With a full house of seven matches, and with only the Lions having a bye in this weekend’s Super Rugby matches, the close scores in the all six matches showed up one of the forgotten characteristics of the competition: close results.
Two of the first four matches were drawn, and by the time the Jaguares and Stormers came off the field in Buenos Aires in the weekend’s seventh match there had been a winning margin of ten points, one of seven points, one of six points and the other two of five points each in addition to the two draws.
The above scores indicate that it was good rugby all round, but that was hardly the case. In between some scintillating play, there were some very dour periods and also poor matches.
♦ The weekend started off with a gutsy 21-all draw by the Sharks against the defending champions and runaway log leaders Crusaders on Friday; then the Reds were stretched by the undisciplined visiting Sunwolves who probably blew a victory with four yellow cards, one of which became a red for the second yellow to Semisi Maisrewa who was sent off after 50 minutes.
In all, the Sunwolves played with 14 men for 60 minutes of the match during which time the Reds scored three of their four tries. The Sunwolves scored only two tries and, as always, performed well in the first half and led 13-8 at halftime before the two yellow cards became three and a red with a fourth yellow card also coming ten minutes before time.
♦ In the biggest win of Saturday’s first five matches, the Hurricanes swept Melbourne Rebels away and led 26-0 by halftime. But the Rebels fought back brilliantly and scored three tries in 17 minutes between the 53rd and 70th minutes and converted two – their only scores in the match.
On that evidence they didn’t deserve the win, but it took a penalty in the 74th minute by Jordie Barrett to take the points difference beyond a single score and ensure victory.
It was close on the scoreboard, but the Hurricanes were the undoubted better team and deserving of the win and (still) the second place on the New Zealand and also the overall standings.
♦ Then came the second draw of the weekend after a try by the Chiefs’ Angus Taavao-Matau which was converted by Marty McKenzie
It was a pleasant, free-running match but with a few poor options and more than 50 missed tackles by the two sides taking some of the gloss off the nine good tries – four by home side Highlanders and five by the Chiefs.
♦ Another close result followed when the home side Brumbies were made to work hard by the Blues. who were still ahead after two penalties within four minutes by Harry Plummer giving his side the lead at 21-19.
The third try of hooker Folau Fainga’a followed continued pressure by the home side who looked the more polished of the two teams. The win moved them to co-leaders in the Australian Conference, albeit with a match more played and a negative points differential to the Rebels, who are therefore statistically the Aussies’ No 1.
♦ In the penultimate match of the weekend, the Bulls contrived to throw away not only control against the Waratahs but very nearly also the result with an inept second half display.