Red cards were the topic of conversation during Round 7 of the Super Rugby championship, with referees reaching to their pockets to deliver four red cards in successive matches this week.
World Rugby’s new 20-minute red card rule has been well used over the past two rounds of the competition, with a remarkable seven red cards being issued in Super Rugby over the last fortnight.
World Rugby boss Alan Gilpin said earlier this week that while we are seeing more red cards issued in the tournament, the increase in officiating is helping to improve player welfare as “those cards are being issued because the match officials are protecting the players.”
All four of the red cards issued in Round 7 saw players make illegal contact to the neck or head area of their opposition.
Blues winger Caleb Clarke was awarded a red card for a dangerous aerial challenge on Tomasi Alosio during their 46-16 win against Moana Pasifika, a week after his teammate Nepo Laulala was sent off in their away fixture against the Pacific Islands club.
Crusaders’ hooker Shilo Klein was also sent walking following a dangerous tackle that saw him make contact with the head of Highlanders’ prop Ethan De Groot.
Reds’ forward Tuaina Taii Tualima was red-carded for a dangerous clear-out in their win over the Brumbies, while Fijian Drua captain Nemani Nagusa was also given his marching orders at the weekend, with his side ultimately succumbing to a 38-14 defeat to the Waratahs.
Winning streaks and Trans Tasman fixtures
The latest round of Super Rugby Pacific fixtures also proved that this year’s tournament is still wide open.
All eyes turned to Brisbane this weekend for perhaps the blockbuster bout of the round, that saw the league’s top side, the Brumbies, concede their first loss of the season to the Reds.
It was a hard-fought win for the Reds, with Fraser Mcreight and Filipo Daugunu getting on the scoresheet for the Queensland club.
But that wasn’t the only big match of the round, with the Chiefs pipping the Hurricanes by the barest of margins down in Wellington to strengthen their claim of securing a spot in the top four.
The Crusaders, meanwhile, managed to keep themselves within touching distance of the top, holding out to the Highlanders despite going down to fourteen men during the match.
As we head into the middle of the season, its the Aussies who currently reign supreme at the top of the Super Rugby ladder, yet the Kiwi sides are certainly still in the hunt for the top spots, with the Crusaders and the Blues hot on the tails of the league leaders, both also with a game in hand.
With the race for a spot in this year’s finals series heating up, we are only two weeks away from Super Rugby’s Trans Tasman fixtures, which will put the Brumbies and the Reds against the Blues and Crusaders to see who will come out on top.
Michael Hooper and TJ Perenara: Back at home
Round 7 also saw Wallabies captain Michael Hooper and All Blacks scrum-half TJ Perenara make their returns to the competition after a two-year absence.
Following stints in Japan’s Top League, both players returned to the competition for the first time since 2020 and had successful runouts for their respective sides, with the flanker and the half-back getting on the score sheet.
With a try and a victory on his return, Hooper will now be looking at the strength of the New South Wales Waratahs side, and hoping he can help them push on to a finals berth at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, despite losing out to the Chiefs by a point, Perenara’s try at the weekend takes him one step closer to beating Isreal Folau’s all-time Super Rugby try-scoring record.
Perenara is also locked in a two-horse race with teammate and fellow All Black Julian Savea, who like the ‘Caines No.9 sits on 57 Super Rugby career tries.