The Timaru Herald

Ho-hum? Tell that to the two finalists

- Robert van Royen

Say what you will about the Trans-Tasman competitio­n, just don’t expect Blues and Highlander­s fans to lend an ear.

They couldn’t care less the winner of the Covid19-enforced calendar filler won’t play three of the top five teams, or that 10 teams became two after an absurdly short fiveweek regular season.

It’s been called everything from farcical to a waste of time, and attracted criticism from Brumbies coach Dan McKellar for the lack of a break between the New Zealand and Australian domestic competitio­ns and Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.

The reality is much maligned Sanzaar had a very small window to operate in, broadcaste­rs needed content, and franchises typically need at least six home games to get by financiall­y.

In other words, it is what it is. Just hope it’s a one-off, and the mooted 12-team competitio­n for 2022 is given the nod.

That would mean the winner of Saturday night’s final at Eden Park will likely get to keep the trophy, and don’t think for a minute the title-starved Blues wouldn’t lap that up.

It’s been 18 long years since they won anything. They’ll take anything they can get, and who could blame them after almost two miserable decades?

As for the Highlander­s, they bagged their lone fully fledged Super Rugby title six years ago and, armed with the phenomenal Aaron Smith, will fancy their chances of rolling the Blues.

They were superb in beating the Brumbies 33-12 in Canberra, ensuring the Crusaders needed a 33-point bonus point win against the Rebels to surpass them on the ladder.

It wasn’t to be. They fell short, before the Blues held off the Force to set up a final many in the country will be relieved won’t feature the Crusaders.

New Zealand’s dominance

The Chiefs’ 40-7 rout of the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday made it 23 from 25 for Kiwi sides against their Australian

Hurricanes 43 (Dane Coles 2, Ngani Laumape, Ruben Love, Devan Flanders tries; penalty try; Jordie Barrett 4 con, pen) Reds 14 (Tate McDermott, Brandon Paenga-Amosa tries; Bryce Hegarty 2 con). HT: 10-7.

Highlander­s 33 (Ash Dixon, Aaron Smith 2, Billy Harmon, Sio Tomkinson tries; Mitch Hunt 4 con) Brumbies 12 (Len Ikitau, Lachlan Lonergan tries; Bayley Kuenzle con). HT: 14-12.

Crusaders 52 (Mitchell Drummond, Will Jordan, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Sevu Reece 3, Oli Jager, Braydon Ennor tries; Richie Mo’unga 6 con) Rebels 26 (Trevor Hosea, Joe Powell, Glen Vaihu, Frank Lomani tries; Carter Gordon 3 con). HT: 26-12.

Blues 31 (Hoskins Sotutu 2, Mark Telea, Dalton Papalii tries; Otere Black pen, 4 con) Western Force 21 (Feleti Kaitu’u, Tevita Kuridrani, Rob Kearney tries; Iain Prior 2 con, Domingo Miotti con). HT: 28-0.

Chiefs 40 (Sean Wainui 5, Viliami Taulani tries; Bryn Gatland 4 con, Kaleb Trask con) Waratahs 7 (Mark Nawaqanita­wase try; Will Harrison con). HT: 14-7. counterpar­ts. Only the Brumbies and Reds managed wins – against the Hurricanes and Chiefs respective­ly – with most games comfortabl­y won by New Zealand’s teams.

It was telling that the Australian teams, not blessed with the same depth as Kiwi sides are armed with, often hung around for 40-50 minutes before folding. The Force also deserve kudos. While they didn’t win a game, they were arguably Australia’s most competitiv­e team across the board.

As for the Waratahs, they lost all 13 games this year.

Sean Wainui’s big night out

Not even some of the greatest attacking players in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa managed what Chiefs wing Sean Wainui did on Saturday.

He became the first player in Super Rugby to score five tries in a match, diving over after the fulltime hooter to complete the feat.

Refereeing howlers

Another week, another bunch of controvers­ial decisions.

Or ‘‘complete howlers’’, as former All Black Andrew Mehrtens put it after James Doleman’s performanc­e with the whistle when the Hurricanes beat the Reds in Wellington.

Doleman came under fire for yellow carding Hurricanes prop Tyrel Lomax when there was a case for red, before he also dished a yellow to Reds wing Filipino Daugunu when he had every right, as the tackler, to get up and have a crack at the ball.

But it was his decision to award a penalty try, and yellow card Reds playmaker Bryce Hegarty, that bamboozled most, given there was no way he could be sure Hegarty deliberate­ly knocked the ball dead in goal.

Jordan Way’s decision to yellow card Chiefs lock Tupou Vaa’i for an apparent high shot was also perplexing, as was Nic Berry’s to send Crusader Will Jordan to the bin for 10 minutes for an apparent deliberate knockon.

 ??  ?? The Blues are within one match of winning their first title in 18 years.
The Blues are within one match of winning their first title in 18 years.
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