Super Rugby Review: Quarterfinals
Saturday, June 22, 2019 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
Crusaders 38-14 Highlanders
Having made their way into the playoffs at the last gasp, the Highlanders needed to produce something out of the ordinary against the defending champions, and while still in the hunt in the second half, the loss of Liam Squire to the sin-bin proved crucial. Two tries to the Crusaders followed in quick order and there was no way the home side were going to allow their southern rivals back into the game. The heroes of the piece were the Crusaders pack who demonstrated it is going to take a gargantuan effort to knock them off their perch while behind them first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga proved the concertmaster, orchestrating the play around the field precisely while adding his own classy try-scoring touches.
By being in a position, after some dreadful misfortune during the season, to contest the quarterfinals there was no way that the Jaguares could afford to take the Chiefs lightly. That they were not going to do that was apparent from the way they crossed for their first try in less than a minute. However, the Chiefs were never going to give in and came back through a stunning try engineered by halfback Brad Weber for flanker Lachlan Boshier. The Chiefs even held the halftime lead but the Jaguares switched on their backline and dazzled with the continuity and direction of their play with Matias Moroni providing the icing for the cake with the key try in the second half. As first five-eighths Joaquin Diaz Bonilla calmly directed operations some magnificent defence was unleashed and maintained until the end, the Jaguares winning the right to a historic home semifinal.
There were times when the Bulls looked to be hanging by a thread against the Hurricanes in Wellington. That was hardly surprising given the substantial boost the Bulls have had to their air mile accounts in the last month but try as the Hurricanes might, they couldn't shake the determination of the visitors. It was clear that the best hopes for the visitors lay in their dangerous back three and while wing Cornal Hendricks demonstrated his class, Rosko Specman on the other wing was well contained for much of the night, and, as it proved, that was just as well. Injury to wing Wes Goosen in setting up halfback TJ Perenara's try, provided an unexpected boost when Salesi Rayasi was subbed on and within moments was showing a fine sense for the goalline, although it was 40-odd metres away, to run in a superb try after breaking from the base of a ruck. That should have been enough but the Bulls battled back and were hot on attack when the game finished.
The inconsistency that has been part of the Sharks season was evident again when they were well beaten in Canberra. There is no arguing with the five tries to one margin. Mirroring the start of the Jaguares, the Brumbies scored their first try, the first of two for loose forward Pete Samu 54 seconds after the start. The score kept building and the home side were out to 17-6 by the end of the first quarter. The belligerence and outright aggression that had made the Sharks such an impressive unit when all too rarely on their game during the season, only surfaced briefly during the second half and it was clear they were not in the right frame of mind to mount a suitable recovery to seriously deny the Brumbies their right to travel to Buenos Aires to attempt to advance further this season.
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