Super Rugby threw up four trans-Tasman clashes in Round 6. As expected, they were all won comfortably by their New Zealand combatants.
There were also wins for the Lions, Chiefs and Stormers.
HAPPY HURRICANES HAVE IT DOWN TO A TEE
They’ve got two Barretts, two Saveas and a Perenara. What could possibly go wrong?
For the Hurricanes, not too much at the moment.
While the defending champions didn’t have it all their own way against the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday night, the gulf in class between the two teams was evident for much of the second half, albeit with a few false starts as the Television Match Official overturned several tries.
While the Reds trailed by just two at the break, the Hurricanes quickly reasserted themselves upon the resumption with Vince Aso crossing seven minutes into the second stanza. Two further tries to the Barrett boys, Jordie and Beauden, put the result beyond doubt; the star duo joining Perenara and Julian Savea on the scoresheet.
But it was the younger of the Savea boys who really stole the show; Ardie turning in one of the most dominant back-row displays of the season as he repeatedly ripped the Reds apart in attack and got through plenty of work in defence.
Ardie Savea finished the match with an astonishing 10 runs for a match-high 104 metres, and added four clean breaks, four beaten defenders and a try assist for good measure.
The All Blacks No.7 hopeful did however leave the field with injury towards fulltime, assistant coach John Plumtree later revealing Savea had suffered a suspected calf strain but that it wasn’t “anything major”.
While Ardie Savea provided plenty of moments for the highlights reel, it was Perenara who achieved the almost-unthinkable: getting a referee to change a call.
Having been denied a try for failing to the touch the ball with his foot when attempting a quick tap midway through the second half, Perenara rightly convinced referee Angus Gardner to restore the original penalty, rather than the scrum to the Reds he’d previously ruled.
MISSED TACKLES? CANES DON’T CARE
While the Hurricanes were brilliant with their execution and speed of transition in attack, they did give up 19 clean breaks and miss 37 tackles in the 19-point win.
But speaking to Fox Sports after the game, reigning World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden Barrett said the Hurricanes weren’t “too worried about that”. Barrett instead cited the importance of “defensive pressure”.
Barrett’s comments suggest the Hurricanes are clearly more focused on the errors they can force by implementing a rush defence when relevant, and the attacking opportunities they can generate from turnover ball.
They must also have great confidence in their scrambling defence; after holding the Reds to just two tries despite some strong attacking statistics it would appear the New Zealanders are perfectly right to do so.
Whatever the case, it was a fascinating insight into how the Hurricanes go about their business.
FORCE PUT UP REAL FIGHT AT END OF TOUGH WEEK
You could have forgiven Western Force for rolling over amid constant speculation they will be the unlucky Australian team cut from Super Rugby under the rumoured changes, although who knows what will happen given South Africa seemingly hold the cards that control Super Rugby’s destiny.
But to the Force’s credit, and their rookie coach Dave Wessels, the west Australian outfit did themselves proud at Auckland’s Eden Park.
While the visitors led for much of the first half, the Blues wrestled control of match with a second try on the stroke of halftime. They added two more five-pointers after the break but never looked like pulling away from the Force who grabbed a late consolation try to deny the Blues a vital bonus point.
Disappointingly, the Force will return to Perth without a point to show from their two-week tour of New Zealand. But there is no denying their spirit and determination as the threat of Super Rugby extinction hangs over their heads.
The Blues, meanwhile, have done little to suggest they are capable of matching it with their New Zealand rivals. Their execution since an impressive opening round win over the Rebels has been indifferent, and perhaps too much was originally read into that result given the Melbourne side’s struggles since that defeat.
CRUSADERS PUNISH INACCURATE WARATAHS
The Crusaders remain unbeaten, alongside the Stormers and Chiefs, following an entertaining 41-22 victory over the Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday afternoon.
The hosts were their own worst enemy however with poor kicking and an astonishing 47 missed tackles gifting the Crusaders several long-range tries. The visitors also drew dividends from their offloading game, but repeatedly punished NSW for a missed first-up tackle attempt.
Daryl Gibson’s side did produce some sparkling attacking rugby of their own, highlighted by tries to Jake Gordon and Taqele Naiyaravoro, but it was far too patchy and their inaccuracy both in defence and when trying to play territory was easily exploited by the in-form Crusaders.
That result put to rest yet another horror weekend for the Australian franchises as they went 0-4 against trans-Tasman opposition. The only thing sparing them complete embarrassment is the warped Super Rugby ladder, which has the Brumbies in fourth spot despite having less points than teams five through nine.
Troubling times indeed.
WHAT THEY SAID
“Last year we probably lose by 70 points, I reckon easily. But I want to be really clear – I’m not into courageous losses. The team we’re trying to build here and the culture we’re building is definitely not happy with a courageous loss. We’re here to win football games.” – Reds coach Nick Stiles.
“You can’t win football if you’re going to miss that many tackles… At times we gave the Crusaders a lot of free ball from kicks and that certainly wasn’t part of our plan.” – Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson.
“We wanted to run them around, we thought they were big, heavy men,” Robertson said. “We knew fitness-wise we could play over the top of them, and we did it.” – Crusaders coach Scott Robertson.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
The Crusaders’ David Havili enjoyed a day out on Sunday afternoon but given that was against a Waratahs side who almost missed as many tackles as they made, our nomination goes to Ardie Savea.
Locked in a battle with Sam Cane and Matt Todd for the All Blacks’ No.7, Savea’s calf strain will hopefully be at the minor end of the scale.