Home advantage counted for little in Rd. One

One of the interesting aspects of the weekend’s first round of the Super 14 competition was that only the Crusaders were able to clinch a home win in the seven matches played.

They were made to work hard by the Highlanders, but in the end came up trumps with a 32-17 win.

And although they still look like champions material, the Crusaders will have taken note of the Bulls performance against a good Cheetahs side.

The Bulls won 51-34, scoring six tries including a penalty try when the Cheetahs scrum couldn’t handle the pressure from a five metres scrum.

Springbok centre Wynand Olivier was outstanding and named Man of the Match for the way he tackled, turned over the ball and took gaps almost at will.

The scrummaging of Gurthro Steenkamp against the highly rated WP Nel was another feature of a good, exciting match in which the return of Gary Botha no doubt added to the improved scrummaging of the Bulls.

It was a good all-round performance and leaves little doubt that the Bulls are hungry to retain the title.

The Stormers came to Johannesburg riding an early crest after some good warm-up matches, but have a lot to ponder after being kept scoreless in the second half against a Lions side still finding its feet.

The Stormers won 26-13 after leading 26-6 at halftime but statistics show that the Lions probably had the better of the match. There are a lot of positives the Lions can work on for the rest of the season.

While the Stormers had to make 76 tackles – most of them in the second half – the Lions got away with only 46 in tackles, according to released statistics.

The stats also indicate that the Lions also missed only six tackles to the 14 missed by the Stormers, and had 56% of the total possession.

Their downfall, however, came in the numbers of turnovers conceded (eight to the Stormers’ four) and the fact that they were heavily penalised before the break, although the total penalties in the end was just 10 to the Stormers’ nine.

Over in Durban, the Sharks crowd disappointed with some boorish manners when they pelted objects onto the field as Stephen Donald took what seemed to be the winning kick after the game’s only try.

He slotted it, but with three minutes remaining the Sharks kicked a penalty for the restart – but it was to no avail as another penalty from the kick-off, this time to the Chiefs and Donald, saw them clinch a 19-18 win against an ill-disciplined Sharks team.

In the end the 19 penalties against the Sharks – and nine against the Chiefs – made the difference.

Much as referee Keith Brown is blamed in Durban, the majority of his decisions against a side that had captain John Smit and hooker Bismarck Olivier spend time in the sin-bin seemed correct.

The Hurricanes beat the Blues 34-20 in Auckland on Friday.

The hosts enjoyed a 20-12 halftime lead, but the visitors managed to score 22 answered points in the second half, which saw the result swing the way of the visitors.

Young Wallaby fullback James O’Connor accounted for all the Western Force’s points in Perth where his side nevertheless went down 24-15 to a more polished Brumbies side that scored right at the end through former Stormers hooker Huia Edmonds when it counted.

Crusaders had a few hiccups on their way to the four-try win against the Highlanders, but looked like a title contender – even without their captain Richie McCaw who has to sit out the first three matches as one of the All Blacks identified to be rested from time to time.

Dan Carter, a lively pack and structured backline will make them a difficult outfit once again.

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