Just like that, another SuperXV campaign is over. Teams came. Teams soared. Teams crashed and burned. Teams conquered. More importantly a New Zealand team conquered all.
Now it is time for reflection and review – and not just by the players – but by us mere rugby fanatical mortals. Stephen has posted his overall review of the season, so I thought rather than bore you with the same thing twice, I would focus on the New Zealand franchises.
More specifically for each franchise (and overall) I will focus on the:
- player of the season – the player who stood out above everyone else
- game of the season – the teams game of the season
- shame of the season – the teams low point of the season, whether it be a game or a player
Player of the season: Ben Smith. Without a doubt THE player of the season for the Highlanders, in what was a very dismal season. Created tries, scored tries, and gave the Highlanders faithful a tiny little bit of hope.
Game of the season: 38-28 win against the Blues in round 16. For ONE game, the Highlanders showed us what they could have – SHOULD have – been capable of all season. The first half in particular was spectacular and they were leading 29-7 at half time.
Shame of the season: One COULD say ‘the season in its entirety’, but I think I will sum it up instead, with two words. Names really. Ma’a Nonu. Such hype. Such hope. Such an epic failure. Two of the Highlanders THREE wins, came when Ma’a Nonu wasn’t on the field.
Player of the season: The bearded wonder, Ryan Crotty was the stand out player for the Crusaders this season. Consistent, setter upperer of tries (it’s a term!), scorer of tries, fast on his feet – and most importantly of all – rocks a beard like no other.
Game of the season: 30-23 win against the Brumbies in Canberra, in round 12. Winning this game was a must for the Crusaders, having only just scraped past the Rebels the week beforehand. A Crusaders team hadn’t won in Canberra for 10 years, and after a few rusty performances early on in the season, beating the Brumbies provided a much needed psychological boost. The Crusaders brought their A game, and played like the Crusaders of old.
Shame of the season: 16-14 loss to the Western Force in Perth. You can blame the loss on travel, you can blame the loss on key players being rested, but at the end of the day (well, season), losing to one of the bottom of the table teams is never something to be proud of.
Player of the season: Beauden Barrett. His precision with the boot won a few close games for the Hurricanes, he also scored a few nice tries.
Game of the season: 49-44 loss in round 19 to the Highlanders. While they didn’t come away with the win, the game was a right royal tryfest! After looking as if they would be on the end of a drubbing, the Hurricanes came back in the second half to seriously contest the game. The lead changed just about as often as Ma’a Nonu has changed franchises!
Shame of the season: 48-14 loss in round 12 to the Bulls in Pretoria. It’s hard to play in South Africa – and especially at Loftus – but losing by 34 points is just embarrassing. This loss ended any hopes the Hurricanes had of making it to the playoffs.
Player of the season: Gareth Anscombe. After being unwanted by the Blues for the 2013 season, the Chiefs signed the Aucklander, and boy, did that signing pay off! In his 13 games for the Chiefs (he had time out with a broken foot), Anscombe scored 166 points and had a goal kicking percentage of 80.3%. As a note, that’s a much higher % than any of the Blues kickers.
Game of the season: 28-19 win over the Crusaders in round 15. Just when the Crusaders were starting to look like the team that could take out the whole competition, the Chiefs reminded them just how competitive they could be, and how hard it is to beat the Chiefs at home.
Shame of the season: 43-15 loss to the Crusaders in round 21. The Chiefs were schooled by the Crusaders. As they had done to the Crusaders only 6 rounds earlier, this time it was the Crusaders reminding the Chiefs just how competitive they could be, and how hard it is to beat them at home.
Player of the season: Ali Williams. Not so much from a playing point of view, but when he was awarded the Captaincy, we witnessed the birth of a new, more mature, respectable Ali. Comical Ali was still in there, but he seemed to take the game more seriously, and was more passionate about the game as a whole, and his team.
Game of the season: 28-6 win over the Hurricanes in round 9. One of the traditional, much hyped Kiwi derbys – and the Blues showed the Hurricanes who was boss – in a BIG way. A great win by a young and relatively inexperienced Blues team!
Shame of the season: 23-3 loss to the Crusaders in round 15. Much was made of another of the traditional, much hyped Kiwi derbys, the Blues were predicted by many to come away victorious. In reality, the Blues youth and inexperience showed, and the only thing they went away with, was their tails between their legs.
Player of the season: A tie between Ben Smith and Crotty of the epic beard.
Game of the season: the 49-44 Highlanders win over the Hurricanes. While it wasn’t the tidiest of games, it was try fest of gargantuan proportions, where the backs got to do what they do best. Run!
Shame on the season: The Highlanders 38-37 loss to the Rebels in round 20. After leading the Rebels 31-7 at half time – what appeared to be an unassailable lead – the Highlanders looked as if they were going to end the season with a bang. Oh, how they choked. The Highlanders only managed to add 6 points in the second half, while the Rebels ran in try after try (5 to be exact), to come away with a 1 point win.
And a special mention…..
I couldn’t sign off without mentioning a New Zealander who made a great impact in his first year of the Super XV, and who promises to be a player to watch for 2014 and beyond. The player in mention is Jason Woodward, who played ITM Cup for the Wellington Lions, but failed to be offered a contract by any of the New Zealand franchises. It was the Rebels who snapped him up, and from his very first game – where he scored 2 tries against the Force – he has proven his worth. Perhaps the big ‘shame’ of the New Zealand Super XV season wasn’t the loss of a game, but rather letting a talented young player such as Woodward, slip through their fingers.
Could it end up biting us in the bum in a huge way, when the 2015 RWC rolls around, and Woodward is eligible to don the green & gold of Australia?