things back’ for the finals is still debatable. Arguably in the weakest pool of the tournament, the intensity and momentum still appears to be lacking in the All Blacks squad no matter who Steve Hansen is selecting on the day.

Tonga played a good game, but the fitness levels of the All Blacks once again proved to be superior and helped blow the result out towards the end, however scrappy ball security still remains a big concern.

Perhaps the All Blacks are holding back some tactical elements in this campaign.

The 47-9 victory over Tonga showed glimpses of what All Black fans have been craving for during the World Cup. Dotting over the line for two tries, Nehe Milner-Skudder has all but solidified his spot in the starting line up, and Daniel Carter’s accuracy on goal in this match is a sigh of relief.

Signs of life, for the moment, appears to be back in the All Blacks RWC campaign.

Reflections from an underwhelming All Blacks performance

The All Blacks have struggled to a 43-10 win over Georgia in Cardiff; but a high number of handling errors will have coach Steve Hansen concerned as the average showing in this RWC continues.

Credit: SBS AU

Julian Savea scored three tries for the All Blacks, but an example of calmness with ball in hand set by captain Richie McCaw wasn’t followed by the majority of the team as the defending champions put on a performance that would be expected from an opening game of the season, not a pool match of RWC.

Georgia managed to score a lucky try in the opening period of the match, but the real story of their performance was their unbreakable defense.

Some takeaways from the All Blacks performance against Georgia:

Waisake Naholo’s first match since injury.

The much talked about return of the Fijian born winger came to fruition when with his first touch, Naholo broke two defenders to score a brilliant run away try. Naholo looked confident with the ball in hand but his opportunities were kept minimal, thanks large in part to the All Blacks inability to get the ball out to the wing and create any open space.

Handling errors at an alarmingly high number.

The All Blacks were poor with ball in hand for the entire match, almost notching double figures for handling errors in the first half alone. Aaron Smith looked like he was trying to do too much at halfback and made some poor passing decisions that led to dropped ball, and the backline didn’t appear to be in sync as key players including Ben Smith, Daniel Carter, and Conrad Smith didn’t manage to find a way to break through a strong Georgian defense.

Julian Savea picked up a hat trick of tries on the night and was the brightest light in the backs, giving the All Blacks 15 of their 43 points.

A difficult night of kicking for Daniel Carter.

While the majority of his kicks were from out wide, the kicking success of Daniel Carter wasn’t as high as anyone predicted heading into the match. Carter missed three conversion attempts, albeit from difficult positions, but his blunder trying to find touch towards the end of the game where he kicked the ball dead was a sign that Carter wasn’t performing to his usual standard in this match.

With no other goal kicking options on the bench, Carter was given a full 80-minutes.

Counties demolish Waikato in the wet

Waikato is under threat of Premiership relegation after losing again, this time to Counties Manukau 30-9 at FMG Stadium Waikato this evening.

Credit: Sportal NZ

Counties ran in four tries to secure a bonus point while Waikato could only muster three penalties in a one sided affair on a wet night in Hamilton.

While the chances of making the finals are gone, Waikato will take heart out of a performance where their young side never gave up. But the problem for the Mooloos now sits in the threat of relegation from the ITM Cup Premiership division.

Waikato struggled to hold possession for the second week in a row, losing out on any chance to score tries, but a superior passing and running game saw Counties keep the match in control throughout.

Captain Brad Weber said the result was disappointing.

Full story below:

Exciting rugby flowed early but neither side could get into the oppositions red zone.

Shaun Stevenson and Damian McKenzie helped Waikato enjoy healthy territory early but the defense looked unsure against an attacking Counties backline that wasn’t afraid to throw the ball around.

Piers Francis kicked the Counties to a 3-0 lead after Ben Tamiefuna was pinged by the referee for entering the ruck incorrectly.

McKenzie levelled the scores in the thirteenth minute from a kick just inside the halfway line.

A penalty at scrum time gave Waikato the chance to inch in front but McKenzie’s long-range kick fell just short to keep the scores locked 3-3 after a quarter of the game.

Brad Weber sliced through a gap, powered through a tackler and broke downfield before floating a brilliant pass to Dylan Collier on the wing. A desperate diving tackle from Frank Halai saved the try and Counties were able to clear their lines.

As the rain began to bucket down, Francis kicked Counties back into the lead after Waikato was penalised to make the score 6-3.

Penalties began to mount against the home side but the wet conditions made it difficult for Counties to provide good go forward ball, and when Mitch Jacobson was penalised for offside, poor discipline again cost Waikato but they were lucky to not go down by a further three points.

Counties went into the lead at halftime 6-3.

McKenzie missed a chance to level the scores in the opening moments of the second half

Counties pushed through the Waikato forward pack in red zone and when replays clearly showed that Jimmy Tupou had touched the ball down, the first try of the night was awarded. Francis converted and Counties lead 13-3.

McKenzie notched 100 points for the ITM Cup season, but more importantly, inched Waikato to within a seven-point deficit with the last period of the game remaining.

Just as Waikato looked to be back in the match, a mistake under the high ball would cost the Mooloos a try. Sione Fifita clutched a juggled ball out of the air and sprinted away to score the visitors second try of the match, and go a long way toward victory.

Francis failed to convert, but Counties were in command 18-6.

After a long discussion with McKenzie, Waikato captain Brad Weber reluctantly chose to attempt a consolidating three points, and McKenzie didn’t miss as the score changed to 9-11.

Falling off too many tackles, the game looked beyond Waikato, and things got worse when Peni Iowane was yellow carded after being ruled to have tackled without using his arms.

Jordan Taufua powered over as Counties scored their third try of the night, sealing the match, Francis converted to make the score 25-9 as Waikato’s awful night continued.

Frank Halai scored for Counties, and with that, the visitors brought up their bonus point, and the equal biggest win over Waikato in competition history.

The final score was 30-9 at FMG Stadium Waikato.

At a glance:

Waikato 9 (Damian McKenzie 3 pen)  

Counties Manakau 30 (Jimmy Tupou, Sione Fifita, Jordan Taufua, Frank Halai, Piers Francis 2 pen, 2 con,

Wellington beat Waikato in crucial encounter

The ITM Cup season is all but over for Waikato after Wellington recovered from a slow start to cruise to a 21-14 win in Hamilton this afternoon.

Credit: 3News

Heading into the encounter requiring a victory to keep their season hopes alive, Waikato struggled at the breakdown and made far too many handling errors. The backline didn’t get enough possession to show its attacking capabilities and Wellington went on to run away with the game in the second half.

Waikato will now regather to selvedge what they can from the season after a few days off before taking on Counties next Friday.

Full story below:

Damian McKenzie put Waikato into the lead with a kick from out in front after Wellington lost possession and then gave away a penalty at the breakdown.

Wellington struggled to get a spark as possession eluded them early.

McKenzie slotted a long-range penalty from inside his own half to give Waikato a 6-0 lead as Wellington couldn’t get their hands on much ball.

Jason Woodward answered back for Wellington with a penalty of his own from just inside Waikato’s half.

Waikato began to lose possession, and Wellington looked more and more composed as their ball movement began to get sorted.

Wellington scored their first try when an obvious forward pass was missed by the referee that allowed Jeremy Thrush to run into an open gap and score his 20th ITM Cup try to put Wellington into the lead.

Woodward’s conversion was successful and Wellington led 10-6.

Waikato were penalised for obstruction, and Woodward kicked Wellington a further three points ahead.

Anton Lienert-Brown broke away downfield as Waikato started a counter attack from deep in their own half but the centre couldn’t link with either of his two receivers and was penalised for holding onto the ball.

Woodward kicked his third penalty of the afternoon and Wellington began to build a commanding lead.

Wellington went into halftime leading 16-6.

Woodward missed a chance to extend Wellington’s lead to beyond ten points when he pushed a penalty attempt wide, but the penalty count kept mounting against Waikato as their season hopes became more and more desperate.

Just as Waikato got down near the try line, slow ball couldn’t take advantage of extra numbers and then possession was lost again.

Wellington sliced through the Waikato defense and surged downfield but Josh Hohneck made a desperate try saving tackle in the corner to keep his side hanging on by a thread.

Offside breakdown play was missed by the referee as Ardie Savea took the ball out and sprinted down field. A super tackle from Shaun Stevenson stopped Savea in his tracks, but Wellington hooker Leni Apisai was waiting to receive the ball and dotted down for the try.

Woodward missed the conversion, but Wellington had a stranglehold on Waikato 21-6 with a quarter of the game to play.

Brad Weber sparked his side into life, picking his way through a gap to surge downfield and put Wellington under pressure. Slow ball didn’t help matters, but Waikato had numbers to burn out wide and Chauncy Edwardson lost the ball on the try line.

Turning down an easy penalty from out in front, but Weber’s ambitious decision paid off when Edwardson made up for his earlier mistake by scoring a late try for Waikato to keep them in the game.

McKenzie struck the post trying to make the conversion. Wellington led 21-11.

Tactic wise a scrum isn’t the worst way to begin an attack deep in enemy territory, but Waikato didn’t have enough time remaining to take too long getting the set play organised. The scrum executed perfectly, but McKenzie decided to put the through ball in for his receivers but his power on the kick was a little too much and Wellington was able to force the ball for a drop out.

Four minutes remained and Waikato looked to attack the corner but were pushed over the touch line and the game was all but lost.

McKenzie managed to secure a token bonus point in the loss, hitting a penalty in overtime, but the season was all but lost.

The full time whistle blew, and Wellington held on for the win 21-14 in Hamilton.

At a glance:

Waikato 14 (Chauncy Edwardson, Damian McKenzie 3 pen)

Wellington 21 (Jeremy Thrush, Leni Apisai, Jason Woodward 3 pen, 1 con)

Blues lose again in tight Chiefs encounter

The Blues have lost again as the Chiefs remain in good position on the Super Rugby ladder after winning 23-16 in front of over 14,000 on Easter Saturday at Waikato Stadium.

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The Blues played positive running rugby early on, but were let off the hook twice in the first ten minutes when Aaron Cruden missed two consecutive penalty shots on goal.

Cruden looked to have injured his left shoulder in a tackle but played on.

Playing most of the game in Blues territory, the Chiefs took the lead in the 18th minute when Cruden slotted the ball through the sticks from out in front.

A brilliant break downfield by Tom Marshall put the Chiefs in space with no Blues defenders back.

Augustine Pulu nearly score the Chiefs first try, but Charles Piutau knocked the ball out of Pulu’s grasp in the goal line.

Damian McKenize clutched at his left leg and was limping badly back at fullback but tried to battle on.

McKenzie appeared to be running a little more freely as time ticked away.

The Chiefs surged downfield again, and James Lowe went in for another try on the season and the Chiefs had a ten-point lead following Cruden’s conversion.

Daniel Bowden put the Blues on the scoreboard when the Chiefs gave away a penalty.

The Chiefs led 10-3 at halftime.

The Blues started the second half by taking the ball to the line hard and with some hot footwork broke downfield and were knocking on the door of the try line but lost the ball.

After McKenzie dropped the ball trying to clear, the Blues had an attacking scrum.

Jerome Kaino broke off the back of the scrum and charged over the line with defenders holding onto him to score a try. With Bowden’s conversion, the Blues were all square 10-10.

The Blues kept surging and were awarded with a penalty.

Dan Bowden made no mistake, putting the Blues into the lead for the first time in the match 13-10.

The Chiefs quickly tied things up again when Cruden kicked a penalty from out in front.

As the Blues continued to mount attack after attack in the Chiefs half, a turnover led to Michael Leitch breaking downfield and he looked like he had the pace to go all the way before the Blues defenders scrambled back.

It took a few phases, and more than a few occasions where the Chiefs had numbers to burn out wide, but the try was scored by Tom Marshall to put the Chiefs back into the lead.

Aaron Cruden increased the lead to ten points when he kicked a long penalty go with time ticking down.

With little over a minute to go, Ihaia West scored three consolation points but the Chiefs held on to the lead as the buzzer sounded to secure a 23-16 win in Hamilton.