The rest of the rugby world could only dream about producing the sort of game we saw in Hamilton on Saturday night.

The Blues and Chiefs went at it in 80 minutes of chaotic brilliance. When rugby is played like that, there is no better team sport in the world.

Earlier, I watched a decent NRL thriller between a below-par South Sydney Rabbitohs outfit and a Warriors side whose ability to cope with the late scratching of Blake Green waned in the final stages.


As a long-time fan of both codes, these days, rugby holds more possibilities of greater breadth, whereas league is still too robotic. The skills of modern rugby forwards are exceptional, and may have their roots in league, where men like Arthur Beetson, Gavin Miller, Sonny Bill Williams and quite a few Englishmen turned passing into an art form.

And New Zealand is the one country which looks most capable of taking interchanges involving forwards to new levels, although South Africa, England and Ireland have impressive players in their packs. It's why the All Blacks are capable of wiping out any World Cup opponent, as arrogant as that may sound.

It was the power, skill and athleticism of the forwards which set the Hamilton game apart — and in particular the offloading.

From Nathan Harris on one side to Karl Tu'inukuafe on the other, it was truly exhilarating.
I firmly believe Tu'inukuafe can become the greatest prop New Zealand has ever produced — his back story and unmistakable on-field persona further mark him down as a rare thing, a huge front rower to get the turnstiles clicking.

No New Zealand prop has had his all round strengths, and considering where he has come from, you feel there is a wealth of untapped potential. We may be witnessing the birth of a legend.

Incumbent test loosehead Joe Moody is a class act but Tu'inukuafe is something extra special. They are a great one-two punch for the All Blacks.

Tu'inukuafe's scrum prowess is well known and will only get better — he is still a relative rookie. But he also does some amazing stuff around the field for a big man, and his pivotal role in the Blues try just before the break will remain long in the memory.

Having smuggled an excellent pass to create a break, he stretched out a hand to haul in a difficult return ball under pressure, then slipped another pass to set up the try. All of this while he chugged along at close to top speed for a big prop. It was breathtaking, and he made it look easy.


Of the others ... Chiefs captain Brodie Retallick seemed to be everywhere, even if things didn't always go his way. For such a big man, he has an amazing motor.

In the backs, Anton Lienert-Brown really stood out. There are many traditions in New Zealand rugby, and his style evokes memories and reputations of men such as Bruce Robertson and JB Smith. There is craft and elegance to Lienert-Brown.

But the night belonged to the forwards in Hamilton. And one who produced a particularly impressive blast was replacement Blues prop Alex Hodgman.

The stats say he made eight runs in 19 minutes, and every one of those involved Hodgman flinging himself at the Chiefs defence as if his life depended on it. He scooped up one fabulous offload in heavy traffic.

As for the bad news ...

It's unlikely these sides will foot it with the Crusaders, who have a fair deal of attacking class themselves, plus a lot of world-class precision.

For my money, there are still major holes in the Chiefs and Blues. But who cares when you get a game like that?