25 Feb 2019

Super Rugby: week two breakdown

4:24 pm on 25 February 2019

This week's Super Rugby wrap starts with a welcome return.

The Brumbies celebrate their win over the Chiefs. 23.2.19

The Brumbies celebrate their win over the Chiefs Photo: Photosport

G'day there Australia

Just when you thought rugby across the Tasman was dead, up pop the Reds and Brumbies.

The Waratahs still don't look a great side and the Rebels started well last season too, only to fade, but the Reds were wonderful to watch against the Highlanders, before the Brumbies ran roughshod over the Chiefs. Let's hope there's more where that came rom.

How about those Chiefs?

Awful's about the kindest thing you can say about their 54-17 defeat in Canberra.

Making do with not much has been a Chiefs hallmark, but not on this occasion. As threadbare as the team are in places, it was the scrummaging performance of a couple of stars that suggested the Chiefs could struggle this season.

Tighthead prop Nepo Laulala tends to have one of the best-looking backs around, but even with Brodie Retallick shunting away behind him, Laulala buckled under the pressure of Brumbies loosehead James Slipper.

If the Chiefs can't get their set-piece right, then it could be a long season.

As the Hurricanes know full well

Since the dawn of Super Rugby in 1996, the Hurricanes' challenge has been to find a competitive tight five. Saturday's 38-22 loss to the Crusaders suggests they're still looking.

Unlike the victors

The Crusaders were magnificent. Sam Whitelock's been rested? No worries, up steps the superb Scott Barrett. Barrett's time to get subbed? Sweet as, on runs Luke Romano.

Year after year teams go to AMI Stadium certain they can compete up front and, almost without fail, fly home having been flogged. There's no mystery to how the Crusaders play their footy and yet the ferocity and accuracy of it surprises teams every time.

Same old

The Blues are just as predictable, in their own way. For how poorly they played against the Sharks in Durban, the 26-7 final score wasn't that bad. Particularly with an intercept try in there.

Nothing's changed at the Blues. Whether they can get better remains to be seen. For now, though, they're a team that still can't do the simple things well.

There is one surprise

And that comes from the Highlanders. Predicted to be wooden-spooners by some, they've been excellent two weeks in a row.

It's early doors, sure, but the Highlanders look well-coached and organised and committed to playing for each other. Not every team can say that.

Team of the week (other than the Crusaders)

If we assume the Crusaders are going to be good every week for variety, if nothing else, we should probably highlight someone else.

Not much was expected from the Reds this year. Young, and another team whose basics have had a history of letting them down, they actually looked quite polished in losing 36-31 to the Highlanders.

Scott Barrett scores the Crusaders first try

Crusaders lock Scott Barrett was a force to be reckoned with in his side's win over the Hurricanes on the weekend. Photo: Photosport

Izack Rodda, Lukhan Salakaia-Lotu, Angus Scott-Young and Caleb Timu were good up front, allowing the outstanding midfield combination of Samu Kerevi and Jordan Petaia to carry strongly. Simple stuff but, done well, very effective.

Player of the week (other than Scott Barrett)

Man, we're well-served for locks in this country. Scott Barrett would be a superstar elsewhere but, for the time being, has to settle for second-billing behind Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick.

If we assume that, like the Crusaders, Barrett will always be good, the New Zealand player who exceeded expectations this week was Hurricanes wing Ben Lam.

We all know he can carry and score tries, but less glamorous stuff such tackling and cleaning rucks haven't always been strengths.

Lam scored two good tries against the Crusaders, but it was his involvement off the ball that impressed most.


15 - Ben Smith (Highlanders)

14 - Manasa Mataele (Crusaders)

13 - Matt Proctor (Hurricanes)

12 - Ryan Crotty (Crusaders)

11 - Ben Lam (Hurricanes)

10 - Josh Ioane (Highlanders)

9 - Aaron Smith (Highlanders)

8 - Luke Whitelock (Highlanders)

7 - Matt Todd (Crusaders)

6 - Shannon Frizell (Highlanders)

5 - Josh Dickson (Highlanders)

4 - Scott Barrett (Crusaders)

3 - Owen Franks (Crusaders)

2 - Dane Coles (Hurricanes)

1 - Joe Moody (Crusaders)

* Hamish Bidwell is a contributor to Radio New Zealand. He has previously worked at The Northern Advocate, Gisborne Herald, Hawke's Bay Today, The Press, The Dominion Post and Stuff.