James Mortimer 24.Feb.2014Getty Images
Chiefs get more from their attack
It was notable that the defending champions made over twice as many tackles as the Crusaders, but it was their offence that impressed, even if initial viewing appears to back the red and blacks in terms of pure ball carrying.
The Crusaders made 130 carries to just 76 made by the Chiefs, while they threw 177 passes to the 79 executed by the visitors.
But the champions ran 420 metres versus the 524 made by the hosts, nearly seven metres versus just over four per player run. Some coaches would suggest that such numbers come from commitment when carting the ball up.
Numbers might now tell the whole story, but two big digits sum up the game, the Chiefs outscored the Crusaders two-tries-to-one.
Scrambling Highlanders do the business
No team in the second round of the 2014 Super Rugby season made more tackles than the Highlanders, making a remarkable 174, while they missed more than any other franchise, 28 overall – but their completion was higher than most sides, but numbers hide what was obvious during play.
The Highlanders defence was impenetrable for the first 39 minutes, but even though the Blues had some of the most potent attacking players of the weekend, notably Charles Piutau who made 130 metres with 18 carries, the turf of Forsyth Barr Stadium seemed to spring a home team defender each time.
In previous years the Highlanders defensive assault has been centred on the breakdown, but it appears this year there are layers to the Otago based franchises screens. Watch this space.
Crusaders lineout as impeccable as ever
As we’ve talked about above, the Chiefs ability to withstand all of the Crusaders running attacks, might eventually result in a more pragmatic approach from the coaching team, especially considering the home team’s lineout was polished.
As it was last year, the Crusaders aerial attack looked the goods.
They lost just one of their 14 throws in their first regular season match, while causing immense problems for a Chiefs lineout that had the services of Brodie Retallick, but the champions were under such pressure that they recorded the worst return of any second round team, winning just six of their 11 lineouts.
The hosts almost refused to kick; just 16 times in general play did they send the ball into the heavens.
Blues just need to balance their running game
In the end their numbers would have suggested a mighty victory, but the Highlanders defence was so efficient that the Blues exemplary running game wasn’t able to win the game, even if they did score three tries.
573 running metres (nearly 200 more than their opponents), 155 carries (to 88) and twice as many passes spoke of the Blues eagerness to move the ball through their talented hands, but other Super Rugby team's offensive lethality lies from a mix of counterattack, kicking and other tactics, not just the ability of players charging up the field.
And as the Highlanders showed, among other sides in the second round, all-out attack can be shut down.
You need at least the minimum from the set piece
The Sharks dominance of the frontal exchanges was clear, flawless on their own throw, while cleanly winning ten of their 11 scrums.
The Hurricanes meanwhile lost three of their seven.
Telling as well was the fact that the visitors didn’t field a single maul throughout the contest, while the Sharks successfully formed seven. With the exception of Jack Lam's five turnovers, the Durban forward's man for man recorded superior numbers.
Statistics thanks to Opta Sports.