Before we look at today’s matchup when the Crusaders host the Chiefs at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch, let’s look back at last night’s game from Eden Park.
All in all, it’s the Auckland Blues that everyone thought that now this is indeed their year in 2020.
Earlier on, The Blues have demonstrated some attacking awareness, having built a great base from the start.
When they used the broad areas, it allowed Caleb Clarke to unleash his pace and power on the run home, having scored a TRY himself.
Also, Clarke’s able to spot the Highlanders’ gaps with the defense having run past through the halfway line.
Although, another forward may have stopped Clarke towards the 22-meter line.
But he quickly assisted Dalton Papaii with another big score via the short ball in the lead towards the break.
In the last 40, the Highlanders may have begun to bounce back thanks to the patience built up via the set-up play.
It did help the boys from Dunedin grab some much-needed rewards as well as, at times, exposed the Blues defense that saw them win penalties.
However, when it comes to opportunities, the forwards, unfortunately, didn’t help out the backline together.
You saw earlier how the Highlanders’ blocks didn’t get back together quick enough in which their full-back Scott Gregory cleared out unsuccessfully thanks to the fantastic running from Clarke & Hoskins Sotutu.
Later on, the kicking work from Ben Smith himself added too much pressure, which didn’t go into between the sticks.
Plus, the driving maul when they last won the penalty last night as the Highlanders’ five-point gamble backfired by not staying straight, which left it sideways and saw the referee changed hands to the Blues.
That signaled the home team as the winners in the end by three points, 27-24.
Now the Aucklanders have won three straight games in this year’s Super Rugby NZ; they have the next weekend off.
After that, the question is, can they pull off v the Crusaders, or is this the peak the Blues can ever get and settle for the runner-up spot?
We’ll find out in week five as the Highlanders once again face another big pressure test on Saturday night at home v the Crusaders.