Last weekend saw a fascinating series of games in the Super Rugby and 6 Nations competitions. The results have profoundly affected both tournaments.
In Super Rugby the Highlanders defeated the Stormers in Dunedin on Friday night, and are now the only undefeated New Zealand team. The Rebels also gave the Brumbies a thrashing in Melbourne to top both the Australian conference and the overall table, with 3 bonus point wins in 3 games.
On Saturday the two games showcased the extremes of rugby. The Hurricanes defeated the Crusaders in a high skill, high scoring match in an unusually calm Wellington. This fast paced game of rugby was followed by the Reds grinding out an attritional win over the Bulls in Brisbane. Here the set piece, rather than running rugby, decided the result.
On Sunday morning in South Africa the Sharks got their first win of the season by dominating the hapless Sunwolves. The Blues became the only away team to win on the weekend in a close upset over the highly favoured Lions.
In Argentina a few hours later the tired Waratahs took on the out of form Jaguars. The quality of rugby exceeded expectations, as the Jaguars got off to a flying start. The Waratahs were unable to run them down, but played strong, attacking rugby in the second half.
This weekend’s rugby will see the Waikato Chiefs favoured to beat the Bulls at home on Friday night. The Crusaders will try to get their campaign back on track against an undefeated Highlanders on Saturday. The Brumbies will then try to kick-start their season against the Sharks in Canberra.
On Sunday morning the Stormers will take on the Blues in their return from a tour of Australia and New Zealand. The Lions are tipped to beat the Sunwolves by plenty. The Reds will be hoping that the Jaguars do not carry on their ominous attacking form in Buenos Aires.
The Waratahs will once again play the last game of the round. This week it will be on Sunday afternoon in Sydney against the undefeated Rebels.
In the 6 Nations the weekend started with Ireland sitting on 3 wins with Scotland and England on 2 each. This meant that all three had at least a mathematical chance of winning the tournament.
In the first game Ireland beat Scotland by 20 in Dublin to end their title chances. England therefore went to Paris needing a bonus point win to stay in touch with Ireland.
Unfortunately their usual reliable structures were disrupted effectively by Les Blues to end their hopes. This saw Ireland claim the title with a week still to play.
Wales, as expected, beat Italy in a match that was never going to have major tournament implications.
This weekend’s play cannot affect the final result. The St Patrick’s Day clash between Ireland and England at Twickenham, however, will still be a cracking game of rugby. Ireland will be aiming for a clean sweep against the old enemy, while England will be playing to restore some pride.