Golden point and Crusaders scrape through in week 7
by Rajitha Ratwatte
The Otago Highlanders after their record-breaking win over the Crusaders who looked unbeatable up to that point in the season, were up against the Waikato Chiefs who also seemed to have turned their season around after beating the Wellington Hurricanes. However, the chiefs were without their captain and All Blacks captain Sam Cane, who is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. It was going to be an even contest and a keenly fought match was expected.
15 minutes into the game the sides were inseparable with the score line reading 13 each. In the 15th minute a penalty awarded to the Chiefs, right in front of the posts saw Damien Mackenzie make no mistake and the Chiefs crept ahead 13 – 16. The next 45 minutes saw no change in the score line and typical robust forward play and strong unshakable defence from both sides. It was only in the 60th minute that the Chiefs were able to finish a number of phases and scramble over the line, close enough to the posts to enable 7 points 13 – 23. In the 69th minute, Josh Ioane one of the “bad boys” from last week (dropped with 7 others for breaches of discipline) joined the line and spotted a gap to go over the line mid left of the posts. He converted himself and the score line was 20 -23 Highlanders catching up. 4 minutes from the scheduled close, the ‘Landers completed the catch up thanks to a simple penalty and the score was even Stevens at 23 all with two minutes to go. The Chiefs were awarded a penalty on the 50-meter line at the full-time hooter and Damian Mackenzie stepped up, but his kicking record particularly over long distances was not convincing enough to leave the die hard ‘Landers fans, without hope. Sure enough he missed and we were in to the Golden Point, extra time for the first time in Aotearoa super rugby 2021.
Golden point is when the game is restarted with another toss and played for 10 minutes and whoever scores first wins. If no one scores the match is declared a draw. Highlanders skipper Aaron Smith won the toss and picked the side of the field that he wanted to start from. Two minutes into the golden point, the Chiefs line out was penalised for jumping early. Since this was only a free kick the ‘Landers called for a scrum, it was a good attacking position on the opposition 22-meter line. The ball was won and passed straight into the pocket with Josh Ioane well positioned for a drop goal. Josh Ioane would have celebrated his comeback in style if he managed to convert this drop goal attempt, but it was not to be. Four minutes into extra time Anton Lennert- Brown that hard working All Blacks and Waikato center three-quarter showed us that backs can also play like forwards by supporting his own weight over the ball and securing a vital penalty off a ruck. It was around 37 meters out and straight in front of the posts. This was the extreme limit of the range that the diminutive Damien Mackenzie could achieve. He stepped up and the X factor that exceptional players are able to call on when the going gets tough, must have played a part in the kick sailing over the middle of the posts and securing a desperately needed win for the Waikato Chiefs 23 – 26.
Sunday afternoons game was Wellington Hurricanes against the Crusaders. Wellington playing at home and 19-year-old schoolboy, Rueben Love making his debut at no10. Aardie Savea was wearing the no 7 jersey for this game. Joe Moody who mans the loose head slot for the All Blacks and Crusaders was playing his 100th game and auctioning his jersey after the game in aid of prostate cancer. He lost his father to this disease around 10 months ago.
The debutant Rueben Love got off to a great start picking up the ball inside his 10-meter line and making a great run and a chip kick that took the ball into the crusaders’ 22. Two minutes into the game the ‘Canes got themselves a penalty around 50 meters out and in front of the posts. Usually, meat and drink for Jordie Barret but he was kicking into what Ian Smith (tongue in cheek) described as a breeze. There is never a breeze in Wellington, it is either a force 10 gale or a typhoon! Jordie missed, no addition to the score. Ten minutes into the game the Crusaders conceded another much easier penalty around 28 meters out and in front. J. Barret was not going to miss that, and the Hurricanes went into a 3 – 0 lead. The Crusader retaliation came just two minutes later when George Bridge, that great finisher powered his way over the line but seemed to be held up until Ngani Laumape of the “canes dived on top of the players and allowed the ball to be grounded. Laumape displayed a weakness that some Pacific island players have in relying on brute force when rugby union is really about finesse. 3 – 7 and Crusaders leading. In the 23rd minute George Bridge went over again for a try in the extreme left corner and Mo’uanga converted brilliantly, 3 -14. Meanwhile the “canes got out of jail” with a penalty reversal coming off a captains challenge and what would have been a gifted 3 points to the crusaders, turned into a clearing kick due to a high tackle that had been missed by the ref. A great example of the new trial rule working to perfection. Meanwhile lineout throws from both teams were not working and turnovers from lineouts were rife. Wild passes and handling errors from the Crusaders continued, at one stage Crusaders handling errors were 5 to nothing from the Canes. The mighty Crusaders pack was losing scrums and conceding penalties. Big trouble in the workings of the juggernaut. The 27th minute saw some great tireless forward play from Dan Coles the Hurricanes hooker, he got involved in three phases of play out of sseven and finally got a great pass off to Laumape who powered his way over the line for a 7 pointer. 10 – 14 Crusaders still in front.
At this point in the game there was a flurry of scoring. First the Crusaders clawed three points straight back with a simple penalty and went back into a seven-point lead. 10 -17. Straight off the resumption, the younger Savea brother, Julian sprinted down the right touch line and scored for the ‘Canes. Jordie Barret kicking into the wind from the extreme right of the field was able to bring the ball back and send it between the posts. Score’s level 17 all. Mo’uanga showed his absolute brilliance with a beautiful chip kick after drawing the defence and sent Seevu Reece (the leaping prawn) away. However, Reece was pinged for foul play and the Hurricanes got out of jail again! It was almost half time, and the Hurricanes got a 60-meter penalty but chose to kick for touch as they were kicking into the wind and even Jordie Barret may have found this difficult. However, they gained good touch and got over the line but were unable to ground the ball.
At this stage we had an incident that has begun to typify the way the Crusaders play. Highly unnecessary for a side with so much talent and ability. Scott Barret the Crusaders captain raised a captain’s challenge (the half time hooter had gone) and got the ref to review an incident when Ngani Laumape displaying the aforesaid unnecessary force that is his penchant, kneed a player on the ground. Now in the “bad old days” when rugby was still a man’s game such incidents when missed by the ref, were duly noted and referred to the “hit men” of the team and revenge extracted at an opportune moment. However now, and especially the Crusaders cry out in anguish to the referees, throw in some acting skills and usually get a yellow card or even a red card against their opponents. The ref duly obliged (yellow card) with a faint air of embarrassment, that I could relate to, and this meant the Hurricanes would start the second half one man down.
Second half started with scores level and the Wellington team playing with the wind at their backs, this would obviously add range to the already massive kicks of the youngest Barret brother. Two minutes into the second half Aardie Savea made a great break off the back of the scrum (he played no 8 although he was wearing the no7 jersey) and sent his no 9 Brent Hall away who then passed to Westhuizen on the left wing who scored. Jordie Barret converted with another brilliant kick and the score line was 24 -17, ‘Canes in the lead. Aardie Savea seemed to have taken a big knock on his knee but soldiered on and continued to make a huge difference to the Hurricanes loose play. The Crusaders went into full attack mode and usually when they do this, they are clinical and perfect and invariably score. However, basic mistakes, pinged for obstruction, conceding scrum penalties and chip kicks going astray led to the Hurricanes not conceding points. The Crusaders were unable to score with the opposition one man down and in fact the opposition scored! Maybe the rugby God’s are still able to have their way! In the 55th minute the entire Hurricanes side was pinged for not bothering to get onside off a kick from their full back. It was a huge booming kick from Jordie Barret and the fact that the Hurricanes players did not wait for him to put them on side would have made little difference to the game, but we are told the referees have been asked to crack down on this infringement. The resulting penalty was easily converted by Mo’uanga. 24 -20 but the home side still ahead. Another penalty this time for the ‘Canes, around 30 meters out posed no problem for Jordie Barret and with those 3 points he became the highest points scorer for the tournament (overtaking Ritchie Mo’uanga) to date and took his team to a 27 – 20 lead.
At this point two players who had been playing their hearts out for the Wellington team, skipper Aardie Savea and hooker Dan Coles were subbed off the field. This proved costly but would have been necessary as a man can only do so much! 63 minutes into the game the Crusaders strung together seven phases of play and Seevu Reece went over the line from what initially looked like a forward pass but was later cleared by the TV ref. scores level once again 27 all. 71 minutes into the game, the Hurricanes got a penalty 63 meters out but Jordie Barret was kicking with the wind behind him, and the crowd was chanting JORDIE< JORDIE and left their team with no choice but to take the kick. Aardie Savea was moving his lips in prayer from the sidelines. Jordie missed but it was not due to lack of distance! two minutes from the end Ritchie Mo’uanga tried a drop goal and missed, scores level at full time and two golden point games in succession.
This is where superior coaching and complete coaching comes to the fore. The acting Hurricanes skipper looked lost with the decisions he had to make when he won the toss and the Crusaders pulled off a great one- two trick with Ritchie Mo’uanga who usually takes drop goals running with the ball and getting involved in a ruck and making the Hurricanes defence think that the danger of a drop goal was non-existent, only to have David Havili kick a drop goal from acting first receiver. All over red rover, with just two minutes into extra time.
The Crusaders did win but they should be rather worried because the usually well-oiled juggernaut is not functioning the way it should.
Rajapaksa, Arshdeep deliver winning start for PBKS
A power-packed, collective performance with the bat set the platform for Punjab Kings’ winning start as they downed Kolkata Knight Riders by seven runs (DLS method) at the PCA stadium in Mohali on Saturday (April 1). Bhanuka Rajapaksa (50 off 32) registered his maiden IPL fifty while Shikhar Dhawan struck a 29-ball 40, and along with useful contributions from the rest of the batters, PBKS posted a formidable 191/5. Andre Russell top-scored for KKR but they lost wickets at regular intervals and eventually fell short of the DLS par score as they finished with 146/7 in 16 overs when rain forced the players off the field.
Punjab Kings 191/5 in 20 overs (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 50, Shikhar Dhawan 40; Tim Southee 2-54) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 146/7 in 16 overs (Andre Russell 35; Venkatesh Iyer 34; Arshdeep Singh 3-19) by 7 runs (DLS method).
Ruturaj 92 in vain as Titans win opening game
A brilliant 92 from Ruturaj Gaikwad went in vain as defending champions Gujarat Titans beat Chennai Super Kings in Ahmedabad on Friday (March 31) in the tournament opener. Gaikwad’s innings was nullified to an extent initially by Shubman Gill before a few vital blows towards the end of the game from the Titans middle order got the job done for them with four balls to spare.
Chennai Super Kings 178/7 in 20 overs (Ruturaj Gaikwad 92; Rashid Khan 2/26, Mohammed Shami 2/29) lost to Gujarat Titans182/5 in 19.2 overs (Shubman Gill 63; Rajvardhan Hangargekar 3/36) by 5 wickets
Bowlers, Stirling lead Ireland to their first win in Bangladesh in any format
Ireland finally notched a win on their tour of Bangladesh by scoring a seven-wicket win in the final T20I in Chattogram on Friday. Mark Adair led the bowling charge with three wickets as Bangladesh were bowled out for 124, and Paul Stirling, later named Player of the Match, was at his inventive best as he struck a 41-ball 77 to headline the chase. It was Ireland’s first T20I win over Bangladesh since 2009 and their first win in any format in the country.
Bangladesh had already taken the series after winning the first two games earlier in the week, and made two changes, perhaps to try out alternatives. Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Mustafizur Rahman went out; Rishad Hossain was handed a debut and Shoriful Islam made a comeback. It was the batting that came unstuck, though.
After opting to bat, Bangladesh were 61 for 7 in nine-and-a-half overs. Shamim Hossain, however, scored his first international half-century, making 51 off 42 balls with five fours and two sixes to give them a competitive 124. One of those sixes was a particularly eye-catching shot, when he reverse-whipped Curtis Campher hit over backward point for six.
But with Stirling in blistering form, and playing a few inventive shots of his own, the chase was done and dusted in 14 overs.Bangladesh’s slide started in the second over. Litton Das’ slash towards deep point against a wide Adair delivery landed in George Dockrell’s lap. It was the first time Bangladesh had lost a wicket in the powerplay after three matches.
Najmul Hossain Shanto was next to go, hitting a slog-sweep off Harry Tector straight to deep midwicket. Campher juggled the catch but clung on. In the next over, Campher himself got a wicket, when Rony Talukdar holed out at deep midwicket.
Towhid Hridoy and Shakib Al Hasan, however, went for their shots in keeping with Bangladesh’s new approach, and hit a couple of big ones, but both were gone in the space of three balls. Shakib was caught at short midwicket mistiming a pull off Adair, while Hridoy holed out off Ben White in the seventh over
Matthew Humphreys had two wicketless ODIs in Sylhet, but the left-arm spinner had a better start to his T20I career. He took a wicket off his first ball when he yorked Rishad for 8.
That made him the first Ireland bowler to take a wicket with his first ball in T20Is. This was, however, not the first time a debutant had done this against Bangladesh. Previously, Rory Kleinveldt, Pragyan Ojha, Lockie Ferguson and Cole McConchie have all achieved the feat.
Humphreys added his second off his third ball, when Taskin Ahmed was caught at deep midwicket for a duck.Shamim and Nasum Ahmed added 33 runs for the eighth wicket before Nasum was caught in the covers off Gareth Delany’s legspin. Adair took his third when he removed Shoriful, before Fionn Hand took Shamim’s wicket in the final over.
Stirling didn’t get going at the start, as there were two early wickets, of Ross Adair and Lorcan Tucker, but once he was set, there was no stopping him. He cut and swept Shakib for fours to kickstart the chase, and then deposited Hasan Mahmud’s half-tracker for his first six next over. No bowler escaped his wrath, or his inventiveness, as he hit ten fours and four sixes in his 41-ball innings.
Many of those came in one Shoriful over, the 11th of the innings, when he pulled a six and hit three fours to take 20 runs. Rishad put an end to the mayhem when he had Stirling caught at long-on in the 13th over – it was Stirling’s 22nd half-century in T20Is and Rishad’s first international wicket – but Campher closed out the chase with a four and a six off Taskin.
Ireland 126 for 3 (Stirling 77, Campher 16*, Tector 14*, Rishad 1-19) beat Bangladesh 124 (Shamim 51, Adair 3-25, Humphreys 2-10) by seven wickets
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