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Blues accept gifts to beat Cheetahs

Sat, 22 Mar 2014 08:26
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The Blues put their Super Rugby campaign back on track with a bonus-point 40-30 win over the Cheetahs in Auckland on Saturday.

In a game that will have the refereeing bosses scrambling for the law books and some explanations of the weirdness that transpired at Eden Park, the Blues accepted a couple of gifts from the referee and a host from the Cheetahs, who paid the price for their own erroneous ways.

The Cheetahs will also be concerned about the wrist injury that caused flyhalf Johan Goosen to leave the field midway through the first half, which happened when a Blues player stood on his arm. He left straight after the match for scans.

However, the biggest problem to come out of this game was the numerous brain explosions by the man with the whistle.

Argentinean referee Francisco Pastrana's influence should not be discounted - he first made a controversial yellow card call against the Cheetahs and while being a man down the visitors conceded two tries, one of which was even more controversial than the yellow card.

The TMO, Glenn Newman of New Zealand, ruled that the player had illegally propelled himself forward in an attempt to ground the ball. Pastrana, despite getting a clear call from the TMO, still awarded the try, saying he was 'happy' with the grounding.

The Argentinean was not alone causing chaos on the field, with a number of silly penalties and sloppy handling errors contributing to spoiling what was at times an entertaining spectacle.

The Cheetahs were presented with the first real scoring opportunity, when the Blues were penalised at a ruck/tackle situation inside their 22 - Luke Braid the culprit. Johan Goosen made no mistake - 3-0 after four minutes.

However, almost straight from the restart the Cheetahs were penalised at a tackle, Caylib Oosthuizen not using his arms, and Simon Hickey levelled the scores.

Then Braid was penalised for being in front of the kicker and Goosen restored the three-point lead, before the Cheetahs committed obstruction at the restart and Hickey levelled the scores again (6-all after 10 minutes) - as the tit-for-tat penalty game continued.

The first try came in the 17th minute - Steven Luatua going over from close range, after a few phases, when a Cheetahs line-out inside their 22 went horribly wrong. Hickey's conversion made it 13-6.

And the Cheetahs hit straight back, a succession of penalties against the home team and a warning from the referee, allowed the Cheetahs to maul it over from five metres out - Johannes Prinsloo getting the armchair ride. Goosen made it 13-all.

That was soon followed by the first yellow card of the match, as Prinsloo was penalised for what the referee determined to be a professional foul - although television replays proved inconclusive as to what exactly his transgression was.

The penalty feast continued, with referee Francisco Pastrana ruling against the Cheetahs scrum and Hickey slotting the goal-kick.

Then the referee produced the biggest shocker of the match - ruling that a try should stand, despite the MO telling him that the player had propelled himself forward, illegally, with his knees. George Moala was the player who dotted down.

Willie le Roux compounded the Cheetahs' misery by putting down a simple ball and Tevita Li accepted the gift five points. Hickey kicked both conversions to make it 30-13.

The Cheetahs managed to secure a late penalty in the first half, Elgar Watts, on for the injured Johan Goosen, slotted the goal-kick to narrow the gap to 16-30 at the break.

The referee's confusing calls continued after the break, with both teams struggling to come to terms with his version of the rules.

Not that it seemed to bother the Cheetahs, with Cornel Hendriks scoring after a brilliant set-piece move deep inside their half that saw the Sevens Springbok drift into space and then step the cover. Watts added the extras to make it a seven-point game (23-30), with just under 20 to go.

However, Blues prop Tony Woodcock flopped over from a metre out after another powerful scrum - the bonus point secured for the Blues. Hickey's conversion made it a 14-point game (37-23) with 15 minutes remaining.

Again the Cheetahs came back, a patient build-up that started inside their half exposed the Blues out wide - where Ma'a Nonu looked very ponderous - and Hennie Daniller scored the Cheetahs' third try. Watts made it 30-37.

Hickey restored some sanity with a penalty in the 72nd minute, making it 40-30.

The Cheetahs kept hammering away, looking for a couple of bonus points and some consolation, but their hands kept letting them down.

It was ironic that the referee, Pastrana, finished the game by getting in the way and touching the ball while the Cheetahs attempted to launch one last desperate raid.

The Blues will celebrate a deserved win, gifted wrapped by a number of factors in one of the strangest games of the season.

Man of the match: Amidst all the chaos caused by the referee's weird rulings, there was some quality among the players. Willie le Roux attempted desperately to inject himself into the game in the second half and managed to get a few line-breaks that helped the visitors get back into the game. Our award goes to Blues loose forward Steven Luatua, the most impressive among those putting their bodies about, while he also secured some vital turnovers.

The scorers:

For the Blues:
Tries:
Luatua, Moala, Li, Woodcock
Cons: Hickey 4
Pens: Hickey 4

For the Cheetahs:
Tries:
Prinsloo, Hendricks, Daniller
Cons: Goosen, Watts 2
Pens: Goosen 2, Watts

Yellow card: Johannes Prinsloo (Cheetahs, 26 - professional foul)

Teams:

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Jerome Kaino, 20 Hayden Triggs, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ma'a Nonu, 23 Benji Marshall.

Cheetahs: 15  Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Hennie Daniller, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Johannes Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Nicolaas van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Pieter Labuschagne, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Howard Mnisi.

Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

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