The Brumbies finally lose top spot after their first defeat of the season, and somehow get replaced by a team they beat 52-10. Scotty Stevenson power ranks round four of the Super Rugby season.
Rd 4: 41-6 v Force
Last week: 4 (up 3)
There is an irony here that the team to replace the Brumbies at the top of the KFC Power Rankings is the same team that got dusted up by the Brumbies 52-10 in round one. That said, this looked like a very different Hurricanes team, one that picked up on last weekend’s staunch defensive effort against the Blues and which this week backed its attack to break down the Force and eventually pile on the points. The Beauden Barrett-James Marshall double pivot game plan should not be messed with. It works for the Chiefs, and it works for the Canes, too.
Rd 4: 30-26 v Waratahs
Last week: 2 (N/C)
There were two Highlanders teams on show in Sydney on Friday night. There was the Highlanders team that you want to show off to your friends, and then there was the Highlanders team you don’t want to talk about. The former racked up 30 points on last year’s fellow semifinalists. The latter fell asleep after thirty beers on a couch in front of the television with bacon frying on the kitchen, only to be woken up by the smoke alarm as a fat fire threatened to engulf the entire house.
Rd 4: 11-31 v Stormers
Last week: 1 (down 2)
Let’s not panic here. One loss is not the end of the world for the Brumbies’ competition chances, though it would have hurt them greatly to be outplayed at their own game by the Stormers. What also hurt was the red card shown to Josh Mann-Rea after he threw a couple of awkward punches that, despite completely shite technique, somehow managed to connect. Given he subsequently received a one-week ban, the question is this: did the legal team use a mens rea defence for Mann Rea?
Rd 4: 30-26 v Jaguares
Last week: 6 (up 2)
The Chiefs roll deep. Real deep. They might be looking for a new co-captain this week, though, given Sam Cane tried to pull a guys head off.
Rd 4: 57-24 v Kings
Last week: 5 (N/C)
This was always going to be a win for the Crusaders, but how good did they look in attack? ‘Very good’ is the answer you’re looking for. The best thing about it was that they gave Johnny McNicoll all the ball while the Kings crapped their collective daks thinking about Nemani Nadolo. Like the Chiefs last week, the Crusaders get held back on their advance up the KFC Power Rankings by the same “you let the Kings score 24 points?” glass ceiling rule.
Rd 4: 31-11 v Brumbies
Last week: 12 (up 6)
After being on the receiving end of a perplexing TMO call last week, the Stormers could barely believe their luck when Dillyn Leyds dropped the ball over the Brumbies line and was awarded a try anyway. Here’s the question: at what point does a TMO ignore the fact that a) the player didn’t think he had scored and b) the player actually dropped the ball? Ah, never mind. The Stormers deserved their win on the back of Schalk Burger being measty.
Rd 4: 39-22 v Cheetahs
Last week: 8 (up 1)
The Lions are the only South African team to have racked up more than 100 points this season, which is why I love the Lions. They are one of just two teams in Super Rugby (the Chiefs being the other) to average more than 500 running metres this season, which is also why I love the Lions. They beat more defenders than any other team, make more passes then any team bar the Hurricanes, and kick less than any other team. To be honest, they could lose by 80 points and I would still love them.
RD 4: 35-9 v Sunwolves
Last week: 11 (up 3)
Is it time we took the Rebels seriously? Singling out Sean McMahon again this week may seem unfair on the rest of the team, but that’s life. McMahon made a team-high 14 carries and a team-high 13 tackles as the Rebels shut out the Sunwolves four tries to zip, and improved to 3-1 on the season. This was a big away win for the Rebels, who have never enjoyed a lot of success outside Australia. Actually, that’s an understatement. This was just their second win in 22 games offshore.
Rd 4: 16-16 v Bulls
Last week: 3 (down 6)
The Sharks are so hard to shake, their opposing sides might start applying for restraining orders. Put aside, for the moment, the comedic missed penalty at the end of the match, and give the Sharks some credit here: somehow they keep getting results even when, by almost every statistical measure, they shouldn’t. They probably don’t deserve to fall this far down the list, but alas, they have.
Rd 4: 16-16 v Sharks
Last week: 7 (down 3)
The Bulls have a major problem: they can’t understand how they have ended up with the equal leading ball runner in the competition, and now that they have Warrick Gelant, they don’t know what to do with him. Gelant ran for a game-high 125 metres against the Sharks which, for most teams, would have been a catalyst for action. Not the Bulls. In a move seemingly designed to counteract Gelant’s unwelcome brilliance with ball in hand, centres Jan Serfontein and Burger Odendaal combined for just 9 metres.
Rd 4: 26-30 v Highlanders
Last week: 9 (down 2)
Here is the infuriating thing about the Waratahs: on Friday night they doubled their season average in carries, in metres run in the game, in rucks won, and in clean breaks; they quadrupled their season average in offloads, and made a little over one third of their average season tackles. They did all of that. And still lost.
Rd 4: 25-25 Reds
Last week: 10 (down 2)
To quote Gus Gould, “No, no, no, no, no, no!” Okay, I get it. Two points are better than one. But four points are better than two, too. The big issue here is that the Blues are in desperate need of self-belief, and self-belief does not come from playing for a draw, especially against the Reds. Yes, had they gone for the line-out (as Ihaia West wanted to) and failed, they would have copped a bit from the public. Who cares? The Blues are always copping it from the public.
Rd 4: 26-30 v Chiefs
Last week: 13 (N/C)
The Jaguares had it all going for them here: a week off in round three, a first ever game in Argentina, a pitch that looked like it had hosted a 500-head herd of future steaks for a week before the game – but you cannot play the Chiefs for 76 minutes. You must play them for 80. Tough lesson for the Jaguares, but an important one.
Rd 4: 25-25 v Blues
Last week: 17 (up 3)
The Reds are like a UTI: Niggly, but easy enough to take care of. Unless you’re the Blues.
Rd 4: 22-39 v Lions
Last week: 14 (down 1)
The Cheetahs missed a full third of their tackles against the Lions. That is absolute bush league stuff. Then again, they managed to score three tries off a paltry 90 carries and less than 300 running metres, which is actually a pretty good return. I can’t figure out whether I love watching the Cheetahs clown it or whether I want to throw a pot plant at the television every time they play. They are torturing me, emotionally.
Rd 4: 6-41 v Hurricanes
Last week: 15 (down 1)
Tried hard. Got beat. The story of the Force since forever ago.
Rd 4: 9-35 v Rebels
Last week: 16 (down 1)
If last week was a crushing blow to sentamentalists everywhere, this loss to the Rebels was a resounding victory for rationalists. A two-week pre-season is never going to give a team enough of a base from which to be competitive.
Rd 4: 24-57 v Crusaders
Last week: 18 (N/C)
For the second time in as many weeks the Kings scored 24 points in a match and for the second time in as many weeks the Kings conceded 50 points in a match. There will never be a time this year when the two numbers in the above sentence will be in a different order.