Matt Cassidy is back with the ever popular, Who’s Hot and Who’s Not, from this week’s rugby action.
Heyneke Meyer’s men followed up their series win over Wales with the destruction of Scotland in Port Elizabeth. The Springboks were in no mood for the tight finish of last week and they set about their business in bullish fashion as they blitzed Scotland in the first fifteen minutes with three tries.
Scotland managed to stem the flow of scoring until half-time but in the second period the home side racked up the intensity. Five further tries emphasised the gap in quality between the sides with the game ending 55-6. Who would bet against the Boks lifting the Rugby Championship in September?
A five-star performance by the Sydney siders in the Aussie derby secured top spot in the Australian conference and a place in the play-offs. Two quick scores by Benn Robinson and Alofa Alofa gave the hosts an early 14-0 lead. Further scores by Alofa, Bernard Foley and Wycliff Palu gave the ‘Tahs a comfortable 39-8 victory.
Michael Cheika will be hoping his men can obtain wins from the final two games to assure first place in the table and a home semi-final. Will the Waratahs get their hands on the trophy after losing two previous deciders?
The Dunedin based side finished fourteenth last year with only three wins. This season Jamie Joseph’s team are in the play-offs tied with Crusaders at the top of the New Zealand conference. This weekend they defeated defending champions, the Chiefs, in the Kiwi derby 29-25. The Highlanders have had a wonderful season and they will hope they can reach the play-offs for the first time since 2002.
The Flying Fijians reached the 2015 World Cup with a play-off victory over the Cook Islands in Lautoka on Saturday. Fiji were trailing by a point after 27 minutes but after that they cut loose scoring a further 16 tries to record a massive 108-6 win. Fiji is placed in Pool A alongside England, Wales and Australia.
After three wins Vern Cotter and his charges’ momentum was brought to a shuddering halt. It was suggested that the Scots’ worldwide tour would be too much to handle and the fourth and final test’s scoreboard of 55-6 confirmed this. Conceding five penalties in the first ten minutes is not a good sign of how a game is going to pan out and Scotland were 19-3 down after 15 minutes.
However, they regrouped to hold the Springboks scoreless for the rest of the first period. But in the second forty all the matches and air miles started to tell as Scotland’s discipline departed and South Africa piled on the points. If he did not know before, Vern Cotter understands the job that is in front of him to get this team competing at the next World Cup.
A third consecutive defeat for Dave Rennie’s men all but ends their hopes for the play-offs. Their scrum struggled throughout and despite pushing for the win in the dying minutes the Chiefs never were in field position to steal the win. The Chiefs are double defending champions but the three in-a-row dream seems to have been a step too far for this great franchise.
Super Rugby’s whipping boys suffered another defeat and now sit one point off the bottom. Fellow strugglers, the Queensland Reds, were the next side to inflict more damage on the beleaguered Melbourne outfit. They were simply pathetic in the first half and although they won the second half, it will provide little consolation.
Perhaps a little harsh to put a country with a population of 10,500 and only 500 registered rugby players, most of whom are amateurs, in the ‘Who’s Not’ section but their capitulation against Fiji in the final fifty minutes of their Rugby World Cup qualifying match was probably the worst in the history of the game.
Despite losing 108-6, the Cookies were in fact leading after 27 minutes 6-5. Their try line was breached seventeen times in a humiliating defeat and most likely the heaviest loss of Cook Islands captain and ex Leinster prop, Stan Wright’s career.
Matt Cassidy, Pundit Arena.