Ten talking points, and a form XV from the weekend's Super Rugby.
We might be winless in 15 games, but we draw the line at 16
Good on the Blues for not only tipping over the Chiefs, 23-8, at Eden Park, but for also breaking a hoodoo with the men from Hamilton that goes back to 2011. There were terrific tries, but for Leon MacDonald and his Blues coaching staff the defence in the last 10 minutes against a tide of attacks by the Chiefs may have been what he will cherish most from the game.
The son also rises, part one
Eroni Clarke was a powerhouse whether at wing, or in the midfield, for Auckland and the All Blacks in the 1990s. We all knew his son Caleb, now a right wing for the Blues, was fast and powerful, and on Saturday night he was also as busy as an openside flanker, popping up all over the park, working hard at breakdowns, and setting up not one, but two tries, for Harry Plummer and Melani Nanai with selfless precision. His best play of the game came in the 24th minute, when, conceding Shaun Stevenson a three metre start he hunted the Chiefs speedster down inside the Blues' 22, when a try would have put the Chiefs ahead 12-0.
It would be a strange person who didn't flinch the first time Sam Cane went into contact at Eden Park. A fractured vertebrae in his neck had made a lot of us wonder if one of the most grounded, good blokes in our rugby should be even playing again. But Cane's highly regarded by the All Black coaches for a maturity remarkable in a man still only 27 years old. Bet the farm on the fact he would have had extensive, expert, medical advice before he pulled on a jersey again. The very good news was that he played as if the horror accident in Pretoria in October had never happened, and emerged unscathed.
Should have gone to Specsavers
There was, said television match official Marius Jonker to referee Nic Berry, "a very obvious forward pass" in what appeared to be a sensational try by Sevu Reece in the 74th minute of the Crusaders game with the Stormers in Cape Town. Having watched the moment Braydon Ennor passes to Reece eight times (I counted), and frozen it frame by frame, it seems a lot more obvious that the ball went backwards out of Ennor's hands, and that the pass had an almost classical beauty to it. In the end a 19-all draw in a regular season game was just disappointing. If it had cost the Crusaders a final I would have been one of many in Canterbury carrying a handful of pins, searching for a Marius Jonker voodoo doll.
The son also rises, part two
You barely need to squint your eyes (Marius Jonker wouldn't need to at all) to have moments when Ethan Blackadder looks so much like his father Todd, you'd think Todd had returned as a young man. What's great to see is that Ethan brings exactly the same hard edged commitment to the game his Dad always did.
Remember players having the sun on their backs?
You didn't have to be a Highlanders' fan to be disappointed in their 38-29 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg. The refereeing by Rasta Rasivhenge was, to be polite, eccentric. On the other hand, it was great to see two teams that wanted to score tries, and had a bone dry field and ball to play with.
Player of the weekend
Aaron Smith at his best is a constant delight, and he was on fire at Ellis Park. From bullet passing to pin point box kicks, to the confidence to tap and run and set up Sio Tomkinson for a try, he was he was a one man carnival parade.
It was going fine until the last 79 minutes
The Vaea Fifita try the Hurricanes scored after 51 seconds of their game with the Jaguares in Wellington had everything. A terrific break by Jordie Barrett, brushing off four tacklers, a lovely kick by Ngani Laumape for Fifita to grab the ball and score. And then it all went dog. The 28-20 scoreline for the Jaguares' victory was a little flattering to the Canes, who could barely manage simple tasks like getting the ball in straight to a lineout. A fair censor would place an X rating on the game day videos the Canes will be forced to see before they head to South Africa.
The weird thing is he's never played league
The split second decision by Jordie Barrett in the 14th minute in Wellington to slap the ball over the dead ball line, so gifting a penalty try to the Jaguares, and earning himself a yellow card, was, of course, a close echo of what Sonny Bill Williams did in Paris in a test with France in 2017. Back then All Black coach Steve Hansen was pretty magnanimous. It may have helped that the All Blacks still won, 38-18. "Sonny doesn't know the rules because he was playing league," said Hansen. "In league it's allowed." We know the Barrett brothers spent a lot of their childhood in Taranaki playing outside. Did Jordie also sneak a look at a few games on tv as well?
'It's appalling': Parents quit rugby club after convicted player's inclusion
Perils of sexting, porn and online hook-ups: Book offers life skills to AB hopefuls
How the All Blacks' greatest strength is turning to their biggest weakness
Memo to All Blacks selectors: I can play No 8 too
In a generally awful night for the Hurricanes, Ardie Savea was direct, tidy, and, as always, dynamic in the No 8 jersey. If he doesn't get ahead of Sam Cane at the World Cup, he's a must for the playing day squad, covering multiple positions.
Now an all-Kiwi team picked only on form in the latest round:
Fullback: Melani Nanai (Blues)
Right wing: Caleb Clarke (Blues)
Centre: Jack Goodhue (Crusaders)
Left wing: Ben Lam (Hurricanes)
Second-five: Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs)
First-five: Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders)
Halfback: Aaron Smith (Highlanders)
No.8: Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)
Flanker: Matt Todd (Crusaders)
Flanker: Dalton Papalii (Blues)
Lock: Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
Lock: Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues)
Tighthead prop: Angus Ta'avao (Chiefs)
Hooker: Codie Taylor (Crusaders)
Loosehead prop: Ofa Tuungafasi (Blues)
Reserves: Matt Faddes (Highlanders), Harry Plummer (Blues), Bryn Hall (Crusaders), Akira Ioane (Blues), Scott Barrett (Crusaders), Tyrel Lomax (Highlanders), Alex Hodgson (Blues), Liam Coltman (Highlanders).