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The Super season is well in the swing of things, and with the conclusion of Round 4, there’s plenty to talk about.
Here’s five things we learned from Round 4.
1 – The Waratahs returned to their old ways
Tahs supporters would’ve had their nightmares re-surface this morning. A late 2017-season esque performance against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires would’ve had many of the NSW Waratahs faithful shaking their heads in dismay.
The turnovers, handling errors and lack of defensive intensity in the first 20 minutes had the Tahs behind by four tries. While the second half was slightly more fluent, they have plenty to answer for before their next game.
Most alarming, perhaps, was their efforts at set piece. At scrum time, they were absolutely demolished by a rampant Jags pack. At the lineout, their efforts weren’t much better. With their next opponents, the Rebels, in serious nick, a much-improved performance is needed if they’re to reverse their fortunes.
2 – Everything is not as it seems
Yes, it’s early days – but this Super season seems vastly less predictable than last. The Blues, considered probably the worst team in the New Zealand conference, pulled a swift one on the red-hot Lions – running over the top of last year’s finalists at the death thanks to Akira and Rieko Ioane.
The Bulls, who are one of the weaker sides in the SA conference, and who toppled the Hurricanes in week 2 – went down to the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.
Brad Thorn’s men were clinical in the second half. Their scrum was immense, and they’ve found some fluency in attack with Jono Lance and Samu Kerevi steering things around.
Look for value in the markets in the coming weeks as bookies try to come to terms with early season inconsistencies in results.
3 – The Hurricanes can attack, and attack from anywhere
The Hurricanes vs Crusaders fixture was billed pre-round as the game of the week, and it didn’t disappoint.
Early doors, the Hurricanes looked like they may run away with the game. Attacking even from deep in their own 22, they looked like a threat almost every time they touched the ball.
Ben Lam went 80m to score, while TJ Perenara and Chris Eves added two more as the Canes ran out to a 21-0 lead in the first half. The Crusaders were stoic in the second half, but couldn’t overcome their slow start.
The lesson for the defence coaches of the teams that play the Hurricanes each week, is that they can, and will, attack from anywhere, as they look to cement their status as the best team in Super Rugby.
4 – The Brumbies sink further
Last week, I spoke about the Brumbies not being serious contenders in the Australian conference. My prediction sounds correct in the context of their performance against the Rebels.
They had numerous handling errors, and after the first ten minutes, were comfortably the wrong side of the penalty count.
The attacking woes discussed last week were again evident, and they have gone missing in crucial minutes this season.
Worse still, Sam Carter and Josh Mann-Rea both left the field under injury clouds.
On the flip side, the Rebels grew in stature, and won their third straight game. Amanaki Mafi, Jack Maddocks and Michael Ruru all crossed once for the Rebels, while Wallabies utility Reece Hodge crossed twice, and kicked four conversions in a 33-10 drubbing of their Canberran counterparts.
5 – Will Genia is very, very good
It’s amazing what an impact a good halfback can have on the attacking fluency of a side. The All Blacks have been privileged to have Aaron Smith steering his side around for years, and the Wallabies have their own gem in Will Genia.
His influence on the Rebels has been lauded in the first month of the competition by many rugby commentators, and he was instrumental again against the Brumbies.
His flat pass to Reece Hodge in the face of two defenders was a touch of class. His service was inch-perfect, and he put his side over the gain line time and time again as they stormed to their third win on the trot.