Super Rugby Round 14 – by Jake Laux

Kiwis should never go to McDonald’s edition.

Ratings for the games:
Hurricanes Jaguares: 7/10
Rebels Bulls: 5/10
Blues Chiefs: 4/10
Reds Waratahs: 7/10
Lions Highlanders: 3/10
Stormers Crusaders: 7/10

Talking points:
Hurricanes 20 – Jaguares 28: Remember the last Lions tour?  A certain Blues midfielder had the bright idea, when confronting a loose ball in his own try zone, to knock it out the back.  Relieves pressure, reset for a scrum, try again.  Brilliant!  Except it is a penalty and a penalty try.  Jordie Barrett did not learn from SBW’s brain fade and ran it back this week against the Jaguares.  To his credit, I suppose, he instantly and obviously knew what he had done.  Sonny Bill, for his part, looked around sort of confused and the theme from Curb Your Enthusiasm would not have been out of place.  In any case, with Jordie’s penalty try and subsequent binning, the Jaguares were able to get it done in Wellington.  They stay alive and in contention for the SA conference title and really have established themselves as a danger team.  Consistency has not been there, but ability to win any game most certainly is.  Canes looked uninspiring, though the pack turned out nicely.

Rebels 17 – Bulls 32: A week out from being run off the park by the Crusaders, the Bulls were imperious in beating the Rebels.  Rebels win at home and lose away; if they get home playoffs they could go for a run.  Rosko Specman had a great showing.  Both he and Nanai-Seturo of the Chiefs look to be nice pickups from the sevens circuit for their clubs.  Not much else to say here; both teams have looked indomitable and horrible at various points.  This time, the Bulls hit and Rebels missed.  Score could flip if they played again next week.  More Bulls committed to moving to Europe post RWC, to nobody’s surprise.

Blues 23 – Chiefs 8: The Blues break their hoodoo with a win at home and though they will most certainly celebrate, it was not a particularly enthralling affair.  Chiefs will feel hard done by, with a debatable try called for Ofa Tu’ungafasi while Pita Gus Sowakula’s was called back.  Would not have been enough to turn the game and honestly the Chiefs did not do enough to win this one.  As mentioned before, Nanai-Seturo looked pretty nice for the Chiefs.  Sam Cane played 41 minutes in his return from a broken neck and looked good on the pitch.  Dalton Papali’i stood out for the Blues making plenty of tackles and carrying well around the park.  Overall, though, forgettable and nothing on the cracker that was the first match between these two teams this year.

Reds 32 – Waratahs 40: The Reds score 6 tries to the Tah’s 4 and lose by more than a converted try.  Noted Bernard Foley hater though I am, he won this one for NSW (or is it more that Bryce Hegarty lost it for the Reds?).  Hegarty did score two of those six tries.  An unexpected turn on this one was scrum time, where vaunted tighthead Taniela Tupou was put under the pump by a maligned Waratah’s pack.  Despite seeming a more energetic team, the Reds hurt themselves with mistakes to allow the Tahs into the game.  Certainly one that got away from the Queenslanders.  

Lions 38 – Highlanders 29: In three home games against the Highlanders, Rebels, and Waratahs the Lions’ penalty count has been 43-6 in favor of the Lions.  Lest you imagine they are some incredibly well drilled and disciplined team, they average more than three times that many penalties against when they play away from home.  How does that make you feel?  Given that, 3/10 might even be too generous for this game.

Stormers 19 – Crusaders 19: The ‘Saders don’t lose much, but they have been matchable several times this year and their grip on the throne looks more tenuous than ever.  Returning to the earlier point on not learning lessons, the Crusaders could have learned one from Jordie Barrett himself: don’t go to McDonald’s late after a night on the piss.  No matter if you did anything untoward or not, bad press comes of it.  Stormers played a great game, with Springbok captain Siya Kolisi putting down a nice try for the home side.  Crusaders were a bit unlucky to have the TMO call back a flat pass that led to a try, but if they are going to complete their three-peat, the margins cannot be that close against a team like the Stormers.  

The Final Whistle: With the Sunwolves the only team entirely eliminated from finals contention (though the Blues and Chiefs are most certainly on the outside looking in), next week has plenty of matches between real contenders.  Sharks Lions looks particularly tasty in the tightly contested SA conference.  Pointy end of the season folks, who can close it out?

Bonus Sumo Coverage: The Natsu basho is here and it has been a good one so far.  Hakuho is out with a bicep injury he sustained winning the title in March against Kakuryu, who assumes the title of favorite to take the emperor’s cup.  Just off demotion from ozeki is Tochinoshin, who at 9-1 is tied for the lead with Kakuryu and Asanoyama.  He seems a lock to regain his title of ozeki.  The other ozeki are looking mostly good, with Goeido and Takayasu both one with away from kachi-koshi.  Takakeisho withdrew due to injury after several losses, and after a fantastic performance in March the giant Mongolian Ichinojo has returned to earth, ranking firmly in the middle of the pack.  Look for President Trump to award the emperor’s cup on the final day of the tournament.