Super Rugby Aotearoa – Round 2 Musings

Bauden Barrett Passing The Ball

Here we are again. Round 2 of Super Rugby Aotearoa. This week was another exciting week and reminded me why the Crusaders are still the reigning champs. The blues look like they’re on the verge of being a special team. Ben O’Keefe clocked up his 50th Super Rugby game. And, to my delight, there were even more drop goals!

So here they are this week’s Super Rugby Aotearoa Musings.

More Drop Goals

Drop goals have become somewhat of an anomaly in today’s game. Over the last four Super Rugby seasons, we’ve topped out at 4 successful attempts. So far through two rounds of Super Rugby Aotearoa, we’re at 100% success rate 4 from 4 on drop goal attempts.

This week Beauden Barrett got in on the act with this attempt.

Jackson Garden-Bachop also put one through the sticks to go along with his 5 penalty goals and a sideline conversion. He contributed 20 of the Hurricanes 25 points, for what may have been his coming out party in Super Rugby.

All I can say is, keep the drop goals coming. Morne Steyn has the competition record with 11 during the 2009 season. Could anyone catch him in 2020? I guess we’ll see.

Congratulations Ben O’Keefe

So, as I alluded to last week. Ben and I have a bit of history.

For some context, I used to live in the sunny town of Otago. I was in every sense of the word a scarfie. However, on weekends and twice during the week, I would kit up and play premier grade Rugby for the University of Otago Rugby Football Club or “Bookworms” for short.

Playing at most University Rugby Clubs (not named Sydney University) you generally have a playing group for a 3 or 4-year cycle and hopefully you win a premiership in there somewhere. I was lucky enough to come through at the tail end of some cracking footballers University careers (Chris Noakes, Sean Romans, Hoani Matenga & even Adam Thompson played in the finals).  We won a premiership my first year in premier grade. Unfortunately, the next year, everyone had graduated and it was a tough year.  Resulting in 2 wins and a lot of frustrating losses.

Ben was an up and coming referee in the region, having been a University student around the same time. Ben, happened to encounter me during that 2nd year when wins were few and far between.

It’s unclear whether it was his first premier grade game in charge. However, it was certainly early into his officiating career.

To that point, it had been a long season. We were playing against the Harbour Hawks. Their home ground was about 10 minutes out of town in Port Chalmers. And, on this day it was raining sideways. It was a winnable game for us. Late in the game, Ben blew (in my view) a contentious penalty in favour of the Hawks. It was at this point I said something like “Jeez mate, more calls like that and you won’t get many more of these games”. Quick as a flash he marched us 10 meters. Not long after that, the Hawks scored a try off a rolling maul for the win.

So, Ben, I am happy to admit that I was wrong. I’d like to congratulate you on 50 Super Rugby Games it’s an unreal achievement. I look forward to watching your 100th game in the not too distant future.

I Think The Blues Might Be The Blues Again

They’re looking like the Blues that I grew up with.

Otere Black and Beauden Barrett look like a deadly combination moving forward. While we haven’t seen Dan Carter yet I suspect his influence in training is having a very positive effect on the two young fly-halves. The backline has linebreak ability in each jumper. And,  every time the ball is sent out to the edges I feel like they could score. I haven’t felt that way about an Auckland team since Carlos Spencer, Doug Howlett, Joe Rokococo and Mills Muliaina all donned the blue jersey.

Additionally, Blues skipper Patrick Tuipolotu looks like a one-man wrecking crew. With a tonne of effective carries and tireless work around the fringes. He’s a backrower with the body of an enormous 2nd rower.

Even in the sideways rain in Hamilton, they were able to put up 24 points. And, hold the chiefs to just 12 all off the boot of Damien Mckenzie.

The blues have the makings of a special season. If they continue on this trajectory they’re going to be tough to beat at the business end.

Crusaders Are Still Damn Good

The Canterbury Crusaders epitomise what it means to be a football team. What I mean by that is they’re a team that clearly buys into the idea originally proposed by Aristotle. The ide is that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

The Crusaders no doubt have some unbelievable talent in their squad. But when you look at their players historically, they all have one thing in common. It’s not size, speed, strength or athleticism it’s football intelligence and a desire to do all the little things well. Everyone has a role to play and they execute more often than not.

Because of this, they play simple rugby. They recycle ball very effectively in attack and have a unique ability to identify and attack space particularly off turnover ball. Defensively they make their tackles in tight, are absolute pests at the breakdown and make you work for every point you score against them. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining.

Disagree? have a look at their team from the weekend.

  1. Joe Moody
  2. Codie Taylor (C)
  3. Michael Alaalatoa
  4. Samuel Whitelock
  5. Mitchell Dunshea
  6. Cullen Grace
  7. Billy Harmon
  8. Whetukamokamo Douglas (VC)
  9. Bryn Hall
  10. Richie Mo’unga
  11. George Bridge
  12. Jack Goodhue
  13. Braydon Ennor
  14. Sevu Reece
  15. Will Jordan
  16. Brodie McAlister
  17. George Bower
  18. Oliver Jager
  19. Luke Romano
  20. Ethan Blackadder
  21. Mitchell Drummond
  22. David Havili (VC)
  23. Leicester Faingaanuku

None of the players above is the most physically gifted at his positions. But all of them together player the game at a higher level than anyone else. And, the genius in the way they play rugby is its simplicity.

Tell me this isn’t intelligent footy…

or this…

So with all that in mind, mark July 11 in your calendars. That’s when we’re going to get to see the Blues face the Crusaders. That game may decide the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa champion. I can’t wait!

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