At the conclusion of Round 8, the Crusaders hold their position at the top of the table after their defeat of the Chiefs while the Blues, lying in second place, still have a shot at the title should their eighth round opponents, the Highlanders, surprise the Crusaders in Christchurch this weekend.
We take a look at the top performers in the stats after this past weekend’s action.
Chiefs’ leader Sam Cane match hard-working Crusaders flanker Tom Christie in the most tackles made of the round, the pair of them totalling 18 each. George Bridge (Crusaders), Pita Sowakula (Chiefs) and Tony Lamborn (Blues) all managed 13 while Highlanders hard man Shannon Frizell and Blues number 8 Akira Ioane contributed 12 for their sides.
Will Jordan, as per usual, finds himself in the upper echelons of the ‘carries’ stat, this time, however, sharing the top spot with Sowakula; both pulling off 16. Josh Ioane of the Highlanders managed 15 while George Bridge and Tom Sanders (both Crusaders) carried 13 times each.
Jordan’s carries yielded significantly more meterage than Sowakula, however, the Crusaders flyer racking up 101m in Hamilton. Chiefs right winger Shaun Stevenson made 73m, closely followed by the talent Caleb Clarke (Blues) with 72m.
For the second week running, Crusaders fly-half Richie Mo’unga tops the ‘defenders beaten’ stat, this time with 7. His teammate Will Jordan evaded 5 while Highlanders number 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu'u beat a total of 4.
Sam Cane’s admirable efforts on Saturday were not enough to translate into victory for his team. In addition to topping the tackle count this week, the openside also pulled off the most turnovers with 3. Aaron Cruden, Lachlan Boshier (both Chiefs), as well as Mtichell Drummond (Crusaders) and Shannon Frizell each made 2.
The Blues’ Caleb Clarke and Finlay Christie were in fine form against their Highlanders rivals with Clarke showing a clean pair of heels on 4 occasions while Christie managed a total of 3 clean breaks ahead of a whole host of players with 2 each.
Round 9 sees the Crusaders take on the Highlanders and the Hurricanes hosting the Chiefs in the latter’s final game of the tournament.