Round 8 of Super Rugby contained plenty of highlights, though this week could perhaps be remembered as the round of milestones.
Several players celebrated significant personal achievements this round.
There was Ruan Dreyer playing his 50th Super match for the lions, Laurie Weeks bringing up his 100th, the evergreen George Smith bringing up 150 turning out for the Reds on the weekend while Wyatt Crockett celebrated his 176th appearance for the Crusaders.
Crockett became the highest capped player in Super Rugby history and is sure to add more to his tally before he calls it a day.
The Lions have managed to secure their first ever win at Newlands, a significant achievement for their franchise.
What’s more, all the above mentioned players managed to achieve their milestones with wins for their respective sides to boot, capping off what will be memorable moments in their careers.
Here are the High Five from Round 8 of Super Rugby.
And then there was one
The Crusaders have continued on their winning ways on Good Friday, comprehensively beating the Sunwolves in Christchurch by 50 points to 3 with Kieran Read returning to the fold and looking in good touch despite his lay off.
As results would have it over the balance of the weekend, the Crusaders are now the only unbeaten side left within Super Rugby and they look unlikely to relinquish this status, as the side continues to go from strength to strength.
They are welcoming back a few of their more experienced crew in Read and Richie Mo’ounga, it would not surprise to see their streak continue on for a wee bit longer yet.
Barrett magic gets the Canes home
While we all know it’s a team sport, there can be no question that Beauden Barrett’s influence was a key factor to the Hurricanes managing to squeak past the Blues in a thriller at Eden Park.
His moments of individual brilliance sparked several of the Hurricanes’ try-scoring efforts and ultimately dug his side out of a hole with what is becoming a bit of a signature ‘Barrett chip and chase’.
This lead to the Hurricanes gaining field position and the final try of the match, regaining and holding onto the lead after the Blues threatened to steal it from the windy franchise.
As for the Blues, chalking up their fifth loss of the season now means the Auckland based side are well and truly up against it in looking to qualify for the finals. Based on last season, all four of the Kiwi qualifiers only suffered four losses for the entire round robin in 2016 so unfortunately; the playoffs yet again seem a bridge too far for the Blues.
The Rebel Yell
While Billy Idol was not present at AAMI Park, at least to my knowledge, the Rebels yelled plenty as they caused one of the big upsets, tipping over the Brumbies to secure a gutsy victory.
Considering the well documented issues surrounding the club and the uncertainty of their future, along with their 2017 form to date, it seemed it would be a straight forward night for the Brumbies. However the Rebels had other ideas, showing tremendous character to not only win, but survive three yellow cards during the match as well. While it would not be unfair to suggest the Brumbies certainly did little to help themselves, one has to take their hats off to the Rebels for the fight they showed, and will hopefully continue to display in spite of the decisions that are yet to be made.
They certainly had their luck though as I am quite unsure how Lopeti Timani avoided a red card for his attempted knee to the head of Rory Arnold, that didn’t quite connect, well only softly, as the ref indicated. Has me stumped, such actions have no place on the rugby field and I am staggered only a yellow was issued.
The Lions flex their muscles in South Africa
The match promised plenty and it delivered on its promise as the Stormers hosted the Lions in a South African derby match featuring the two best form sides in the republic with the Lions eventually managing to get over the top of the rivals, and securing a bonus point to boot, by 29 points to 16.
It was fast, brutal and skilful as both sides went hammer and tong at each other and while we have come to expect plenty of attacking endeavour from the Lions, this win was based on their staunch defence, repelling wave after wave of Stormers attack, the first 20 minutes of the second half an astonishing display of defence and resilience and certainly earmarking the Lions as a strongest title contender from South Africa.
The Jaguares tank it
Many have asked where the Jaguares sit this season, wondering if there undoubted talent would finally manifest itself onto the field and with a reasonably strong start to the season, the Jaguares had the opportunity to show their mettle and win away from home, facing an out of sorts Bulls side in Pretoria and creating a few waves within their conference.
Unfortunately for the Jaguares, it was possibly their worst performance of the season, permeated with errors and struggled all match for cohesion, as the Bulls ran away with a reasonably comfortable and much needed victory by 26 to 13 at Loftus.
It would seem that learning to win away from home is still an issue for the Jaguares and an inaugural playoff appearance would seem a bridge too far this season.
So that wraps up some thoughts on this milestone Round of Super Rugby with my five major talking points this week and I would like to cap it off with a final thought, considering this is Easter and all, could the tournament schedule not have made a better effort on spreading a few more games across the weekend? Easter Sunday afternoon footy anyone? What about an Easter Monday game? I cannot help but feel Super Rugby is missing a trick here on this long weekend.
Until next week then, and Happy Easter!