Lindsay Knight: Guildford performance shatters any last doubts

By LINDSAY KNIGHT

Any doubts Graham Henry might still have over Zac Guildford's worthiness to be an All Black this year must have been shattered when the Hawke's Bay flier starred for the Crusaders in their narrow win over the Hurricanes on Saturday night.
Guildford again provided the decisive difference for the Crusaders with his brilliant run early in the second spell setting up Robbie Fruean for the match's only try, and their eventual winning margin.
Helping Guildford's chances even further was the injury to the star wing of recent seasons, Sitiveni Sivivatu, in the Chiefs' loss to the Reds.
The Crusaders, despite the disadvantage of never having played once this season at their Christchurch base, thus qualified for the Super Rugby play-offs, by winning the New Zealand conference by one point from the other Kiwi qualifiers, the Blues.
The double success, though, was both good and bad news from a New Zealand perspective and no doubt Henry will join Todd Blackadder in reflecting on those controversial refereeing calls when the Crusaders played the Reds last month. They have denied several key All Blacks what could have been an invaluable breather.
By finishing third and fourth on the overall table the Crusaders will host the Sharks in Nelson next Saturday night and the Blues will meet the Waratahs on Friday night at Eden Park.
But should they win those matches, the reward will be a semifinal for the Crusaders against the Stormers in Cape Town and a semifinal for the Blues against the other bye team, the Reds, in Brisbane.


With Tri-nation tests to follow that will add even more to the fatigue factor when the World Cup starts in early September, making it inevitable surely that the priority for the Tri-nations should be on spelling leading All Blacks, rather than winning the title.
Again the wisdom of expanding the Super competition in a World Cup year has to be questioned. The competition, too, has extended into a time of the year, in New Zealand anyway, when the weather is at its worst. All three games in New Zealand were played in dreadful conditions, as illustrated by the fact only seven tries were scored.
The Hurricanes and Chiefs managed just one between them, and for all the emotion some tried to generate each of these franchises made dismal farewells to what have been undistinguished seasons.
While Guildford was improving his All Black chances Hawke's Bay thoughts must have turned to the other Magpie who has excelled with the Crusaders this year, Israel Dagg.
Dagg's injury misfortune has proved to be a windfall for the young man who has taken his place at fullback, Tasman's Tom Marshall. His impact on Saturday night almost equalled that of Guildford's, both with his nimble running and with a second spell tackle when it seemed as if the Hurricanes might score a try.
Also impressive was Andy Ellis at halfback. On this display, admittedly behind a powerful pack, he, too, must be part of the World Cup squad.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 25 Jul 2014 00:21:23 Processing Time: 895ms