Newsletter

Sign-up for the latest, breaking news!

LIVE

    Chiefs' title reign in doubt

    2014-05-25 17:01

    Wellington -The Chiefs' two-year reign as Super Rugby champions is under threat after their 45-8 loss to the Hurricanes during the 15th round in which tournament standings underwent seismic transformation.

    South Africa's Sharks provided an element of stability by beating the Auckland-based Blues 29-23 to remain atop the championships ladder, five points clear of the New South Wales Waratahs.

    The Chiefs and ACT Brumbies, who were beaten 44-23 by the Pretoria-based Bulls, not only gave up their places atop the New Zealand and Australian conferences but entirely dropped out of the top six.

    It is a measure of the closeness of this season's playoffs race that a single round can so thoroughly change the leading standings and a single defeat can impinge so heavily on any team's title hopes.

    The Chiefs plummeted to eighth place overall and to fourth place in the New Zealand conference, overtaken by the Crusaders who controversially beat the Highlanders 32-30, by the Hurricanes and by the Highlanders who took two bonus points from Saturday's narrow loss.

    The Brumbies, who have now lost three of their last four games — a run broken only by a win over the Sharks — have fallen back to seventh place and been overtaken in Australia by the Waratahs, who beat the Melbourne Rebels 41-19 and the Western Force, who beat South Africa's Lions 29-19 in Perth.

    The Sharks' win over the Blues completed a 3-1 record on their four-match tour to Australia and New Zealand and secured first place as they return to South Africa for the last four rounds of the regular season. They will now be extremely difficult to topple from the head of the ladder and are now strongly placed to claim a home semifinal as they seek their first Super Rugby title.

    The Sharks' win over the Blues was their 10th in 13 matches and effectively eliminated the Blues from playoffs contention, leaving nine teams in the race for post-season places. But their remain many critics of the style of play the Sharks have adopted under coach Jake White, which is heavily defensive and based on slowing the pace of the game to a dull grind.

    Two matches over the weekend — between the Crusaders and Highlanders, which featured eight tries, and between the Hurricances and Chiefs, which had seven — showed off Super Rugby at its best: fast-paced and intensely skilful. The Sharks' style is dour by comparison but they have refined their gameplan to a level which makes them hard to disrupt and defeat.

    White said the Sharks had put a successful tour behind them and couldn't relax in the final weeks of the regular season.

    "It's still the same - there's a lot of rugby still to be played," he said. "I mean, we're mindful of the fact there's a lot of good teams out there.

    "We're under no illusions that it's difficult, but at the same time it's a massive boost to know that if you keep winning you can control your own destiny and I suppose that's what we're all aiming for."

    The Crusaders' win over the Highlanders was one of the most thrilling of the season, hanging in the balance even in the final minute when the television match official disallowed what would have been the winning try to the Highlanders.

    Winger Patrick Osborne, who had scored in the first half, dived over in the corner in the 80th minute and in the tackle of Crusaders' fullback Israel Dagg for what might have been the winning try. After studying several replays, TMO Vinny Munro decided Osborne had grounded the ball on the goalline and touchline simultaneously and ruled the try should be disallowed.

    It seemed more likely that Osborne had forced the ball against the corner flag and that the try could have been allowed to stand: the incident highlighted the overwhelming influence TMO decisions have had on this season's tournament.

    Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said it's tough to lose in such circumstances.

    "The wording I heard was that it hit the touchline and the goalline simultaneously," he said. "I didn't see it touch the line. I saw the goalline and I saw a flag."

    The Hurricanes revived their foundering playoffs campaign with a six tries to one defeat of the Chiefs in Wellington. Flyhalf Beauden Barrett enhanced his claim to the All Blacks' starting role for next month's home test series against England with an immaculate performance: he played a creative role in several of the Hurricanes tries and maintained a perfect kicking record in a match played in a damaging gale.

    Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said his team now has a tough job to retain their title.

    Read News24’s Comments Policy

    24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

    Comment on this story
    10 comments
    Add your comment
    Comment 0 characters remaining
    Live Video Streaming
    • Blitz
      Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @00:00
    • SS1
      Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @01:00
    • SS2
      Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @02:00
    • SS3
      Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @03:00
    Sport Talk
    Most Read
    Commented
    /Sport

    Results

    04 July 2015
    27 June 2015
    20 June 2015
    13 June 2015
    12 June 2015
    06 June 2015
    05 June 2015
    30 May 2015
    29 May 2015
    23 May 2015
    22 May 2015
    16 May 2015
    15 May 2015
    09 May 2015
    08 May 2015
    02 May 2015
    01 May 2015
    26 April 2015
    25 April 2015
    24 April 2015
    18 April 2015
    17 April 2015
    11 April 2015
    10 April 2015
    04 April 2015
    03 April 2015
    28 March 2015
    27 March 2015
    22 March 2015
    21 March 2015
    20 March 2015
    14 March 2015
    13 March 2015
    07 March 2015
    06 March 2015
    28 February 2015
    27 February 2015
    21 February 2015
    20 February 2015
    15 February 2015
    14 February 2015
    13 February 2015

    Logs

    Rank Team P W Pts

    EXPERT OPINION

    “Craig Joubert deserves plaudits for making a gutsy call against the home side in the Super Rugby semis, writes Herman Mostert.”

    Opinion Poll

    Super Rugby is a thing of the past. Next up: The Rugby Championship. Who will emerge victorious this season?

    Monday Quiz Madness!

    TAKE THE QUIZ
    There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.