2024 Crusaders vs NSW Waratahs

Super Rugby Round 2 Recap: Crusaders' Slide Continues; Chiefs Rout Brumbies

Super Rugby Round 2 Recap: Crusaders' Slide Continues; Chiefs Rout Brumbies

The Crusaders are imploding, the Chiefs are flying and Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua had one of the best matches you'll see anywhere.

Mar 3, 2024 by Briar Napier
Super Rugby Round 2 Recap: Crusaders' Slide Continues; Chiefs Rout Brumbies

The Super Round of Super Rugby always seems to have a bit of chaos up its sleeve.

With AAMI Park in Melbourne playing host to all six Super Rugby fixtures in Round 2, the venue was the hotspot of club rugby in Oceania this weekend — and the matches did not disappoint.

In an incredibly high-scoring round of rugby, nine of the 12 teams that competed in the Super Round broke the 30-point barrier (with the Highlanders a point shy at 29) in an electric showcase for Super Rugby, which had it all, from added-time winners — looking at you, Hurricanes, who won very late against the Queensland Reds — to blistering comeback attempts and more.

If this is the benchmark for how breathtaking the competition can get, we’re in for a treat for the rest of this season.

Here’s a look at the round that was this past weekend in Super Rugby:

Super Tahs Stun Crusaders

What in the world has happened to the Crusaders? 

Sure, the five-time defending Super Rugby champions (in non-regionalized formats) lost dynasty architect Scott Robertson, who departed to begin coaching New Zealand after the Rugby World Cup, but the quality is still there throughout the roster, even while superstar backliner Will Jordan is out for the entire Super Rugby campaign to recover from a shoulder injury and elite first five-eighth Richie Mo’unga has jetted off to Japan. 

Therefore, the New South Wales Waratahs’ stunning 37-24 triumph over the juggernaut Crusaders this past weekend — confirming the latter’s worst start to a Super Rugby season in a decade — was that much more shocking, and it’s reasonable to wonder if alarm bells are ringing in Christchurch right now after so much success for the city’s Super Rugby club in recent history. 

Following their opening-round loss to another top title threat in the Chiefs in Hamilton, the Crusaders came to Melbourne with the hopes of bouncing back and looked well on the path to doing so after Macca Springer scored a try within two minutes. Sevu Reece then got his first try of a brace inside 20 minutes. 

But the Tahs weren’t shaken by the Crusaders’ early firepower and got to work, with fly-half Tane Edmed going a 7 for 7 from the tee, as both Hugh Sinclair and Harry Wilson got first-half tries to give the Aussies a 23-10 halftime lead. 

They then piled on the misery for the Crusaders from there, with NSW extending its advantage to 37-17. Jake Gordon had a try and the subsequent kick in the 66th minute, and Crusaders coach Rob Penney — sacked by the Tahs in 2021 — remained without a win in two matches in charge. 

A never-easy trip to Fiji to face the Drua is next in Round 3 for the Crusaders, who could see already-bad vibes turn worse with a 0-3 start. 

Chiefs Are Road Warriors

Chiefs fans maybe had a right to be concerned for a bit about the fitness of Damian McKenzie, who had a rib injury against the Crusaders in Round 1, but once the All Black and member of New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup squad officially got cleared to play for Round 2 against the Brumbies, it was smooth sailing for last Super Rugby season’s leading point scorer and the rest of the Chiefs. 

The Chiefs have won seven of their past eight matches away from Hamilton after a blistering 46-12 performance over the Brumbies in Melbourne in a rematch of a playoff semifinal from a season ago, with McKenzie (7 for 8 on spot kicks) remaining reliable, both with his boot and as a general string-puller and leader for his side, even scoring a first-half try in the process.

Looking early on in the Super Rugby season like the competition’s favorite, thanks to the Crusaders’ ongoing implosion and their status as a returning finalist, the Chiefs looked strong from the opening kick, surging out to a 10-0 lead and controlling possession throughout the match as the Brumbies — who ripped the Melbourne Rebels apart in Round 1 — looked a step behind in their first match against a New Zealand side this season. 

The Chiefs led 25-7 at half and continued to push the pace in the second half with three more tries (including a six-minute brace from Cortez Ratima) to leave no doubt, though prop Jared Profitt’s red a few minutes from full time for head-on-head contact was a bit of an annoying end for an otherwise brilliant day for the current table-toppers.

Nonetheless, that was just about the only thing the Chiefs did wrong all game, and they definitely looked the part as championship contenders this past weekend.

Moana Pasifika Wins Wild Derby

If you turned your screen off after Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua’s match stood at a paltry 8-8 just before halftime, we send our condolences. 

An amazing match between Super Rugby’s two clubs hailing out of the South Pacific islands, coach Tana Umaga’s Pasifika — who had never beaten the Drua since both clubs joined Super Rugby prior to the 2022 season — won a maddening 10-try thriller, despite being down to 13 men for much of the match’s final 15 minutes.

Drua made a fierce comeback attempt from 17 points down with 10 minutes left, making for a dramatic end to one of the greatest Super Rugby games in recent memory. 

Following a fairly slow first half, in which Pasifika’s Sione Mafileo and the Drua’s Elia Canakaivata traded tries a few minutes apart from each other before Lotu Inisi crossed over in added time for Pasifika, the madness started immediately from out of the dressing room, as Henry Taefu scored for Pasifika to give it a 22-8 cushion a minute into the second half. 

The Drua’s Selestino Ravutaumada, having picked up a yellow card a few minutes from halftime that played a major role in Pasifika’s two tries on either side of the intermission, scored in the 48th minute to try and make up for his mistake, but Pasifika piled on the points, even after Nigel Ah Wong was sent off in the 55th minute for a dangerous tackle, leading 39-22 with 10 minutes to play after tries from Sam Moli and Abraham Pole plus a penalty from Christian Lealiifano.

Fijian rugby is well known for its ability to turn a game on its head in a flash, however, and in the game’s final stanza — especially after the Pasifika’s Sekope Kepu was sin-binned in the 68th minute — the Drua saw their chance to capitalize and set up a breakneck finish. 

Epeli Momo and Junior Ratuva utilized the extra space available and scored tries within three minutes of each other to cut the deficit to 39-36 with five minutes remaining, but Pasifika held on for dear life the rest of the way to pick up a historic win over the rival and deny the Drua what would’ve been an all-time comeback in a Super Rugby classic.

Join The Rugby Conversation On FloRugby Social