Super Rugby Review: Round One

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Lynn McConnell     17 Feb 2019     Getty Images

Upset results saw the Highlanders win away to the Chiefs 30-27 and the Rebels achieve a 34-27 win over the Brumbies in Canberra. Results for South African sides went pretty much as expected although the margin between the Bulls and Stormers at 40-3 was a concern.

New Zealand Conference

Chiefs 27 Highlanders 30

When replacement first five-eighths Stephen Donald missed a late touch it was hard not to wonder if the Chiefs might pay the price as the All Blacks did in their Bledisloe Cup Test under similar circumstances in 2010. The Highlanders, shut out of the game in the middle two quarters, were breathing late game fire and free ball allowed them a chance that they took with two hands to claim what had seemed and unlikely victory. It was a harsh lesson for a Chiefs team unleashing more promising players on the scene. Expect plenty more from Orbyn Leger, Bailyn Sullivan and Etene Nanai-Seturo.

Blues 22 Crusaders 24

It's always necessary to take a pinch of salt to opening Blues' games as they try to find their way back up the competition ladder. But apart from getting a win there wasn't much more that could be asked of the side. Spirit, determination and skill were present, and while the Crusaders claimed the win, they knew they had been in a contest that could have gone the other way very easily. No.8 Akira Ioane had a storming game and if able to build on that he could do wonderful things not only for the Blues but also his career. The Crusaders have the knowledge of how to apply pressure at key moments and they did that and George Bridge and Manasa Mataele have built on last year's experiences while Braydon Ennor looked sharp at centre.

Waratahs 19 Hurricanes 20

Jordie Barrett's goal-kicking was truly put to the test at Brookvale Oval in Manly on Saturday night and his late conversion of DuPlessis Kirifi's try was all class. But the cohesion up front was an important part of the containment of the Waratahs who found it difficult breaking down the Hurricanes' defence. But Ardie Savea demonstrated his great technique in try scoring situations close to the line to score the first while Kirifi burst out of a maul close to the line with unusual ease to seal an important away win for the Wellington-based side.

Australia Conference

Brumbies 27 Rebels 34

Having taken the plunge and taken on first five-eighths Quade Cooper, the Rebels got immediate payback in the way he managed his side around the field in Canberra. Not only strong on his tactical kicking which was to be expected, his passing game kept the pressure on a home side which was significantly reduced in its leadership when losing flanker David Pocock to concussion so early in the game. Just as important for the Rebels was Will Genia's distribution at halfback and Jack Maddocks was able to provide a reminder of what an effective finisher he can be.

Waratahs 19 Hurricanes 20

Bernard Foley may have surpassed Matt Burke on the all-time Waratahs points scoring table but he would have given most of those points to have landed his last shot at goal which dipped past the goalposts on the wrong side. However, there was plenty to like in what the Waratahs achieve and Neg Hanigan is growing into a genuine asset in the loose while Israel Folau remains an clear and present danger with his impact in the side's only try starting with a clever pick up of a poor pass, a superb burst of speed and an accurate pass to give Curtis Rona just the right amount of space and time to secure his try.

South Africa Conference

Sunwolves 10 Sharks 45

First and foremost it has to be said Robert du Preez has lost none of his goal-kicking accuracy and when six tries are scored by his side that means plenty of bonuses. It wasn't a flashy start by the Sharks but as their confidence grew their backs came into it more with wing Sibusiso Nkosi ending the first half by capping a good team try. Hooker Armand van der Merwe had great presence in the effort scoring two tries. The Sunwolves looked to run the ball whenever they could but found the Sharks' defence unwavering. It didn't help that wing Rene Ranger was taken from the field on a stretcher due to a knee injury early in the second half.

Bulls 40 Stormers 3

Rosko Specman speed undid the hapless Stormers at Loftus Versfeld in an emphatic display for the Bulls. He scored twice, on debut, the first effort all too easy through some brittle Stormers defence. By comparison, the Bulls defence was much more accomplished. First five-eighths Handre Pollard unleashed a delicate chip into the Stormers 22m area and centre Jesse Kriel was able to take on the full at speed and run in another try. Up front skipper Lood de Jager caused all manner of lineout problems for the Stormers. The South African Conference is shaping as a thriller if the sort of display the Bulls unleashed can be maintained

Jaguares 16 Lions 25

The Lions had to do it the hard way in Buenos Aires having been down 5-13 after 30 minutes of the game but out in front 15-13 by the break. However, Jaguares ill-discipline in the second half undid them. The Lions had to defend long and hard during the first half but with flanker Marnus Schoeman picking up a hat-trick of tries and doing plenty on defence. Prop Carlu Sadie was another who shone in the tight stuff while first five-eighths Elton Jantjies kept the points ticking over towards the end to deny the Jaguares any chance of a scoreboard recovery. It was the first time the Lions had won in South America.