It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.
THEY’RE ON FIRE
Matt Hodgson: Talk about signing off in style. Hodgson ran out for his 140th and final appearance in Force colours on Saturday and got the win he craved against the Waratahs. However, the script writer also threw in a try and penalty goal for the hard-working flanker and, with his father watching on, it was the perfect goodbye to his beloved franchise. Hodgson has been a real servant to his team and deserved this.
Highlanders: They’re looking good going into the knockout stage as the Reds were no match in Dunedin on Friday. The Highlanders scored six tries on the day, with Waisake Naholo showing his class on the right wing, and with Ben and Aaron Smith poised to return for their trip to Christchurch, the Highlanders seem like a dark horse to go all the way at the moment. Their back-row in particular were everywhere on Friday.
Sunwolves: Who saw that coming? Many predicted a stroll for the Blues in Tokyo judging from recent Sunwolves performances but somehow the Super Rugby minnows came back from 21-14 down at half-time to win 48-21 in front of their fans. That meant, with the Rebels losing to the Jaguares, that the Sunwolves would move above them in the table and off bottom spot. A task for them this off-season, adding consistency ahead of 2018.
Damian McKenzie: Speaking of being everywhere, McKenzie was back to his scintillating best against the Brumbies on Saturday as he ran for 166 metres from 10 carries, scoring a try and setting up another in a busy performance. With rumours of Ben Smith taking a sabbatical in the near future, the full-back position is open at Test level so expect it to be a shoot-out between Jordie Barrett and this Chiefs star.
COLD AS ICE
Australia whitewashed: 25 games against New Zealand franchises and 25 defeats for the Australian teams in 2017. The final negative came in Hamilton where the Chiefs beat the Brumbies as a forgetful regular season ended with this embarrassing statistic. The Brumbies now fly the flag in the knockouts.
Waratahs: Head coach Daryl Gibson admitted it had been “a season of lows” after their most recent defeat, at the hands of the Force. Their 40-11 loss was the Sydney outfit’s 11th and saw them finish the campaign in 16th position. They were champions less than three years ago.
Super Rugby: Fans really aren’t happy at the moment, as we’ve seen in our comments section on several stories, reports and reviews. Once again the format causes anger amongst supporters with the Brumbies a case in point as, despite losing nine games from their 15, they’re still allocated one of the four home quarter-final spots. Throw in the Lions possibly going all the way to a title win without facing an opponent from New Zealand – if results go in their favour – then there could be more supporter unrest to come. This year has been one to forget for the competition.