Super Rugby: Best and worst of week 11

Jone Macilai of the Crusaders runs with the ball. Photo / Getty
Jone Macilai of the Crusaders runs with the ball. Photo / Getty

Kris Shannon looks at the best and worst performers from the weekend's Super Rugby action.

Back of the week

Jone Macilai - Crusaders
Losing Nemani Nadolo to suspension looked to be a big blow to the Crusaders' attack. How are a team supposed to replace such a potent weapon? The Crusaders decisively answered that question in their crushing win over the Reds: find another Fijian, stick him on the left wing and watch him plunder tries. Given he's about 40kg lighter than his countryman, Macilai adopted a different style to Nadolo, but his combination of speed and footwork was no less effective. A hat-trick was the result - it could have been four but for the TMO - and Macilai even charged down a conversion for good measure.

Forward of the week

Matt Todd - Crusaders
Jordan Taufua earned all the attention, throwing the dummy of the season as he sauntered down the sideline to score, but his loose forward mate quietly had a hell of a game.

Todd has been industrious all season and the openside appeared determined to tackle the Reds out of the game, racking up 11 tackles by halftime before finishing with a game-high 18. Clearly enjoying a consistent spell in the Crusaders' No 7 jersey after the previous owner bowed out, Todd also showed Richie McCaw-like effectiveness at the breakdown, snaffling four turnovers to ensure the Reds never got going.

Coach killer

What to make of the Hurricanes. Their season seemed ascendant after overcoming a stumbling start, unlucky to lose to the Chiefs before thrashing the previously-impressive Lions at Ellis Park. The Kiwi conference again looked like a four-horse race and last year's beaten finalists looked like they could make another deep run. And then they go and capitulate in ignominious fashion against the underwhelming Sharks. Only a late try made the score seem respectable as the Hurricanes struggled at the set piece, missed tackles and committed turnovers. In short,they were poor all over the park.

The Fab Four

1) Highlanders
26-13 win over Chiefs, 3rd in NZC, 6th overall
The Chiefs' attack had been getting all the headlines and rightfully so: they were on record-setting pace through their first nine games. And then the Highlanders headed to Hamilton and held the table-toppers to fewer than 20 points for the first time this season. Considering they did it without injured pair Shane Christie and Liam Squire, the statement made will be one that leaves the Chiefs stewing until a final-round rematch.

2) Crusaders
38-5 win over Reds, 1st in NZC, 1st overall
This ranking is more about a continuation of their remarkable run than the game itself, which was as good as over by the time Jone Macilai crossed for his second try in the seventh minute. Eight straight wins is impressive enough, but the last three in particular have been as comprehensive as coach Todd Blackadder could have desired. Decent form to take into a blockbuster clash with the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday night.

3) Brumbies
23-6 win over Bulls, 1st in AC, 4th overall
The Brumbies must have grown sick of the sight of Kiwi teams, having in the space of four games lost to the Chiefs, Crusaders and Highlanders by a combined score of 111-47. So even though the Bulls went into the match with only one defeat, the South African side would have still been a welcome sight in Canberra. And the Australian leaders proceeded to show the requisite physicality and solidity to revive their campaign.

4) Blues
34-18 win over Kings, 5th in NZC, 11th overall
Yes,it was only the Kings, a team with a -27.6 average points differential this season, but every away win counts when it's been almost two years between drinks. The victory lifted the Blues' record to five wins, three losses and a draw- not bad for the worst team in the Kiwi conference. In fact, the Blues' 25 competition points would put them level with the Brumbies atop the Australian conference, despite playing one game fewer.

This week:

Highlanders v Crusaders, Dunedin, 7.35pm
Rebels v Brumbies, Melbourne, 9.40pm

Hurricanes vReds, Wellington, 7.35pm
Waratahs v Bulls, Sydney, 9.40pm
Sunwolves v Stormers, Singapore, 11.45pm

Cheetahs v Kings, Bloemfontein, 3.05am
Lions v Blues, Johannesburg, 5.10am
Jaguares v Sharks, Buenos Aires, 9.40pm

Byes: Chiefs, Force

- NZ Herald

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