Super Rugby round four, video review
March 10, 2013
Super Rugby round four featured more great action in the three host countries, none better than the opening fixture of the weekend between the Hurricanes and the Crusaders at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Don't worry if you missed that match, the game featuring your favourite team, or any of the seven fixtures over the weekend; watch our extended video reports then leave a comment at the foot of the page to tell us how you rate the teams on their performances to date.
The Hurricanes claimed victory in a remarkable topsy-turvy fixture%]
Blues 21 - 28 Bulls Southern Kings 12 - 21 Sharks Stormers 36 - 34 Chiefs Brumbies 35 - 6 Waratahs Highlanders 19 - 36 Cheetahs Hurricanes 29 - 28 Crusaders
Australia Blues Brumbies Bulls Cheetahs Chiefs Crusaders Highlanders Hurricanes Melbourne Rebels New South Wales Waratahs New Zealand Queensland Reds Rebels Reds Sharks South Africa Southern Kings Stormers Waratahs
The Hurricanes claimed their first win of the 2013 Super Rugby season, defeating the Crusaders 29-28 in a remarkable topsy-turvy fixture to open round four.
The hosts were out-scored four converted tries to two but they showed spirit to conjure victory having trailed 28-19 with 20 minutes to play, when they stood on the precipice of a third consecutive defeat and their Super Rugby campaign appeared dead.
The Crusaders, seven-time Super Rugby champions, seemed home when they crossed at the three-quarter mark for their fourth converted try, their improved efforts in the second stanza seemingly breathing life into a campaign that had seemed moribund after individual mistakes and poor execution from both sides had marred the first 40 minutes.
But Hurricanes fly-half Beauden Barrett kicked his fifth penalty goal from as many attempts, after Crusaders No. 8 and captain Kieran Read had been penalised for going off his feet in ruck, and Alapata Leiua then ran home for a converted intercept try with seven minutes to play to claim the home team's victory.
The Reds claimed the fifth win from as many matches against the Rebels%]
Melbourne Rebels let slip a half-time advantage for the third time in as many Super Rugby matches this season, Queensland Reds the dominant team in the second stanza to claim a 23-13 victory at AAMI Park.
The Rebels led at the interval after Lachlan Mitchell had scored almost as the whistle was blowing, dotting down by the posts for a converted try to claim a 13-10 lead after being put into a hole on an angled run inside Anthony Faingaa by a delayed short pass from James O'Connor.
But the Reds hit back immediately after the break, and they scored 13 points without reply in the second half.
Digby Ioane made a break from inside his own half before standing up O'Connor to feed Faingaa to feed scrum-half Nick Frisby, who ran through the 22 to cross in the left corner.
Faingaa, earlier, had scored himself, claiming Queensland's first try of the night - the only other five-pointer in the game - after he had stood up Mitchell in the first half to touch down on a run after a rolling maul inside the Rebels' 22.
The Cheetahs were too good from the opening whistle%]
The Cheetahs stunned the Highlanders in Invercargill, the South African side recovering from their round-three shellacking by the Chiefs to trump the South Islanders 36-19.
Cheetahs half-back Sarel Pretorius and No. 7 Pieter Labuschagne were key figures for the visitors, involved in many of the South African side's best moments, including their opening try to the half-back that capped a pacy, wide attack from a second-phase ruck inside their own half.
The Cheetahs also drew full reward for their territory and possession, with fly-half Johan Goosen kicking eight from eight at goal - including six in the first half as the visitors asserted their dominance - in contrast with his three misses that cost the team momentum on the scoreboard against the Chiefs.
The Highlanders, meanwhile, seemed to miss the power and play-making influence of Ma'a Nonu, after the All Blacks centre withdrew late with a minor knee injury to be replaced by Shaun Treeby; their defence was broken too easily, and their attack lacked direction in the hands of Lima Sopoaga. Indeed, the Highlanders fly-half was dragged after a mixed performance, replaced by returning All Blacks five-eighth Colin Slade three minutes before the interval.
The Brumbies produced another benchmark performance against the Waratahs%]
The Brumbies confirmed their standing as Australia's leading Super Rugby team, producing a strong and disciplined performance to defeat New South Wales Waratahs 35-6 at Canberra Stadium.
The hosts claimed maximum reward from the Waratahs' early ill-discipline, gifted three cheap penalties for ruck offences to lead 9-0 inside 10 minutes and then scoring a try through Ben Mowen from a rolling maul from a lineout after eschewing a kick when Waratahs fullback Ben Volavola had been penalised for not releasing.
They never relaxed their grip on the match, and not even the loss of Wallabies captain David Pocock in the 12th minute, with what was later reported to be an anterior cruciate ligament injury to his left knee that may end his season, could derail the Brumbies.
Pocock was replaced by George Smith, and his predecessor in the Wallabies No. 7 jumper showed in outplaying the Waratahs backrow, featuring Michael Hooper, that he has lost none of his skills in exile in Japan.
The Stormers prevailed in a 70-point thriller at Newlands%]
The Chiefs, the reigning champions, scored four tries to two, but bowed to the determination of hosts desperate to get themselves on the Super Rugby points table for the first time in 2013.
The game tested the discipline of the New Zealand-based team, who had two players, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Nick Crosswell, sin-binned for professional fouls and experienced some controversial rulings from referee Jaco Peyper.
The Stormers were improved from the outset, hitting the Chiefs with a sustained lineout drive, an area that set the standard for the rest of the game. But the scrummaging power the Stormers had looked to utilise in earlier losses was of little use as a weapon - the first scrum didn't occur until 28 minutes into the game.
Lock De Kock Steenkamp had a big game in the lineouts, where the Chiefs had a battle getting their hands on early ball. Andries Bekker also turned in a big performance including the initial contribution for the first try scored by wing Gio Aplon after lead-up work by first five-eighth Elton Jantjies.
The Sharks failed again to score a try but prevailed again to claim the points%]
The Sharks maintained their perfect record to the 2013 Super Rugby, the 2012 runners-up winning thanks to a superb performance from fly-half Pat Lambie.
Lambie kicked six penalties and one drop goal in the nine-point win as the Southern Kings, a new entry in the competition this season in place of the Lions, lost for the first time in their history.
The Sharks made the perfect start with three Lambie penalties giving them a 9-0 advantage inside 25 minutes, and they never subsequently looked likely to relinquish the advantage although the Kings were within range with 10 minutes to play..
Wynand Olivier and the Bulls overpowered the Blues%]
The Blues' momentum shuddered to a halt on Sunday afternoon, the Bulls overpowering and out-thinking the early-season pacesetters in the first half before withstanding a fierce second-stanza comeback to claim their first Super Rugby win at Eden Park.
The Bulls did not impress everyone in their opening victories against the Stormers and Western Force, while the Blues had defeated the Hurricanes and the Crusaders in style to provide fans with genuine belief that they could contend for the title; but the Blues were fractured and disjointed in the first half, after coach Sir John Kirwan had made six changes to the starting team that had dispatched the Crusaders, and ultimately they gifted their opponents too much leeway.
The visitors were powerful and precise with ball in hand in the opening quarter, close to and through the ruck and particularly when they elected to go wide: they stretched the Blues and tries in opposing corners from wingers Lionel Mapoe and Akona Ndungane were the least they deserved from their performance that dominated possession and territory in the first half.
Kirwan said at half-time that his time had lacked "passion and pride" in the first stanza, that "you can't play football when you're getting bashed up", and the Blues were much improved in the second half after what was clearly a stern address from the coach at the interval. The Bulls, however, were able to match their hosts' efforts and closed the game out when the Blues looked as if they were finishing over the top of the visitors.
Leave a comment below to join the Super Rugby conversation by telling your fellow fans how you rate the teams on their performances to date.
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures