Reviewing the Super Rugby action from round 13
Following the upsets of the previous round, some sense of normality returned this week. Seven of the top eight teams registered victories.
Hurricanes and Brumbies were first up. This was a toss-of-the-coin game.
Early in the second half it looked like the Hurricanes were going to run away with it. They built a nice lead and were looking the better side.
Then the Brumbies, like they have all season, found a little something extra and powered away for an impressive bonus-point win.
The ramifications of this result could be huge for both clubs. After putting themselves back in contention with an upset win over the Highlanders the week before, the Hurricanes have slipped off the pace with a tough run to come.
With this win, the Brumbies have all but locked the Australian conference. Even if they lose to the Reds next week they will still have a nice buffer.
They also have a much easier run home than the Reds; the Brumbies face four sides from the bottom of the ladder.
In the next game the Highlanders once again proved to be the bogey side for the Bulls. After last week it was a must-win game for the Highlanders to keep alive their hopes and they delivered.
The Bulls, after squeaking past the Rebels and Waratahs, finally ran out of luck this week.
For most of the contest they were outclassed and the final score did not really reflect how dominant the Highlanders were.
After three weeks on the road maybe the travelling is beginning to take its toll.
With a six-day break against a fully-rested Chiefs side, looking to strike back, the Bulls could be in for a torrid night this Friday.
The Crusaders and Blues were next and a week of criticism awoke the Crusader beast.
They were ruthless, clinical and heartless against the Blues as they delivered the worst beating any Auckland side has ever suffered in its 100+ year history.
They get next week off with a bye, but after witnessing that performance I wouldn’t want to be a Highlanders fan come round 15.
As for the Blues, their horror season continues. You could say there is nowhere but up for them to go, but they seem to be finding new lows for the franchise.
The Reds and Lions were next up.
Quade Cooper returned and he did a couple of decent things, as well as a a few boneheaded look-away passes to nobody.
The star of this game however was Will Genia. He continued on with his great form against the Chiefs and is flying at the moment.
The result here was predictable with the Reds racing out to a 34-6 lead early in the second half. With a 40-point differential you would think the Reds would try and erase a large part, if not all, of this deficit.
Instead they just coasted for a lacklustre 34-20 win.
There is the possibility they could end the season on the same points as a team like the Sharks. If that happens, games like this will come back and bite them.
The Cheetahs and Sharks were next up and this game was a cracker. It was a very free-flowing affair with the Sharks notching up another bonus-point win.
They have been on a rampage for the last month and are even in contention to win the South African conference now.
A win in their home game against the Stormers next week could place them within one win of topping the South African conference, should the Chiefs beat the Bulls.
Speaking of the Stormers, they scraped home against the Waratahs in yet another uninspiring lucky victory. They were outplayed throughout the 80-minute encounter, yet once again managed to sneak in a win.
Like the Crusaders a few weeks back, they are not playing well but still winning. I think the Sharks will give them the same sort of wake-up call this week that the Rebels did to the Crusaders.
The final game of the round was between the Force and Rebels.
After dominating the first half, the Force came back strongly and even led in the final 10 minutes. However, a late Kurtley Beale penalty secured another one-point victory.
In the four games between them, three have been decided by one point in the Rebels’ favour.
In the New Zealand conference we saw the Crusaders back to their lethal best, closing in on the Chiefs, who had a bye.
In the Australian conference the Brumbies took a massive step towards finishing on top, despite the Reds notching a bonus-point win.
The South African conference has opened right up, especially with the Bulls losing. The Stormers lead the way but are not playing well.
The Bulls have a tough match against the Chiefs after a six-day lay-up and four weeks on the road. The Sharks are surging, following their big bonus-point win over the Cheetahs.
The next round is shaping up as an absolute ripper with three massive matches that will define the finals.
The Chiefs play the Bulls, the Brumbies are up against the Reds and the Sharks will contest the Stormers.
It will be a week that separate the contenders from the pretenders.
The Roar is giving you the chance to win 1 of 19 prize packs to Australian Open 2014! Each lucky winner will receive four evening tickets to Rod Laver Arena, plus access to 3 hours in the Heineken VIP Bar. Enter here.