Beat Brumbies 31-21. Record: 12-1. Up 2. Table position: 1
Don’t be fooled by the scoreline – this was a beatdown by the Chiefs, who dominated the Brumbies in Canberra. The front-runners appear to be sharpening their tools for the finals nicely. Luke Jacobson caught the eye with his running game – the loose forward continues to develop.
Beat Waratahs 42-18. Record: 10-3. Up 2. Table position: 2
On a sunny afternoon in Christchurch, veteran nearly-40 John Afoa turned back the clock with a stunning performance at tighthead prop only days after arriving from France. Sam Whitelock did likewise at lock after returning from injury. The Crusaders got the bonus point win they wanted but lost David Havili and Cullen Grace to injury at the same time. Havili’s hamstring strain could keep him out for weeks. Grace dislocated a kneecap.
Beat Hurricanes 36-25. Record: 9-4. Down 1. Table position: 3
How good are the Blues, really? We’re still not sure. If not for Mark Telea’s freakish four-try performance on the right wing in atrocious weather conditions at Eden Park against the Hurricanes, plus Jordie Barrett’s horror night with the boot for the visitors, this result may have been very different. Maybe coach Leon MacDonald is right and they are just timing their run.
Beat Reds 35-30. Record: 5-8. Up 1. Table position: 8
A match between two struggling teams limping to the finish line was finished by replacement halfback Folau Fakatava’s stunning late converted try. It would have been difficult to write a better script for Aaron Smith’s final game at home - aside from Smith himself scoring it, obviously. Certainly, Fakatava's dad was pretty happy. The win helped the Highlanders up to the last playoffs place. They have a tenuous grip on it as they face the Blues in Auckland this weekend.
Beat Force 52-14. Record: 4-9. Up 3. Table position: 11
This was the surprise result of the round – the struggling Rebels beating a side who a week earlier upset the Brumbies in Canberra. The Rebels were down early but quickly gained control and scored three converted tries in the final 12 minutes to effectively ruin the Force’s chances of making the playoffs.
6. Fijian Drua
Beat Moana Pasifika 47-46. Record 5-8. Up 5. Table position: 10
Defence was occasionally optional in this crazy game under the bright sun in Lautoka, but there was no mistaking the star power of Drua centre Iosefo Masi, who scored a hat-trick of tries. Christian Lealiifano’s missed conversion at the end means the Drua are still in with a chance of making the playoffs.
7. Moana Pasifika
Lost to Fijian Drua 46-47. Record: 0-13. Up 5. Table position: 12
Speaking of that missed conversion, it was another excruciating way for Moana Pasifika to end a match. Still without a win, they deserve credit for staying in the game and finding a way to put the Drua under pressure via their set piece and lineout drives. Their losing bonus point will be little consolation.
Lost to Blues 25-36. Record 8-5. Down 1. Table position: 5
It wasn’t a night for the goalkickers but Jordie Barrett’s three missed kicks, along with Brett Cameron’s one, seriously hurt the Hurricanes. They were reeling from Mark Telea’s attacking onslaught but were still in the game thanks to their ability to capitalise on the Blues’ errors. This does not appear to be a championship-winning team (and their lineout went into a mid-game meltdown) but their ability to punch above their weight means they will deserve respect in the playoffs.
Lost to Highlanders 30-35. Record: 5-8. No change. Table position: 7
A miserable night in Dunedin for the Reds, who had a late lead but lost it and the match thanks to Folau Fakatava’s intervention. And they’re still fuming about the tackle by Shannon Frizell – ruled legal by the match officials - which left lock Connor Vest with a broken neck.
Lost to Chiefs 21-31. Record: 9-3. No change. Table position: 4
They fired a few attacking shots but the Brumbies, now starting to drift down the table, lost too many collisions against the Chiefs.
Lost to Crusaders 18-42. Record: 6-7. Down 5. Table position: 6
The visitors deserve credit for momentarily taking away the Crusaders’ bonus point near the end of this one-sided match in Christchurch but there was a sense of inevitability about the defending champions’ response once they won an attacking penalty in the final minutes.
Lost to Rebels 14-52. Record: 5-8. Down 11. Table position 9
They were laughing after upsetting the Brumbies in Canberra a week earlier. They won’t be now.