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Super Rugby Review: Round 1

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Lynn McConnell     26 Feb 2017     Getty Images

Yes, New Zealand and while there were encouraging signs of attacking play paying dividends in the African Conferences especially, it is a positive start for New Zealand sides looking to make their mark again.

New Zealand

The defending champion Hurricanes, even without their star players Beauden Barrett and Dane Coles starting, and with Cory Jane injured and unable to start, started with a record-breaking 83-17 win over the hapless Sunwolves. This was masters vs schoolboys stuff and the only encouragement the Tokyo-based side could take out of it was that they had a less demanding introduction to Super Rugby without having to play NZ sides last year.

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The Blues were nearly as rampant when beating the Rebels 56-18 in Melbourne. The result showed what the injection of speed and nous from halfback can do with Augustine Pulu's try, taking on the Rebels outside backs in a superb run, one of the highlights of the weekend. Rieko Ioane won't score two easier tries but it was his third that highlighted what he brings to the side.

The Chiefs got the Highlanders bogey off their backs with a 24-15 win in Dunedin but were gifted two of their tries and will have to look to create more opportunities of their own in future. Their defence was superbly organised, however, and that is always the launching pad which they showed in forcing the Highlanders into errors.

Wrapping up the weekend for New Zealand, the Crusaders wanted an opening night win and they got it, along with a reminder that they need to sharpen their efforts on attack. Their 17-13 win over the Brumbies was a little closer than they might have wanted and if it hadn't been for some sharp tidying work by Ryan Crotty near the end, it might not have been a win after all. The win was a great way to mark Israel Dagg's 100th Super Rugby match.
Australia
Possibly the most significant result of the weekend was achieved by the Reds in their 28-26 win over the Sharks in Brisbane. The South Africans went to Australia confident that they had regained their rugby mojo while the Reds, after some off-season buying action, were hopeful of getting over their issues of the past few years. Well, on Friday's evidence they are. This was an important win for them, and for Australia. Watch for more action here.

It was a tough effort for the Waratahs with a 19-13 win over the game Force. That they only managed one try and had to rely on the goal-kicking of Reece Robinson to get the win when coming back from 9-13 down at half-time will be of concern. The result might prove more significant for the Force who had a different look to their side and who should build on that effort.

While beaten by the Crusaders, the Brumbies managed to still look competitive, although they wouldn't want to lose Scott Fardy to injury at all, he had a massive game.

It is going to be all uphill for the Rebels sadly as they were simply over-powered by the speed of the Blues.


Africa 1
It's hard to come back from 0-24 down at half-time and while they did their best with three tries in the third quarter, the Bulls eventually had to conceded a 24-37 loss to the Stormers in Cape Town. This was important because the Bulls were seen as potentially the strongest of the teams below the Lions in pre-season talk in South Africa. But not only throwing the ball around with effect, the Stormers managed to achieve a forward dominance that would not have been appreciated by the Bulls.

The Cheetahs got so close, and showed that they will be handful, especially if they can build on their loss to the Lions (see below), but for the Sunwolves things are going to have to improve very quickly after their mauling by the Hurricanes.

Africa 2
The Lions did it the hard way against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. They won 28-25 but only thanks to Rohan Janse van Rensburg who scored his second try of the game in the last minute. She was a rugged contest with plenty of penalties dished out as the sides got into their 2017 campaigns and it was only 6-6 at half-time. A penalty try also proved important for the Lions. In wet conditions Elton Jantjies landed 17 points while Cheetahs first five-eighths Fred Zeilinga went three better and landed 20.

Another positive result saw the Jaguares make a better start to their campaign with a 39-26 win over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth. A win on the road is crucial at any time and with a stunning 20-point strike in the second half they over-powered the hapless home side.

One compensation for the Sharks was a loser's bonus point in Brisbane but it doesn't get any easier for them as they face the Brumbies in Canberra next Saturday.