The inaugural weekend of the hastily-assembled Super Rugby Aotearoa competition produced a pair of Kiwi derby classics. Round 2 promises more of the same with two grudge matches on the docket.
History: Played 33: Chiefs 21 V Blues 11 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: January 31, 2020: Chiefs 37 d Blues 29 at Eden Park
Final Thoughts: The Blues matched the pre-competition hype with a 30-20 defeat of the Hurricanes at a packed Eden Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon, with megastar recruit Beauden Barrett starring. But a follow-up assignment against a chastened Chiefs outfit on a cool Saturday night in Hamilton represents a new challenge.
The Chiefs were edged 28-27 by the unfancied Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday. They played from behind most of the night after a tardy start, but the Chiefs will be bitterly disappointed at missing the W after claiming the lead in the 77th minute.
Both teams are set to be bolstered for Round 2. Akira Ioane and Dalton Papalii return to negate the loss of Tom Robinson and Blake Gibson to injury. All Blacks captain Sam Cane is set to come back into the Chiefs’ pack. There’s still no sign of Dan Carter for the Blues, but Otere Black had a fine game in the No.10 last week – no doubt aided by Barrett’s influence from fullback.
The Chiefs’ 14-match unbeaten streak against the Blues came to an end via a 23-8 loss at Eden Park last year. It was just the second time in the last 15 encounters between the nearby rivals decided by a 13-plus margin. But the Hamilton-based outfit atoned with a come-from-behind 37-29 win in Auckland in Round 1 of the 2020 Super Rugby season.
This is a big test of the Blues’ notoriously questionable mettle. They arrive in Hamilton as narrow underdogs against an experienced host desperate for a win and with plenty of experience and firepower to achieve it.
13:35 (AEST), Sun 21st Jun @ Sky Stadium, Wellington
History: Played 38: Crusaders 23 V Hurricanes 12 (3 Draws)
Last meeting: June 29, 2019 (semi-final): Crusaders 30 d Hurricanes 26 at AMI Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Hurricanes eased out to $11 in Super Rugby Aotearoa title betting after their 30-20 loss to the Blues last Sunday. The visitors led for much of the first half and trailed just 14-13 at the break but struggled for momentum in the second stanza, finally bagging a consolation try in the 78th minute. Defensive lapses and ill-discipline gifted the Blues too many points.
The Crusaders were coasting in their bid for four straight Super Rugby championships when COVID-19 hit. A loss to the Chiefs was their only blip, winning their other five games – including four by 17-plus margins.
The Crusaders have won five in a row against the Hurricanes, including a pulsating 30-26 semi-final victory last season. The Crusaders also won both games in the 2019 regular season handsomely: 38-22 in Christchurch and 32-8 in Wellington. The heavyweights were due to clash just before the Super Rugby season came to a halt.
The Hurricanes may have the advantage of playing one match under the new Super Rugby Aotearoa rules while the Crusaders sat out Round 1 with the bye. But from a playing strength standpoint, the ’Saders boast considerably more class – most notably in the tight-five and the No.10 jersey. Another double-digit loss is on the cards for the ’Canes.