Round 2: Five talking points

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Sunday, February 24, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Lineouts, lineouts, lineouts
If you can't win 'em, you're in trouble. That was the most obvious feature of week two of Super Rugby and that was no more apparent than in the Hurricanes' loss to the Crusaders. Forget about the fighting finish the Hurricanes showed, this was about not mastering one of the basics of the game. If you are playing with the wind in the first half you have to make the most of your chances and lineout throwing is crucial. In a wind the ball will always veer across the line towards your opponent so it has to be perfect, and the best chance of achieving that is throwing the shortest possible difference. The Hurricanes didn't do that and provided a hungry team with a good deal more ball than they might otherwise have received. The Hurricanes didn't have it alone over the weekend but theirs was the most graphic example.


Roaring Jaguares
The Jaguares answered their critics with a resounding result in the wet in Buenos Aires. After their first round win over the Stormers, the Bulls had every reason to believe they would handle the South Americans. But what could be more positive than a three-try bonus point win in the conditions. Handre Pollard kept the Bulls in the hunt with his goal-kicking boot but it needed something extra and the Bulls, who face time in New Zealand in late-May and early-June, will need to get their wet-weather game sorted out.

Sensational Sunwolves

The Waratahs escaped an embarrassing loss when getting home by a point to the Sunwolves. It's one of the great clichés of Super Rugby - it usually gets an airing at least once a week - that any team can beat any other on their day and that was so very nearly the case in Tokyo. The closeness of the game will have been another fillip for Japanese rugby although they would be happier with more points on the ladder. However, the Sunwolves' spirit looked impressive and the quality of their tries were a reminder that they are as capable as anyone else of mounting opportunities from within their own half.

Absorbing lessons
Speaking of the Australian conference, how long before the Reds start doing some serious damage in the competition? Guilty of falling prey to their inexperience in the final throes of Friday's game with the Highlanders, it will have been a big boost to coach Brad Thorn to have some practical evidence to demonstrate to his players that they can't gift ball to the opposition. There was plenty of the Thorn trademark over the physicality of his side, and some sting in the backline where teenaged centre Jordan Petaia looks a real comer with speed to burn on the break and the ability to get his outsides into space.

Barrett stands tall

It's all very well being tagged a player of potential but it is absorbing the lessons, putting in the hard work and understanding why patience regarding exposure and being an understudy, is important if you are to take the next step. That's been the case for Crusaders and All Blacks lock Scott Barrett. His has been one of the most significant movements among the emerging All Blacks to date this season. Commanding performances in the Crusaders' two competition games have demonstrated that once the Whitelock-Retallick stranglehold on the All Blacks starting berths are broken, probably after the Rugby World Cup, then one half of the equation has been settled and is in good hands.