Super Rugby Aotearoa Round 3 review Emotional Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan star

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Super Rugby Aotearoa Round 3 saw wins for the Blues and the Crusaders, though the scorelines may have been a little closer than many had predicted.

Both matches went down to the wire, with the Highlanders and Chiefs each having the chance to steal victories on the road inside the final few minutes.

Read on as we bring you some of the big talking points from the weekend’s action.

CLARKE, JORDAN GIVE ALL BLACKS GLIMPSE AT THE FUTURE

New Zealand rugby has never been short on quality outside backs. And the production line continues to be churn out talented wingers and fullbacks, who have used either the sevens circuit or the Under 20s program to hone their skills.

All Blacks fans got a glimpse at the future over the weekend as the Blues’ Caleb Clarke and Crusaders’ Will Jordan starred in their team’s respective three and five-point victories.

Clarke has been in excellent form across the first three weeks of Super Rugby. But spurred on by the memory of his grandfather, who sadly passed earlier on Saturday, Clarke produced the kind of power running display that will surely propel him into the black jersey in the future.

The 21-year-old sevens star scored his side’s opening try after just five minutes, brushing aside several feeble attempts at tackles after steaming onto the ball on the blindside. He then later turned provider for Rieko Ioane – who has already trotted the sevens-to-All Blacks path – with a scything broken field run and left foot step before that allowed his outside centre to loom up on the inside and take a pass that left him with a sprint to the line he was always going to win.

Blues winger Caleb Clarke powers over for a try during the Round 3 Super Rugby Aotearoa clash with the Highlanders in Auckland, June 27, 2020 Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Clarke finished with a match high 77 metres from seven runs, two clean breaks and four tackle busts to go with his try and try assist. He then also spoke with Sky Sport post-match, despite still feeling the emotion of his grandfather’s passing. A quality young man with a bright future.

Will Jordan, meanwhile, is hardly a new face on the scene in Christchurch, but he has had to bide his time in Scott Robertson’s squad of superstars. This is a team that boasts All Black wingers Sevu Reece and George Bridge, versatile outside back Braydon Ennor and another All Black in David Havili.

Jordan has also had some troubles with injury during his debut season last year.

But he has certainly hit the ground running in Super Rugby Aotearoa, backing up last week’s excellent showing in Wellington by scoring both of the Crusaders’ tries in their win over the Chiefs on Sunday.

On both occasions, it was Jordan’s work off the ball, his ability to get himself into a position to take a pass, that led to try-scoring opportunities that were few and far between on a wet and cold afternoon in Christchurch.

His second five-pointer also reflected his understanding of the laws of rugby, so too that of winger Sevu Reece. While the Chiefs were remonstrating with referee James Doleman about the lack of a breakdown penalty, Reece retrieved the ball from over the sideline – it had not been touched by anyone and was therefore still live – and sensing the opportunity, Jordan flew down the five-metre line to take a quick lineout from Reece, bumped off Brad Weber, and sprinted away for his second try.

Beauden Barrett [R] chats with Blues teammate Dan Carter [C] and Highlanders scrum-half Aaron Smith after the Blues 27-24 at Eden Park, June 27, 2020 Phil Walter/Getty Images

Jordan also handled the torrid conditions superbly at the back, one towering Damian McKenzie’s kick fielded with aplomb under pressure.

They may not be seen in All Blacks jerseys anytime soon, but you can guarantee both Clarke and Jordan will have come into calculations by the time the next World Cup rolls around and will be likely be key figures in the 2027 tournament when they are in the prime of their careers.

NOT HAPPY, WARREN

While the Crusaders duo were rightly lauded for their quick thinking and understanding of the laws, Chiefs coach Warren Gatland cut an unhappy figure at the post-match press conference.

While he had no gripes around the quick lineout that brought about the Crusaders’ second try, Gatland was angry Jack Goodhue had not been penalized at the breakdown, the outside centre’s failure to roll away in good time seemingly allowing his side the chance to pressure Aaron Cruden into a pass that went directly into touch, creating the opportunity for the Reece-Jordan double-act.

”We were furious because we just felt the breakdown before it [the try], we felt Goodhue should have been penalized,” Gatland said. “To me, it was a tough decision, and then for them to take a quick throw and us not to react to it.

“I just thought it was a certain penalty to us, I thought Goodhue made a tackle, and he’s ended up rolling into our side and slowed the ball down.”

To their credit, the Chiefs managed to pull within five points of the Crusaders late on and had the field position the launch a final attacking assault on the 10-time Super Rugby champions’ line.

But the conditions were always going to make things tough and the visitors eventually coughed up possession and the Crusaders were able to close the game out from there.

BARRETT NOT WOWING THEM BUT STILL SHOWING HIS WORTH

Blues fans that were hoping for some Beauden Barrett magic from the minute he arrived in Auckland have probably headed home from Eden Park a little disappointed to date.

But there was one little glimpse of supreme skill on Saturday as the All Blacks fullback darted back to pick up a loose ball, scooped it up with one hand barely breaking stride, and then tore away from the chasing defence. Sadly, referee Paul Williams’ whistle ended any thought of some sort of outlandish counter attack.

Still, the Blues are certainly getting their money’s worth from Barrett, both through his tactical kicking in general play and the punts that plug the corners from penalties and create the opportunity for a lineout drive.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster [C] and his selectors have been doing the rounds of Super Rugby Aotearoa over the past few weeks Phil Walter/Getty Images

Barrett, scrum-half Sam Nock and Otere Black, all turned the Highlanders wingers around on Saturday night with clever rolling kicks that either found the line, or sat up just enough to force the visitors into playing the ball, which brought about Hoskins Sotutu’s charge-down and Dalton Papalii’s resulting try.

You can’t underestimate the role Dan Carter is playing in the Blues’ kicking, too. He and Barrett have been spotted in conversation after each of the Blues’ three wins, while the champion fly-half has also been running the water while he continues to prepare for what many hope will be a Blues debut against the Crusaders’ in a fortnight’s time.

Barrett, meanwhile, will have his attacking moment before Super Rugby Aotearoa is out. For now, though, he is playing a role in a humming Blues unit that sits atop of the competition unbeaten after three games.

FORGET THE HYBRID HOAX, NORTH ISLAND VS. SOUTH ISLAND IS ONE NOT TO MISS

While it may have been swept aside by talk of a 14-aside hybrid match with the Kangaroos, New Zealand Rugby on Friday announced the eligibility requirement for its North Island vs. South Island game later this year.

Players will represent the Island where they played their first provincial match, a decision that has drawn plenty of criticism as it will deny a number of players the chance to represent the region where they either played all their junior or First XV rugby.

Damian McKenzie, for instance, will represent the North Island after making his provincial debut for Waikato; the Barrett brothers, meanwhile, will again be split with Scott and Jordie having first represented Canterbury while Beauden first wore the jersey of Taranaki at provincial level.

The Crusaders’ Will Jordan scored a double in his side’s five-point win over the Chiefs Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Still, you will want to circle Aug. 29 on your calendar as, the closest game to the old All Blacks trial will be one not to be missed.

It will certainly be worth watching far more than a hybrid exhibition, that at this stage looks to be nothing more than 14-man rugby league. No wonder Mal Meninga, Daly Cherry-Evans and others are desperate to give it a go.

The concept looks to have plenty of holes in it, not least of which is a report that claims the hybrid patent is owned by Sydneysider Phil Franks and that he is yet to hear from any of the parties promoting the Kangaroos-All Blacks clash.

Source: espn.com

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