Highlanders v Chiefs
A thrilling final passage capped off the first spectacle of Super Rugby Aotearoa as the Highlanders snuck in with a single-point victory over the Chiefs in Otago on Saturday.
The referee’s uncompromising strictness at the breakdown yielded a number of penalties, however, the players showed little sign of fatigue in the first half after the long lay-off from game time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The teams jogged off to the shed with the scores at 22-16 to the Highlanders, their points coming from tries by Ash Dickson, Patelesio Tomkinson and Marino Mikaele with a penalty and two conversions from Mitch Hunt. Sean Wainui crossed the line for the Chiefs while the educated boot of Damian Mckenzie contributed three penalties and a conversion.
The second half was a slightly less expansive affair as the players seemed to tire somewhat after the fast-paced first forty minutes.
The closing stanza, however, was an extremely exciting display, beginning with a drop-goal from Damian McKenzie, giving the Chiefs a two-point lead at 27-25. However, McKenzie’s drop-goal was emulated by Highlanders Bryn Gatland a couple of minutes later to put the Highlanders ahead for victory at 28-27.
Blues v Hurricanes
Over 43 000 spectators turned out to Eden Park to feast their eyes on a fantastic display of rugby produced by the Blues and Canes.
The Blues’ pack of forwards was in sublime form and set the platform for victory with mobility, strength and precision.
The game was wonderfully competitive in the first half with a single point separating the teams at halftime (14-13) after tries by Dan Coles and Ben Lam for the Canes and Caleb Clarke andTJ Faiane for the home side.
The physicality stepped up in the second half which negated the scoring of tries somewhat though the Blues struck early to stretch their lead with a try by Dalton Papalii while Jamie Booth dotted down for the Canes. Otere Black saw the Blues home in the end with a total of 15 points off his boot.
Final score: 30-20.
Super Rugby Stats Leaders Round 1
Highlanders flanker, Dillon Hunt, was the busiest man on defence this week, notching up a total of 19 tackles against the Chiefs. The 25 year old showed little sign of fatigue or a lack of match practice, displaying an energy which contributed greatly to his side’s victory. Blues flanker Tom Robinson was also impressive, making 16 tackles while Reed Prinsep from the Chiefs managed 14.
Hunt’s work-rate manifested itself on the ground as well, winning three turnovers. This achievement was mirrored by Damian McKenzie, surprisingly, as well as Blues flanker Dalton Papali’i.
It should come as no surprise that the name of Mark Telea topped the ‘defenders beaten’ stat. The Blues flyer, in his mercurial way, got past ten Hurricanes tacklers. The Chiefs’ Shaun Stevenson managed to beat 6 and Marino Mikaele Tu’u (Highlanders) and Caleb Clarke (Blues) each beat 5.
Anton Lienert-Brown and Hoskins Sotutu attacked the defensive line with vigour, each carrying the ball 15 times for the Highlanders and Blues respectively, while their teammates Marino Mikaele Tu’u and Rieko Ioane both made 13.
Caleb Clarke’s industry on attack saw the winger come away from the field having racked up 105 running metres for his team, streets ahead of teammate Mark Telea (68) and Chiefs centre Sean Wainui (63).
An outstanding 65 minutes from @BluesRugbyTeam winger Caleb Clarke earns him a place in our #SuperRugby Aotearoa Team of the Week 🔥— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) June 15, 2020
🔟 Carries 🏃♂️
5⃣ Defenders beaten 🕺
2⃣ Clean breaks 💨
1⃣0⃣5⃣ Running metres 🔥
1⃣ Try 🏉