Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

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

Steven Luauta was outstanding against the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images
Steven Luauta was outstanding against the Hurricanes. 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:
Steven Luatua (Blues)
A few hours after Chiefs loose forwards and current All Blacks Sam Cane and Liam Messam were knocked off their stride by the Reds, Steven Luatua continued his progress with a stunning performance against the Hurricanes at Eden Park. His work at the lineout, with the ball and on defence was outstanding and showed why he will be in the All Blacks frame this year. His lineout steal, when he caught the ball with his left hand, suggests he is a rare and precious talent. Luatua was one of the most influential figures on the park in a team full of them. Jerome Kaino, on Sky Sport duties at the match, will struggle to dislodge him if he returns from playing in Japan.

Back of the week:
Quade Cooper (Reds)
Maybe we're not giving Robbie Deans enough credit here.

Support the guy - talk him up, even - and you get a Quade Cooper World Cup semifinal-at-Eden Park-type performance. Give him the cold shoulder and leave him out of your preliminary squad ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour and you get a player so determined to prove his worth outside his good mate Will Genia that he looks like one of the best first-fives in the world. Yes, he was that good at Waikato Stadium against the Chiefs. When he wasn't creating trickery with the ball it sometimes felt like the other players were simply filling in time until he did. Robbie and Quade, just kiss and make up. The Lions tour will be so much better if you do.

Coach killer
nib Stadium security
Home fans! Want to be the ultimate supporters? If the game is tight and the visitors are looking like stealing a victory which is rightfully yours, simply take your clothes off and run on to the field! nib Stadium security, give yourselves an uppercut. The Crusaders didn't deserve to beat the Force in Perth, but Todd Blackadder will rightly wonder what might have been after the referee was forced to stop play as the Crusaders, two points down with four minutes left, won a turnover and had a five-on-two-advantage out wide. One of the Force defenders was a lock. The reason? The first of five, yes five, pitch invasions, which turned the end of the match into a farce. A bad look in every sense.

Fab four

Blues
Won 28-6 v Hurricanes, Eden Park
5th overall, 2nd in NZC
Sir JK's rollercoaster is back on the incline. Four tries to none, with the Blues disallowed two more from Steven Luatua (held up over line) and Charles Piutau (knock on while trying to force a bouncing ball). The Hurricanes appeared a little fortunate in their victory last weekend over the Waratahs but most thought they would have too much firepower for a Blues team which battled to victory at home over the luckless Highlanders the week before. Instead they were shut out. Clinical is not a term the Blues have been labelled with lately, but they approached it on Saturday night. Impressive.

Reds
Won 31-23 v Chiefs, Waikato Stadium
4th overall, 2nd in AC
The Reds targeted this match as crucial and their homework was rewarded. James Horwill, Will Genia and Quade Cooper were outstanding and the Reds' props James Slipper and Greg Holmes appear to be in the form of their lives. Rod Davies' pace was a constant threat. The champions of 2011 are building nicely and their clash with the Brumbies in Brisbane on Saturday is a must watch. The Chiefs were flat and couldn't take advantage of their chances. Even the usually excellent Richard Kahui took wrong options. It was the first time this season that Gareth Anscombe, who has been so impressive at fullback, looked like a first-five playing out of position.

Kings
Won 30-27 v Rebels, AAMI Park
13th overall, 5th in SAC
You've got to love the Kings, who, now that the Cheetahs are playing so well they are expected to win more than they lose, should be everyone's second favourite team. This was the second win of the season for the newcomers who were supposed to be road kill and it came with the drama we have come to expect from the men from Port Elizabeth. Down by seven points with five minutes to play, the brilliantly-named flanker Wimpie van der Walt scored a converted try to level the score and first-five Demetri Catrakilis kicked a dropped goal after the hooter. Cue mayhem on the reserves bench. It was the final match of a four-game trip for the Kings, who beat the Rebels in round one and drew with the high-flying Brumbies in Canberra last weekend.

Force
Won 16-14 v Crusaders, nib Stadium
12th overall, 4th in AC
A stunning, but not completely surprising, victory by the Force over the Crusaders. Todd Blackadder's men, on their way home after playing the Stormers and Sharks, looked tired and lethargic. Their forwards played well at times _ Luke Romano tried his heart out, scoring one and getting over the line for two more only for the TMO to rule them out _ but the backs were ordinary, apart from possibly wing Tom Marshall. The Crusaders have always struggled in Perth and they looked like a team desperate to get home. With two home games against the Highlanders and Rebels, there is still hope for them but it's fading fast. Force lock Rory Walton, on debut, summed it up when calling the win "the best feeling in my life".

Form XV
Ben Franks (Hurricanes)
Corey Flynn (Crusaders)
Owen Franks (Crusaders)
Luke Romano (Crusaders)
Ali Williams (Blues)
Steven Luatua (Blues)
Luke Braid (Blues)
Peter Saili (Blues)
Piri Weepu (Blues)
Chris Noakes (Blues)
Rene Ranger (Blues)
Jackson Willison (Blues)
Francis Saili (Blues)
Frank Halai (Blues)
Charles Piutau (Blues)

- APNZ

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