What we learned from the Test in Auckland and round 16 of Super Rugby, according to CRAIG LEWIS.
All Blacks, Lions contributed to epic series in equal measure
From day one, the British & Irish Lions’ visit to New Zealand had all the necessary ingredients to contribute to an unforgettable tour. However, no one could have predicted just how much drama would punctuate a simply unforgettable series. Remove any controversial incidents and off-field goings-on, but the quality of rugby itself was simply of the highest order. The Blues and Highlanders secured thrilling wins over the midweek team, while the Hurricanes played to a draw. However, the three-match Test series had it all, with Saturday’s humdinger at Eden Park providing a fitting denouement to a tour that was one of the best ever. Although the All Blacks comfortably won the opening encounter, the Lions displayed immense character to battle back to level the series at 1-1, while the 15-15 draw at Eden Park on Saturday just about had it all.
Refereeing decision detracted from classic final Test
At the end of the day, perhaps a draw was the most fitting outcome to Saturday’s final Test between the All Blacks and Lions, with neither team deserving to be on the losing end. However, it’s extremely unfortunate that the result was ultimately decided by the controversial officiating of Romain Poite. The French referee first awarded the All Blacks a very kickable penalty late in the game, but then shockingly changed his mind to rule for ‘accidental offsides’, and awarded a scrum. While one could argue that Kieran Read illegally impeded Liam Williams at the start of the controversial incident, there can be little doubt that Ken Owens deliberately played the ball in an offside position. Whatever the debate may be, it’s unfortunate that officiating had such an influence on the final outcome.
Kings will be missed in Super Rugby
What a season it has been for the team from the Eastern Cape. At the start of the year, many would have expected the Kings to once again suffer a host of one-sided defeats. Yet, under the guidance of extremely popular coach Deon Davids, they have established an immense work ethic and team spirit, which once again came to the fore as they clinched a courageous 31-30 win over the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday evening. It was their sixth win of a season that has just got better and better. It was also a result that means it will be either the Bulls or Cheetahs who finish as the worst-placed South African side. Ultimately, the Kings have contributed in such a positive way to this Super Rugby season that there can be no doubt they will be sorely missed next year. In fact, a very compelling argument could be made that they actually deserved to retain their place.
RG Snyman boasts incredible pace
One of the most memorable moments in Saturday’s thrilling encounter between the Kings and Bulls came just before half-time when Kings flyer Makazole Mapimpi broke away from within his own half, and looked sure to dart all the way to the tryline unopposed. However, none other than hulking Bulls lock RG Snyman simply refused to give up the chase. In an incredible display of pace, he somehow managed to catch up to Mapimpi and complete a quite remarkable try-saving tackle. Once the ball was won back by the Bulls, they managed to set up a try that brought them right back into the match. However, it all started with the sensational effort of Snyman.
Stormers have plenty to ponder ahead of the playoffs
Although the Stormers completed a comfortable win over the Sunwolves as expected on Saturday, the 52-15 scoreline was extremely flattering. For large periods of the contest, the quality of action was well below par, with basic errors and unstructured play from the Stormers allowing the Sunwolves to remain in the contest during a forgettable first-half performance from the hosts. As the Cape-based side now heads towards the knockout stage, they will need to think very carefully about the manner in which they will approach a quarter-final fixture, with some of their fast and loose play appearing to be a recipe for playoff disaster.