The Super 14 match between the Lions and the Chiefs in Johannesburg at the weekend has raised a few eyebrows. The Chiefs were the eventual winners but it was close – only 7 points was the difference between the two sides, but with 137 points scored the final result of 72-65 is quite ridiculous.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a new Super Rugby record, beating the previous highest points total of 118 when Natal beat the Highlanders in 1997.
I’ve watched four or five Super 14 matches so far this season – a fair number from the opening two rounds – and I’ve very much enjoyed it. With the ELVs discarded, the quality of attacking rugby has been remarkable.
I hadn’t necessarily thought that the high-scoring games were due to leaky defences, preferring to credit the high skill levels and the speed at which the game is played. There is no question that it has been better to watch than most of this season’s Guinness Premiership matches, and I just hope that some of the English Directors of Rugby have been marvelling at the dynamism, the clearing out at rucks, the ambition to run with the ball, the silky hands with so many offloads, the fitness from 1 to 15 that ensures there is always a support runner…
I also hope the Northern Hemisphere referees have been watching too. The SANZAR directive has been to give the benefit of any doubt at the breakdown to the attacking team – any slowing the ball down by defenders is penalised immediately, and the result has been a faster-flowing game with more attacking running.
The highest-scoring game in this weekend’s round of Guinness Premiership games was between Bath and Worcester, where they notched up 50 points between them. The average points total was 29, whilst the 9 points scored in the Wasps v Saracens game looks absurd compared with a 72-65 scoreline.
Is this just an anomaly, or should we be concerned? At times, the Super 14 matches can look like a different sport, but perhaps this can just be explained by faster grounds, more lenient refereeing, no fear of relegation, and frankly, higher skill levels.