Another Round of Super Rugby has drawn to a close and many of the results were as predicted, though a few eyebrows have been raised in the process as the ‘little’ guy punched back.
A round for the ‘banished’
The rumour mill has been in full swing of late as many deliberate the future of Super Rugby including the assumption of which teams will be cut from future editions of the competition as SANZAAR continue to procrastinate over the issue.
Three of those sides heavily rumoured to be in the firing line, namely the Rebels, Brumbies and Kings put in performances over the weekend that belie their often maligned status as also-rans, the Rebels and Kings pushing their heavily favoured opponents – the Chiefs and Sharks – over the eighty while the Brumbies overcame the favoured Waratahs away in Sydney.
It is unlikely that these one-off results will sway any likely future decisions but one couldn’t help think of these sides ‘flipping’ the imaginary bird to the tournament overlords after their recent performances.
Crusaders remain unbeaten
Three games in a row now, the Crusaders have staged a second-half comeback to overturn a significant deficit to win their match and remain undefeated in 2017.
This time around, it was the Blues who surrendered a 19-point lead to eventually lose by nine as the Crusaders pack took control of the game from the fiftieth minute and the Blues seemed powerless to stop it.
It must be concerning for Crusaders coach Scott Robertson to once again see his side start another match slowly and he certainly knows it cannot continue against a few sides to come, but for now the Crusaders are the undisputed comeback kings of Super Rugby.
Chiefs keep on keeping on
The Chiefs rolled into Melbourne on Friday night, fresh off leaving three of their conference rivals in the dust and heavily favoured to obliterate the Rebels and continue to lead the overall standings.
The match did not go quite as many would have envisioned with the Rebels showing plenty of starch to push the Chiefs hard until the final 10 minutes when the Chiefs managed to pull away from their scrappy opposition who benefited from the Kiwis’ ill-discipline on the night.
Like a good side however, the Chiefs weathered the storm and still managed to pick up the bonus point to leave them sitting pretty at the top with 19 points from an available 20 after the first four rounds and underlining their early tournament favouritism.
Hurricanes bounce back
Indulge me here but as a Hurricane fan I turned up to Westpac Stadium on Saturday wanting to see my team come back hard after last week’s disappointing performance against the Chiefs and they delivered, dispatching an injury-ravaged Highlanders side and earning a bonus point victory.
It was not all smooth sailing as the Highlanders fought hard across the first fifty minutes until their lack of depth told and the Hurricanes sailed away in the last quarter.
The younger brothers of their more famous All Black siblings, Ardie Savea and Jordie Barrett, were prominent in the match and the Hurricanes now head into the bye in a reasonable position, third in their conference.
The Highlanders, after three losses already after the first four rounds, will be hoping Waisake Naholo’s uncle can work some magic and get some of their cavalry back onto the pitch as their season threatens to get away from them.
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Lions start to recapture their 2016 form
After a setback last week in Argentina, the Lions hit the ground running, literally, at home against the Reds, winning by a comfortable 30-point margin.
They suffocated the Reds, forcing the Queenslanders to do a mountain of work on defence as they simply kept coming, the pressure eventually telling early in the second half, a yellow card to Etu Nabuli and a red to Quade Cooper shortly after a direct result of the pressure from the Lions offence.
The floodgates flung open from that point, the Lions pacy winger nabbing four tries individually.
A worrying note for other sides in the competition was that their performance was hardly perfect, their attack permeated with a number of unforced errors and there is improvement to be had by this impressive side.
Their form playing at home is well known, if they can begin to replicate these performances while travelling then it is not hard to see this side topping the overall competition standings come the finals this year.
So that wraps up Round four of Super Rugby with my five major talking points, and after the first month of Super Rugby already you can start to see how the competition is starting to stack up as several early competition favourites start to distance themselves from the rest of the field.
Until next week then.