4 Mar 2024

Credit where credit’s due: Super Round really was super

4:48 pm on 4 March 2024

Analysis: There's been a ton of talk about Super Rugby Pacific's value in the grand scheme of things, much of it valid. But you have to hand it to the players, coaches and officials over the weekend at AAMI Park in Melbourne, because they couldn't have delivered a better advertisement for the competition then what we got.

Yes, crowds were small. Questions will be asked all season about All Blacks being plucked out of teams seemingly at random, or how coaches are incentivised to play nice about that situation if they're ever going to get a promotion to the All Black staff.

However, here's some facts: five out of the six Super Round games were highly competitive, with one going to extra time. The one that wasn't still provided an excellent display from the competition favourite Chiefs anyway. Fifty-six tries were scored and there was an average aggregate of 69 points per game.

Etene Nanai-Seturo scores while being tackled by Corey Toole  during the Super Rugby Pacific Round two match between the Chiefs and the Brumbies at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

Etene Nanai-Seturo scores while being tackled by Corey Toole during the Super Rugby Pacific Round two match between the Chiefs and the Brumbies at AAMI Park in Melbourne. Photo: Photosport

It's a shame that administrative dramas often obscure just how good Super Rugby is capable of being. The Super Round concept was on thin ice before the weekend, given the poor attendance in Melbourne, but the action on the field showed that its future could be more successful in another venue.

Dunedin during O-week? Hamilton to replace the Sevens? Sydney at the new Football Stadium? There's a few options there, let's hope they can figure out something that works off the field as well as what's happening on it.

Chiefs looking ominous, Moana looking promising and red cards looking familiar

The Chiefs blew away the Brumbies in a performance that put them at the top of the table, with the most notable performances coming from their second rowers. Tupou Vaa'i, Manaaki Selby-Ricket and Naitoa Ah-Koui were outstanding, with Cortez Ratima the main beneficiary of the latter two's offloading ability with two tries.

Moana Pasifika's win over the Drua was a fantastic result for them given how disrupted things have been behind the scenes. Two solid performances in a row is the start of something that's eluded them so far in their short existence, which is consistency, and they have a great chance to keep it going with a game against the Rebels on Friday night. It's just a shame it's on at the same time as the Warriors' opening NRL match.

Jordie Barrett's tackle on Jordan Petaia was called a 'shirtfront' on commentary, very apt given the Australian Rules heartland setting, with the All Black midfielder being shown a yellow card that was rightfully upgraded to a red. Chiefs replacement Jared Proffit's hit on Caderyn Neville shouldn't have even needed the same process as it was so obvious, both men are looking at a couple of weeks' suspension. Probably fair to say the Canes are going to feel that one a bit more than the Chiefs.

Perhaps they could have a look at the efforts of Zarn Sullivan and Ofa Tu'ungafai from the Blues' win over the Highlanders if they need something to do on their time off. The hits laid on by the in-form fullback and veteran prop cannot be understated in the context of the game: first Sullivan stopped a flying Timoci Tavatavanawai in his tracks as the Highlanders were hard on attack, then Tu'ungafasi's jolted the ball from from Ethan de Groot's grasp. The turnover led to a Stephen Perofeta break and eventual try down the other end, a crucial score built on two brutal but completely legal tackles.

After only two games, it's too early to start asking what's going on at the Crusaders. But that will be of little comfort to Rob Penney, who would have been looking forward to the fixture against the Waratahs, given how acrimonious his departure from Sydney was.

It turned into a nightmare against Jake Gordon's Tahs, with the Wallaby halfback putting in an inspired performance to upset the defending champs, a result that was the equivalent of a high voltage defibrillator shock to Australian rugby's hopes and dreams. If you want to see just how much it meant to some of their pundits and fans go have a look on social media, some of it was a bit far fetched but you certainly can't fault their passion.