Another outstanding New Zealand derby; two blowout wins and some home cooking that's left a bad taste in the Blues mouth - 18 words to describe 324 minutes of Super Rugby for the five kiwi franchises in week 13.
Having been perplexed, flummoxed and stunned at the non-sending off of Shaun Treeby on Saturday morning, Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden has regained his composure in order to compile his New Zealand Form Team of the Week:
1. While the two tries stand out, Aki Seiuli's (Highlanders) core work was excellent in trying conditions in Perth. Helped by a ref that didn't put up with the Force's shenanigans at scrum time, Seiuli was solid at set piece, lifted well, is clearly an excellent athlete as proven by his ability to get around the field and as leading tackler on the night for his team with 11.
2. James Parsons (Blues) delivered his best performance of the season. He was active with (10 carries) and without ball in hand (12 tackles), threw accurately and scrummed really well.
3. As was perfectly describe by the Super Sport commentary team, Charlie Faumuina (Blues) was part prop, part first five against the Stormers. He made the final pass on the first two Blues tries as well as delivering some telling tackles during a Stormers first half goal line assault. As has been stated before, Faumuina is one of the most complete players in the game today and whatever money Toulouse is paying him, it's an absolute bargain.
4. The only thing more astonishing than Brodie Retallick's (Chiefs) continued excellence is that someone who is already one of the best in his position in the world keep showing us improvement on a weekly basis. In a losing effort, Retallick was a colossus as he and his All Blacks locking partner, playing opposite him in Suva, put on a second row clinic and yes I'm still struggling to comprehend how Retallick got over to make that tackle on Manasa Mataele - Forward of the Week
5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders) did what world class international players do after they've had an enforced break - come back and play like they have never been away. I know it was only two weeks, but as stated above, he and Retallick were clear standouts for either pack on that sultry night in Suva and as is becoming the norm, Whitelock's captaincy was on point.
6. The untiring, combative performance of Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (Crusaders) was best summed up by his coach post match on Friday night. "He tough! He's gonna win any fight on the main street of Palmerston North, he just goes at it" and I'm not one to disagree with a bloke nicknamed Razor.
7. Pete Samu (Crusaders) wasn't far behind Bedwell-Curtis on the Scott Robertson toughness scale. Between the two of them, they made the loss of the inform Matt Todd prior to the start of the match a non-factor with every tackle, ball carry and ruck clean out they collectively made.
8. Brad Shields (Hurricanes) continue to highlight his pedigree with an industrious outing against the Cheetahs especially with ball in hand (12 carries for 87 metres gained) and was prominent at set piece with six lineout takes.
9. When Augustine Pulu (Blues) goes well, so do the Blues. He made some great decision on changing the point of attack, especially in the first half at Newlands and doesn't shirk his responsibility on defence, even snaffling a turn over as well.
10. Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders) looked every inch an All Black first five in another balanced, controlled performance. He made crucial plays - the sweep line to pick up the chip & chase that sparked the Havili try & then a clean line break that ended with Funnell scoring in the left wing corner - and just as importantly (maybe even more so) he made vital kicks for goal - Back of the Week
PS - Aaron Cruden (Chiefs) as good as Mo'unga in every aspect bar one very, VERY, significant one.
11. James Lowe (Chiefs) loves playing the Crusaders and while he was on the losing side on this occasion, he showed his class and big game poise. The patience he displayed and the way he put his body in between the ball and the defender in scoring the Chiefs second tries highlights the intelligence that he plays the game with.
12. Even though he started at fullback, David Havili (Crusaders) spent the majority of his time at second five following Ryan Crotty's early departure and showed his fantastic versatility with a classy all round performance in midfield. It's a versatility that would make himself a nice addition to a touring squad at the next level if required.
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs) was his typically solid self on defence, but we finally saw him a little more prominent and incisive on attack. Jack Goodhue (Crusaders) continued his rich vein of form in Suva as well. The midfield stocks in New Zealand are well laden with young talent just waiting to be shaped at the next level.
14. Seta Tamanivalu (Crusaders) made the most of the opportunity that flowed his way with plenty of quality touches. His 11 carries produced 3 line breaks; 80 metres gained and included 4 off loads, one of them crucial in the David Havili try. He looks so comfortable on the wing and, on form, is one of the best right wings in Super Rugby from a NZ point of view.
15. Melani Nanai (Blues) looks very natural and comfortable in the fifteen jersey. He timed his runs nicely from the back and positioned himself well defensively against the Stormers in Cape Town.
NIGEL YALDEN IS THE RUGBY EDITOR FOR RADIO SPORT & NEWSTALK ZB