Nearly every item that follows in this week’s Best of the Weekend relates to some sort of Kiwi dominance, whether it’s in Super Rugby or the U20 World Cup.
The Crusaders beat the Sharks in a rematch of the game at Twickenham in March
Crusaders and Blues qualify for Super Rugby semis
The two premier New Zealand teams qualified for the Super Rugby semi-finals to set up two great potential matches next weekend. The Stormers will play the Crusaders in Cape Town whilst the Reds take on the Blues in Brisbane.
The 36-8 win over the Sharks was pretty emphatic on paper, and has installed the wandering Cantabrians as favourites for the title. But the main talking point from that fixture was the performance of referee Bryce Lawrence as nearly every penalty call went against the Sharks, and there were one or two ludicrous decisions.
The New Zealander has come under fire for his ‘red-tinted’ glasses, but few could argue that it really affected the outcome of the match. It’s an interesting debate this close to a Rugby World Cup, in which the All Blacks tend to get refereed much more strictly than they do in between them, and when Richie McCaw keeps getting pinged for offences he was getting away with previously, we could see another meltdown. Maybe it’s all part of the conspiracy against the All Blacks winning their own World Cup.
In the other match, the Blues overcame the Waratahs, reminding us all of the importance of home advantage in the playoffs. They’ll now travel to Queensland to take on the Reds, who topped the log in the regular season.
The Crusaders are slight favourites for the title, ahead of the Reds, so it looks like the bookies have already made their picks for the semi-finals next weekend. They should be two cracking matches, as the season reaches its climax.
Baby Blacks win U20 World Cup
The future of New Zealand rugby appears to be in good hands – as if we would ever have thought otherwise. The New Zealand U20 side continued their run in the competition by lifting the title yet again – they’ve won all four events since it began in 1998.
England U20s were written off before the match, particularly in light of the Baby Blacks’ annihilation of Wales earlier in the tournament, but they put up a valiant fight, going down 33-22. Fly-half Gareth Anscombe kicked everything and looks like a future star – have they found a Dan Carter replacement at last?
There are also encouraging signs from England’s youngsters, who enjoyed a fine tournament, seeing off Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and France along the way.
We need your help
We’re opening up the debate for the Try of the Weekend, Hero and Villain this week. I suspect I know who the villain might be, but share your thoughts and we’ll make a joint decision.
It’s all about the community after all. What do you think? And what were your other highlights of the weekend?