Here are some interesting statistics from Super Rugby Round 8 and the good folk at the New Zealand Herald. It confirms that the Blues are disappointing, while the Crusaders and Chiefs are looking good out of the New Zealand teams.
The Blues stumbled to their sixth consecutive loss against the Sharks while the Chiefs earned their sixth consecutive win over the Cheetahs. The Crusaders found some form against the high-flying Stormers in Christchurch to notch their fourth win of the season. BLUES v SHARKS (23-29) Luke Braid was the standout player for the Blues, topping the tackle stats with fifteen, winning two breakdown turnovers and making a linebreak. His brother Daniel made fourteen tackles and stole one ball at the breakdown. The Braid brothers were one of three sets of brothers who turned out for New Zealand Super sides this weekend (the Franks and Whitelocks being the other two). Renee Ranger had a mixed night making two linebreaks and four off-loads in the tackle, but also conceded a penalty and got marched an extra ten metres for backchat. Ma’a Nonu struggled to make an impact, knocking the ball on twice (including once on the Sharks’ tryline), missing two tackles and conceding a penalty for not releasing the ball in the tackle.
Handling errors continue to be the Blues biggest woe, this week they made seventeen – their most yet this season – including two intercepted passes for the Sharks’ first and second tries. The Blues are now averaging almost thirteen handling errors per game this season, which is four more than the other New Zealand sides. The Blues only conceded four penalties this week, the third time this season they have conceded five or less penalties in a match. Gareth Anscombe landed his first ever drop goal in Super Rugby, and became the third New Zealand player and seventh in the competition to do so this season. The Sharks’ victory was their eighth successive win over the Blues, and it was the Blues’ fourth consecutive loss this season.
CRUSADERS v STORMERS (31-24) The previously unbeaten Stormers lost their first game of 2012 and are still to beat the Crusaders on New Zealand soil. The last time a South Africa side beat the Crusaders in New Zealand was back in 2001 when the Cats won 32-31 in Nelson, while the only loss the Crusaders have had to a South African side in Christchurch was way back in the 1996 when Northern Transvaal won 34-18. In a game akin to a chess match at times, these two sides exchanged a total of 82 kicks as they battled to not have to play the ball in their own half. Stormers’ fullback Joe Pietersen made over a quarter of those kicks, with a tally of twenty three for the match. Matt Todd had a standout game making a linebreak, winning a breakdown turnover, and was top tackler with twenty one tackles and no misses. Tom Taylor scored all the Crusaders’ points and in the process kicked eight penalty goals, joining a group of four players (including New Zealander Willie Walker) who hold the record for the most penalties kicked in a Super match. He also eclipsed Ben Blair’s record (29) set in 2001 for most points scored by a Crusader in a match. Taylor was 100 per cent with the boot, and made the most running metres for the Crusaders with sixty metres gained from seven runs. Wyatt Crockett conceded the Crusaders’ first yellow card of the season for a high tackle.
CHEETAHS v CHIEFS (33-39) Sona Taumololo’s two tries in this game catapults him to the top of the try-scoring leaderboard , with a total of six after eight rounds. Brodie Retallick had yet another impressive game, winning eight lineouts and making thirteen tackles. Tanerau Latimer led the charge on defence with nineteen tackles, but it was replacement Sam Cane who won the Chiefs’ only breakdown turnover win of the game. Sonny Bill Williams made a linebreak, two offloads in the tackle and scored his first try for the Chiefs this season. By this stage last year he had already scored three tries for the Crusaders. The Chiefs improved on the error rate from last week, cutting their handling errors by half although still giving away an intercept try – the third one of the weekend conceded by a New Zealand team against a South African team. The Chiefs’ lineout continues to be the best of the five New Zealand sides despite boasting no All Black locks, and they are now sitting at 86 percent on their own throws. This was the Chiefs sixth consecutive win this season, and puts them top of the points table. It is their best start to a Super season, bettering 2009 when they made the final against the Bulls – by round eight that year they had won five games from seven.http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10799253