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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Michael Leitch Returns For Chiefs Semi Final Clash

Loose-forward Michael Leitch has been named on the bench for the Chiefs Super Rugby semi final against the Hurricanes this weekend.

Leitch’s selection marks an end to a much-awaited return to rugby after several months on the sidelines. Leitch hasn’t been seen since May when he dislocated his right thumb during the side’s home clash against the Rebels. His return will give the Chiefs significant experience of the bench at a crucial time of playoff rugby.  Continue reading Michael Leitch Returns For Chiefs Semi Final Clash

Sam McNicol Relishing Regular Game Time With Chiefs

A year ago, no one knew who Sam McNicol was, but this is a 20-year old with some serious heart among a lot of adversity.

You couldn’t blame McNicol for questioning his place in rugby after having to go through so many injuries, but the young winger has never given up and is now being rewarded with regular game time.  Continue reading Sam McNicol Relishing Regular Game Time With Chiefs

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

Chiefs Regular James Lowe To Miss Hurricanes Clash

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The Chiefs have named an experience squad, but have still sprung a couple of surprises ahead of their Saturday night clash against the Hurricanes.

Dave Rennie has chosen a forward pack with mixed experience for a clash against one of Super Rugby’s toughest packs.

In the locks, Michael Allardice replaces Dominic Bird who will be rested for another week after knocking his just-healed foot during the last game against the Blues, and loose forward Tom Sanders gets the nod over the impressive Taleni Seu.

It will be the most inexperienced wings combination that the Chiefs have fielded all season with Sam McNicol moving in to start on the left wing over regular starter James Lowe. Toni Pulu has also trumped Shaun Stevenson on the right wing to make his third start of the season

The Chiefs say that Lowe suffered an injury during training this week, but McNicol’s selection was one based on form.

A lingering knee infection has again ruled Anton Lienert-Brown out of the picture, but Charlie Ngatai has passed fitness tests to make the starting line up after an injury scare.

Andrew Horrell also returns, coming off a lengthy injury to take his place on the bench for what will be his 50th Super Rugby appearance.

The full Chiefs squad to take on the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday night at 7.35pm:

  1. Mitchell Graham (18)
  2. Rhys Marshall (29)
  3. Atu Moli (4)
  4. Michael Allardice (13)
  5. Brodie Retallick (62)
  6. Tom Sanders (5)
  7. Sam Cane (72) co-captain
  8. Michael Leitch (19)
  9. Brad Weber (31)
  10. Aaron Cruden (63) co-captain
  11. Sam McNicol (4)
  12. Charlie Ngatai (38)
  13. Seta Tamanivalu (13)
  14. Toni Pulu (2)
  15. Damian McKenzie (23)

Super Rugby win for Canes perfect farewell for Nonu

Winning the Super Rugby title would be the perfect way to close out Ma’a Nonu’s storied Super Rugby career.

(Photo credit: Matchcentre via Google Images)

Ma’a Nonu has been a part of some of the most historic moments in New Zealand rugby history, and tonight’s Super Rugby final in Wellington will be no exception. The hype and anticipation in the capital has reached fever pitch, and it will be one of the biggest disappointments in the cities history if the Hurricanes don’t get the job done.

The Highlanders have nothing to lose – the Hurricanes have everything to lose.

Nonu was there the last time the Hurricanes made the final, and they lost to the Crusaders.

Nonu is the worlds elite midfielder, and has always been a handful for any defense because of his size and power, coupled with amazing speed and ability to get his arms free in the tackle.

Nonu spins his way into contact, and his partnership with Conrad Smith has become a dominant force in both the Hurricanes and the All Blacks for seasons past.

Nonu’s stint with the Highlanders and the Blues was a failure.

If champion calibre players in rugby have proved anything throughout history, it is that they don’t fail twice. Nonu didn’t fail a second time for the All Blacks in Rugby World Cups, and the money is on him closing out his final season of Super Rugby as champion with the Hurricanes.

Nonu has beaten 40 defenders in 2015, helped setup 3 tries, and scored another 4 of his own.

There is a lot riding on tonight’s final for many in the Hurricanes side, but none more so than Ma’a Nonu. It would simply be the perfect way to end a storied career in Super Rugby.

Chiefs lacking convincing results as playoffs arrive

The Chiefs are still alive in Super Rugby, but the stumble against the Hurricanes last night has point for concern.

(Photo credit: Newspapi via Google Images) 

James Lowe looked good on his return to the field after several weeks on the injury list, making several open play kicks as usual and looking likely with ball in hand, but Sonny Bill Williams looked a shadow of his former self.

Williams was eager to offload as per usual, but he didn’t think through his passing very well on occasion, including one handoff to a Hurricanes defender which put his side on the back foot.

The Chiefs had a 13-point lead in the first half, only to cough up 21-points to lose in convincing fashion.

Another yellow card was added to the club’s telly, but that was the least of the problems when referee Chris Pollock also gave the Hurricanes a penalty try after Tom Marshall shoulder barged Julian Savea on the try line.

Despite captain Liam Messam’s appeals, replays clearly showed no arms in Marshall’s tackle.

From there, the Hurricanes turned an underwhelming start into a storming comeback, helped in large by several handling errors from the Chiefs and some questionable decisions to turn down shots at goal with many minutes to play.

Marty McKenzie landed all his attempts on goal but didn’t appear to take the ball to the line all that often, and this wasn’t helped with a floating pass out back which James Marshall intercepted to score the Hurricanes second try and put the hosts behind on the scoreboard.

An underwhelming performance where the Chiefs had placed themselves in a decent position to win, and many will say that the Chiefs have no one to blame but themselves, and looking at the tape it is hard to argue against that.

Augustine Pulu also went into surgery last night according to a post on Instagram, presumably to repair the injured wrist.

The Chiefs will now travel to Dunedin to play the Highlanders in the wildcard playoffs next Saturday.