Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Contrasting fortunes for Joseph and Hammett

Mark Hammett. Photo / Getty Images.
Mark Hammett. Photo / Getty Images.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has joked his side is making his hair turn grey but his Hurricanes counterpart Mark Hammett must be tempted to tear his out.

Joseph's men ground out a tense 16-11 win over the Bulls in Dunedin last night, a deserved victory over a physically intimidating team which have travelled from South Africa in good form and remain in fourth place overall.

The match was in the balance until the end but the Highlanders struck the telling blow when lock Jarrad Hoeata, probably wanting to prove a point or two after missing out on the All Blacks squad, scored a converted try mid-way through the second half.

Hoeata's try came minutes after his effort which was ruled out by the television match official.

The victory pushed the Highlanders into seventh place and comes on the back of several extremely close finishes, most of which have ended in wins this season, hence the stress for Joseph.

But he has it relatively easy compared with Hammett, although the Hurricanes coach made life difficult for himself when leaving in-form first-five Beauden Barrett on the reserves bench in favour of Tusi Pisi.

The Brumbies began well before slipping off the pace and launching a second-half comeback. Down four points and with 30 minutes left, it seemed the Australian conference leaders would click into gear again and so it proved.

First-five Zack Holmes scored the last try to capture a valuable four-try bonus point and lift his individual tally from the match to 22 points.

The victory was an important one for the Brumbies given the resurgent form of the Reds, who scored five competition points in beating the Lions 34-20 in Brisbane last night (Sat).

The match featured Quade Cooper's comeback from the knee injury he suffered in the World Cup semifinal against the All Blacks and the Tokoroa-born player, dubbed "public enemy No1" during the tournament, got through 40 minutes as planned against the Lions.

His passing in particular caught the eye and his partnership with the improving Will Genia will be a dangerous one as the Reds search for a play-off place after a slow start.

Last year's finalists the Crusaders have also been up and down and last night they were definitely up in beating the Blues 59-12, a record victory for them over the visitors. The Blues, though, were poor as Crusaders wing Zac Guildford suggested afterwards.

They were beaten in every facet and even their defensive line looked in disarray, so much so that the Crusaders threatened every time they got the ball.

It went some way to atoning for the poor performance in the defeat to the Rebels last week, but skipper Richie McCaw, who scored a try and played well at No8 in the absence of the injured Kieran Read, rightly wasn't getting carried away.

"We didn't do anything really different [to the Rebels match], it was just that we were clinical when we had the ball," he said.

"We played at the right end of the field and the opportunities we got we made count."

"There's not a lot between having a good day and a bad day but when it comes together like tonight it's pretty pleasing."

Aside from McCaw's try, Matt Todd, Adam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Andy Ellis, Zac Guildford, Tom Marshall and Israel Dagg all crossed the line, while first-five Dan Carter took on the goalkicking duties for the first time in six weeks and landed six conversions.

The Stormers held out the Waratahs 19-13 in Cape Town to take the overall lead, equal on 49 points with the Chiefs, who had a bye this weekend. The Crusaders have the bye next weekend.

- APNZ

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