Forward of the week

Liam Squire

Squire showed on Friday night that, among all his attributes, he possessed a great deal of timing. Not timing in the tackle, though there were plenty of that in the Highlanders' big win over the Stormers, but in a more general sense. After all, on the same day Jerome Kaino underwent a minor operation to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, the All Black's heir apparent picked a pretty good time to issue a reminder of his talents. Squire did do that at No 8, rather than at blindside flanker, but he again illustrated a physicality rather reminiscent of Kaino, leading both teams with 19 crunching tackles.

Back of the week

David Havili (Crusaders)

Israel Dagg tweeted last Tuesday he was "hopefully" two weeks away from being back with the Crusaders, putting his return right around the crunch clash with the Hurricanes. But, the way David Havili has been playing, there's no need to rush the injured All Black. Having cemented the fullback spot in Dagg's absence, Havili enjoyed his best performance yet against the Cheetahs, forming an unstoppable attacking trio with wings George Bridge and Seta Tamanivalu. Bridge bagged another hat-trick but Havili had a hand in four tries- scoring two and grabbing two assists- while also making 125 metres and beating 10 defenders. Dagg might be battling to win back a place.

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Coach killer

Reds' discipline

It was the match no one had been waiting for: an interstate battle for the all-important second spot in the Australian Conference. And, befitting a rather unseemly group of teams, it was won not through one side's brilliance but the other's ill-discipline. With 20 minutes to play, the Reds were leading 26-20, looking set to close the gap on the pace-setting Brumbies. But three penalties in 15 minutes - the last, in the 78th, after a high shot from Alex Mafi - saw Bernard Foley kick the Waratahs to victory. All together, the Reds lost the penalty count 16-4 and Foley kicked 15 points after his opponents transgressed.



The Fab Four

1) Crusaders

48-21 win over Cheetahs

1st in NZC, 1st overall

It wasn't a perfect performance but the Crusaders remain perfect. And this year's vintage is now in rarefied air regarding unbeaten starts, entering a club occupied only by previous Crusaders teams. In 22 years of Super Rugby, the only other sides to win their first nine games were the 2006 Crusaders and the 2002 Crusaders. In '06, they drew their 10th and lost their 11th before claiming the title. In'02, they went 11-0 before claiming the title. This year? We shall see.

2) Highlanders
57-14 win over Stormers
4th in NZC, 7th overall
Before this weekend, it felt like something of an off year for the Highlanders, having lost three of their opening four games to falloff the early pace set by a trio of high-flying Kiwi sides. But one smashing of the Stormers later and the southern side seem right back in contention. The Highlanders have now won five matches in a row to rise to seventh and, with 28 points in the bank, only one non-New Zealand side (the Lions) have amassed more.

3) Lions
24-15 win over Force
1st in SAC2, 2nd overall
Another side enjoying a profitable win streak, the Lions roared past the Force for their sixth straight victory, earning an ideal start to their potentially pivotal Australian trip. If last year's runner-up can get past the Rebels and Brumbies in the next fortnight, they will head back to head back to the home comforts of South Africa knowing they need just one slip up from the Crusaders to ensure they can remain in the Republic for the rest of the season.

4) Kings
44-3 win over Rebels
4th in SAC2, 11th overall
How about the Kings making their second straight Fab Four appearance? The traditional strugglers followed up last week's win over the Waratahs by thumping the Rebels, earning back-to-back Super Rugby victories for the first time. The twin triumphs have lifted the Kings to11th, lofty heights they have not experienced since way back in round four of their maiden season in 2013. Between their result and the Sunwolves' efforts in Hamilton, it was a good week for the minnows.

Stats


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