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WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

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WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

Bulls_Chiefs_March2019_primary
New Zealand Power Rankings:
 
1) Crusaders*: An asterisk. Under normal circumstances they’d drop down, after an effort way below their standards in Sydney, but they are exempt because of circumstances.
They’ve handled the Christchurch situation best they could, including answering questions about the identity of the franchise that are not for them to answer. 
Add to all that a momentum slowing abandonment, All Black requirements, the late scratching of Owen Franks, and of course, a fine Waratahs effort, and it all added up to too much. 
 
2) Hurricanes: Much to admire about the way they are toughing out wins that could easily get away on them. Led by the admirable Ardie Savea their forwards are doing enough to give their backs the chances to win games.
And let’s not forget who wasn’t playing, the now normal in this World Cup year.
 
3=) Chiefs: Where have they been hiding that performance?
Ran the Bulls ragged, when not many expected them to win, let alone post 50.
While others constantly highlight the negative aspects of travel, it seems to bring the best out of New Zealand teams.
 
3=) Blues:  A long awaited breakthrough win against a fellow Kiwi side.
The difference between this effort and the 20 that have gotten away on them the last three years, is that when the big moments were up for grabs, this time they grabbed them.
 
5) Highlanders: Time for a bye and a deep breath. They’re a good team, and they’re going OK, but they’ve dropped three straight now and need to regather themselves.
 
Aussie Conference:
 
The Waratahs get a win that will do wonders for their belief, and a big boost for the game in Oz. They defended superbly, took their chances, and won despite the Crusaders scoring one of their two tries from a forward pass. The delight is understandable, although for the SMH to claim it was a win over an “emotion-charged” Crusaders might be a little OTT, when the reality might have been closer to “emotionally drained”. 
The Reds, our new favorite Aussie team, also scored an important win over a Brumbies side that wilted in the Brizzie heat, although it will come at a cost with flanker Angus Scott Young cited for a grubby punch-knee combo to the head of a trapped James Slipper.
The Rebels dropped their second straight in South Africa, not helped one bit by the absence of Will Genia, on whom much depends, it would seem.
 
South African Conference :
 
They’ve got their way with the Sunwolves getting the boot, but the situation is dripping with irony.
South African teams have largely refused to travel to Tokyo, forcing games to be played, at great cost, in front of miniscule crowds in Singapore…. a factor, perhaps, in Japan’s unwillingness to pay a participation fee? 
The irony is that from 2021, South African teams will actually be playing fewer games at home, and just as many out of the country.
Meanwhile, the Lions have proved wrong the predictions of their impending eclipse by returning to the top of a hotly contested conference table, with the Sharks, Stormers and Bulls still all in the top eight, although the Bulls sluggish effort at Loftus doesn’t auger well for their prospects when they head across the Indian Ocean.
As shown in Wellington and Pretoria, the real gauge comes when they face Kiwi opposition, but it continues to look a very strong challenge, albeit still way too dependent on the rolling maul.
 
Five Star Performners:
 
1) Israel Folau: For equaling Dougie Howlett's Super Rugby record of 59 tries. It’s doubtful there has ever been a player so adept at scoring from airborne situations.
 
2) Jordie Barrett: For an accomplished performance in the midfield, his third different position this year. Challenged the defence, making plenty of metres, completed eight tackles without a miss, and gave them an extra, and very effective kicking option.
 
3) Brodie Retallick: Colossal. And Tyler Ardron wasn’t far behind him.
 
4) Damien McKenzie: OK, so there was the inevitable duff pass and kick or three, but he carved the Bulls up.
Kicked superbly off the tee, with nine from 10 including a SR season high effort from (according to the official stats) 58 metres.
 
5) The Blues Bench: Those big moments the Blues finally nailed? Patrick Tuipulotu was responsible for at least three of them, Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tu’ungafasi righted a struggling scrum and Otere Black provided some much needed accuracy.
 
FOR ALL THE BIG MOMENTS IN SUPER RUGBY, CATCH TJ ON RUGBY NATION, SUNDAYS 4-30 ON PRIME WITH UPDATES AND REPLAYS ON SKY, THE HOME OF NZ SPORT.