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SportsMay 23, 2016

Super Rugby Power Rankings: We’re Sorry, Andy Ellis


The Crusaders legend’s 150th game celebrations have been cut short by a controversial power ranking decision by Scotty Stevenson.

1. Highlanders
Rd 13: BYE
Last week: 1 (N/C)
I thought long and hard about this ranking for the Highlanders and then came to this conclusion: they spent their fortnight before the bye beating up on the Chiefs and the Crusaders and, while both of those teams enjoyed adequate victories in the rain over the weekend, neither win was nearly as convincing as the Highlanders’ last two. Also, Highlanders fans have become very touchy. I do not want to poke the bear.

2. Crusaders
Rd 13: 29-10 v Waratahs
Last week: 2 (N/C)
The Crusaders just love handing it to the Waratahs in Christchurch and it was another serving of see you later on Friday night, in conditions that genuinely sucked. The Crusaders brought a whole lot of anger to this match courtesy of their loss to the Landers, and a bit of extra motivation, too, courtesy of Andy Ellis reaching 150 games for the franchise. The Crusaders’ set piece was an absolute weapon in the wet – they stole six lineouts off the Waratahs and won every scrum they fed. They were also quite happy to dish possession up for the visitors, kicking a season-high 48 times and forcing the opposition to run it back at them. The Crusaders still seem to me to be a team that is quite happy to hold a gun to the head of the opposition, but refuses pull the trigger.

3. Chiefs
Rd 13: 36-15 v Rebels
Last week: 3 (N/C)
The Chiefs came out of the blocks like a boy racer on Te Rapa Straight, and scored three excellent first half tries on a slick and greasy Waikato Stadium field, effectively ending the contest before the break. There were moments of sensational Chiefs creativity in this match, Aaron Cruden reviving his role as master puppeteer, Damian McKenzie doing outrageous shit, and the two big men of the team, Brodie Retallick and Dominic Bird, directing the attack in midfield. There was some sloppiness, but you could forgive them that considering the conditions. Crucially, this was one of the Chiefs’ best defensive efforts of the season, missing just 11 tackles. Losing Michael Leitch for two months is the worst news for Hamilton since the Hillcrest Tavern was demolished.

Seta Tamanivalu successfully levitates 30cm above the Waikato Stadium turf.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Seta Tamanivalu successfully levitates 30cm above the Waikato Stadium turf. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

4. Lions
Rd 13: 52-24 v Jaguares
Last week: 4 (N/C)
Are you not entertained? The Lions have now beaten more defenders than any other team, made the third most metres with ball in hand, scored the second most tries (and Lionel Mapoe leads the individual try scorer table) and are second on the overall table behind the Chiefs. I’ll give you a chance to re-read that last sentence, before digesting this one: if they beat the Bulls this week, they will almost guarantee themselves a home quarterfinal.

5. Sharks
Rd 13: 53-0 v Kings
Last week: 5 (N/C)
Okay, they were playing the Kings, but… actually, no, that’s about it really. The Sharks don’t play again until July 3, which is ludicrous. They are hoping the Lions lose to the Bulls this weekend.

6. Hurricanes
Rd 13: BYE
Last week: 6 (N/C)
I know what you are thinking: who would schedule byes for both the Hurricanes and the Highlanders the week before they were due to play each other in a repeat of the 2015 Grand Final at Westpac Stadium? A God Damn Genius, that’s who. The Hurricanes won’t be favourites, but my goodness they’ll be coming in hot.

7. Brumbies
Rd 13: BYE
Last week: 7 (N/C)
The Brumbies sat back, turned on the television, cracked a beer and watched the Waratahs hand them a key to the conference. Not a bad week, all things considered.

8. Bulls
Rd 13: 17-13 v Stormers
Last week: 12 (up 4)
What a difference a week makes for the Bulls. Last week they were getting their ass handed to them for the second straight week in Australia, and this week they are grinding out a four-point win in Pretoria to go top of the conference. Say what you will about the Bulls attack, as long as it includes the phrase, “The Crusaders run more metres between their changing room and the field than the Bulls ran in this match.” You have to love a team whose 10, 12 and 13 combine for three (3) running metres.

9. Waratahs
Rd 13: 10-29 v Crusaders
Last week: 8 (down 1)
The Waratahs played like the Sydney Council had introduced lock-in laws on their attack. There was no lack of effort but you can’t have Bernard Foley top running for your team and expect to beat the Crusaders. So limited were the Tahs that Reece Robinson, the right wing, carried for exactly zero metres. The Crusaders out-thought them, out-jumped them, and out-kicked them. And now they have the Chiefs this Friday to look forward to. Oh no.

10. Blues
Rd 13: 17-13 v Force
Last week: 13 (up 3)
You know when you watch certain games and you look at the two fly halves and you think to yourself, well, this will be interesting, but then you get to the end of the game and you realise they never ran. Not once. Not one single time. Why? What the hell is going on? Also, the Blues just went to South Africa and Perth, won two games out of three, and everyone hates them. The Blues are the most picked on team in the history of Super Rugby. Stop the bullying.

11. Stormers
Rd 13: 13-17 v Bulls
Last week: 9 (down 2)
The Stormers are the yo-yo team of this year’s power rankings. I don’t know what to do with the Stormers. The June break can’t come fast enough for them. Only problem is, their best players will be slugging it out all month with the Springboks. So much quality in this team. So little intent.

12. Rebels
Rd 13: 15-36 v Chiefs
Last week: 10 (down 2)
The Rebels looked a little deflated on Saturday night, either because they were in Hamilton, or because they knew they had probably blown it the week before against the Brumbies. Whatever the reason, they showed glimpses of the kind of form that has seen them in the hunt for the conference this season, but only glimpses. Why Jack Debrezceni didn’t take on the line more is beyond me. That man is about 8 foot tall. He literally could have stepped over Brad Weber. Colby Fainga’a made a game high 16 tackles, but gets points deducted for chanelling early season Liam Gill and twice putting in shite grubber kicks.

13. Reds
Rd 13: 35-25 v Sunwolves
Last week: 17 (up 4)
19,000 people turned up at Suncorp Stadium to watch the Reds v Sunwolves, and there is still an argument against expansion into Japan? Please. Also, the Reds won the game, which just goes to reinforce the Power Rankings theory that they only win in Brisbane humidity. In fairness, this was an entertaining game. There, I said it.

Ayumu Goromaru is reunited with his son Akihito Yamada. (Photo by Jason O'Brien/Getty Images for Japan Sunwolves)
Ayumu Goromaru struggles to recognise 2015 Rugby World Cup teammate Akihito Yamada. (Photo by Jason O’Brien/Getty Images for Japan Sunwolves)

14. Sunwolves
Rd 13: 25-35 v Reds
Last week: 11 (down 3)
You have to hand it to the Moondogs, they really are the plucky little scrappers of this competition, and with a little more composure they could well have been celebrating their second win of the season against the Reds. I’m so on the Sunwolves bandwagon that I feel I am actually driving the thing. Imagine what this team could do with more than a week’s notice that they’re about to play Super Rugby.

15. Cheetahs
Rd 13: BYE
Last week: 14 (down 1)
If I were the Cheetahs I would be thinking the Stormers are absolutely fair game this coming week. But I am not the Cheetahs, so I have no idea what they are thinking. No one knows what they are thinking. Not even they know what they are thinking.

16. Force
Rd 13: 14-17 v Blues
Last week: 16 (N/C)
The Blues had to make 170 tackles against the Force. If you force 170 tackles on a team, and you are any other team but the Force, you probably win the game.

17. Jaguares
Rd 13: 24-52 v Lions
Last week: 15 (down 2)
Seriously, do these guys actually care anymore?

18. Kings
Rd 13: 0-53 v Sharks
Last week: 18 (N/C)
Seriously, does anyone actually care anymore?

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