||Stay tuned to rugby365.com as we head to Brisbane where the Reds host the Force|
||Sopoaga slots the penalty and that's FULLTIME! A losing bonus point for the Highlanders as the Crusaders get their campaign underway!|
||Highlanders in possession as they look to score late in the match! PENALTY! Highlanders have a 5 metre penalty and the hand bags are out once again. Sopoaga will have a shot at goal to secure a bonus point|
||Slade slots the penalty!|
||Just as the Highlanders look as though they will launch an attack, another handling error stops them! PENALTY! Slade will have a shot at goal to all-but-seal the win!|
||The scrums continue to be reset over and over! But the Crusaders have the ball on the Highlanders 22! KNOCK ON! Romano knocks the ball on and the Highlanders will have the feed|
||No problem for Sopoaga and the deficit is now 6|
||Highlanders are back in possession and have made their way into the Crusaders 22! PENALTY! Sopoaga will have a shot at goal from the 22|
||Naholo makes a bursting run for the Highlanders but their momentum is killed by another handling error. Scrum to the Crusaders in their half of the field|
||Crusaders in possession inside the Highlanders 22! PENALTY! Highlanders are demons on defence now and kick the ball into touch on the halfway line|
||The distance was definitely there but lacked direction!|
||The momentum has definitely shifted to the Highlanders now! Crusaders fail to release the tackled player at the breakdown! Sopoaga will have a shot at goal!|
||Sopoaga adds the extra 2 to reduce the lead to 9 points!|
||TRY!!! Fekitoa gets over the line! and the Highlanders strike back!|
||Naholo makes a trong run and comes up 1 metre short!|
||Now it's the Crusaders turn to throw a forward pass! Highlanders with the perfect chance to score now! Scrum close to the Crusaders 5 metre line!|
||Another attack is foiled by basic errors! A forward pass kills any momentum they had built up! Scrum to the Crusaders inside their 22|
||Highlanders finally get their hands on some decent possession and have made slowly made their way up the field. Line-out to the home side on the Crusaders 22|
||The attempt misses it's mark and the Highlanders will have a 22 drop-out|
||Highlanders are being pegged back in their 22! PENALTY! Highlanders fail to release the ball at the breakdown and Slade will have another shot at goal|
||It's good! Slade extends the Crusaders lead|
||The Highlanders are struggling to find any momentum in the early stages! PENALTY! Crusaders have a chance to extend their lead through a Slade penalty from about 45 metres|
||Problems continue at scrum time as the Crusaders are penalised for hinging! The ball is kicked into touch for a Highlanders line-out on the halfway line|
||Another kick smashes off the upright and the Crusaders recover possession. Still inside the Highlanders 22|
||PENALTY! Highlanders are caught offside and Slade will have a shot at goal to extend the lead|
||McCaw can't hold onto the ball and the Highlanders have a scrum on their 22|
||Crusaders in possession on the Highlanders 22.|
||KICK-OFF! Slade gets the 2nd half underway!|
||Slade slots the conversion and that's HALFTIME!!|
||Fruean comes charging in to find a way through but ends up 2 metres short! TRY!!! The ball is recyled to the left and McNicholl muscles his way over to get the five-pointer!!!|
||They get over the line but great defence from the Highlanders denies them a try! 5 metre scrum to the Crusaders!|
||Here come the Crusaders again after Slade and Dagg takes the ball from inside their own half into the Highlanders 22|
||It's another successful kick from the flyhalf!|
||Funnell bursts through a hole and finds Barrett. Metres away from the line now. The ball is swung into the hands of Dagg who has a go himself! PENALTY! Highlanders are penalised 2 metres from their line and Slade decides to have a shot at goal|
||It's a kicking battle now as both sides look to gain some territory! B Smith decides to have a run and gets the ball into Crusaders territory! PENALTY! Crusaders get the penalty and pops the ball into touch on the Highlanders 10 metre line|
||The Highlanders launch an attack from the restart! Sopoaga shows some nifty footwork and the Highlanders cross the line through Geldenhuys! But he is denied his first try as the pass from Sopoaga was forward!|
||Slade makes no mistake with the conversion!|
||The forwards bash their way closer to the line! TRY!!! Scott Barrett emerges with the ball to get a try in his first start!|
||Crusaders get over the line but are held-up by the Highlanders. 5 metre scrum to the Crusaders.|
||It smashes into the upright but the Crusaders recover possession. 5 metres from the line now|
||Here come the Crusaders now. In possession inside the Highlanders 22! PENALTY! Highlanders go off their feet at the breakdown. Slade will have a shot at goal|
||Sopoaga adds the extra points as he slplits the uprights|
||TRY!!! A Smith gets over the try line after the forwards bashed their way up the field!|
||Highlanders look to hit back straight away and have a line-out just inside the Crusaders 22|
||It's good! He swings it through it through the uprights for the 1st points of the match|
||PENALTY! The Highlanders are caught offside and Slade will have a shot at goal from about 44 metres|
||After a number of reset scrums, A Smith incorrectly feeds the scrum and the Crusaders have the short arm penalty|
||The Highlanders launch an attack thanks to great work by Ben Smith. Osborne gets the ball and dummies himself with an attempted pass|
||The Crusaders opt to run it! They swing it right but can't find a way through. It gets switched back to the left but McCaw can't hold onto the pass and the Highlanders will have the feed to a scrum on their 5 metre line|
||The driving maul is set! PENALTY! The Highlanders collapse the maul on the 5 metre line. It's kicked off now! The hand bags are flying|
||Crusaders have the momentum slightly in their favour. 8 metres from the Highlanders try line and have an attacking line-out|
||High tempo at the start of this match! It all looks good when both sides throw the ball around but neither have launched a meaningful attack!|
||Crusaders are in possession on the Highlanders 10 metre line! PENALTY! Highlanders get a chance to clear the pressure as the Crusaders go off their feet at the breakdown|
||Highlanders are happy to throw the ball around through the hands. They are not making too many metres though. KNOCK ON! Crusaders will have the feed to the 1st scrum of the match|
||KICK-OFF! Sopoaga gets the match underway!|
||Perfect underfoot conditions as the teams make their way onto the field|
||We have to go back to 2012 for the last time the Highlanders have beaten the Crusaders! Since then, the Crusaders have won all 5 matches, in Christchurch and Dunedin!|
||This is the 1st game for the Highlanders this season while the Crusaders are coming off the back of a shock 10-20 loss at the hands of the Rebels|
||IN CASE YOU MISSED IT! The match between the Reds and the Force WILL go ahead as scheduled!|
||Welcome to the 4th match of Round 2! The Highlanders play hosts to a wounded Crusaders!|
Will the madness continue or will we have some semblance of normality when Super Rugby's Round Two gets underway on Friday?
Will the madness continue or will we have some semblance of normality when Super Rugby's Round Two gets underway on Friday?
The Round One mayhem saw just one home team win, while tournament favourites like the defending-champion Waratahs and seven-time champion Crusaders got upstaged by supposed minnows.
This Friday's Round Two action start with two of the most impressive teams from Round One, the Chiefs and Brumbies, going head-to in New Plymouth.
The setting may have a rural feel about it, given the dairy farming community that supports the Taranaki region, but the on-field action will be colossal.
Then we will make a quick hop across the Tasman Sea to Melbourne for an all-Australian derby - one of last week's giant killing acts, the Rebels, hosting on the opening round's big losers, the Waratahs.
The final match of the day takes us another 14,000-odd kilometres across the Indian Ocean to Pretoria, where the Bulls, losers last week, meet the Hurricanes, who won their opening match.
We look at Friday's games!
Friday, February 20
Chiefs v Brumbies
(Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth - Kick-off: 19.35; 17.35 AEDT; 06.35 GMT)
The Chiefs will host the Brumbies in New Plymouth in what is set to be an exciting battle.
The Chiefs, already loaded with superstar players, welcome back several All Blacks to the fold - including the likes of Aaron Cruden, Liam Messam and Jamie Mackintosh in the starting XV - with players like Ben Tameifuna and Brodie Retallick on the bench.
However, their real star value is at flyhalf and in the midfield - where Charlie Ngatai, Sonny Bill Williams Aaron Cruden will combine.
Brumbies flyhalf Matt Toomua, who has faced his share of midfield bruisers, regards Cruden (at flyhalf) and Williams (inside centre) as one of the most skilful combinations he has come up against.
"Cruden probably offers a bit more of that offload game, he's probably one of silkiest No.10s in the competition," Toomua told the Canberra Times.
"I've played against him a lot, played in the Under- 20s against each other and played against each other a few times last year.
"Sonny outside him offers a huge threat as well. There's no bigger name in Australian or New Zealand sport than Sonny Bill, so that'll be a huge challenge for us.
"Getting them down is one thing, stopping them offload is another, so we'll look do that in pods of threes - trying to get guys around the ball there.
"Those two individually are very dangerous and when you've got the combination you've got to be wary about it ... we've come up against similar combinations but to be fair I think this is one of the most skilful ones."
2014: Brumbies won 32-30, Canberra (preliminary play-off match)
2014: Brumbies won 41-23, Canberra
2013: Chiefs won 27-22, Hamilton (Final)
2012: Chiefs won 29-22, Hamilton
2011: Brumbies won 28-20, Canberra
2010: Brumbies won 30-23, Canberra
Prediction: The last 10 games between these sides have seen the Chiefs follow two defeats with two victories, with the Brumbies triumphant in six of these matches. If that run were to continue, the New Zealanders would win the next two contests against the Canberra-based outfit. The last seven games between the sides have been won by the home team. The Brumbies' 47-3 victory over the Reds in round one was their largest win since a 61-15 success against the Cheetahs in April 2010. The Chiefs managed the most metres (597), breaks (12) and off-loads (19) in round one, while the Brumbies topped the charts for carries (126), time in possession (19 minutes 52 seconds) and tries (six). They also missed the fewest tackles last weekend (eight). The Brumbies have won four of their last five regular season games on New Zealand soil after previously losing seven in a row on their trips across the Tasman. The Reds were rabble last week, which makes it difficult to gauge the real strength of the Brumbies. The Chiefs, who overcame a slow start, showed enough last week to suggest they could sneak a win - by less than 10 points.
Chiefs: 15 James Lowe, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacments: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Ben Tameifuna, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Tevita Koloamatangi, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Seta Tamanivalu.
Brumbies: 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White (captain), 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy , 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler , 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Lausii Taliauli.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Shane McDermott (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Glen Newman (New Zealand)
Rebels v Waratahs
(AMI Park, Melbourne - Kick-off: 19.40; 08.40 GMT)
The Rebels will be buoyed by their victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch in Round One.
However, they know they can't afford to ease off even the slightest, given the quality of the opposition.
The Waratahs won the 2014 Super Rugby championship and whilst they suffered defeat at the hands of the Western Force in Sydney last week, they remain a world class outfit.
The Waratahs and Rebels have developed a healthy rivalry, while both possess plenty of individuals with history at both franchises.
For the Waratahs there is certainly a lot more riding on this game, which is important if they are to reach their stated goal of becoming the first Australian side to win back-to-back titles.
And history points to this being more likely than first thought - with four of the seven Super Rugby teams to have lifted the Super Rugby title in the 19 year history of the competition - Blues, Crusaders (twice), Bulls and Chiefs - having done just that.
"Off the back of knowing that we're the defending champions and we can be the first Australian Super Rugby team to do it twice in a row, there's a lot of motivation and a lot of excitement around that," veteran Wallaby Adam Ashley-Cooper said in an interview on the Waratahs website.
Driving the excitement and motivation around the current group of Waratahs is the culture that has been built over the past couple of seasons.
"About the 80 minutes on the weekend it's about going the distance and we're certainly reminded day in and day out here by the coaching staff that games are won in that last couple of metres of a drill or that last minute of an exercise or that last rep in the gym. It's about doing that yard extra and it certainly transfers onto the field.
"Once your goal and your ambitions are clear it gives the team purpose and we're certainly all on board and buying into the culture and working hard to give ourselves and the club purpose to reach that end goal.
"Culture I guess is the glue to any winning formula; it binds everyone together and allows teams to enjoy their hard work and enjoy their success," said Ashley-Cooper.
2014: Waratahs won 41-19, Melbourne
2014: Waratahs won 32-8, Sydney
2013: Rebels won 24-22, Melbourne
2013: Waratahs won 31-26, Sydney
2012: Waratahs won 30-21, Sydney
2012: Waratahs won 35-19, Melbourne
Prediction: Against the Force, the 2014 champions conceded four tries in a home match for the first time since June 2012 (against Hurricanes). The Tahs have won seven of eight games against the Melbourne side, denying the Rebels a bonus point in all but one of those seven victories. The Waratahs have never lost their opening two matches of a Super Rugby season. The Waratahs managed the best tackling success rate (92 percent) in the opening round, but won just one turnover, a weekend low. They also won all 10 of their line-outs and stole ball from the Force on four occasions. In contrast, no side lost more line-outs on their own throw than the Rebels in round one (four). The wake-up call has been received and the Waratahs should start showing some of their 2014 - to record a 10-point win.
Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.Replacments: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Sefanaia Naivalu.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Will Skelton, 4 David Dennis (captain), 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements - from: Tolu Latu, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Sam Lousi, Mitchell Chapman, Stephen Hoiles, Brendan McKibbin, Matt Carraro, Pat McCutcheon, Peter Betham.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Michael Hogan (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)
Bulls v Hurricanes
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 19.19; 17.10 GMT; 06.10, Saturday, February 21 NZ time)
The Hurricanes are chasing a rare double on South African soil and more valuable competition points on the road.
Their 22-8 win over the Lions last week was their first win to start the season since 2010, while the last time the Hurricanes won two consecutive matches in South Africa was in 2006 - the year they reached the Final.
Victory over the Lions was built on patience and resilient defence, the Hurricanes surviving on a minority of possession to outscore their opposition two tries to one.
In contrast, the Bulls failed to fire in their opening 17-29 loss to the Stormers last week, which was their first Super Rugby defeat at home since dipping out to the Brumbies in their 2013 home semifinal.
The Bulls were mistake-ridden against the Stormers.
Super Rugby champions in 2007, 2009 and 2010, the Bulls will be eager to get on the front foot and beat the Hurricanes to register their first win of the season.
On his return as captain of the Bulls, Pierre Spies says they will be looking to make amends for last week's defeat on Friday.
"We had a hard look at ourselves, and the guys are really working hard to get the result and produce a more consistent performance," Spies told a media briefing in Pretoria.
"We've got to take care of our ball, be disciplined in our approach and be clinical as we made way too many mistakes against the Stormers."
Coach Frans Ludeke also expressed his disappointment in last week's showing, especially in the scrums - where they were schooled by the Stormers' pack of forwards.
"It wasn't good enough, and there was a lot pressure from that battle where we were on the back foot," he said.
"We gave away penalties that gave them field position and easy exits and we lost two vital turnovers at the base of the scrum in the right areas.
"That wasn't up to our standards, and we would like to improve this weekend."
2014: Hurricanes won 25-20, Wellington
2013: Bulls won 48-14, Pretoria
2011: Bulls won 26-14, Napier
2010: Bulls won 19-18, Pretoria
2009: Bulls won 19-14, Wellington
2008: Hurricanes won 50-22, Pretoria
Prediction: The Bulls have won four of the last five clashes between the sides, limiting the 'Canes to fewer than 20 points in each of those matches. The Bulls won all nine of their line-outs last weekend, but had the lowest tackling success (80 percent) having missed 26 of 129 attempted hits. The Canes meanwhile won five of seven line-out throws, a weekend - low success rate of 71 percent. The Hurricanes managed the most turnovers won (10) last weekend and conceded fewer turnovers (seven) than any other side. The Canes were the only side to manage less than 10 minutes in possession of the ball last week (nine minutes and 23 seconds). It is a tough call to make, as it is uncertain which Bulls team will turn up. However, we are going for a narrow home win - the Bulls by five.
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie), 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23 Jurgen Visser.
Hurricanes: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Chris Eves, 19 Ardie Savea, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 James Marshall, 23 Matt Proctor.
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
By Jan de Koning
* Stats provided by @OptaJason
The Crusaders held on for a tough 26-20 victory over the Highlanders at the Forsyth-Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday.