It is time for our weekly wrap up of who has their name in lights at the moment…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
It's time for our weekly wrap up of who has their name in lights at the moment…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
THEY'RE ON FIRE!
All Blacks: The scoreline says it all. A record thrashing of the Wallabies was just the way to start New Zealand's latest attempt to hit magic number 18. Another 17 consecutive wins is a massive ask but very few teams in world rugby could hope to live with a performance like this.
Romain Poite: After so many comments about referees in the build-up, the Frenchman had a very good game in Auckland. Poite stamped his authority on the match early on when he sent Richie McCaw to the sin-bin for a cynical ruck offence and went on to allow a fast-paced tempo in Auckland. The result, viewers were treated to a great game of Rugby Championship action as 71 points – that included eight tries – were amassed.
Brodie Retallick, Richie McCaw and the Aarons: So often it's said the shorter a player is the harder he is to move but Retallick is an exception to that rule. The big lock was outstanding in black as his long levers made him difficult to shift while his all-round work and set-piece effort deserves recognition. Meanwhile, McCaw scored a double and the two Aarons, Smith and Cruden, put great pace on the All Black attack.
Nizaam Carr, Siya Kolisi and Kobus van Wyk: Outstanding for Western Province as they booked their place at the summit of the Currie Cup standings for another week, at least. Carr and Kolisi were winning turnovers left, right and centre while Van Wyk touched down twice at Newlands.
Imanol Harinordoquy and Gael Fickou: Harinordoquy will go down as one of the great French back-rows, but for the last two seasons he's barely registered with a succession of injuries seemingly ending his career at the top level. On Friday he showed that a move to Toulouse might be just what he needed with an all-action display for 50 minutes, providing some of the drive that was often missing last term. If Harinordoquy constitutes France's past, Fickou is its future, and he was back on form after a difficult few months. In what was his first start in the centres since March, he was devastating, scoring the first try after a great break, and playing a major role in two more. If he's back to his best Toulouse will be a much more dangerous side.
Camille Lopez: Last season should have been the year that Lopez made his name on the European stage. Instead he tore his ACL early in the season and had to watch from the sidelines as Perpignan were relegated. Now installed at Clermont, he had already shone in pre-season, and it was more of the same for his first start of the season. He scored 18 points with five penalties from five attempts and a drop goal for good measure after taking over the kicking duties.
Canterbury and Tasman: The duo lead the race at the top of the ITM Cup standings as the reigning champions and newly promoted side have hit the ground running in 2014. Canterbury put 58 points on Waikato in Hamilton while the Makos hit 56 past Bay of Plenty on Sunday, with Shane Christie, Tom Marshall and Marty Banks three of seven scorers in Tauranga. Next Sunday they face a tough trip to Auckland but enter confident.
South Africa: They were terrible, but they won. So, for the second consecutive week, the Boks find themselves in temperature limbo. Dominated by a side ranked outside the top 10 in the world, only some desperate scrambling defence kept them alive for the first hour. But, lest we forget, they managed to come back from 12 points down heading into the final quarter to retain top spot in the Rugby Championship standings.
Argentina: They were super, but they lost. So, for the second consecutive week, the Pumas are left to digest the bitter taste of defeat when victory was within reach. Was it a lack of fitness? Probably not. A lack of composure? More likely. They made more crucial errors in the last twenty minutes than the rest of the game combined. If Argentina want to beat the big teams, they need to add cool heads to their fiery approach.
Referee apologies: There is trend developing here, and it's not necessarily a good thing. Credit is due to referees for doing the noble thing and admitting when they've made mistakes, but are their actions setting a dangerous precedent? In an age where referees are constantly questioned, criticised and maligned, is their authority being eroded by this need to 'come clean' in the post-match wash? One must also question certain players and coaches going public with what were surely meant to be private conversations.
“Our job should be to support them and have a quiet chat behind the scenes rather than hanging our washing in public,” said Steve Hansen last year….
Montpellier: They dug themselves out of a hole to snatch victory against Grenoble, but Fabien GalthiÃ©'s men looked nothing like title contenders. Rene Ranger, in particular, needs to sharpen up, with Grenoble making most of their headway down his wing until he was sin-binned for a late hit.
…..BRRR! GET THESE GUYS A CUP OF WARM SOUP
Wallabies: What to read into that performance will be the nagging question for coach Ewen McKenzie as his team was blown off the park. Conceding six tries to the rampant All