06
agosto


Sharks run out of puff as the Chiefs claim their first Super Rugby title. By Mark Ella

The Chiefs were crowned the 2012 Super Rugby champions after a dominating display of rugby in Hamilton New Zealand last weekend against a tired Sharks outfit 37-6.It was always going to be a tough battle for the Sharks who had defeated the highest ranked team in Australia then flying straight back to South Africa to put away the Stormers before jumping on another flight back to New Zealand when their luck finally ran out.  The Sharks looked formidable for the first twenty minuted of the match unsettling the confident Chiefs with their robust defence on a wet pitch which made the football hard to control but credit to both teams because they handled the greasy conditions very well.The Sharks put first points on the scoreboard when No.10 Frederic Michalak, who was playing his last game for the South African franchise, kicked a penalty goal in the 6th minute of play which reflected their control of the match at this point.The Chiefs seemed jaded after a tough match last week against the Crusaders and they took the field without the intensity that you would expect from a New Zealand side.But that all changed in the 19th minute when Chiefs winger Tim Nanai-Williams scored after Aaron Cruden ignited the Chiefs back line when he chipped over the top of the Sharks defence bringing the Chiefs back into the game and from this moment onwards the Sharks looked frail and constantly under pressure.Cruden converted the try and added a couple of penalty goals to give the Chiefs a handy half time lead 13-3 with the flow of the game dramatically favouring the Chiefs who had recovered from their early inertia.If the Sharks were ever going to compete in this Super Rugby final they had to score first in the second half but unfortunately the Chiefs lifted the tempo of the game and the task for the Sharks looked bleak when Chiefs lock Kane Thompson scored five minutes into the second half which was converted by Cruden to stretch the lead to 20-3.Last weekend in Cape Town the Sharks big men simply out muscled the Stormers in every facet of the match but the outrageous travel demands finally paid its toll with the Sharks finding it hard to keep up with the pace of the game.Two more tries to Lelia Masaga in the 61st minute and Sonny Bill Williams in the 71st minute crowned a fabulous year for the Chiefs who under coach Dave Rennie started the season with a radical cleanout with thirteen new faces at the franchise.The arrival of these new players singled the start of a new era at the Chiefs as they formed a brotherhood to mould the masterpiece that was completed last Saturday evening with an emphatic victory against the heavily jet-lagged Sharks.This year has be a huge transition for the Chiefs which finished 10th last season winning only six matches and loosing ten which is a credit to the vision of Rennie and his coaching staff which included an old mate of mine, former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith.Under Smith, Aaron Cruden has developed his game to the point the he is now a serious contender of the All Blacks No.10 jersey just behind Daniel Carter.Last year I also thought the Sonny Bill Williams was out of his depth playing centre for the All Blacks but with Smith calling the tune Williams has improved his game 100% and it will be a sad moment for New Zealand rugby when he heads back to rugby league at the end of the Rugby Championship.In big games it is often said that defence wins matches and the Chiefs were simply outstanding against the Sharks who never looked like getting across the Chiefs try line.The Sharks can’t go without a mention. Whilst they were outplayed for most of the match the competition format did them no favours at all.Travelling from Durban to Brisbane to Cape Town to Hamilton was madness.No team could hope to overcome such as exhausting schedule having knocked over the best in Australia and South Africa had thrown at them, New Zealand was one hurdle too much.Every one of the Chiefs was on the same page in last weekend’s final and has he has done all season, Aaron Cruden led the Chiefs  in attack and his back it up with a master class kicking display.The Chiefs were worthy Super Rugby winners in 2012 and now the question must be asked, will the All Blacks dominate the Rugby Championship which starts when they play the Wallabies in Sydney on August 18?Mark Ella   

03
agosto


Tags

Super Rugby – Mark Ella intervista Will Genia, eletto per il secondo anno consecutivo “Giocatore australiano dell’anno”

Chi è Will GeniaNato a Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea nel gennaio 1988, si è trasferito in Australia all’età di 12 anni con la sua famigliaHa frequentato il Brisbane Boys College e, divenuto in breve tempo un buon rugbista, è stato convocato nella rappresentativa A dell’ Australia Schoolboys nel 2005. Vero talento naturale, venne tesserato per i Queensland Reds alla fine del 2006 e debuttò contro gli Hurricanes a Brisbane l’anno dopo quando aveva 19 anni.Giocò il suo primo test contro la Nuova Zelanda all’ Eden Park di Auckland nel luglio 2009, entrando sul terreno di gioco dalla panchina. Nei suoi primi 4 test partì sempre come riserva, finché venne schierato per la prima volta titolare nel match contro il Sud Africa di quello stesso anno.Alla World cup del 2011 in Nuova Zelanda divenne il 78esimo capitano nella storia dell’Australia guidando i Wallabies nella sfida contro gli Usa. In quello stesso anno fu eletto “Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year” da una giuria composta da giornalisti specializzati. Quest’anno ha vinto lo stesso premio per la parte che ha avuto nel portare i suoi Reds alla fase finale del campionato.Will Genia è stato l’unico giocatore dei Reds dopo Dom Shipperley a giocare tutte le partite della stagione di Super Rugby 2012. I numeri dicono che si è classificato primo nella classifica del superamenti della linea del vantaggio e secondo a pari merito in quella dei passaggi-metaNella partita contro gli Sharks ha segnato una meta, superato tre volte la linea del vantaggio, operato due offloads, eseguito sette placcaggi e corso palla in mano per 94 metri. Grazie a queste prestazioni, praticamente costanti nella seconda parte della stagione, ha portato la sua squadra a disputare i play offs.Ha segnato quattro mete nelle ultime cinque partite al Suncorp, stabilendo il record di marcature nello stadio di casa (13 in 38 incontri). È stato capitano dei Reds dopo l’infortunio a James Horwill contro i Brumbies alla 14esima giornata Intervista Ella: La tua squadra era sotto enorme pressione nella rincorsa ai play off. Ma tu sembravi credere fermamente nel successo...Genia: Giocare sotto pressione è una qualità che la squadra possiede. Abbiamo sviluppato competenze tali che ci permettono di restare lucidi e determinati anche in partite come quella contro Warathas, dove dovevamo segnare quattro mete per conquistare il primo posto in classifica. In quell’occasione giocammo veramente bene e tornammo a casa con il risultato in tasca. Ella: Qual è il segreto del tuo ottimo stato di forma. È stata la tua natura competitiva ad aiutarti?Genia: Credo che ci sia un buon numero di altri giocatori che avrebbe meritato il premio al posto mio. Penso a Scott Higginbotham dei Reds, che ha avuto una stagione davvero eccezionale. David Pocock and Christiain Lealiifano sono stati fantastici nella prima parte dell’anno, prima dell’infortunio. Io mi sono limitato a cercare di dare il mio contributo al gruppo. Il premio più importante per me è il successo della squadra. Vorrei solo avere a disposizione un’altra occasione per giocare contro i Chiefs... Ella: Nella marcia di avvicinamento alla finale, avevi gli stessi punti Scott Higginbotham e avevi un vantaggio di due sole lunghezze su Kurtley Beale, mentre Christian Lealiifano e David Pocock erano poco lontani. Pensi che la decisione presa a metà campionato di prolungare il contratto con i Reds abbia inciso sul livello delle tue prestazioni?Genia: Quella scelta è stata decisiva. In quel periodo ero molto stressato. Il problema del nuovo contratto mi portava via concentrazione. Non riuscivo a mettere a fuoco la mia unica priorità: giocare bene per il Queensland. Una volta recuperata la stabilità e ben compreso quali fossero i miei obiettivi, valutata pienamente la positività del luogo dove mi trovavo con la mia famiglia e i traguardi che volevo raggiungere, mi sono concentrato solo sul gioco e ho messo me stesso e il mio lavoro al servizio della squadra. Non è stato un caso che proprio da quel momento le mie prestazioni hanno cominciato a migliorare quanto a consistenza e qualità Ella: Quanto difficile è stato, per te che sei un mediano di mischia, dover a volte giocare apertura?Genia: Ho vissuto come una sfida il fatto di dover, a volte, giocare senza la sicurezza di Quade nella sua solita posizione. Penso che ciò sia servito a migliorarmi. Ho giocato apertura un paio di volte e devo dire che mi è piaciuto. In effetti, in quel ruolo, hai la possibilità di vedere da una prospettiva diversa le cose che vorresti venissero fatte dal mediano di mischia Mark Ella  

30
luglio


Sharks to play Chiefs in Super Rugby Final. By Mark Ella

What a great weekend of rugby which saw two thrilling games in two different countries to finally secure the last teams left in this season’s Super Rugby Championship with the Chiefs to host the Sharks in Hamilton this Saturday. Even though the Chiefs finished the regular season on top of the New Zealand conference and second overall behind the Stormers, most to the money was on the seasoned Crusaders ahead of the Chiefs because of their greater experience in finals rugby. But the Chiefs playing in front of 25,000 fans at Waikato Stadium took the game to the Crusaders who looked jaded after some heavy defence from the enthusiastic Chiefs who hardly missed a tackle all night and winning a close match, 20-17. There was plenty of aggression from both teams early in the match with referee Craig Joubert having to calm both sides down and the first 20 minutes of the match was scrappy as both teams used smothering defence to unsettle the others attack. After 26 minutes the score was tied at 3 all after early penalties to Aaron Cruden and Daniel Carter but continuous pressure on the Crusaders by the Chiefs resulted in the first try of the match to Chiefs prop Sona Tuamololo when he dived just short of the try line to be shunted over by his team-mates to give the Chiefs the advantage and Tuamololo his 9th try of the season. The Crusaders normally like to dictate the way the game is being played but too their credit the Chiefs took the game to them and never really allowed the likes of Carter and Ritchie McCaw to have much influence which was an important factor in winning the game. Their second try in second half came from some sustain pressure when Sonny Bill Williams picked up the football from a ruck and accelerated towards the try line before off-loading to blind side flanker Liam Messam to score which was converted by Cruden to give the Chiefs a handy 17-6 lead with 8 minutes until half time. With most of the play going the Chiefs way the Crusaders had the last laugh in the first half when centre Ryan Crotty scored in the 40th minutes to give the Crusaders some hope going to the break trailing the Chiefs by just 17-11. The second was all about defence and even though both teams moved the football from one side of the field to the othe,r no tries were scored with Cruden adding another penalty to his tally and Carter kicking two more penalties to bring the score to 20-17. Carter had a chance to take the match into extra time with 5 minutes of play left in the match when he attempted a 45 metre penalty goal which by his lofty standards wasn’t such a hard kick. Instead he gave the ball too much height landing underneath the goal posts to send the Chiefs fans into raptures and give the Chiefs a well earned victory in just their third semi-finals appearance. In Cape Town the Stormers ran onto Newlands as firm favourites against the Sharks who travelled back to South Africa after their sterling performance against the Reds in Brisbane last weekend. The Stormers had finished at the top of the South African and Super Rugby ladder so it was expected that they would finish stronger against an exciting young Sharks team particularly in Cape Town where they remained undefeated for this season. But like the Chiefs in Hamilton the underdogs took the lead for the entire match finishing on top of the Stormers 26-19 ably led by 56 test match veteran, Frenchman Frederic Michalak who has a great game. A penalty and drop goal by Michalak gave the Sharks an early lead 6-3 before Louis Ludik jumped higher than Stormers fullback Joe Pietersen to receive a midfield bomb from Sharks fullback Riaan Viljoen at the Stormers 22 metres line to sprint to the try line to increase the lead over the Stormers 13-6 which was the half time score. An early seconf half penalty by Michalak was returned by Stormers No.10 Peter Grant in the 55th minutes which kept them in the game 16-9 but the game was all but over when the Sharks explosive centre JP Pietersen made the best defensive outfit in Super Rugby look ordinary when he sidestepped Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth to take to score to 23-9 after his try was converted by Michalak. Even though Stormers winger Gio Aplon made the score look more respectable when he went on to score the try of the match in the 66th minute, the game was beyond them and the Sharks thoroughly deserved their victory away from home. They now play the Chiefs for the Super Rugby title in Hamilton New Zealand on Saturday in what will be another great match in what has been an exciting year of rugby in this part of the world. Mark Ella

16
luglio


Hurricanes defeat the Chiefs but fail to make Super Rugby finals. By Mark Ella

The Hurricanes went into last weekend’s match against the Super Rugby leaders the Chiefs without holding anything back in what was another exciting fast paced match in Wellington winning 28-25 in the 85th minute to keep the final chances alive.It was a great game with both teams spreading the ball wide at every opportunity and quickly recycling the ball at the breakdown to keep the speed of the game flowing from start to finish.The first try of the game came when Chiefs No.9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow scored a soft five pointer after three minutes of play when he used referee Jonathan Kaplan as a decoy to score next to the goal posts.His try was converted to No.10 Aaron Cruden to give the Chiefs at 7-0 advantage which was pegged back three minutes later when Hurricanes No.10 Beauden Barrett kicked his first of three penalties.At this stage in the game the Chiefs had the upper hand but the Hurricanes were playing with a sense of purpose and it didn’t take long for Barrett and All Blacks centre Conrad Smith to quickly change the momentum of the game when they broke the Chiefs defence from inside their own territory.The ball moved across the Hurricanes backline to Julian Savea who barged his way over in the left hand corner after 24 minutes of play for the first of his two tries to let the Chiefs know that this match was now becoming a battle.At the 36th minute of the game with the score favouring the Hurricanes 15-10 after penalties to both Cruden and Barrett, Cruden attempted a penalty goal from 50 metres out which hit the upright and a good chase from the Chiefs gave them a five metre line out.From this line out the Chiefs forwards used pick and drive to give their huge prop Ben Tameifuna his try to draw level with the Hurricanes 15 all.But as luck would have it and with 23,500 screaming fans supporting the Hurricanes at home in Wellington they went into the break leading the Chiefs 18-15 when Barrett kicked a penalty of the stroke of half time.The play from both sides in the first half was exceptional and at times exhilarating which was more satisfying for the fans when only one scrum was set which much be some sort of record.The first 10 minutes of the second half was dominated by the Chiefs who were desperate to finish the regular season on top of the table and they had a number of good scoring opportunities but failed to get the football across the line.It took 18 minutes into the second half for the first points to get on the scoreboard when Cruden anticipated his opposite number Barrett when he intercepted a stray pass to race forty metres to score under the posts which he converted to put the Chiefs in front 22-18.A couple of minutes later with the game going from one side of the field to another Barrett drew the Hurricanes one step closer when he kicked his third penalty to trail the Chiefs 22-21.The Chiefs keep the pressure on the Hurricanes when Cruden kicked another penalty goal to give them a four point lead 25-21 and what follows was an amazing phase of play that got the Hurricanes over the line and into final contentions.With the full time siren already sounded the Hurricanes controlled possession and after relentless phases of play five minutes later their hooker Dane Coles seemed to have scored the match winning try an incredible five minutes later.The match official took forever to make his decision in favour of the Hurricanes to give hope to their finals aspirations and move the Chiefs off the top of the Super Rugby table.Unfortunately it wasn’t enough with the South African games going to plan with no upsets which put the Hurricanes outside of the top six and they will be ruing their slow start to the season.The top six Super Rugby teams to figure in next week’s finals fixtures is an indication of the strength of the three nations at the moment with Australia being represented by the Reds, New Zealand by the Chiefs and Crusaders and South Africa by the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks.Mark Ella

09
luglio


Sharks enter Super Rugby top six after defeating the Bulls with one Round to go. By Mark Ella

In another epic match at Kings Park in Durban the Sharks convincingly defeated the highly rated Bulls 32-10 to enter into the top six with only one Round of the Super Rugby season to go.It was always going to be a fierce encounter and the Sharks showed their intent early in the match dominating possession and territory in a game they simply had to win to keep their hopes alive.Their forwards led admirably by captain and flanker Keegan Daniel keep the pressure on the Bulls and it didn’t take long for the Sharks to put first points on the board after 11 minutes when open side flanker Marcel Coetzee slipped a clever ball to rampaging hooker Bismarck du Plessis to give the Sharks the lead 5-0.No.10 Frederic Michalak filling in for the injured Patrick Lambie converted bringing the score to 7-0 and from this point the Sharks were never in doubt.In fact it took the Bulls 13 minutes to finally get out of their own half and their hard work was rewarded when some great work from their forwards paid off when Morne Steyn kicked his first penalty to put the Bulls on the scoreboard trailing the Sharks 7-3.But the first half was all about the Sharks who were playing without their three star players Lambie, lock Steven Sykes and tearaway flanker Willem Alberts all recovering from injuries picked up against England in the recent Test series.A penalty to Michalak and one from inside centre Francois Steyn from 50 metres out kept the pressure on the hapless Bulls who tried hard but couldn’t transfer their little time spent in Sharks territory into points.The Sharks second try in the first half came from some sustained pressure with the Bulls lacking the intensity and failing to stop the Sharks at the break down, aided by some ferocious defence put the Bulls on the back foot when winger JP Pietersen scored in the right corner in the 25th minute.Michalak converted from the side line and the confident Sharks went into the break leading the Bulls 20-3 and the signs were not looking good for the hapless Bulls who were struggling to get into the game.And to make the Bulls cause harder the Sharks didn’t waste time to rub it in when captain Keegan Daniel scored the Sharks third try only three minutes into the second half to lead 25-3 with a crucial bonus point only one try away.At this stage the Bulls finally snapped into action and put pressure on the Sharks by controlling the football for long passages before Bulls full back Zane Kirchner scored his 20th Super Rugby try to give the Bulls fans some hope, faint as it may have been.But the Sharks quickly regathered control of the match and the momentum began to swing back their way ending with a bonus point victory when full back Louis Ludik scored their forth try to send their fans into raptures and put the Sharks into sixth place on 54 points with only one Round left to play.Man of the Match was Sharks No.8 Ryan Kankowski who had a great game but who sadly will be heading to Japan after the Super Rugby season and no doubt he will be missed by his team-mates because he plays the game hard and direct.The Sharks chances of making the final six looks good because they play their last game at home against the lowly rated Cheetahs just as the Bulls play the last placed Lions almost guaranteeing that South Africa will have three teams in the finals play-offs.It was a great match between two traditional advisories but at the end of the day the Sharks simply wanted victory more than the Bulls who looked lethargic and uninterested.Mark Ella

02
luglio


Hurricanes dent Crusaders Super Rugby hopes with a great victory in Christchurch 23-22 By Mark Ella

Playing at AMI Stadium in Christchurch it was thought that the Crusaders would be too strong for the fast finishing Hurricanes who still fancy their chances of playing in this season’s Super Rugby finals.And that’s the way the game started with the Crusaders dominating possession and territory putting the Hurricanes under pressure giving away two penalties in kicking distance for Crusaders No.10 Tom Taylor to put his team in front 6-0 after the first ten minutes.The Hurricanes gradually received enough of the ball get some continuity giving newly appointed All Black No.10 Beauden Barrett an opportunity to kept the Canes in the game when he kicked a penalty to trail the Crusaders 6-3 after thirteen minutes into the game.Three minutes later Hurricanes full back Andre Taylor set up the first try of the match to Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith when his chipped over the Crusaders defence before regathering to give Smith a shot at the line.Smith was aided by some wayward running by his team-mate winger Julian Savea who appeared to run interference for Smith but was awarded the try by controversial referee Bryce Lawrence.With the Hurricanes leading 10-9 after another penalty from Taylor Crusaders winger Zac Guildford ran sixty five metres in traffic to score under the posts to regain the led for the Crusaders twenty minutes from half time 16-10.But the Hurricanes were not satisfied with second best when Smith struck again weaving his way through some soft Crusaders defence to score in the left corner with Barrett converting to give the Hurricanes a 17-16 lead going into half time.Their lead lasted only a minute after the restart when the Hurricanes were penalised for not retiring from chasing the clearing kick to give the Crusaders and gift three points to lead 19-17.It was a see-sawing match that could have went either way and at 23-22 in favour of the Hurricanes the Crusaders had the last say when they were awarded a penalty after smashing the Hurricanes scrum right on half way.Captain Ritchie McCaw decided to opt with replacement back Tyler Bleyendaal to make a name for himself on the bell but unfortunately his kick fell a few metres short and into the arms of Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith who had an enormous grin when he put the football into touch to keep the Hurricanes into contention for the Super Rugby play-offs.With only two Rounds left in the Super Rugby season the final six places are still up for grabs with the Chiefs leading the New Zealand conference on 62 points, the Crusaders on 52 and the Hurricanes 49.The Chiefs are overall leaders of the Super Rugby competition with the Stormers next on 58 points, the Brumbies and Bulls on 54 points, the Crusaders on 52 and the Hurricanes after a slow start the season making up the top six places.The Crusaders have a difficult match next week playing the competition leaders the Chiefs on Friday night in a must win game.Their last game before the Finals is against the lowly ranked Force in Christchurch but their season could almost be over if they lose to the Chiefs and without the fire power of Daniel Carter, Kieran Read and Israel Dagg they struggled to get any fluency to their game giving away far too many penalties for infringements at the breakdown.The Hurricanes have a bye this weekend which will give their coach Mark Hammett time to give his players a well earned rest before their final game against the Chiefs so it is shaping up as a thrilling finish to see who makes the final six.It was a wasted opportunity for the Crusaders and loosehead prop Wyatt Crocket playing in his 100th Super Rugby match because they lacked consistency without Carter and at this stage they are no guarantee to be in the play-offs.Mark Ella

26
giugno


Tags

England draw against the Springboks but the Southern Hemisphere teams rule the Rugby World. By Mark Ella

The Springboks won the series against England 2-0 after victories in Durban and Johannesburg but came under massive pressure in extra time at a wet Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.With the visitors unable to find a way through the Springboks defence the ball was passed back to replacement No.10 Owen Farrell whose field goal attempt was low and wide to the relief of most in a capacity 45,000 crowd earning both sides a 14 all draw.It was unusual that the normally dependable South African goal kicker and fly-half Morne Steyn had another off-day missing three of six shots at goal and a late drop-goal attempt that failed.Steyn kicked three penalties and right-wing JP Pietersen scored his second try in as many Tests for the Springboks while scrum-half Danny Care crossed the line for England and Farrell and fly-half Toby Flood kicked three penalties between them.The result ended a run of nine consecutive victories by South Africa over England since 2006 and was only the second draw between the countries in 35 Tests with the first 106 years ago at Crystal Palace in London.England played reasonably well but the Springboks who were off their game and must be disappointed with their effort taking poor options under sustained pressure from the robust England team.England on the other hand played as well as they could grafting away to keep in the game as well as putting up a solid defence and good ball retention, but they could not get the result they desperately wanted.England were ahead in less than two minutes as South Africa got caught offside and Flood kicked a simple penalty before missing a second more difficult attempt.With seven minutes gone the teams were level as another offside infringement offered Steyn the chance to kick his first penalty on a ground where he scored all 18 points in a triumph over New Zealand last year.An attempted clearance kick by Steyn that was blocked by the impressive England No.8 Thomas Waldrom led to England regaining the lead after 11 minutes through a try from former English rugby 'bad boy' Care.The charge down led to England bursting down the centre and when the home team were penalised, Care spotted a gap, took a quick tap penalty and dived over between prop Jannie du Plessis and lock Eben Etzebeth.Flood saw his conversion drift just left of the far post and Steyn cut the deficit to two points with another successful penalty kick at the 16th minutes as the English pack continued to be penalised at rucks and mauls.Steyn missed his third penalty kick while England found themselves down to a third-choice fly-half with Alex Goode coming forward from full-back as injuries sidelined Flood permanently and replacement Farrell temporarily.Farrell axed following the first Test loss in Durban, returned after Steyn kicked a 28th-minute penalty to edge the Springboks 9-8 ahead and close the opening-half scoring.But it could have been a wider margin at the break as a multi-phase attack by the Springboks brought them close to the English line before 20-year-old Etzebeth knocked on.Both teams had penalty chances within the first 10 minutes of the second half and while Farrell made no mistake from close range, Steyn fluffed a more difficult opportunity.After numerous warnings to the English forwards for infringements, Australian referee Steve Walsh lost his patience at the 51st minute and yellow carded New Zealand-born Hartley.South Africa spent a lot of time in the England half and were rewarded just past the hour mark when line-out possession led to an assault on the line and a skip pass from replacement scrum-half Ruan Pienaar sent JP Pietersen over in the corner.Steyn failed to convert from far out but the Springboks were ahead 14-11 only for England to level when Farrell kicked his second close-range penalty eight minutes from time.England at least slightly was better off than Wales and Ireland who both lost their three Test series against Australia and New Zealand respectively.It has been an interesting concept to play Test matches mid-season and I know the local unions benefitted financially from the Test series but I doubt that Ireland, Wales and England were prepared for what they faced.Whether it goes ahead next year only time will tell but based on the results over the last three weeks Northern Hemisphere rugby is still a long way behind their Southern Hemisphere cousins.Mark Ella

25
giugno


Tags

Wallabies defeat Wales in a thriller to win series 3-0 - By Mark Ella

The Wallabies should be proud of their achievements against the Six Nations Champions Wales winning 20-19 to wrap up the series 3-0 in Sydney last weekend.The final Test match may not have been an entertaining game of rugby but at least the Wallabies are starting to find some consistency in their game leading up to the Rugby Championship.The Welsh team was a hard competitor especially after the 1st Test in Brisbane when they failed to control Wallabies half back Will Genia who had a picnic running through gaps in the defensive line and tearing Wales apart on his own.The Wallabies scored three tries in the opening Test match in Brisbane but Wales quickly learnt their lesson and limited the Wallabies to one try in both the second and third Test matches.Last week I lauded replacement five eighth Mike Harris for stealing the game away from Wales after the bell giving the Wallabies victory 25-23 and on Saturday afternoon in Sydney, Wallabies No.10 Berrick Barnes fifth penalty in the 74th minute was enough to get the Wallabies home.I was hoping for an open running game with the Wallabies already holding onto a series win but the first half was ruined with South African referee Craig Joubert blowing his whistle far too often and against Wales most of the time.Barnes and Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny didn’t miss a penalty kick and it was a tight contest but nothing much more when both teams went into the half time break with the Wallabies leading 12-9.Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale playing his first game for a while was expected to ignite the Wallabies attack but he had a quiet game by his high standards and even though he tried hard, he looked under done and will be better playing this weekend for the Rebels against the Reds on Friday night in Melbourne.The second half started better for Wales when their No. 8 Ryan Jones crashed over the line in the 62nd minute after some good forward build up to give Wales a 17-16 lead but the Wallabies quickly responded when the ball was spread wide for centre Rob Horne to score in the corner three minutes later.But from that point on the game was always going to be won on goal kicking which was sad considering the talent on the field.Throughout the match Joubert penalised Wales on 14 occasions mainly at the breakdown and for being off-side with 9 penalties against Australia, so it was stop start game.The Wallabies have now defeated Wales nine out of their last ten Test matches and even though Wales lost the second Test match themselves and if their could have had more discipline on Saturday they may have had success on this tour rather than going home without a win under their belts.For Wallabies coach Robbie Deans the Welsh series white wash takes some of the pressure off his shoulders but the expectations will quickly build after the Super Rugby Championship is over when the Rugby Championship begins.Without Quade Cooper and James O’Connor the Wallabies have struggled to get across the try line and against the Pumas, All Blacks and Springboks penalties alone won’t be enough.It was noticeable that with a bit of luck going their way Wales could have easily won the series so whilst the Wallabies can drink to their success they are still along way from being the finished product.    RWC Champions New Zealand will be Wallabies coach Robbie Deans major target after their 60-0 thrashing of Ireland at Waikato Stadium on the weekend to let the rugby world know who is ruling the roost.The Test series midway through the Super Rugby Championship was a success in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand but next week it is back to business with Round 19 with the Crusaders again the likely favourites in 2012.Mark Ella

25
giugno


Tags

All Blacks destroy Ireland to win 60-0 - By MArk Ella

I started last week’s column by stating what a difference a week makes and I can say much the same after watching the mighty All Blacks destroy Ireland by a record breaking 60-0 in Hamilton on Saturday. Last weekend Ireland lost the match in the 79th minute when All Blacks No.10 Daniel Carter kicked a field goal to win the match 22-19 and I expected another close match between two fierce rivals.But unfortunately for the Irish the game was all over in the 22nd minute when the All Blacks had run in four tries and leading 26-0, with Ireland failing to stop the juggernaut that was always going to cause more pain.And what is so remarkable about the All Blacks victory is that they made a number of changes to their starting side this week including moving captain Ritchie McCaw to No.8 and allowing the 20 year old Sam Cane wear the illustrious No.7 jersey.With Sonny Bill Williams running rampant in the centres it didn’t take him long to score two tries in the first twenty minutes and Cane wasn’t far behind playing a huge role in the All Blacks victory over a tired Ireland side.Without the injured Carter playing, Aaron Cruden played superb rugby for the first 24 minutes having a hand in all four early tries before leaving the field due to injury but the tempo of the All Blacks attack never faulted when young Hurricanes No.10 Beaden Barrett took the field making his first appearance in an All Blacks jersey.New Zealand is the envy of every rugby nation churning out players of enormous quality like Barrett and Cane who rise to the occasion, playing as if they had been in the team for ever.It does help when the all Kiwi’s across their tiny country and every level of the game are committed to playing attacking rugby at the highest standards making it a joy to watch and a pain to play against as Ireland know only too well.The score at half time could have been much higher but four tries and a 29-0 lead was enough for the All Blacks to build on and like all champions teams they didn’t relax continuing to keep the pressure on Ireland.The All Blacks were clinical at the breakdown not allowing Ireland an inch to move and rightfully so they dictated the game with Ireland missing a total of 30 tackles throughout the game.Five second half tries to the All Backs and a 60-0 score line gave them another record being the highest score against Ireland and a personal world record for McCaw who over took former Wallabies captain George Gregan by being the highest winning captain with 94 test victories.Ireland did all it could to stem the tide but New Zealand were on fire with every player wanting to touch the football and watching winger Hosea Gear flatten the Irish defence was awesome and made me glad that I had retired from rugby many years ago.All Blacks blind side flanker Liam Messam also went down in history for scoring the 100th test try for New Zealand against Ireland and he had a great game working in tandem with McCaw and Cane. Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll looked absolutely shattered after the match knowing that his team who had a heavy domestic season before travelling to New Zealand would go down in the record books for all the wrong reasons.His team will definitely need a long rest after playing in a difficult away series against the reigning RWC Championing who on their day are simply unstoppable.But the All Blacks were aggressive and passionate throughout the match and never allowed Ireland into the game and if there was ever a lesson to be learnt it is all about attitude along with a good dollop of talent, which is unfortunately for the rest of us, is never going to be a problem for New Zealand rugby.Mark Ella

25
giugno


England draw against the Springboks but the Southern Hemisphere teams rule the Rugby World. By M. Ella

The Springboks won the series against England 2-0 after victories in Durban and Johannesburg but came under massive pressure in extra time at a wet Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. With the visitors unable to find a way through the Springboks defence the ball was passed back to replacement No.10 Owen Farrell whose field goal attempt was low and wide to the relief of most in a capacity 45,000 crowd earning both sides a 14 all draw. It was unusual that the normally dependable South African goal kicker and fly-half Morne Steyn had another off-day missing three of six shots at goal and a late drop-goal attempt that failed. Steyn kicked three penalties and right-wing JP Pietersen scored his second try in as many Tests for the Springboks while scrum-half Danny Care crossed the line for England and Farrell and fly-half Toby Flood kicked three penalties between them. The result ended a run of nine consecutive victories by South Africa over England since 2006 and was only the second draw between the countries in 35 Tests with the first 106 years ago at Crystal Palace in London. England played reasonably well but the Springboks who were off their game and must be disappointed with their effort taking poor options under sustained pressure from the robust England team. England on the other hand played as well as they could grafting away to keep in the game as well as putting up a solid defence and good ball retention, but they could not get the result they desperately wanted. England were ahead in less than two minutes as South Africa got caught offside and Flood kicked a simple penalty before missing a second more difficult attempt. With seven minutes gone the teams were level as another offside infringement offered Steyn the chance to kick his first penalty on a ground where he scored all 18 points in a triumph over New Zealand last year. An attempted clearance kick by Steyn that was blocked by the impressive England No.8 Thomas Waldrom led to England regaining the lead after 11 minutes through a try from former English rugby 'bad boy' Care. The charge down led to England bursting down the centre and when the home team were penalised, Care spotted a gap, took a quick tap penalty and dived over between prop Jannie du Plessis and lock Eben Etzebeth. Flood saw his conversion drift just left of the far post and Steyn cut the deficit to two points with another successful penalty kick at the 16th minutes as the English pack continued to be penalised at rucks and mauls. Steyn missed his third penalty kick while England found themselves down to a third-choice fly-half with Alex Goode coming forward from full-back as injuries sidelined Flood permanently and replacement Farrell temporarily. Farrell axed following the first Test loss in Durban, returned after Steyn kicked a 28th-minute penalty to edge the Springboks 9-8 ahead and close the opening-half scoring. But it could have been a wider margin at the break as a multi-phase attack by the Springboks brought them close to the English line before 20-year-old Etzebeth knocked on. Both teams had penalty chances within the first 10 minutes of the second half and while Farrell made no mistake from close range, Steyn fluffed a more difficult opportunity. After numerous warnings to the English forwards for infringements, Australian referee Steve Walsh lost his patience at the 51st minute and yellow carded New Zealand-born Hartley. South Africa spent a lot of time in the England half and were rewarded just past the hour mark when line-out possession led to an assault on the line and a skip pass from replacement scrum-half Ruan Pienaar sent JP Pietersen over in the corner. Steyn failed to convert from far out but the Springboks were ahead 14-11 only for England to level when Farrell kicked his second close-range penalty eight minutes from time. England at least slightly was better off than Wales and Ireland who both lost their three Test series against Australia and New Zealand respectively. It has been an interesting concept to play Test matches mid-season and I know the local unions benefitted financially from the Test series but I doubt that Ireland, Wales and England were prepared for what they faced. Whether it goes ahead next year only time will tell but based on the results over the last three weeks Northern Hemisphere rugby is still a long way behind their Southern Hemisphere cousins. Mark Ella

Rugby Ball