The Crusaders showed they had recovered from their post-final dip last week to flatten the Reds in Brisbane with an outstanding display.
Travelling worried the New Zealanders less after the Highlanders setting the scene with their win in Perth over the Force, probably the closest game of the round.
Round Two results:
Hurricanes 35 Rebels 13
It took nearly 20 minutes, but two tries within four minutes were enough for the Hurricanes to lead 14-3 at the turn. The first came from an intercept to wing Julian Savea. The second was from a midfield bust by second five-eighths Ngani Laumape, support from halfback Jonathan Taumateine and speed from centre Billy Proctor. The Rebels struck first after the break, but Proctor cashed in from a ruck turnover to break the defence and backhand a ball to Savea for his second try. A well-worked Rebels try saw centre Campbell Magnay keep the Rebels in the hunt going into the final quarter. However, it was short-lived hope as a cross-kick from first-five Orbyn Leger found wing Wes Goosen with vast acreage to decide where to put the ball down for the try. And who better to cap another superb Laumape break than reserve hooker Asafo Aumua who burrowed over from a goal-line ruck.
Hurricanes 35 (Julian Savea 2, Billy Proctor, Wes Goosen, Asafo Aumua tries; Jordie Barrett 5 con) Rebels 13 (Michael Wells, Campbell Magnay tries; Matt Toomua pen). HT: 14-3
Force 15 Highlanders 25
Halfback Aaron Smith's speed was instrumental in starting the Highlanders' effort when racing around the back of a lineout to pierce the defence and connect with wing Jona Nareki who scored. Then, it was time for the pack to go to work. Two mauling efforts saw prop Ayden Johnstone score the first, and then, after the grunt work was complete, the ball was released for Smith to feed second five-eighths Scott Gregory into the tightest of spaces where he wormed over for the second try. Argentine Tomas Cubelli showed some class to cap a good set-piece play by the Force. However, in a much tighter second half, the home side suffered a sin-binning that saw the Highlanders score their only points of the half with Gregory and Smith combining again, with first-five Mitch Hunt also contributing, for Gregory's second try.
Force 15 (Tomas Cubelli, Angus Wagner tries; Domingo Miotti con, pen) Highlanders 25 (Jona Nareki, Ayden Johnstone, Scott Gregory 2 tries; Mitchell Hunt con, pen). HT: 10-20
Blues 48 Waratahs 21
No surprises around wing Bryce Heem picking up a hat-trick of tries for the Blues. He was busy all day and enjoyed plenty of running opportunities. One play with flanker Tom Robinson, another non-stop runner was superb. Robinson has grown significantly, and leadership sits well on his shoulders. The Waratahs were vulnerable in several areas. It is a far cry from their glory days that so much bash and crash from one-off runners appears the only way they set up chances. The lack of subtlety in their play made life much easier for the home team. A record run of losses says plenty about this once-proud team's plight. The Blues showed some solid defence, as they need to. They face a demanding run through the next three weeks if they are to secure a finals berth.
Blues 48 (Bryce Heem 3, Tom Robinson, Kurt Eklund, Rieko Ioane tries, penalty try; Otere Black 4 con, pen) Waratahs 21 (Angus Bell, Jake Gordon, Dave Porecki tries; Will Harrison 3 con). HT: 22-14
Chiefs 40 Brumbies 19
Second-quarter scrum power from the Chiefs provided their winning advantage over the Brumbies in Hamilton. After an early lineout maul try to lock Tupou Vaa'i, the Brumbies responded with a try to centre Len Ikitau. But that was when the Chiefs scrum stepped up with No8 Luke Jacobson scoring twice from pushovers. At another scrum at halfway, Jacobson took off from the back on a blindside burst that should have seen halfback Brad Weber score, but he dropped the ball. That set the scene for some second-half midfield capers from the Chiefs as energy bunny, and first five-eighths, Damian McKenzie, second-five Alex Nankiville and centre Anton Lienert-Brown crossed for tries. The Brumbies twice struck back, but it was far too late in the game to be of any consequence.
Chiefs 40 (Luke Jacobson 2, Tupou Vaa'i, Damian McKenzie, Alex Nankiville, Anton Lienert-Brown tries; McKenzie 5 con) Brumbies 19 (Len Ikitau, Bayley Kuenzle, Rob Valetini tries; Noah Lolesio 2 con). HT: 19-5
Reds 28 Crusaders 63
The Reds should have known what to expect. Having dominated New Zealand, and Super Rugby, for five seasons, the Crusaders relish new challenges. Taking on the Australian Super Rugby champions at their Suncorp Stadium fortress was the latest. Hitting the accelerator from the flag drop, the Crusaders ran in three tries in the first quarter and, it was game over. First five-eighths Richie Mo'unga stopped up like a grand conductor to orchestrate a stunning victory, posting 31 points, including a hat-trick of tries. But he had some support. Wing Leicester Fainga'anuku relished the chance to run hard into tackles, Ethan Blackadder outshone his highly-touted rivals in the loose from his non-specialist openside flank while Whetukamokamo Douglas and Cullen Grace revelled in the ball carrying roles they had while veteran Sam Whitelock was outstanding in all spheres. This was a rugby lesson in the grandest of manners.
Reds 28 (Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Suliasi Vunivalu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa tries; James O'Connor 4 pen) Crusaders 63 (Richie Mo'unga 3, Sevu Reece 2, Cullen Grace, Tamaiti Williams, Codie Taylor tries; penalty try; Mo'unga 8 con). HT: 7-28