AUCKLAND, NZ – Something pretty awesome happened in Super Rugby over the weekend: everyone showed up to play and there was some cracking footy. Let’s not waste any time and get straight into it:
At FMG Stadium, Palmerston North: Hurricanes 30 (Julian Savea 2, Matt Proctor, TJ Perenara tries, Beauden Barrett 2 pen, 2 con) Blues 23 (Lolagi Visinia, Frank Halai tries, Ihaia West 3 pen, 2 con)
Two teams maintained their perfect records when the ref blew full time in this one, unfortunately for the Blues that’s the wrong sort of perfection. They now slump to 0-5 and dead last on the table, meanwhile the Canes can look back on a game where they weren’t even dominant for long periods and still came away with the result. That was in no small part thanks to the dynamism of Julian Savea, who once again showed why he’s is the most lethal weapon in world rugby. Two tries to the man they call ‘The Bus’ bookended proceedings in Palmy, however if Beauden Barrett’s boot had been a bit more accurate the result would have been more comfortable. The Blues hung in there and did show a bit of fight, but they were clearly missing captain Jerome Kaino. Again the talk of the town in Auckland is whether the coaching role at the Blues will be in the positions vacant page soon, however the media continues their soft treatment of Sir John Kirwan with the sports pages on Sunday filled with fluff pieces. Man Of The Match: Canes prop Reggie Goodes absolutely killed it, nailing his more experienced opposites in the scrum and winning some key turnovers. Replay Worthy: Yes, even if you’re a Blues fan. At least you’ll be able to watch a player you had last year (Ma’a Nonu) play well.
At nib Stadium, Perth: Rebels 21 (Mike Harris, Dom Shipperley tries, Harris 3 pen, con) Force 17 (Alby Mathewson, Tetera Faulkner tries, Luke Burton 2 con, pen)
The Force’s dream run last year must seem like a distant memory now, crashing to a home defeat to none other than the lowly Rebels. It wasn’t even much of a contest either, the men from Melbourne dominated from start to finish and the final scoreline doesn’t do them justice. Two poor defensive reads in the first half allowed the Rebels to build a comfortable lead that must have frustrated the hell out of a decent sized home crowd, who are probably wondering where the team they were supporting last year has gone. From there it was just a case of hanging on and tackling for the visitors, with the home team showing little imagination on attack until it was far too late. If the Rebels can keep this up they might have a shot at being the Cinderella story of 2015, but it’s early days yet. Man Of The Match: Mike Harris was again instrumental for the Rebels, he’s turning out to be quite the acquisition. Replay Worthy? Maybe until it started bucketing down in the second half, which reduced the game to a bit of a snore-fest.
At AMI Stadium, Christchurch: Crusaders 34 (Andy Ellis, Kieron Fonotia, Kieran Read tries, penalty try, Dan Carter 4 con, 2 pen) Lions 6 (Elton Jantjies 2 pen)
Good news all you penalty try lovers out there, just in case you didn’t get enough last weekend from referee Nick Briant he was at it again on Saturday afternoon. After the Lions scrum fell apart for the umpteenth time he dashed under the posts to award his third in two games, effectively ending the contest and stretching the home team’s lead out to 20 points. Earlier, Dan Carter and Kieran Read made successful 2015 top level debuts, which will please many NZ fans. Carter kicked solidly off the tee and looked at home back in his original position of second five. The Lions will be disappointed that the score blew out to what it did, they probably deserved better but the home side ran away with it in the end. However, they’ll be under no illusions that life is about to get a lot tougher in Super Rugby if they want to make the final again. Man Of The Match: No one really stood out but Nemani Nadolo burst into life in the second half to show what a threat he’s going to be. Replay Worthy: Only the second half.
At Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin: Highlanders 26 (Tom Franklin, Waisake Naholo, Ben Smith, Patrick Osborne tries, Lima Sopoaga 3 con) Waratahs 19 (Matt Carraro, Nick Phipps, Stephen Hoiles tries, Bernard Foley 2 con)
The Highlanders proved their win last weekend over the Chiefs was no fluke by backing it up with a win over last year’s champions. They did it the hard way too, conceding a couple of tries early before deciding to show their home crowd what they are capable of. They were helped by a couple of the Tahs playing like they didn’t want to be there at all, Kurtley Beale may as well have stayed at home and Israel Folau probably wishes he had after one embarrassing incident (see Try Of The Week). The entire middle passage of the game was dominated by the Highlanders, who smashed and bashed their way to bonus try win. Man Of The Match: Highlanders and All Black halfback Aaron Smith was back to his best in this one. Replay Worthy? Yes, the home team scored some very good tries in this one.
At Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane: Brumbies 29 (Ben Alexander 2, Stephen Moore, Ita Vaea, Christian Lealiifano tries, Lealiifano 2 con) Reds 0
If the Force are worried their season is starting to look like the opposite of 2014 then the Reds will be absolutely spewing that theirs is looking exactly the same as last year. As in, not good at all. The first team in Super Rugby to get blanked put up a meek effort against the ruthless Brumbies, the Reds have a long way to go to prove they’ll be in any way competitive for the rest of the season and that long way will go through South Africa and New Zealand. Meanwhile, the Brumbies went efficiently about their work, dotting down at regular intervals to pick up a bonus point and extend their comfortable lead in the Australian conference. Man Of The Match: It’s not often a tight head prop scores two tries in a match, so hats off to Ben Alexander. Replay Worthy? Yes, another clinical display from a very impressive Brumbies outfit.
At Newlands Stadium, Cape Town: Chiefs 28 (Aaron Cruden, James Lowe, Sam Cane tries, Cruden 3 pen, 2 con) Stormers 19 (Cobus van Wyk try, Kurt Coleman 3 pen, con, Demetri Catrakalis pen)
Unbeaten team in front of a full house of fans? Coming off a shock loss last week? Question marks over the goal kicking prowess of your All Black first five? All of these proved no sweat for the Chiefs, who bounced back to topple the Stormers on the own patch. The win was set up after the Stormers took an early lead through a try to winger Cobus van Wyk, set up by exciting centre Damian de Allende. Signs were looking ominous for the visitors until a stunning fend by Bryce Heem on Cheslin Kolbe set up Aaron Cruden for an easy try. Despite their scrum being hammered the Chiefs managed to secure enough ball to send James Lowe over, before Sam Cane sealed the win late in the piece. The Stormers will be highly disappointed with this loss, it was a real chance for them to snuff out the challenge of a team they will most likely meet later on in the playoffs. Meanwhile the Chiefs will be pleased they’ve got their swagger back after last weekend’s hiccup. Man of The Match: An 18 point haul to Aaron Cruden gives him the nod, especially after talk during the week that he might not be the guy the All Blacks want kicking the goal to win the World Cup final. Replay Worthy? Yes, game of the round.
At Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein: Sharks 27 (Marcel Coetzee 2, Frans Steyn, Jack Wilson tries, Pat Lambie 2 con, pen) Cheetahs 10 (Francois Venter try, Willie du Plessis pen, Francois Brummer con)
Although this game shouldn’t really have been classed as a potential banana-skin moment for the Sharks (given the Cheetahs good form so far), you got the feeling this was a performance that was all about getting a season back on track. After Frans Steyn reminded everyone that he’s not just a big boot by banging over off a short pass 10 metres out, the Sharks went back to their tried and true lineout drive, the main beneficiary being flanker Marcell Coetzee, who must love sitting at the back and waiting for the try line to appear underneath him. New Zealand-born winger Jack Wilson finished off proceedings to record a comfortable win for the visitors. The Cheetahs now head off on tour, hopefully this loss hasn’t taken too much wind out of their sails. The Sharks will be upbeat, although they might want to think about mixing things up a little bit as they can only rely on the lineout drive for so long. Man Of The Match: The seven guys in front of Marcell Coetzee who set up his two tries. Replay Worthy? Yes, another dominant performance from a solid side.
The Bulls got the week off, so here’s how this week’s results have left the table looking:
Try of the week: Waisake Naholo finished this beauty off with a 60 metre run, but check out the steal from Malakai Fekitoa on none other than Israel Folau to set it up.
Idiot of the week: Reds flanker Liam Gill decided to try and do a power bomb on Brumbies halfback Nic White. He didn’t get the three-count, in fact all he got was a worm’s eye view of Ben Alexander scoring. Oh, and a two-week suspension.
So a few teams making some statements of intent in week five of Super Rugby. The big showdown next week will be the Hurricanes up against the Highlanders, I’ll have a preview of that and everything else later in the week.
That’s it for now. Feel free to add your thoughts below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Jamie Wall, Junoir Blaber, James Harrington, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Scheenagh Harrington, Jake Frechette, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd, Karen Ritter and Declan Yeats, respectively.