Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Super Rugby: Who's hot and who's not - week five

Lelia Masaga in action against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth. Photo / Getty Images
Lelia Masaga in action against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth. Photo / Getty Images

Patrick McKendry names the top back, standout forward and the four in-form teams from the weekend's Super 15 action.

Forward of the week: Ben Franks
Franks gets this one in a photo finish from Wyatt Crockett, although a heap of Crusaders have claims to it after they dismantled the Bulls in Christchurch. Franks, though, looks like a new man after his move to the Hurricanes. He has added steel to the scrum, which dominated the Highlanders in Dunedin, and he scored what will surely be the most spectacular try of his career when doing a Julian Savea down the left touchline on Friday night. Ben Smith played Israel Dagg in getting bumped off by a rampaging Franks, who felt, rightly, that no sidestep was required.

Back of the week: Lelia Masaga
The celebratory dance moves might get a mixed reaction from the South African television commentators but Flash has his groove back and the Chiefs have Saturday Night Fever. Speedster Masaga scored three tries against the Kings in Port Elizabeth and provided most of the positives for his team. The Chiefs secured a bonus point victory but didn't dominate this match as they should have and the Kings finished strongly thanks to more ill-discipline from Dave Rennie's men - replacement halfback Augustine Pulu spending time in the bin, the third Chief to do so in two weeks.

The NZ conference leaders face a tough turnaround with a match against the Highlanders in Hamilton on Friday. They are due to arrive home this morning after 30 hours of travel.

Coach killer: Waratahs
There's no shame in losing to the Cheetahs, as Jamie Joseph will readily attest, but they make it hard for themselves, these Waratahs, and heaven knows what it would be like to coach them. After losing 10 of their last 11 matches, Michael Cheika must have thought his team were on the right track in Sydney when leading 23-20 after 60 minutes (they had recovered well from the blow of going seven points down after two minutes). But no, Raymond Rhule's second try of the night fixed that, and although they narrowed the gap to 27-26 in the final few minutes, they didn't get within 40m of the Cheetahs line again. A useful pointer when they host the Blues on Sunday would be to try running with the ball instead of kicking it.

Fab Four

Brumbies
Won 29-10 v Sharks at Kings Park.
1st overall, 1st in AC
Only a matter of time before the ponies from Canberra would be found out, we thought. Yes, they led the competition but had enjoyed the luxury of the bye and playing two of their three matches at home (the third was in Melbourne). Once they faced some real opposition in the Sharks in Durban they would get a reality check... Oh. After 35 minutes at Kings Park they had already notched the bonus point for four tries, and although they scored only a penalty in the second half, there was no way back for the Sharks. It was the Brumbies' seventh consecutive victory away from home, which broke a record held by the Crusaders and Hurricanes. They don't appear to be missing the injured David Pocock yet. Jake White's men now have a six-point lead on the table from the Chiefs.

Crusaders
Won 41-19 v Bulls at AMI Stadium.
7th overall, 3rd in NZC
This was more like it from the Crusaders after an insipid performance at Eden Park and a lack of ruthlessness in Wellington. They scored 41 points, but it could have been 60, but not only because of their dominance. In the first half they made several handling errors in their eagerness to right the wrongs of their previous defeats. Once in the groove, though, which was set by impressive effort up front, they built an almost unstoppable momentum. It was the Bulls' first loss of the season. In this mood the Crusaders are almost unbeatable which we saw last season when they demolished the Blues and Highlanders back to back in Christchurch. The benchmark has been set, now the challenge is to repeat it.

Hurricanes
Won 23-19 v Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
8th overall, 4th in NZC
This one could have gone either way, but the Hurricanes probably deserved the win. Their scrum was dominant for much of the night and they got the better of the Highlanders at the breakdown. That's a worry for Jamie Joseph. The Highlanders' point of difference for the past couple of years has been their fight at ruck time but no more. Adam Thomson is sorely missed, as is the injured Nasi Manu. Julian Savea, hot against the Crusaders, cooled under the roof in Dunedin, with opposite Hosea Gear overshadowing him. For the Hurricanes, two narrow victories in two weeks has them only fourth on the NZ conference table but they have easy points coming up in the bye next weekend and the Kings in Wellington after that.

Force
Won 19-12 v Reds at Suncorp Stadium.
11th overall, 3rd in AC
Supporters of the Perth-based team won't have read too many positives about their team in these pages recently, but their first win of the season has changed all that. Remarkably, it has pushed them to third on the Australian conference table over the hapless Rebels and Waratahs, another measure of the weakness of the teams across the Tasman. The victory, though, came at Suncorp Stadium, not an easy place to win these days, certainly for the Force, who before Saturday night had never won there. Former Blues halfback Alby Matthewson will claim the assist for the only try of the match - it was his pass which sent away wing Alfie Mafi for the decisive score.

Form XV

15. Israel Dagg (Crusaders)
14. Lelia Masaga (Chiefs)
13. Conrad Smith (Hurricanes)
12. Ryan Crotty (Crusaders)
11. Hosea Gear (Highlanders)
10. Dan Carter (Crusaders)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs)
8. Kieran Read (Crusaders)
7. Matt Todd (Crusaders)
6. George Whitelock (Crusaders)
5. Dominic Bird (Crusaders)
4. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
3. Owen Franks (Crusaders)
2. Brayden Mitchell (Highlanders)
1. Ben Franks (Hurricanes)

- APNZ

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