Super Rugby Review: Week 10

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Saturday, April 21, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

In Australia, the Waratahs' recovery hit a road block when beaten 0-29 by the Lions while a South African version of a local derby saw the Sharks recover from last week's loss to beat the Stormers 24-17.

While the Lions are in front on the points table with 30 points, they have played one game more than the second-placed Crusaders on 29 and the third-placed Waratahs (Conference differential) on 24 points. The Hurricanes who are fourth on 27 points are two games behind.

New Zealand Conference
All power to the Highlanders in their 34-16 win at Eden Park over the Blues. This was an emphatic display of a team well drilled in all aspects of play. While flanker Shannon Frizell most caught the eye with a hat-trick of tries, it was the composure of the Highlanders that most impressed. Up 12-0 in the first five minutes they held off a Blues recovery to 12-11 but then cleared out with the final margin inflated by a late Blues consolation try.

The Crusaders suffered, as so often happens, by getting easy early points and then falling into some traps in their execution. That allowed the Sunwolves to stay in touch for 60-odd minutes before Ryan Crotty literally straightened things up with a well-taken, and typically direct, try to set the Crusaders train back on the tracks to secure the win.

In Brisbane, the Reds found out about the special energy that drives the injury-depleted Chiefs, a situation exacerbated when first five-eighths Damian McKenzie left the field after 20 minutes with a head injury. The Chiefs dominated the pace of the game and called the shots with the only reward for the home team being two late tries when the game was done and dusted.

Australia Conference
Waratahs hopes of significant progress in their fortunes came unstuck when the Lions dished out a 29-0 thrashing in Sydney – the first time the Waratahs have been scoreless in Super Rugby. This was calamitous for the Australians who looked to have been making something of a return to more regular rate of success, but to go scoreless against the Lions, who have already lost this year to the Blues, Crusaders and Jaguares, was a big blow.

The Rebels proved no match for a Bulls side growing in confidence and taking their third consecutive win at Loftus Versfeld. The Bulls were always in charge. The die was cast just after half-time by which time the Bulls led 21-10 and the Rebels were unable to make any impression on the home defences.

The Reds were unable to cope with the intensity of the Chiefs' play and were unable to capitalise on the loss of playmaker McKenzie, several times frustrating their own hopes with poor passing and catching to turn over ball when opportunities were in the offing.

Life got a little harder for the Brumbies as a result of their home loss to the Jaguares 20-25 on Sunday. That lifted the Jaguares to fourth place in the South African Conference. Out to a 13-0 lead early, the Jaguares didn't suffer as they so often do when a second half sin-binning of Emiliano Boffelli and they didn't conceded any points, and they were never headed at any stage of the game.

South Africa Conference
South African sides offered more compelling evidence of a resurgence in their fortunes, not least the Lions, who rubbed Waratahs' noses in the Sydney mud by their feat in holding them scoreless. Facing the Reds next, the Lions can expect to arrive in New Zealand with two wins to set up some fascinating contests.

The Bulls were another example of the recovery in quelling the well-performing Rebels who have found life a little harder on the road.

Quality action was minimal in the first half of the Sharks' 24-17 win over the Stormers in Durban but after coming back from 3-7 down at halftime the Stormers got out to a 17-10 lead heading into the final quarter. However, a deliberate knock-on by Dewaldt Duvenage resulted in a sin-binning which the Sharks capitalised on to level the scores and then utilise their forward power to score the match winner. That left the Sharks in third place on 18 points, the Jaguares on 16 and the Stormers in fifth on 14.