Super Rugby Aotearoa – Round 1 Musings

Bryn Gatland Drop Goal
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

Rugby is back! It’s Finally back! Although I’m not going to see my beloved Brumbies take the field for another few weeks. I’ve decided to immerse myself in Super Rugby Aotearoa, New Zealand’s new competition and provide some weekly musings.

Not only does having Rugby back, stop me from annoying my partner. It’s lifted my mood considerably too. It’s a win-win, she’s rid of me for a few hours every weekend and, I get the game that brings so much joy to our household back in my life.

So without further hesitation and preamble. here are my Round 1 musings.

How Many Fly-Halves are Too Many Fly-Halves?

This isn’t a new concept. I mean they even refer to the fly-half in New Zealand as a first five-eighth. And, there are countless examples of multiple fly-half backlines. Larkham/Kafer, Mehrtens/Carter and Knox/Larkham are a few that come to mind.

On Sunday Otere Black reminded everyone there’s a reason he made his NPC and Maori All-Blacks debut at just 19 years old.

Ironically Otere spent the first 3 years of his professional career as an understudy to the best fly-half in the world. Now that the best fly-half in the world is playing fullback. Presumable for no other reason than he needs a challenge. It’s opened up a world of possibilities for the Auckland backline.

And, all these promising signs without seeing one of the greatest fly-halves to play the game yet. I’m not delusional at 38 years old I know he’s not going to be the same player that left New Zealand in 2015. But just having a player with Carter’s genius around (even if he doesn’t play) is going to have a very positive effect on the team.

Drop Goals are the Best Goals

I’ve played in two games that featured drop goals.

The first was in high school. We played against a touring school from Ireland. Off the kick-off, they put together about 15 phases, then, their flyhalf dropped back into the pocket and slotted one. We ended up winning that game 50 – 3.

The second was during a 1st-grade grand final in 2015. We were leading late in the game and defending well. Their fly-half launched one as a last-ditch effort to even up the score. He missed. But what happened next is still hard for me to talk about.

 

Saturday nights game. Featured exactly two drop goals, both in the last 10 minutes of the game. The first was slotted by Damien McKenzie to put the chiefs in front 27 – 25. After the Highlanders regained possession they were able to methodically move down the field.Β  Then, Bryn Gatland dropped back into the pocket and did this.

Bryn’s drop goal to this point is my favourite drop goal of all time. Not only does it mark an extraordinary return to Rugby, after being told he may never play again. He did that shit against the team his Dad coaches!

It’s like the first time you beat your dad at sport growing up. For me, it was a game of basketball. You strut around the house all week like you own the place. You brag to your mum and your siblings. Then the next week the bill comes, because Dad isn’t taking it easy on you anymore.

Warren will get another opportunity against Bryn’s team in Waikato on the 19th of July. I guess we’ll have to wait and see who keeps the bragging rights until then.

Are the Blues the Blues Again?

When I was a kid, Auckland was like the evil empire. They had all the best players; Sean Fitzpatrick, Zinzan Brooke, Olo Brown, Carlos Spencer and Doug Howlett (just to name a couple). They dominated the NPC with 16 premierships (as of 2020) and dominated the early years of Super Rugby with 3 titles in the first 7 seasons.

Their last title came in 2003. In the 16 seasons since then, they’ve only made two appearances in the finals. But on Saturday the certainly reminded me of those teams of old. And, for the first time in a long time, they look like they could be a contender in 2020.

Penalties Aplenty

Referee Paul Williams put his arm out 30 times during the Highlander v Chiefs game on the weekend. It seems it’s going to take a little bit of time for the players to adjust to the new laws. But damn, 30 penalties? That’s all I’m going to say the last time I went at a referee he shut me up by refereeing 49 Super Rugby games.

Crusaders are Still the Team to Beat

Even though they had the bye in round 1. Their shadow looms large. Before the COVID-19 shutdown, they were the top-ranked kiwi team. They’re coming off their 3rd successive premiership and are looking to put their 11th Super Rugby trophy in the cabinet. We’ll see on Sunday how the break has treated them. But this writer firmly believes they’re still the team to beat.

Also… This Try Celebration

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