Super Rugby Aotearoa Round 1 Review
With the first round of Super Rugby Aotearoa done and dusted, it’s fair to say it did not disappoint. The new rules that have been set in place for the tournament resulted in a large number of penalties conceded in both games, however, the fast-paced and exciting game that we’ve come to know and love in Super Rugby was once again on show for all to see.
Seeing the crowds return to stadiums in their thousands was a positive sight for the world witness. New Zealand has now gone 23 days in a row without a single new case of coronavirus, acting as a role model for countries everywhere. With nine more action-packed rounds still to come, here is how each team fared over the opening weekend.
Round 1 Results
Highlanders 28-27 Chiefs
Blues 30-20 Hurricanes
43,000 fans poured into Eden Park to see the Blues kick off their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign against the Hurricanes and they were gifted to a great game of rugby. Beauden Barrett made his debut for the Blues against his old side at fullback and put in a very solid performance. His distribution and kicking game were as impressive as ever and despite all his experience as the playmaker, he allowed teammate Otere Black to play in his own style and tempo which in turn paid off for the home side.
Black slotted all six of his kicks to ensure the scoreboard kept ticking over for the Blues. Rieko Ioane’s strong and direct running at 13 kept the ‘Cane’s defence busy all afternoon, while wingers Caleb Clarke and Mark Telea were almost faultless in both defence and attack. All Blacks fans will also have liked the look of 22-year-old replacement flanker Dalton Papalii who played well and grabbed himself a try 10 minutes into the second half which saw the Blues close out the game and climb to the top of the table.
The 2016 Super Rugby winners will be somewhat disappointed with their first game back against the Blues as they failed to pick up any points at all and now sit bottom of the table. Although the Hurricanes took the lead early on in the game, some poor drift defence and soft missed tackles, allowed the Blues to come back into the game with a try under the sticks.
They did, however, respond in the best possible fashion through Dane Coles, who received the ball outside of the 22 on the wing and flew into the corner at a blistering pace, brushing off former teammate and good friend Beauden Barrett for good measure. Canes supporters will be relieved to see winger Ben Lam has continued his scoring run and would have loved seeing the return of powerhouse flanker Ardie Savea after his surgery following the World Cup.
Substitute hooker Asafo Aumua also had a good impact off the bench and will certainly be one to look out for in years to come. Overall, a somewhat disappointing start but with minor changes the tide can quickly turn for the Hurricanes in the remaining nine rounds.
The Crusaders were the first team to sit out a round in this competition but the 10-time Super Rugby champions would have been looking on with keen interest as they seek a fourth title in a row. The tournament favourites kick off with their first match back away against the Hurricanes next Sunday.
Saturday’s game saw Warren Gatland’s side travel to Dunedin to face the Highlanders in the competition opener. The game was electric from start to finish and the Chiefs will certainly feel hard done by to lose by just a single point. Despite losing the game in such agonising fashion, the team from Hamilton have a lot of positives to look back on.
Damian McKenzie was as energetic as ever, often seen pulling the strings at second receiver. The whole team’s quick handling skills were a joy to watch, especially with the way in which they swept from one side of the park to the other to score in the corner. The pack will work hard to tweak a few errors and scrum and line-out time, but overall should be happy with how they stayed in the game and pick up a losing bonus point.
Going into the tournament, the Highlanders were the least favourites to win the competition, those doubts were quickly put to bed however, with an impressive last-gasp win at home. Throughout the game, their line-out game was very strong and the force of their pack resulted in a well-worked try from a driving maul.
In the backline, fans will be eager to see more of the centre partnership between Patelesio Tomkinson and Rob Thompson, who linked up nicely to score a try short range. The talking point of the whole weekend, that saw 26,000 fans rise from their seats, was, of course, the 78th-minute dropkick from Bryn Gatland that secured the win for his side and, more importantly, earn the bragging rights in the Gatland household.
We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Super Rugby Aotearoa Round 1 Review.’ What was your highlight from round one of Super Rugby Aotearoa? Let us know!
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