Super Rugby Review: Week Three
Sunday, March 4, 2018 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
New Zealand Conference
Crusaders power shows no sign of abating as they applied relentless pressure on the Stormers during the first quarter at AMI Stadium and that proved important as the South Africans regained their composure to make it a much more competitive game in the second half. However, the damage had been done and the Crusaders finished with a flourish although it may be at the cost of a broken jaw for first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga.
There was no end of misery for the Blues in their neighbourly rivalry with the Chiefs, who were abysmally depleted due to injury – and still the Blues couldn't find a way to win. It was an outstanding performance of determination by the less experienced Chiefs side to claim a 27-21 win which will have given them a boost after the disappointment of their opening round loss to the Crusaders.
Looking more like themselves, although still without the clarity and precision that marks them at their best, the Hurricanes were too good for a tryless Jaguares team winning 34-9 in Buenos Aires. There was no doubting the control exhibited by the world's best first five-eighths Beauden Barrett who hardly looked to be making his first start of the year.
The Rebels at the top of the Australian Conference? That's not a misprint. Travelling to Tokyo, the Melbourne-based side managed a 37-17 win over the locals. It was a big win for the Rebels, the first time they have achieved consecutive wins at the start of a campaign. It was also the first time a player, Jack Maddocks, had scored a hat-trick of tries while skipper Adam Coleman posted his 50th appearance for the side.
Brad Thorn's Reds scored a key win over the Brumbies 18-10 and while they didn't score any tries it was the efforts at the set-piece and defence that most pleased the old All Black. They weren't headed throughout the game and they denied the Brumbies a losers' bonus point with their 79th minute penalty goal.
In Durban, the Waratahs weren't able to get away with another injury-time try to claim a win and had to make do with a draw with the home side. Debut player Mitch Short ensured a memorable finish when scoring in the 76th minute for Bernard Foley to land the sideline conversion to level the scores and it took dogged Waratahs application to deny the Sharks the dropped goal set up chance in the final moments.
The Lions went to Pretoria determined to show the Bulls who was boss and so it proved with a 49-35 win. The Bulls finished with a wet sail but it was only consolation stuff. With eight minutes to go the Lions led 49-21 so no surprise that they eased up on the accelerator to claim an impressive win, while the Bulls were given a reminder that turnarounds in style don't happen overnight. What the Lions showed was that having made their turnaround three years back they are looking a lot more comfortable.
Life wasn't so easy for the Stormers who learnt about having to be on their game from the outset against a Crusaders side who hit them hard for their first quarter mistakes. A much better demonstration of steel in the second half suggested things should be turned around and the Highlanders can expect to have their hands full at the weekend.
Impressive first five-eighths Robert du Preez has reportedly made a big impression on new Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus and the Waratahs found out why. He scored a try, to go alongside another rising back centre Lykhanyo Am, and added three conversions and a penalty goal.
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