Four New Zealand teams play; four New Zealand teams win - not totally unsurprising it must be said.
The Hurricanes and Crusaders were impressive aside from small pockets of resistance in their respective games; the Highlanders threatened to cut loose but never kicked on down the home straight while the Chiefs were sloppy and inaccurate though not to the same level as their opposition.
After the combined 320 minutes of action, here's Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden's NZ Form Team of the Week for Round 9 of Super Rugby:
1. Ben May (Hurricanes) had an industrious night at McLean Park. He played his part in a strong scrummaging effort, carried with intent, tackled in the same manner and was energetic around the park
2. Codie Taylor (Crusaders) was very good in the first half; slightly less involved in the second before being subbed off with the game well in hand but overall the best of a solid group of hooking performances over the weekend. Liam Coltman (Highlanders) continues to impress with another nice outing in Invercargill.
3. Jeffery To'omaga-Allen (Hurricanes) had an excellent game highlighted by some quality scrummaging, solid defence and robust ball carries.
4. As usual, Scott Barrett (Crusaders) was ploughing into anything and everything against the Stormers as he shows not even the slightness inclination of a sophomore slump.
5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders) continues to excel as both a world class lock forward and captain. Prominent in all areas against an equally world class opponent in Eben Etzebeth, Whitelock highlighted what a great piece of business it was by New Zealand Rugby to retain his services to 2020.
6. This really is a case of take your pick as Brad Shield (Hurricanes), Liam Squire (Highlanders), Jordan Taufua (Crusaders) & Liam Messam (Chiefs) all did tireless work for their sides, all contributing a staunch, unflinching robustness to their respective teams victories. For the record, I'm going with Messam, who rose well above the mediocrity and awfulness of that game in Perth to produce a high quality all round game, but there is sod all between he and the other three men.
7. Ardie Savea (Hurricanes) played 70% of the game at openside; 30% at number eight and 100% of it in Beast Mode - Forward of the Week
8. Kieran Read (Crusaders) has quickly got back to his marauding best, into everything in spades against the abrasive Stormers pack. He scored a couple of tries ranging wide but excelled in close & lineout time.
9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Hurricanes) delivered the first jabs as part of an excellent one-two punch behind the Canes pack. He was quick to the breakdown and delivered a smooth, sharp pass while he excellent defensively, with three strong and vital tackles in a quick succession as part of goal line defensive stand around the 25th minutes very impressive. When he left after 47 minutes, TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) came on, ratcheted things up several notches and helped deliver the knockout punches to the Brumbies.
10. When Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) gets the ball in his hand, the world of rugby instantly becomes an even more joyous place than it already is. He is playing the game with an astonishing level of skill, pace, vision; decisiveness & confidence ... just ask the Brumbies - Back of the Week. Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders) controlled the Crusaders attack beautifully in another noteworthy outing.
11. George Bridge (Crusaders) did a good job of finishing some nice attacks, hence the hat trick of tries, but he also continues to show a willingness to get involved, carry hard and generally puts himself in good position to contribute with or without the ball.
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs) has a wonderful ability to compliment whoever he is paired up with midfield, whether it's at second-five as he was against the Force, or at centre. He formed an excellent defensive partnership with Sam McNicol and whilst not heavily involved on attack, he did chime in was some solid running and quick, accurate passing.
13. Vince Aso (Hurricanes) started the match with a delightful individual try and then contributed mightily to a resounding second half comeback with two more tries as part of an excellent display. Matt Faddes (Highlanders) also very impressive against a much improved Sunwolves in Invercargill.
14. Really liked what Cory Jane (Hurricanes) bought to the game on Friday night in Napier, reminding everyone that there's still plenty of life (and spring) in those legs of his with a smart, error free effort
15. It is going to be very tough call for Coach Scott Robertson to move David Havili (Crusaders) from fullback when Israel Dagg returns. Havili showed against the Stormers was appears to be a naturally inclination for the position with the way he positions himself, fields the high ball and returns the ball with a nice combination of speed and evasiveness.
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