The expansion before this season’s Super Rugby season was met with mixed reaction at the time, and that reaction remains after five weeks of the new campaign.
Argentina’s Jaguares are the most competitive of the new franchises, yet suffered their second home defeat in a week on Saturday evening and now head on a month-long tour to New Zealand and Japan which will really test their resolve.
Talking of Japan, their new franchise, the Sunwolves, are still without a victory this season, but put in their best 80 minute performance on Saturday in Singapore and have been a great addition to the competition despite results.
The final new franchise, the Southern Kings from South Africa have been the weakest of the new sides, yet are starting to show signs of improvement. After having just two weeks of pre-season, a slow start was expected, and despite suffering four-straight defeats so far, Matt Sexton’s team are showing a lot of fight for a team short of preparation.
Hurricanes, Bulls and Stormers gain victory over new franchises to continue strong starts
Week five of the Super Rugby season got going on Good Friday, with what looked-like a mismatch between the Hurricanes and Kings in Wellington.
However, the new-look Kings put in an excellent first-half performance, trailing just 19-17 at the break, before the Hurricanes ran away with the game late-on to eventually prevail 42-20 in their first match at the Westpac Stadium this season.
The Canes’ opened up a 19-3 lead after 30 minutes thanks to tries from Ngani Laumape, Blade Thomson and Ardie Savea, before the Kings hit back with a pair of tries just before the break through Steven Sykes and Louis Fouche.
After holding out for a long period of the second-half, the Kings defence finally cracked in the final ten minutes, conceding two tries to Vince Aso and Beauden Barrett, allowing the Hurricanes to pick up a much-needed bonus point victory.
At the Singapore National Stadium, the Sunwolves put in their best 80 minute performance of the season, but are still without a victory in 2016 after losing 30-27 to the Bulls.
The Wolves scored the same amount of tries as their opponents, but having two periods of ten minutes down to 14-men came back to bite them against a Bulls side who concentrated all of their efforts on winning the forward battle.
The game started and ended excellently for the Sunwolves, who scored after 28 seconds through Andrew Duratalo, and then on the 80-minute siren through Yuki Yamoto, adding to Akihito Yamada’s incredible five-pointer during the second-half.
The Bulls were always in control though, and their three-tries scored by Adriaan Strauss, Roelof Smit and Jamba Ulengo helped the Pretoria-based side to their second victory of the season.
In a low-scoring affair at Velez Sarsfeld, Argentina’s Jaguares suffered their third-straight defeat, losing 13-8 to the Stormers who now top the South African group.
The Stormers built an early 13-3 lead thanks to Cheslin Kolbe’s dazzling try, and some good kicking by Kurt Coleman, which was aided by Nicolas Sanchez’s yellow-card for the home side.
The hosts got themselves back in the game on the stroke of half-time with a try from Jeronimo de la Fuente, but then a pointless second-half ensued, which included a couple of poor missed kicks from Sanchez which cost his side dearly.
Crusaders, Chiefs and Highlanders prevail as Kiwis start to flex their muscles
Without doubt, the most thrilling match of the weekend took place in Durban, where the Crusaders claimed an impressive 19-14 victory over the previously unbeaten Sharks side.
The Kiwi side dominated possession and territory throughout the contest, but poor handling and precision nearly came back to bite them against an opportunistic Sharks team.
Lwazi Mvovo scored a brace for the home side, the first an interception, whilst the second came following a knock-on in midfield by the Crusaders as Gary Gold’s side looked destined to snatch the win.
The Crusaders however finally made their dominance in attack pay to claim the victory. In the opening half, David Havili crossed for a try, before being sin-binned in the second-half just as his teammates were starting to take control. Being down to 14-men did not harm Todd Blackadder’s men though, and they scored two late tries through Nemani Nadolo and Kieran Read to claim a deserved comeback win.
2015 champions, the Highlanders made it two wins from two on their Australian trip, downing the Rebels 27-3 in Melbourne.
In what was the Rebels first real test of the season, they fell well short as they were taught a lesson by Jamie Joseph’s men who claimed the bonus point victory through tries from Rob Thompson, Jack Wilson and Patrick Osborne as well as incredible defensive effort.
Over in Waikato, the Chiefs look to be hitting their straps, putting on a show in their 53-10 home win over the Force.
Charlie Ngatai looks to have stolen a march in a race to grab the vacant 12 jersey for the All Blacks, after he scored four-tries after the break in the domination of the Force. Damian McKenzie added a try double, with James Lowe, Toni Pulu and Michael Leitch also crossing for scores of their own.
Adding to the Hurricanes victory, New Zealand sides went four-from-four in week five and are starting to look like the teams to beat going forward over the next few months.
Waratahs see off Reds in Easter Sunday rivalry, whilst Brumbies back-on-track
A try double from Israel Folau helped the Waratahs to a 15-13 win over the Reds on Easter Sunday at Suncorp Stadium.
The Reds started the stronger of the two sides behind a dominant scrum and built an early lead after being awarded a penalty try when the ‘Tahs were penalised close to their line after another collapsed scrum.
The visitors didn’t take long to get back into the game, and hit back soon after the Reds opener, when Folau crossed following a break from Jed Holloway. Then just before the break, Folau had his second try of the match, when he eventually received the ball following an intercept from Michael Hooper.
During a poor second-half, two Jake McIntyre penalties had seen the Reds take the lead, but they couldn’t hold on, and with ten minutes left on the clock, Bernard Foley knocked over what turned out to be the match-winning penalty for the Waratahs.
Over in South Africa on Saturday afternoon, the Brumbies extended their lead at the top of the Australian conference, after beating the Cheetahs 25-18.
In what was a close game throughout, the Brumbies led 15-8 at half-time thanks to tries from Ita Vaea and Aidan Toua, with Uzair Casseim replying for the home side.
Each side added ten points after the break, with Ben Alexander crossing the line for the Brumbies, and Sergeal Petersen for the Cheetahs, who grabbed a losing bonus point with the final kick of the game.