Super Rugby Review: Week 14
Sunday, May 20, 2018 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
New Zealand Conference
The Hurricanes looked rusty in managing a 38-34 win over the Reds in Wellingon on Friday and will need a much strong effort on Friday when playing the Crusaders in Christchurch. A win for the Hurricanes would go a long way towards cementing their place at the top of the New Zealand Conference as the Crusaders have still got a bye to sit out.
In putting down a spirited Blues side 32-24, the Crusaders showed that when restored to greater strength at the weekend they will be a formidable combination for the Hurricanes to crack. The Blues did manage to prise open their defences on occasions but then few teams have backs of the quality that Sonny Bill Williams and Rieko Ioane demonstrated to effect in Auckland.
Both the Highlanders, who went down 21-41 to the Waratahs when having to play three-quarters of the game with 14 men, and the Chiefs, who lost 24-28 to the Sharks, are still in contention for playoffs berths but both would not want to drop many more games. The Highlanders head to Brisbane to play the Reds while the Chiefs host the Waratahs in Hamilton on Saturday.
There was more of the sort of continuity about the Waratahs' play, albeit with a one-man advantage after the red card against Tevita Nabura, that is to be expected of the Sydney side and by beating the Highlanders 41-12 they finally ended the two-year, 40-game streak New Zealand sides had put on Australia. The power of Israel Folau and Taqele Naiyavoro, both of them scoring a brace of tries, proved too much for the Highlanders.
The Sunwolves backed up last week's thumping of the Reds by dealing to the Stormers 26-23 in Hong Kong with Hayden Parker again producing some key kicking towards his side's success. The Reds retain third place in the Conference but face a struggle to close the seven-point gap to the Rebels in the time remaining in the competition. However, the Reds pushed the Hurricanes hard and are clearly still in the hunt.
The Brumbies face a more difficult time having been well beaten by the Lions 42-24 in Johannesburg. And if the Sunwolves were to continue their rise when playing the Rebels in Melbourne, the Brumbies, who travel to Pretoria to play the Bulls could be under threat to avoid the Australian wooden spoon.
After their 42-24 win over the Brumbies, the Lions will watch how the Sharks go in travelling to Buenos Aires to take on the Jaguares on Friday (Arg time). The two sides are within a point of each other and would raise their playoffs prospects if able to win. In the meantime the Lions will be looking to avoid breathing life back into the Stormers' season in the their clash in Cape Town.
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