It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past week.
THEY’RE ON FIRE
Wyatt Crockett and the Crusaders: Another dominant performance by the defending champions, who confirmed top spot in the New Zealand Conference and the overall Super Rugby standings by defeating the Highlanders at the Wyatt Crockett Stadium. Renamed for one game only as a mark of respect for a player that was featuring in his 200th match for the franchise, the Christchurch-based outfit were at their clinical best on Friday. They will be favourites heading into the play-offs and it is difficult to see anyone stopping them on this form.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) July 6, 2018
Hayden Parker: There was little to smile about for the Sunwolves as they were on the receiving end of a thrashing against the Waratahs in Sydney but it wasn’t all doom and gloom their fly-half. It was a momentous occasion for Parker when he opened the scoring with a penalty in the 10th minute of that match as it was his 36th consecutive place-kick at Super Rugby level, which is a new record for the competition.
Hong Kong: Asian champions Hong Kong beat Cook Islands 77-3 on aggregate to become the second team confirmed for the Rugby World Cup 2019 global repechage tournament in November. They won the second leg of their Asia/Oceania play-off 51-0 and now join Canada, the loser of Samoa v Germany play-off – the Pacific Islanders won the first leg 66-15 last weekend – and the Rugby Africa Gold Cup runners-up in the four-team global repechage in November that will determine the 20th and final qualifier for Japan 2019. A coveted RWC spot is in reach.
Full-time at HKFC where the Hong Kong have beaten the Cook Islands 51-0. pic.twitter.com/DnDEQsgjBL
— HKRU (@HongKongRugby) July 7, 2018
Waratahs: The ‘Tahs have exorcised the demons of last year’s horrible 16th-placed finish by topping the Australian conference comfortably. The appointment of Daryl Gibson appears to finally be bearing fruit after a rigorous initiation to say the least in his first year at the helm. The Sydneysiders have developed one of the most fearsome backlines in the competition.. With Taqele Naiyaravoro, Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale in red-hot form, the ‘Tahs look to be heading in to the playoffs with some serious momentum.
COLD AS ICE
Rebels: What a waste of a season it will be for the Rebels if they fail to reach the top-eight and they only have themselves to blame. The Melbourne-based outfit have been entrenched in the play-off places for most of the campaign but will miss out should Dave Wessels’ men lose to the Highlanders next week and the Sharks beat the Jaguares. Although they did play well against the Waratahs in the crucial Round 17 clash and controlled much of the second half, the Rebels effectively gifted their main rivals two tries in the closing stages. Wessels’ charges then followed that up with a pretty abject display at the Reds on Friday in a result which effectively handed the Waratahs a place in the top three.
Semisi Masirewa: The Sunwolves had produced a good first half against the Waratahs, scoring a couple of well-worked tries, only for the wing to undo their excellent work. Masirewa himself was a threat and was involved in a number of promising attacks in the opening period but, with his side only 19-18 in arrears, the Fijian dangerously tackled Bernard Foley and drove the fly-half head first into the ground. It wasn’t malicious but it was just a bit stupid, particularly with the ball already in the arms of Israel Folau, who duly touched down for their fourth try. Of course, Folau and team-mates punished Masirewa’s indiscretion by scoring almost 80 points, 53 of those coming after the red card.
Semisi Masirewa's #SuperRugby season is over after a three-week suspension for this tackle.
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) July 8, 2018
Sharks: Coach Robert du Preez will be pulling his hair out as once again his side choked on the big occasion,missing a crucial opportunity to leapfrog the Rebels in to to eighth position – and the final quarter-final spot – with the Melbourne side having been upset by the Reds earlier in the day. Frustratingly inconsistent yet blessed with an abundance of talents, the Sharks are quickly developing a reputation as the nearly-men of South African rugby.
Zimbabwe-Tunisia debacle: Zimbabwe flank Takudzwa Mandiwanza wasn’t lying when he told a radio station back home Capitalk FM that the tour of Tunisia has been a ‘shambles’. But it now appears the Zimbabwe delegation themselves were to blame. Arriving in the country for a World Cup qualifier, they were held up at the airport for six hours after refusing to pay the mandatory airport levy which they had been notified about. Then, upon arriving at the hotel, the head of the Zimbabwe delegation apparently threw a tantrum over a lack of swimming pool and decent wi-fi at the Zimbabwe national team’s pre-booked accomodation. This meant his side literally spent the night on the street in Tunis (pictures below). Thankfully, accomodation was organised by the Tunisia Rugby Union in the immediate aftermath for the remainder of the tour.
— Brian Mujati (@MujatiBrewing) July 3, 2018