Super Rugby Aotearoa: Best of the round
Watch Round 3 of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season live on Sky Sports Action, with the Blues taking on the Highlanders on Saturday (7.30am) and the Crusaders facing the Chiefs on Sunday (4am)
By James Gemmell
Last Updated: 23/06/20 10:39pm
The Super Rugby Aotearoa season carried on where it left off in Round 2, with plenty more thrills and spills to entertain fans.
On Saturday, Beauden Barrett again played a key role for the Blues as they claimed their first win away to the Chiefs in nine years, triumphing 24-12 after a surge in the final quarter.
Then on Sunday, the Crusaders showed no signs of letting up from 2019 in their first game in the new-look competition as they overcame the Hurricanes in Wellington.
James Gemmell was once again casting his eye over both matches and he picks out the best moments of the weekend here...
The table-topping Blues headed south in Round 2, over the Bombay Hills to near neighbours the Chiefs, in search of a precious gem: victory on the road.
For all the talk of their big-name signings, and the confidence of a first-round win, long-suffering Blues fans know that their team's biggest issue in more than a decade of disappointment has been beating the other Kiwis.
To stamp their mark on Super Rugby Aotearoa, they know that is a trend which simply has to end.
Slippery When Wet
Hamilton's first chance to host live rugby was met with excitement - and rain. Thankfully the latter didn't douse the former, even though it inevitably slowed the spectacle.
It wasn't the night to see Beauden Barrett at his attacking best, nor Damien McKenzie in the opposing 15 jersey. Both had their part to play with the boot, but this was a night when the packs had the most work to do.
A Star Is Born
Thankfully, that gave us a chance to see the quality of young forwards New Zealand possesses beyond the established All Blacks.
Chiefs flankers Lachlan Boshier and Luke Jacobsen are already on the national radar, as is the Blues' Dalton Papali'i, but it was the travelling No. 8 Hoskins Sotutu who was the man of the moment.
A burrowing first-half try helped the Blues to a one-point half time lead, but in the second Sotutu really started to showcase his skills.
As the All Blacks look to a replacement for retired captain Kieran Read, they would do well to keep their eye on this young man.
Read himself would've been proud of the final pass Sotutu gave to put Mark Telea in for the winning score.
All In The Family
If you're old enough to remember the Blues glory days of the mid-to-late 1990s, you may be thinking there's something familiar about this side - and you'd be right.
They're back winning of course, and perhaps that's because it's in their blood. Sotutu is the son of former Auckland Blue and Fijian international Waisake Sotutu, and out on the wing Caleb Clarke is the spitting image of his old man, the legendary Eroni.
They look a very happy group as well, and that is testament to the work of Leon MacDonald and his coaching team.
MacDonald has brought all of his Crusaders and All Blacks experience north to Auckland, but is very keen for the players to express themselves.
Personalities, and peroxide, all welcome. Especially when it helps them to their first win in Hamilton since 2011.
If there was an asterisk alongside the Super Rugby Aotearoa table following the match in Hamilton, it was a gentle reminder that the 10-time champion Crusaders had not yet played a match.
They made their bow on Sunday afternoon away to the Hurricanes, who perhaps hoped they would catch the champs cold.
When All Black Sevu Reece finished a sweeping team attack from 60 metres inside 60 seconds of kick-off, the 'Canes had their answer.
It's hard to fathom how fluid the Crusaders can look after such a long lay-off, but with the quality of their personnel one can imagine their Christchurch training sessions in recent weeks would've been the equal of any live match.
Certainly when Braydon Ennor scored after another full team effort, it was looking like they hadn't had a break at all.
Fought the Law
The Hurricanes may have had the extra game time, and home advantage, but it was they who looked out of practice, particularly at line-out time. It will be a source of real frustration for All Black hooker Dane Coles.
Only the Crusaders ill-discipline - like all four teams before them, they were subject to extra scrutiny around the breakdown - kept the 'Canes in the match.
15-19 to the visitors at the break did not reflect their three try to nil dominance, and when Jack Goodhue was binned early in the second spell, that lead came down to one.
Free KoBus Pass
The Hurricanes have always been a team capable of outrageous skill and daring, but occasionally it comes at a cost. This week's 'What Was He Thinking?!' award goes to Kobus van Wyk who, under heavy goal-line pressure and with the scores tied at 25-all, flung a no look pass in-field for no-one in particular.
Before we go on, a quick shout-out to Matt Proctor, who was wrongly accused of the offence in live commentary, and then again in the original version of this article. (Guilty by Proc-sy, perhaps?) Either way, the Crusaders' Mitchell Drummond gratefully received and off-loaded to Richie Mo'unga to score. With momentum ebbing, it was just the gift the Crusaders were after, and they never looked back.
The match was sealed by David Havili slicing a delightful line through the tiring Hurricanes defence, and the Crusaders are up and running in Super Rugby 2.0 for 2020.
A few discipline and set piece wobbles notwithstanding, it was a satisfying start for the defending champs, and while it's too early to know if we'll be treated to another Razor Robertson title-winning breakdance, it was a victory worthy of a couple of fist bumps. Don't leave him hanging, boys.