By Roger Childs
Another weekend of rugby, another set of wins for New Zealand teams and losses for the Australian franchises.
The South African teams didn’t have a great weekend either and it is no surprise that next year’s competition will shed teams from the weaker conferences.
In the overall standings, the five Kiwi teams have more points that all five teams across the Tasman.
Furthermore, while all our teams rank in the top seven, four of the Australian teams are in the bottom six.
Some close results
The Hurricanes were expected to easily beat the Stormers who, after winning their first six games, had been thrashed by the Crusaders, Blues and Chiefs in New Zealand.
In the end it was 41-22 with seven tries to one. Sounds like a comfortable victory, but with ten minutes to go Hurricanes fans were getting anxious:
~ the score was 27-22
~ the home team was down to 14 men
~ and the visitor were pressing hard.
However, the Hurricanes produced some timely razzle-dazzle and scored two late tries to seal the match.
Meanwhile the Highlanders playing the Cheetahs in South Africa had to pull a last minute try out of the bag to get home 45-41.
The home side is one of the few in the republic who actually throw the ball around and involve their backs throughout the game.
They scored six very good tries before somewhat unluckily losing the match.
Meanwhile in another tight match the Blues beat the Waratahs 40-33 in Sydney. The speedy Ioane brothers Rieko and Akira, showed their superb handling skills and eye for a gap, honed in sevens rugby, to score three tries.
Chiefs and Crusaders in great form
New Zealand’s top two teams on points showed why they are so hard to beat. The Chiefs had struggled against the Sunwolves last week and a number of players gave less than memorable performances.
Coach Dave Rennie had obviously read the riot act and it was different team playing in New Plymouth last night.
Captain Sam Cane, who was very ordinary in the previous game, had a blinder and led by example. Brodie Retallick was back with a vengeance and was impressive in the lineout and ran strongly in the open.
One of the stars was veteran first five, Stephen Donald, who scored two excellent tries in the comprehensive 46-17 win over the Reds.
The unbeaten Crusaders were playing the Bulls on the high veld in Pretoria. The high altitude was no problem, and they showed why they are top of the standings with a 62-24 thrashing of the home team.
They ran in 10 tries with backs and forwards combining brilliantly. The strong Crusaders forward pack was dominant and Matt Todd and Jordan Taufua won plenty of turnovers. Ritchie Mo’unga was outstanding at first five setting the backline alight and making some excellent breaks.
Tremendous depth in the New Zealand game
The five New Zealand teams are doing very well, because of the amazing depth that exists. There may be injuries to All Blacks, Ben Smith, Dane Coles, Keiran Read, Liam Squire and Jerome Kaino, however there is plenty of other talent coming on.
Among lesser known players who are rapidly becoming Super Rugby stars are
~ Jordie Barrett, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape and Mark Abbott from the Hurricanes
~ Mitchell Drummond, Ritchie Mo’unga and Jordan Taufua from the Crusaders
~ Rob Thompson and Matt Faddes from the Highlanders
~ Matt Duffie and Nepo Laulala from the Blues and Chiefs respectively.
As the competition rolls on, rugby fans will be eagerly awaiting the first match-up of perhaps the two best teams: the Hurricanes and the Crusaders.