Patrick McKendry reviews the weekend's Super Rugby action including the return of Israel Dagg.
Back of the week
Israel Dagg - Crusaders
Guess who's back? The amazing thing for Dagg - back in the Crusaders for the first time since returning from a shoulder injury - is that the fullback, who normally relies so much on confidence to get his game going, played with so much belief against the Jaguares. He looked fit and sharp despite playing only 30 minutes of club rugby in preparation, scoring two tries and sending a message to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
Forward of the week
Liam Gill - Reds
Coach appreciates a forward attempting a dropped goal, and one that sails over from 41m is worthy of celebrating. Step up then Reds flanker Gill, who put one over on halftime against the Bulls at Loftus. Yes,the referee had awarded advantage to the Reds so it was "risk free" but Gill's goal, which had shades of Zinzan Brooke's against England at the 1995 World Cup, displayed skill and ambition. More please.
The cruel among you, after hearing of the 92-17 shellacking by the Cheetahs,may wish to know if this bunch could sink any lower- perhaps when Super Rugby's first defeat by 100 points is likely to happen. I'll save you the trouble. Mark down May 14, when they host the Stormers, July 9 when they play the Bulls, and July 15 when they play the Sharks (both in South Africa). All jokes aside, this outfit shouldn't be in the competition.
This was the Hurricanes' first return to Australia since their horror show in round one against the Brumbies, and they exorcised that humbling defeat with a solid victory against the Rebels. The AAMI Park pitch resembled a sand pit in some areas, but the Hurricanes' defence improved considerably and so did their attack. Next week's match in Wellington against the Chiefs will be a blockbuster.
The Armchair Coach expected the Crusaders to struggle a little against the Jaguares at AMI Stadium following their return from South Africa. Not a bit of it, Todd Blackadder's men displaying a huge gulf in quality between them and the Super Rugby newcomers, who looked rusty in the extreme following coach Raul Perez's wholesale changes. The Crusaders, now with six wins in a row, are looking ominous.
This was a tough match to watch for Blues and Sharks fans alike due to the errors which prevented the game from going anywhere meaningful. It cried out for someone to take charge and it looked like Willie Le Roux had done it when he put Paul Jordaan away for the Sharks, but George Moala's effort got the Blues back into it and Rieko Ioane's solo try from near halfway was a sensational way for his team to take back the lead.
A big result for the Lions, who conceded a converted try to Siya Kolisi with 18 minutes remaining to hold only a one-point lead which looked extremely tenuous until first-five Elton Jantjies, having a season for the ages, kicked a penalty to ease their worries and then a dropped goal with a few minutes remaining to seal it. These two teams are the best in South Africa.
Highlanders v Sharks, Dunedin, 7.35pm
Rebels v Cheetahs, Melbourne, 9.40pm
Sunwolves v Jaguares, Tokyo, 5.15pm
Hurricanes v Chiefs, Wellington, 7.35pm
Force v Waratahs, Perth, 9.40pm
Stormers v Reds, Cape Town, 1am
Kingsv Lions, Port Elizabeth, 3.05am
Brumbies v Crusaders, Canberra, 6.05pm