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Data provided by NIWA
Wellington Phoenix players
know they need to stop giving
away cheap goals as the
A-League play-offs approach.
Ernie Merrick’s side has
conceded eight goals in the past
four games, including two soft
ones in last night’s 3-2 win over
the Central Coast Mariners in
Wellington coughed up both
goals in the first half and had
to rely on some late fireworks
from super-sub Kenny
Cunningham who bagged a
brace, which followed on from
Roly Bonevacia’s 65th minute
strike, to earn the three points.
Cunningham’s second, which
proved the winner, came in the
dying stages of injury time and
sent the crowd of 6868 home
However, Phoenix skipper
Andrew Durante said his side
needed to improve with the
“ We can’t be conceding those
goals so early in games. In finals
football you’re not going to
come back like that,” D urante
“ We are shooting ourselves
in the foot early on. We speak
about it every week and it’s
crept in to our game over last
month. So, lots to work on.”
Wellington meets Sydney FC
in the capital next Sunday in
their final outing of the regular
season before the play-offs
Depending on how results
fall in the final two rounds, it
could finish anywhere between
first and fourth given the close
nature of the standings.
A top-two finish is desirable
for the Phoenix as it will give it
a sweeter trip in the play-offs.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick
was pleased with his side’s
ability to fight back last night
after he spoke to them at half-
time about how there were not
enough players getting in to
Merrick made a double
change in the 60th minute,
which included shuffling his
midfield and defence but
the key insertion was that of
“Every time he’s come on
he’s made a real impact and
credit to him, he was fantastic,”
Cunningham has made only
15 appearances this season,
14 of which have come from
the bench, but last night ’s
effort was his most valuable
contribution of the campaign.
The Mariners put up a
resounding fight considering
they had so little to play
for given it is out of finals
However, coach Tony
Walmsley said there were no
issues around motivation for his
side and last night’s result was
a cruel way to lose given the
winning goal came so late.
“ It ’s one where you feel for
the players because they’re
Wellington Phoenix 3
(Roly Bonevacia 65, Kenny
Cunningham 79, 90 plus 5)
Central Coast Mariners 2
(Nick Fitzgerald 11, Eddy
Bosnar 35). Half-time: 0-2.
Phoenix readying for play-offs
PICTURE: Getty Images
Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss is beaten by the shot from Nicholas Fitzgerald of the Mariners at Westpac Stadium in Wellington
New Zealand Rugby bosses believe it will
be calamitous for the game if they lose either
Brodie Retallick or Julian Savea to offshore
Foreign clubs have New Zealand under
siege — making never-seen -before salary
offers for young players the All Blacks want
Agents say European clubs have changed
their focus and are no longer exclusively
targeting veteran All Blacks whose best days
are behind them and are instead putting
together $1 million-plus deals for the
In recent weeks Charles Piutau and Colin
Slade have rejected offers to stay and in a
frank admission about the perilous state of
the player market, the New Zealand rugby
union’s general manager of rugby, Neil
Sorensen, said the game in New Zealand
simply cannot afford to lose either Retallick
“I think if Brodie and Julian decided post
Rugby World Cup to move on then it would
be really bad news for us,” Sorensen said.
“ You would have to start saying we are not
doing something right here and you would
have to say it was a trend. It would have been
great to keep Charles (Piutau) and Colin
(Slade) — but you wouldn’t want to lose two
more current All Blacks.
“ We can confidently say they are world-
class players but they have also got a lot of
rugby ahead of them, too.
“I get that a player might play here in New
Zealand until they are 28, 29 and then have
the rest of his career offshore. I can respect
that and empathise with that.
“ What we don’t want to do is have a whole
bunch of our top 40 players disappear when
they are 22, 23-year-olds. If Julian and Brodie
decide they are gone as well it will be a major
issue for us. ”
Both Retallick and Savea are expected to
reveal in the next two weeks whether they
have signed to stay in New Zealand until
2017 and their decisions are being viewed
as the most significant since Richie McCaw
and Daniel Carter had to determine in 2008
whether they were willing to play through to
the 2011 World Cup.
With a number of senior All Blacks —
Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith — having
confirmed they are heading offshore and
others such as McCaw, Keven Mealamu
and possibly Tony Woodcock likely to retire,
the national side is already facing a major
rebuilding job in 2016.
There is the added pressure of some players
such as Sonny Bill Williams and Liam
Messam having signalled they would like to
try to play Sevens at the Olympics which will
remove them from the first five tests of next
Retallick, the reigning World rugby player
of the year, and Savea, arguably the world’s
most devastating wing, who was short-listed
for the same award in 2014, could potentially
plunge the game into crisis if they move on.
The All Blacks need them both next year.
They are the new McCaw and Carter — the
two men who elevate the All Blacks to a
But not only do New Zealand Rugby
executives fear the immediate playing impact
of either leaving, they are also concerned it
will signal a new era — one where the best
players in the country are no longer willing to
give their best years to the All Blacks.
Retallick and Savea have intimated they are
leaning towards staying, but Piutau and to
a lesser extent Slade were as well until they
respectively signed with Ulster and Pau.
Piutau has been offered a deal worth
about $1m a season while Slade’s contract is
believed to be about $700,000.
Even these huge figures are thought to be
well below the money top European and
Japanese clubs would pay for Retallick and
Putting a market value on either is difficult
but it is believed both would fetch in excess of
a million euros ($1.4m) a season in Europe.
What ’s giving NZ Rugby a degree of
confidence, however, is the lack of speculation
Typically word leaks out from offshore as
they close in on big name players.
It is also believed that NZ Rugby has offered
both Retallick and Savea salary packages that
reflect the overseas demand for them.
“ We have a lot of dialogue with them
and their agents,” Sorensen said. “ Brodie is
in massive demand offshore and he’s also a
young man, newly married, who is looking at
his options which is a good thing I think.
“ We don’t want them to stay in New
Zealand because they have to, we want them
to stay in New Zealand because they want
to.” — NZME-New Zealand Herald
Cruden injury fails to hurt Chiefs
The Chiefs easily recovered from the
first-half loss of Aaron Cruden to secure a
memorable double over the Crusaders in
Christchurch last night.
Cruden jarred his left knee after 20 minutes
and was replaced by Andrew Horrell, but his
side hardly missed a beat against a predictable
Crusaders team which made constant errors
and hardly fired a shot on attack. Israel Dagg
was a late scratching for the Crusaders due
to a calf strain but it is hard to see what
difference he would have made.
The comprehensive three-tries-to-nil
victory makes it two wins from two for the
Chiefs over the Crusaders this season.
They were good — they unpicked the
Crusaders set piece in the first half —
especially the lineout, which was often a
shambles, despite the presence of All Blacks
ball winners Richie McCaw, Luke Romano,
Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read.
However, the Crusaders were extremely
poor. Their main attacking weapon, Nemani
Nadolo, did not touch the ball in the first half
— his first run came in the 50th minute — and
they failed to take advantage of Sam Cane’s
sinbinning, with Carter missing two penalties
in that time. All up, Carter missed three shots
at goal and was very quiet throughout.
The Canterbury team’s scrum — so good
in the early stages of the competition — was
defused by the Chiefs, whose players won
a tighthead, although penalty magnet Ben
Tameifuna was put under increasing pressure
in this area.
Defensively the home side was way off as
well. It was exposed around the fringes in the
humiliating loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton in
February and it was a case of same again in
Christchurch. The connected visitors gave a
masterclass in this area.
It all means that Todd Blackadder’s team
has fallen further off the pace — its big win
over the Sharks in D urban a fortnight ago
appearing to be a false dawn rather than a
corner turned. It is still reasonably early days
but sixth place — a last play-off spot — seems
a long way off after this loss and the previous
one to the Highlanders, also at home.
Something is not right at the Crusaders —
the players are down on confidence and are
in a big hole. The Chiefs, meanwhile, stay
on track and will be a big force come finals
time. Brodie Retallick was a colossus in the
Chiefs lineout, with Sonny Bill Williams,
Tim Nanai-Williams and James Lowe big
threats in their backline.
It was Lowe’s runaway try after the half-
time hooter which effectively sunk the
Canterbury team. It was on the hunt for
points only for another mistake to send L owe
scampering away and at 18-6 it was always
going to struggle against a team which these
days finishes games much stronger than the
Crusaders, and so it proved.
As the Crusaders chased the game it
was just a matter of how many points the
Chiefs would win by and Liam Squire’s try
in the final minutes after Nanai-Williams
capitalised on a defence in disarray summed
up the evening. It was a deser ved win, with
virtually every Chiefs player outperforming
his opposite, including Cane over McCaw.
Chiefs 26 (Michael Leitch, James Lowe,
Liam Squire tries; Andrew Horrell con, pen;
Aaron Cruden pen, Tim Nanai-Williams
pen) Crusaders 9 (Dan Carter 3 pens) Half-
time: 18-6. — NZME
PICTURE: Getty Images
Colin Slade of the Crusaders about to be tackled by Sam Cane of the Chiefs at AMI
Stadium in Christchurch last night.
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