Fri, 25 Sep 2020

5 talking points: Super Rugby Aotearoa Week 8

03 Aug 2020, 16:12 GMT+10

Chiefs, Gatland in a world of hurt

The Chiefs' home loss to the Crusaders was their seventh on the trot in the competition - and eighth overall which is now comfortably the worst losing run in the franchise's history.

Yes, some refereeing calls went against Warren Gatland's charges, but the reality is they were outscored five tries to one on Saturday and the men from Waikato have been less than impressive on the attacking front under Gatland's watch.

Pressure is no doubt mounting on Gatland, and the Chiefs' winless run will not sit well on the CV of a man named to take charge of the British & Irish Lions on their tour to South Africa next year.

The Chiefs are not far off the record for the worst run by a Kiwi Super Rugby side - Jamie Joseph's Highlanders lost 11 on the bounce between 2012-2013.

Another TMO call denies Chiefs

For the third weekend in a row, the luckless Chiefs got no favours from the television match official (TMO).

In Week 6, a TMO technicality cost the men from Hamilton in their narrow 33-31 loss to the Highlanders, and in Week 7 it was a lack of TMO intervention that hampered them in a 21-17 loss to the Blues.

On Saturday, Crusaders winger Sevu Reece's 61st minute try was shrouded in controversy.

Trailing just 20-19, the Chiefs looked to have survived a scare, as Will Jordan's inside pass to Quinten Strange was seemingly dropped forward, before Reece swept up to score.

Referee Ben O'Keeffe went upstairs to television match official (TMO) Glenn Newman to check the direction of the ball Strange had dropped. While the ball ended up behind the replacement lock, it appeared as though his momentum had taken him past the ball which then travelled forward.

But the try stood, much to the bemusement of the commentators, players and 15 082-strong crowd.

Blues' young wing sensation

Young Blues wing Caleb Clarke was again their standout player in the win over the Highlanders.

The 21-year-old was the MVP in the Blues' win over the Highlanders in Auckland earlier in the competition and in Dunedin on Sunday he was again a standout.

The 107kg giant wreaked havoc every time he touched the ball, bumping off defenders and offloading with precision.

His line breaks are reminiscent of his father Eroni Clarke, who played in midfield for the strong Auckland Blues side that won Super 12 in 1996 and 1997.

Barrett poser

Beauden Barrett played fullback for the early parts of the competition, but moved to his preferred flyhalf slot a few weeks ago.

He's fared well at pivot and on Sunday pulled the strings nicely in his side's convincing win in Dunedin.

However, Barrett's goalkicking was again wayward - he only converted two of the Blues' five tries - and this will no doubt give the All Blacks selectors food for thought.

It may prompt them to stick with Richie Mo'unga at flyhalf, as has been the case in New Zealand's last five Tests.

Mo'unga is a more reliable goalkicker and has played the last five All Blacks Tests at flyhalf, with Barrett featuring at fullback.

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