Watching the Crusaders-Chiefs game on Saturday I had a vision in front of me that best described the situation the visitors found themselves in.
I kept thinking back to the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, starring Harrison Ford, where there’s a scene in which an assassin in martial arts warrior fashion unleashes a whole array of spins, high kicks and all sorts of technical moves and then Indiana Jones just pulls his revolver out and shoots him.
It iss a famous scene and I just thought this is exactly the game I watching.
It wasn’t as if the Chiefs were not trying their hardest to play. They were throwing the ball around, tried a bit of razzle-dazzle themselves, and then they would make a mistake and the Crusaders would run away and score.
The SCG is an iconic venue in Australian sport. But the Waratahs must take their game against the Crusaders to a proper rugby ground, one where the surface won’t collapse and the contest is played within the atmosphere in deserves.
Goodness gracious, Will Genia’s still got it. After a poor finish to 2018, the Rebels halfback is seemingly back to his best. Meanwhile, are the All Blacks inching closer to a Ngani Laumape-Jack Goodhue midfield combination?
You can have the ball and do all sorts of stuff with it but when you’re up against a really stout defence like the Crusaders, they just punish you when you make a mistake.
If you’re going to play rugby on the edges against the Crusaders but then make those mistakes, what else do you expect to happen?
That takes nothing away from some of what the Chiefs produced. Some of Anton Lienert-Brown’s touches were sublime. In a team like the All Blacks, or even the Chiefs of old, they would have finished some of the things he created; he is playing some good rugby.
I don’t believe the Chiefs are broken. Looking at the way they played, there will be a lot of players feeling really down and despondent but they are not far away. They are just making simple errors and doing dumb things. They have really talented players but they need to be a little more boring. They need a little more of a Test-match mindset, be prepared to grind away a bit, rather than trying too much of the razzle-dazzle.
The Crusaders, on the other hand, are just a class act. The Chiefs should learn from the fact the Crusaders build their whole game around their defence. You can have the best attack in the world but defence is everything and I am sure Scott Robertson drives that home to them all the time. It will be the first and last thing they practice. They have real pride in their line. Then they can play.
Anyone in New Zealand that grew up with a rugby ball in their hand can attack, so a little more focus on defence and I think the Chiefs can come right.
But the Crusaders just keep rolling out the young talent. Fullback Will Jordan is one example. He has timed his run perfectly with All Blacks veteran Ben Smith looking to head off shore next year; Jordan looks a player of supreme talent. And then you throw in Jack Goodhue, Braydon Ennor and George Bridge and their halfback Eru Enaru; they’ve made a habit of unleashing rising star after rising over the last few years.
There were a few comments doing the rounds over the preseason that the defending champions might be vulnerable without a few of their key All Blacks. But if I were them I’d be hurrying back, they may not get back in because those young players are really coming to the fore. Codie Taylor was certainly happy to be back out there at the weekend, picking up two tries after coming off the bench.
I guess that’s a reflection of the Crusaders’ environment. You get a talented player and if you put him in the right environment he is going to flourish. And that’s one thing the Crusaders can be very proud of.
The Highlanders-Hurricanes was a great game to watch, I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. Ngani Laumape was on fire.
How can he not be involved with the All Blacks at some point this year? He’s just playing superb rugby at the moment. There was a lot of memorable backline play over the weekend but how you can’t put him in after one of the best performances is beyond me.
I think there’s a bit of daylight between the way Laumape is playing and the other contenders. But it was a really good game.
And I imagine there won’t be a lot of talk about this next point given the boring place where I am coming from, the dark arts up front, but the Highlanders tighthead prop Tyrell Lomax made a big impression on me. He’s a player to watch. I know he made his Test debut against Japan last year as a replacement, but his performance on Friday night was outstanding. He’s clearly learned plenty.
He was up against a solid performer in Chris Eves and he destroyed him. I watched him quite closely and thought I hadn’t seen a tighthead prop demolish, at that level, his quality opposition. He’s the real deal.
The Highlanders actually did a number on the Hurricanes up front. They’ve got some quality players in that forward pack. That’ll be a concern for John Plumtree. They’ll take the victory and feel good about it but there’s certainly some work-ons.
But some of the play, from both teams, was outstanding and it was a really good game to watch.
The Blues had an exciting game against the Sunwolves, too. For me, the thing about their win was that they corrected the mistakes they made against the Sharks and Jaguares. In those games they didn’t shift the ball wide enough.
But this week they moved it around and when Rieko Ioane touches the ball he will beat the first defender and, more often than not, probably ice the next one, too. They’ve just got to get the ball in his hands more often because he creates so much.
It was a positive effort and good to see the Blues bounce back. I think Sonny Bill Williams’ leadership came through. I think he is someone who can be a good leader for the Blues and maybe they think about where he fits in in the future.
Williams brings a wealth of experience; he’s been in pressure environments and he knows when the pressure comes on the young players, he’s someone who can help them through those situations. William is the perfect choice and while he’s never been given that role in the past, probably because he’s moved between codes, he’s now gained that experience and he’s certainly got the life skills and a bit of nous about him. That was the pleasing thing for me.
The Sunwolves are playing some excellent rugby. They are well-coached and have a few players who could be in New Zealand sides but have gone to the Sunwolves in order to get a starting role, which is understandable. It’s all very well being in a squad but if you can get a starting position you will take it every time.
They Japanese outfit will beat some teams this year and that is an exciting thing for Super Rugby.