Eleven talking points and a form XV from Super Rugby.
Some days you eat the bear; some days the bear tears you to bits and scatters your remains all over the forest
The Crusaders, it was feared by some, were possibly psychologically scarred by off field rumours and charges, hence the drubbing in Suva last weekend by the Chiefs. As the poor Rebels tottered off after a 66-0 humiliation in Christchurch, could it be that stress actually suits the Crusaders? A week off now to refresh, and then pity the poor mob that has to play them in the quarterfinal in a fortnight.
I hope he likes sushi
A weird knock on at the death on Saturday night aside, Braydon Ennor already looks so much like an All Black it's hard to imagine he won't be at the World Cup in Japan.
Script by Hallmark
Ryan Crotty, the epitome of the approachable, good-natured Crusader, had the 150th Super Rugby game celebration to dream of. First, he was welcomed onto the field by a guard of honour formed by young members of the New Brighton rugby club, and then received a haka from members of the Shirley Boys' first and second XVs. He finished with a try in the 80th minute, which he then converted. The only moment when nerves kicked in was with the conversion. He tried to palm it off to kicker Brett Cameron, who replied, "Nah, mate", and walked away. Of course, Crotty's kick sailed between the uprights.
We know what you did last season. No, make that eight seasons ago
Quade Cooper was booed onto the ground when he came on as a late replacement for the Rebels. Will he ever be forgiven in Christchurch for appearing to have dropped a knee into a prone Richie McCaw in Brisbane in 2011? No. Hurt someone else, then maybe. But you don't ever get pardoned in red and black country for kneeing Richie.
As coach Steve says, worry is a wasted emotion
The list of injured All Blacks that was starting to lengthen a few weeks ago is thankfully shortening. The powerhouse with the mullet, Liam Squire was back for the Highlanders, and Kieran Read played a full 80 minutes for the Crusaders, providing some of his traditionally deft touches. Best of all though was the sight of Dane Coles rip snorting his way through the last 40 minutes of the Hurricanes' 37-17 win over the Lions in Johannesburg. Coles at his best is a jumping jack in boots, and both his tries were examples of why it'll be great to have him back for the World Cup.
Altitude, what altitude?
The Hurricanes made a mockery of the idea that playing in the thin air of Johannesburg can be. Shrewd substitutions helped, and when they dropped some of the aimless kicking of the first spell, in the last 40 minutes they added 13 points to their first half lead of seven points. They look like the only team apart from the Crusaders who could win the title.
Mandrake would be proud of this moment of magic
There may never be a more stunning try this year than the one scored by Ben Lam for the Hurricanes in the dying moments of the first half against the Lions. The Hurricanes kicked off, Lions' lock Marvin Oire spilled the ball, and before you could say, "Abracadabra" Lam spirited away and was scoring.
In Australia they call it being dudded
The Blues 29-28 loss to the Reds in Brisbane was a living, breathing nightmare for the Auckland team. Some of it was the Blues' own making, some of it from refereeing that drew some sharp questioning from Ma'a Nonu, usually pretty stoic when it comes to rulings. For the sake of Trans-Tasman relations, it was probably fortunate that the referee was a Kiwi, Brendon Pickerill.
You know we can see what's happening too, don't you?
Decisions based on video replays are always likely to be second-guessed. Watching at home you get exactly the same view a television match official gets, and when Augustine Pulu was denied a third try because, the officials believed, he hadn't released the ball before placing it over the line, we had the time to watch it over and over. I got to nine before not being able to handle it anymore. Referee Pickerill had awarded the try on the field. If the video showed beyond a reasonable doubt that Pulu didn't score, then Keith Richards has never put anything bad for him in his body.
Hurricanes win again despite Beauden Barrett blow
Gregor Paul: New NZR boss has pressing business - and it's not the ABs
Sharing the points was pointless for Highlanders
At the start of a season a draw is a novelty that allows everyone to mutter platitudes like "it was probably a fair reflection of the game". But when the Highlanders and the Bulls struggled to a 24-all draw in Dunedin, it was possibly the most pointless 80 minutes the Highlanders have spent all year. Splitting the points leaves them now just clinging to a playoff chance, rather than snapping at the heels of the top eight.
Near enough to a perfect 10
Aaron Smith had one kick outside his 22 drift into touch but that was his only glitch in yet another golden game for the Highlanders. His passing, as always, was immaculate, and his running was incisive. What lifts him from very good to being one of the all-time greats is the energy he brings to the table. He's like a seven-year-old on a sugar rush who has every rugby skill up to, and including, tackling men who look twice his size.
Form team of the round
David Havili (Crusaders)
Ben Lam (Hurricanes)
Jack Goodhue (Crusaders)
Braydon Ennor (Crusaders)
Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes)
Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders)
Aaron Smith (Highlanders)
Kieran Read (Crusaders)
Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)
Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
Scott Barrett (Crusaders)
Dalton Papalii (Blues)
Tyrel Lomax (Highlanders)
Dane Coles (Hurricanes)
Joe Moody (Crusaders)
Reserves: Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes), Josh Ioane (Highlanders), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), Matt Todd (Crusaders), Luke Romano (Crusaders), Michael Ala'alatoa (Crusaders), Alex Hodgson (Blues), Liam Coltman (Highlanders).