Seven talking points from Super Rugby Aotearoa.
THERE'LL NEVER BE A MEETING OF THE MINDS ON THIS ONE
What led up to the brilliantly quick thinking that led to a quick throw in, and a match-winning try, by Will Jordan as the Crusaders beat the Chiefs 18-13 in Christchurch was high on the agenda after the game.
On Sky, Chiefs coach Warren Gatland said the Chiefs had been "furious, because we felt at the breakdown before it should have a penalty against (Crusader) Jack Goodhue. It was just a tough decision."
Thirty or so minutes later at a press conference Gatland was holding his ground. "I thought it was a certain penalty to us. Goodhue made a tackle, and he ended up rolling onto our side, and slowed the ball down."
Watching and rewatching the video it's clear Goodhue was on the Chiefs' side of the breakdown after the tackle, and it wouldn't have been a surprise, especially with the new, super-sensitive attitude to policing the breakdown, if referee James Doleman had pinged him.
But Goodhue was trying to get away from the ball, so a good defence lawyer may well have easily persuaded an impartial jury there was no penalty.
And, as Gatland himself noted, Brad Weber and Aaron Çruden were so busy telling referee Doleman how he'd got it wrong they were caught napping when, after a slap pass from Cruden went to touch, Sevu Reece flicked the ball to Jordan, who was well inside the five metre mark, so had every right to run in the try.
I'm a huge fan of both Weber and Cruden, but in that crucial moment just after halftime Weber especially forgot a mantra kids get told at primary school: Play to the referee's whistle. Jordan and Reece did. The Chiefs didn't.
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THE COUNTDOWN CLOCK IS NOW AT TWO WEEKS
Having lived in both Auckland and Canterbury, I can guarantee that the word electric will hardly do justice to the atmosphere at what will be a sold-out Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch on July 11, when the Blues will play the Crusaders.
Even the most diehard Canterbury fans had started to lose interest in the clash of the cities, and, in many ways, cultures, as the Blues unravelled over the last 15 years. There hasn't been anything spotted at a footy ground in Christchurch for years remotely like the infamous "I Hate You Auckland" sign that made national front pages back in 1997. "Beating the Blues isn't fun anymore," a veteran Crusader fan lamented to me a couple of years ago.
Now, in the wake of the Blues topping the table, and the Crusaders' highly impressive start, all the old derby match excitement is back. Rivalry can get ugly, but God, with a genuine edge sport gets exciting.
GRIMSBY COMES TO CHRISTCHURCH, AND HAD A LOOK AT AUCKLAND TOO
Conditions for the match in Christchurch were so grey, grim, and wet, someone from England who misses the northern winters there would have been misty eyed with nostalgia, especially after the Eden Park game was on a slippery pitch too.
"Winter rugby, eh?" said Crusaders' coach Scott Robertson. "Those conditions and an arm-wrestle make it rugby for the purists."
THE WORLD HAS CHANGED AT EDEN PARK
Man of the match Caleb Clarke, and a revitalised Rieko Ioane provided the rushes of excitement in the 27-24 victory over the Highlanders, but at the heart of the revival of the Blues is the grit of their defence.
In the last, scrambling, nerve-wracking, desperate two minutes of the game, the Blues held up a Highlanders' drive from an attacking five metre lineout long enough to be awarded a scrum from the maul, were awarded a penalty at the scrum, and the match was basically over.
As captain Patrick Tuipulotu noted, "Even last year, big moments like that would have slowly faded away from us. We weren't able to hang on and have the composure." Now they do.
WORDS TO LIVE BY
Blues hooker James Parsons, an old-school front-row battler, summing up how hard work has made the difference this season, noted that on free days the players still turn up for skill training.
His words are fit to be chiselled in stone: "We're not good enough to have earned days off yet."
HOW DO YOU GET UNDER AN AUCKLANDER'S SKIN? ASK HAMMER
The commitment and courage shown by the Highlanders at Eden Park might have jogged some memories for their assistant coach, Mark "Hammer" Hammett.
In his days as a Canterbury and All Black hooker, he achieved the once thought impossible, getting the better in a verbal battle of one of the most fierce competitors rugby has ever seen, the great Sean Fitzpatrick.
In 1997, in the semifinal of the NPC at Lancaster Park, with the score 15-all, Hammett is penalised eight minutes from the end as Fitzpatrick tries to wrestle the ball away from him after a tackle near the Auckland 22.
Words are exchanged, and Hammett levers himself up by placing an elbow on Fitzpatrick's chest. Hammett also offers a volley of words. The publishable ones include "you're too old" and "past it." Fitzpatrick explodes, and elbows Hammett, right under the nose of referee Paddy O'Brien. The penalty is reversed, Andrew Mehrtens kicks the goal for Canterbury, and they go on to win, 21-15.
HE COULDN'T BE MORE OF A CANTERBURY MAN IF HE'D BEEN ON ONE OF THE FIRST FOUR SHIPS
Will Jordan was unintentionally a key man in the most controversial incident in Christchurch. But what should be remembered from his overall display at Orangetheory Stadium was that it was the best individual game played in a weekend when a swag of players had blinders.
Born in Christchurch, educated at Fendalton Open Air primary school (a century ago they started opening up classrooms to sunshine and fresh air) and at Christchurch Boys' High, where as well as being a First XV star he was a century-making batsman in their First XI.
His pace and anticipation are exceptional, but on a greasy track with a wet ball the abiding memories from the game against the Chiefs was how his skill under the high ball was matched by his courage.