NRC Round 5 review – semi-final race tightens

Getting tight: seven of the remaining eight NRC games can have a bearing on the finals. Image: Sydney Rays

Getting tight: seven of the remaining eight NRC games can have a bearing on the finals. Image: Sydney Rays

rugby.com.au: With just two rounds left to play in the National Rugby Championship, the run home to the finals series is starting to hot up. And after the weekend’s results, the only certainty is that we’re in for more surprises as top four contenders play each other over the remaining eight games.

Cheap Seats podcast: the Footy Finals special edition

Ryan O’Connell and I have conveniently missed the Bledisloe Cup build-up, and have now climbed aboard the September bandwagon for the Footy Finals Special edition of the Cheap Seats podcast.

All the footy finals hot takes are ready, interlaced with #AskTheCheapSeats questions from the regulars, who perhaps sent questions in out of curiosity to see if the new episode rumours were true.

Topics covered include Wayne Bennett’s whinging, the Canberra Raiders as competition darlings, the Wests Tigers/Robbie Farah debacle, the Jack Wighton/Michael Ennis shoulder charge debacle, the Cowboys timing their run, Penrith’s home game on the other side of the world, Thursday night AFL finals, the Geelong-Hawthorn blockbuster, the AFL’s seminal Sydney moment, things to get ugly in Adelaide, the Wallabies ongoing woes, and the worst Australian bowling line-up every set to South Africa, comprising three blokes whose names we can’t actually remember.

As always, you can get us on Twitter at @CheapSeatsPod, on Soundcloud, iTunes, and the TuneIn radio app. And stay cheap – you never know when we’ll be back!

Hurricanes title an All Blacks blueprint?

Another double column day for me today, with my latest column for South Africa-based Rugby365 also going live today. In it, I suspect the rush defence used so well by the Hurricanes to take the Super Rugby crown might just be a live trial for the All Blacks…

The Lions headed to Wellington for the Final against the Hurricanes with the best attack in Super Rugby, and arguably the most complete set piece – both scrum and line-out – were a definite strength for them.

Coming into the Final, the Lions had scored 81 tries; eleven more than the Hurricanes as the next best team to that point, and at an average of 4.8 tries per game.

But for all their abundant attacking ability, the Lions would still have to overcome one literal hurdle: the Hurricanes’ defence.

Hurricanes worthy champs, but Super Rugby format cannot change for 2017

The Roar: The Hurricanes took out the 2016 final pretty much as everyone thought they would. An exceptional defensive effort that was already beyond 200 minutes without conceding a try was pushed almost to 300 minutes.

Regardless, the Lions should be looking forward to next year, because they have another genuine chance to top the standings in 2017.

The group and conference format of Super Rugby means that the Lions’ Africa 2 conference will be paired with the Australian conference, avoidinh the New Zealand teams completely, just like the Stormers did this season.

If they can hold the playing group together – I’m only aware of Franco Mostert moving on currently – then they would have to start next season as one of the competition favourites.