Fans look forward to some weekends. There are the local derby games, the inter-conference battles, and this week they enjoyed an ‘Super Saturday’. With six (near) unbroken matches, it made for a full schedule. Plenty of action to keep three continents entertained.
But would the results follow suit? Hard to plan for, as the bounce of the ball and form aside, you can never tell. But the enjoyment levels would be proven true when the outrageous was followed by the sensational. By the thrilling, by the exhilarating and by the best possible outcomes for most – all results that added to the feel of a Super Saturday, in Week 13 of Super Rugby 2018.
Super Saturday – Who impressed most?
The pundits are not always right. They look at home advantage, away form, recent games and previous fixtures. In fact, some use algorithms that would make Facebook proud. But in the end, it is the fans who the game is played for, and for pride, passion, and glory.
A busy ‘Super Saturday’ in week 13, as the Chiefs escaped from a Stormers battle, the Highlanders snare the Lions and continued their unbeaten run at home. In a topsy-turvy fixture, the Crusaders just about blew the New Zealand conference winning streak -allowing the Waratahs to almost keep them scoreless in a half of rugby [that never happens].
And….wait for it. The Sunwolves WIN!!! Yes, the team from Japan who everyone picks as the wooden spooners will not have to do the ‘undie run’ post-Super rugby season (gladly). They scored over 60 points, to hold off the imperfect Queensland Reds.
Top 8 = 4 NZL, 2 AUS, 1 RSA, 1 ARG pic.twitter.com/21oTllgus7
— Fox Sports Lab (@FoxSportsLab) May 12, 2018
All the results, plus action from South Africa will be covered by Last Word on Rugby. So here is a brief on the results. Look for closer Super Rugby analysis from Ryan Jordan and myself to follow.
Super Rugby video highlights – Sunwolves WIN!!
Former Highlanders first-five Hayden Parker was on-target, as his team used the crowds emotion to hold firm over the visiting Reds. Winger Hosea Saumaki collected a hatrick (see main picture), the final try one to put up for ‘power try of the Year’.
Congratulations all around. The coaching staff know they have the quality, it is just how they transfer that onto the field. Often, only losing by less than seven points. Gladly, they will not have to perform the club rugby tradition, of the ‘undies run’ if you don’t score a try all season. The Sunwolves; not as much as the Jaguares mind you, can justify their retention in Super Rugby 2018.
Crusaders avoid loss to Waratahs, in amazing circumstances
The video highlights are in two stages. Between minute one and minute 34, it was one-way traffic. Then…….well, the video does the comeback full justice.
0-29 is about as bad as any coach might find himself, the home side seemed to be kicking all the possession away. But in true resilient Crusaders fashion, with fine leadership of Sam Whitelock and the enterprise of George Bridge, they forged on with a comeback that will further blight the ‘streak’ of losses by Australian Super Rugby conference teams to NZ sides.
No Super Saturday after all, back in Sydney.
Highlanders make it 11 straight wins at home
‘Benders Shout’ meant kids got in for free to Forsyth-Barr Stadium. That choice was rewarded by an 80 minute game that had plenty to entertain. Mostly from a well drilled home side, but the Lions brought plenty to the match.
Kwagger Smith again proved that size does not count. He is a pocket rocket. In comparison, Elliot Dixon can range further, tackle harder and showed why the All Blacks exposure has improved his game. The pack worked hard, while the back did their very best to finish off scoring movements – especially ‘Man of the Match’ Rob Thompson.
Lima Sopoaga showed what a loss he will be. If a tight test match ever needed the assurance of an expert kicker, then his presence on the bench will be missed. Like Hayden Parker, kicks maximize your advantage – just ask the Waratahs or Lions. Missing your kicks, costs teams big time.
Chiefs escape the Stormers in tight fixture
Not withstanding their scattering of All Blacks, the Chiefs went away after losing at home to the Jaguares. They might have wanted to find memories of their last-gasp win from 2017, but in a tight fixture, the Stormers were a tough prospect.
With Anton Lienert-Brown touching down, it shows again that the ‘bounce of the ball’ can make the best defence look ordinary. But the Stormers play a hard type of rugby. It has limited appeal, and fans miss the expansive game, so a three penalty haul will be disappointing.
Colin Cooper will not be delighted with his side [as Chris Boyd was not on Friday]. His experimenting with Damian McKenzie at first five is only 70% successful. Next week, he might find more direction in playing Marty McKenzie, and if Charlie Ngatai were put back into second-five, it might see them really challenge the Sharks.
As well, there was another local derby fixture in South Africa. Watch out for the Super Rugby week 13 breakdown by Ryan Jordan, to dissect that Bulls v Sharks outcome.
The standings now see the Highlanders above the Chiefs, and they are all chasing the Crusaders in the NZ conference. The Waratahs only hold a slim margin over the Melbourne Rebels – who defeated the Brumbies, to end that teams chance at an Aussie conference place.
Next week, the Highlanders visit Sydney. If they can survive the Waratahs; and the undoubted quality of Israel Folou, then the Tahs could find they have lost the few remaining chances of breaking the NZ conference losing streak.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images