Nine points to consider from the weekend's rugby, and a form New Zealand squad.
Stars of the week
The Crusaders, whose 31 unanswered points in the first 43 minutes against the Hurricanes were a triumph for skill, speed, and unlimited belief in each other. Good on the Canes for never giving up, and eventually only losing 38-22, but the victory was sealed and delivered before the Canes finally got a point on the board.
Player of the week
If Beauden Barrett is the most complete player of the Barrett brothers, and Jordie is the most promising, where do you place Scott? Still only 25, it's hard to pick the most impressive aspect of his play. Is it his enthusiasm, his strength, his pace, or his pinpoint accuracy? How amazing for the All Blacks that he will probably still be a reserve lock at the World Cup in Japan at the end of the year.
When the laughing stops
We've all had a good time seeing Australian teams getting eaten up and spat out by New Zealand Super sides. But the Brumbies thrashing the Chiefs 54-17 would wipe the smirk off any Kiwi's face. The defensive experts at the Chiefs will be eating up time on their laptops today. Some of the attempted tackling out wide was from the school of tissue paper.
Mixed feelings for Steve Hansen
On the one hand Brodie Retallick, after leaving the field with a sore neck last week after the red card tackle that wasn't from Sio Tomkinson, released in Canberra the beast Retallick carries within, in its full rugged, smashing, cold eyed, glory. On the other hand, Retallick stayed on the field for every grinding 80 minutes. It's the sort of loyalty Sam Whitelock showed the Crusaders in the last two seasons, when he played game after game. Which was great for the Crusaders, but left him, in the words of one of the All Black management group, "a shell of a man" on the end of year All Black tours.
Coach killer, No.1
Bad throwing to the lineout. It filtered through most of the New Zealand teams, and is the reason Dane Coles is not in the first form New Zealand squad of the year here. Coles is a hell of a rugby player, and against the Crusaders onslaught he was indomitable. But three wayward throws in 20 minutes for an All Black hooker was a mile from his usual excellent standards.
Coach killer, No.2
Goal kicking. The best kicker in the weekend was the Highlanders Josh Ioane, who kicked four out of five, as the Highlanders pipped the Reds, 36-31. Ioane's only unsuccessful kick hit the upright. After six for six last week he's the form man off the tee. Richie Mo'unga, usually such a sharp shooter, sprayed his first two conversion attempts in Christchurch startlingly wide before he found his range.
Welcome back Nugget
Aaron Smith was back to his razor sharp, bullet-passing best for the Highlanders. I'm a big TJ Perenara fan, but when Smith is on song he'd be my first choice at No.9 every time.
Woke up this morning, said hello to the blues
Blues coach Leon MacDonald is never one to make excuses, but for his team to strike the Crusaders in the first round, then fly to South Africa the next morning, and play the Sharks in Durban in 30C heat, I'd suggest losing 26-7, after being down 19-0 at halftime, was a pretty damn good effort. To now have to fly 11 hours from South Africa to Argentina, and then play the Jaguares, who have just beaten the Bulls, is surely the definition of cruel and unnatural punishment.
Meanwhile, 'oop north
Did you get the feeling that England coach Eddie Jones, in his desire to have dominant forwards, may just have sacrificed a tad of speed and agility for brute strength and size? And that Wales exposed that in their dynamic second half comeback for a 21-13 win?
Best quote from a critic?
Stephen Jones describing an English attack in the second half as so rare it was "almost like the sighting of a dodo."
New Zealand form squad of the week
(These 23 players have been chosen strictly on how they played over the weekend.)
Fullback: Ben Smith (Highlanders)
Right wing: Waisake Naholo (Highlanders)
Centre: Jack Goodhue (Crusaders)
Second five: Ryan Crotty (Crusaders)
Left wing: Ben Lam (Hurricanes)
First five: Josh Ioane (Highlanders)
Halfback: Aaron Smith (Highlanders)
No.8: Luke Whitelock (Highlanders)
Flanker: Matt Todd (Crusaders)
Flanker: Shannon Frizell (Highlanders)
Lock: Scott Barrett (Crusaders)
Lock: Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)
Tighthead prop: Owen Franks (Crusaders)
Hooker: Liam Coltman (Highlanders)
Loosehead prop:Joe Moody (Crusaders)
Reserves: David Havili (Crusaders), Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders), Bryn Hall (Crusaders), Jordan Taufua (Crusaders), Luke Romano (Crusaders), Karl Tu'inukuafe (Blues), Ofa Tuungafasi (Blues), Nathan Harris (Chiefs).
Phil Gifford joins Simon Barnett on the new Newstalk ZB Afternoons show from July 2019