The Highlanders received a mauling in their season opener from a spirited Sharks team. Having been handed a bye in round one, the men from Dunedin exhibited signs of rustiness. A largely inexperienced team, they were plagued by mistakes of their own making which the Sharks pounced on time after time to stretch the score in their favour. An especially woeful seven minutes saw them concede 21 points.
The Highlanders were able to gain some momentum in the second stanza and clawed back, gradually building a respectable score before a quick brace of tries from talented Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi wiped clean any hopes they had of pulling the game back.
The Highlanders were, to any trained eye, their own worst enemies in this contest. However, considering their lack of match practice and the significant combined intellect of their coaching staff in Tony Brown and Aaron Mauger, it is unlikely that this result will be an accurate indication of their achievements this season.
Chiefs Handoff Crusaders
Resolute defence and stout determination fuelled victory for the Chiefs over rivals Crusaders in a derby the former will harbour in the backs of their minds all season.
The first quarter of the game was typically dominated by Scott Robertson’s charges as they created a brace of well worked tries.
However, towards the latter stage of the first half, when it appeared the flood gates might open, the Crusaders displayed an ominous combination of impatience and frustration, resulting in an inability to finish off hard work with points.
This was in no small way the result of an inspiring defensive effort on the part of the Chiefs and special mention must be made of young flanker Lachlan Boshier, who was immense at the breakdown, enacting several crucial steals which broke Crusaders’ momentum time and again.
The teams jogged off to the shed with the scoreboard reading 12-8 in the Crusaders’ favour.
There was a definite turning of the tide after the commencement of the second half as the Chiefs no doubt smelt blood and an opportunity to put one over on the competition’s reigning champions.
With the scores locked up at 15-all and twenty-five minutes remaining, Chiefs scrumhalf Brad Weber conjured a moment of brilliance to put the ball around his opposite number’s back and offload to Sean Wainui who cantered in to score a try that would prove to be the final nail in the Crusaders’ coffin.
Thereafter, the more the Crusaders tried to chase, the more mistakes they made.
At the final whistle the score read 25-15. Captain Scott Barrett was quick to call his team together after the loss and instruct them to wipe it from their minds and concentrate on moving forward.
"The Crusaders are class so it's good to get one over them," Chiefs captain Cane said.
The Blues managed to bag five points in an away win against the Waratahs. Although the rain poured down in the second half, the real dampener on this contest was the lacklustre performance of its participants.
The Blues drew first blood in the 11th minute through a try from flanker Blake Gibson, showing good strength to barge over the whitewash.
The first half was largely a very dull affair with the Waratahs’ constant kicking almost as aimless as their intent, however, they did eventually manage a five-pointer with Lalkai Foketi dotting down in the 39th minute.
It has to be said that the 32-12 scoreline was decidedly flattering for a Blues team who, despite slowly grinding out ascendency through their superior pack of forwards, were unable to exhibit the skill and fire power which normally characterises the New Zealand style of play.
The silver lining was the performance of exciting Blues winger Mark Telea who took full advantage of the Waratahs’ feeble defence to ran in a total of 132 metres, beat eight defenders and pick up a hat-trick to boot.
The Hurricanes were saddled with the unenviable task of travelling to Argentina to take on a Jaguares team who, unlike the ‘Canes themselves, started their tournament with promise last week with a crushing win over the Lions.
Ngani Laumape 🤯😳 pic.twitter.com/elxzhxuqGX— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) February 9, 2020
However, with the odds stacked against them, the Hurricanes showed great fighting spirit to pull off arguably the most impressive victory of the round.
Trailing by eleven points with ten minutes left on the clock, the men from Wellington dug deep to manufacture two well-worked tries (at the hands of Alex Fidow and Jamie Booth) to put them ahead on the scoreboard.
Another highlight of the game was a monstrous sixty-three metre penalty off the boot of Jordie Barrett, thereby throwing down a warning to future opponents of the potential repercussions of poor discipline, even in the Hurricanes’ own half.
Some nudge from Jordie Barrett 🚀 🚀 pic.twitter.com/YQywXhmMdM— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) February 9, 2020