Five wins from five games for New Zealand teams in week six of Super Rugby as the kiwi franchises used their superior fitness and bench strength to outscore their opponents by a combined 75-20 in the final twenty minutes of the encounters.
After a weekend that wasn't as dominant as the scores would suggest - Highlanders the exception to the rule - Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden has selected his NZ Form Team of the Week.
1. Pauliasi Manu (Blues)
Found this a tough choice between Manu and Aki Seiuli (Highlanders) as both had a good all round games. Seiuli was better around the field while Manu was stronger in the scrums; both lifted well & defended very tidily. Manu gets the nod but it wouldn't take much to sway me the other way.
2. Codie Taylor (Crusaders)
A good quality effort by Taylor in Sydney. He did the core roles of a hooker very well and was active around the field as usual. Liam Coltman (Highlanders) wasn't far off either after another impressive outing in Dunedin.
3. Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen (Hurricanes)
Just like the looseheads previously mentioned, Toomaga-Allen delivered a solid all round performance in a game that had some long periods of play, with those phases being played at pace too.
4. Scott Barrett (Crusaders)
Barrett continues to enhance his standing and versatility. After a high energy, high work rate and combative 58 minutes at lock, he switched to blindside and produced 22 minutes of the same in that position.
5. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)
No, I don't write him in before the start of each weekend, but its jolly tempting to because struth he's playing outstanding rugby. The collective work rates of Retallick, Barrett & Sam Whitelock (Crusaders) already this season show why they are clearly the top three locks in the country, despite some quality efforts by a stacked chasing pack.
6. Gareth Evans (Highlanders)
He really gets about a rugby field whenever he gets on one. Evans was into everything on Friday night, providing a wonderful balance to the respective talents of his fellow loose forwards in Hunt and Whitelock. A heck of an athlete with good pace, Evans was a standout even when you factor in the lack lustre opposition
7. Matt Todd (Crusaders)
Matt Todd did what Matt Todd does; work, work and more work. He was the leading tackler on his team, great in support, even made a couple of line breaks and helped keep the ball alive on three occasions with some timely offloads. Dillon Hunt (Highlanders) and Mitch Karpik (Chiefs) also had outings of note.
8. Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)
Savea produced one of the best individual, all round performances on the competition this season. Be it attack, defence or in support, Savea was a everywhere and every involvement he had impacted the game positively for his team - Forward of the Week
9. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)
An excellent all round game from Perenara highlighted by some brilliant defensive reads, one of which resulted in an intercept try. He showed speed to the breakdown, excellent passing game as well as leading the side in his own inimitable manner - Referee of the Week
10. Aaron Cruden (Chiefs)
The Chiefs might have missed a swag of tackles early in this contest but Cruden was on point. The Bulls looked to challenge him defensively and he responded with a team leading 15 tackles (4th equal for the round overall) which you rarely see from a first five these days. He steered things nicely, especially in the second half when the Chiefs collectively got their act together and kicked well, both tactically and off the tee.
11. George Bridge (Crusaders)
Stats in rugby can sometimes deceive, but that's not the case with Bridge. He recorded 156 running metres of 13 carries with 3 line breaks, 9 defenders beaten and scored the opening try of the contest against NSW. Yeah, he got swatted aside by Naiyaravoro as he rumbled his way to a try, but I'll forgive that give the multitude on positive things he contributed to the Crusaders sixth straight win of the season - Back of the Week
12. Richard Buckman (Highlanders)
There's something reassuring about Buckman when he plays at second five. He makes sensible rugby decisions and has a lovely set of skills, most of which got an airing against a Rebels midfield which was the best of an otherwise sub-standard opposition.
13. Tim Bateman (Crusaders)
Bateman not only had to mark up opposite Israel Folau, but also had to take over the midfield leadership with Ryan Crotty departed through injury. Defensively he was rock solid, scored two excellent tries and help.
14. Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs)
Stevenson's outstanding individual try in the 51st minute helped spark the crowd and his team into life. There wasn't a whole heap of play that run the way of right wings for the NZ teams with Stevenson making the best of his limited chances ahead of Matt Duffie (Blues) and Vince Aso (Hurricanes).
15. Damian McKenzie (Chiefs)
McKenzie and Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes) were both standouts but I've gone with McKenzie who had more touches, more breaks, beat more defenders & made more metres, though some of those metres were easily gained because of poor kick-chase by the Bulls (a flaw in the run metres stat that needs addressing). Barrett had excellent involvement in a game with a much higher pace to it, seemingly always popping up when and where you would expect him to. Like loosehead prop, I could easily be convinced to change my mind on this one as well.
Selection criteria: Must play for a NZ franchise but does not have to be eligible for All Blacks
** Statistics via the NZ Herald Stat Centre **
NIGEL YALDEN IS THE RUGBY EDITOR FOR RADIO SPORT & NEWSTALK ZB