The fourth week of the Super 14 saw the Bulls remain top of the log with a game in hand!
Both the Lions and Sharks produced important results in denying their Australian opposition bonus points, which will have a telling effect at the end of the season.
Meanwhile in South Africa, the Stormers showed they are still a semi-final prospect, whilst the Cheetahs helped them out by beating the Hurricanes.
The Reds produced the upset of the round, although the Chiefs will be highly disappointed with their efforts.
The Chiefs negated their good work on the road by dropping a home game, showing that once again the Crusaders may be the Kiwi side to lead the way. They certainly look a different side with All Black captain Richie McCaw back.
Overall a good weekend for the Bulls, who keep their top log position and now have a game in hand.
The next few rounds will be crucial to ensure the Bulls get enough log points to ensure the overseas trip doesn't require a full house of points, and bonus points are not vital.
Chiefs (18) vs. Reds (23)
The Chiefs started strongly, scoring 3 tries within the first 20 minutes. They played with great width, creating massive holes in the Reds defence, and both wingers finished off superbly.
Perhaps the critical mistake was that Stephen Donald missed all 3 conversions. None were easy, but he should've done better.
Another easy penalty attempt went wide too, and when the Reds hit back with a try against the run of play; the gap was only 8 points.
It shows how opportunities must be taken. The Reds were then able to work their way back into the game with strong defence and slotting their own penalties.
The Chiefs may have been feeling the effects of returning from a 3 week road trip. They looked increasingly lethargic as the match wore on, and the errors increased.
The Reds' attitude held them in good stead, but their accuracy was not that much better. Pity they couldn't score one more try to deny the Chiefs a bonus point. However, it was still a great result for the Bulls!
Brumbies (24) vs. Lions (13)
The Lions improved their defence immensely and had to battle with a one-sided referee too.
Rain and wet conditions were never going to allow this match to be free-flowing, and initially both sides made plenty of errors as they adjusted from the summer conditions they've been enjoying.
The Lions led through an early penalty, but the Brumbies gradually started to gain dominance. They were helped immensely by ref Steve Walsh.
In the scrums, he was especially harsh. In the second half, he got even worse. I'm not sure why he missed little knock-ons, and allowed the Brumbies to constantly be offside and collapse the mauls.
Whenever the Lions made an error, or didn't make an error in some cases, he pulled them up.
It was his demeanour and tone of voice, more than anything, that suggested he was being one-sided and clearly had it in for the Lions.
I am not saying he changed the result of the game, but when a side get unfairly penalised so heavily, they can't get any momentum.
Instead of a lineout or scrum in opposition territory, you find yourself defending near you own goal-line. It makes a massive difference.
Walsh penalised the Lions plenty of times at the scrum, yet when the Brumbies went down he said he'd give him the benefit of the doubt! Where is the consistency?
The Lions didn't help themselves, however, and their kicking was poor. Matt Giteau returned his kicks with interest and the Lions had very little territory, often resorting to running out from their own 22m in the latter stages of the match.
Crucially, they denied the Brumbies a bonus point. I was not very impressed with the Brumbies, and think they'll struggle to make the semis.
The Lions did impress with their attitude and commitment, and hopefully they will get better this year.
I thought Francis was good at flyhalf. He made mistakes, but he'll get better. Wandile Mjekevu looked stronger on defence and made a brilliant try-saving tackle in the second half.
Cobus Grobbelaar gets through a mountain of work, and Doppies La Grange plays close the ruck and makes great ball carries.
On a dry field, he needs runners close to him and I think he needs a more dynamic centre outside him. I still think Carlos Spencer at inside centre and Doppies outside him may be the way to go.
Crusaders (33) vs. Blues (20)
The master taught his apprentice a lesson as Daniel Carter won the flyhalf battle over Stephen Brett. It has a massive influence on the game, and dictated proceedings.
The Crusaders were more clinical bar their lineouts than they have been. It showed that as they start to hit their straps, they will still be dangerous, although perhaps not as complete a side as they were in their heyday.
The Blues scored a late try, but like some other sides, when you consistently fail to construct try-scoring opportunities you will fail to win games, and never be a semi-final contender.
The Crusaders also missed a bonus point, ensuring the Bulls stay top of the log...for now!
Waratahs (25) v Sharks (21)
This game came down to both sides trying not to lose rather than aiming to win.
It was a scrappy game, with neither side really creating anything constructive, and both sides trying to kick deep into opposition territory.
The Sharks showed late in the game, as desperation set in, you get rewarded for keeping ball, in hand, running hard and straight, and showing a bit of desperation!
Neither of these sides are semi-final material; they lack positive imagination and courage. The Sharks now have to surely come to grips with the fact this season is a write-off. Start building for the future!
Once again, the ref was terrible. I've come to the conclusion that the Aussies are simply below standard, and possibly more incompetent rather than biased. (Well, I am at least going to give them the benefit of the doubt...again).
Stormers (33) vs. Highlanders (0)
The Stormers are a side on the up, and showed how average the Highlanders are. However, you still have to put sides like that away, and the Stormers did a great job thanks to their intensity.
The team spirit the Stormers are developing was evident by Deon Fourie's performance in replacing Tiaan Liebenberg. When you can bring guys in who add such value, you'll always be strong.
The Stormers have been fantastic this year in defence. To come away with a clean sheet and only 2 tries in 4 games is awesome. Slowly but surely their attacking prowess is starting to build and match the defensive levels.
Dewald Duvenhage had a great game around the rucks, running well and protecting the ball when it was scrappy. Coupled with good tactical kicking, the Stormers played sensible rugby. They still struggle building the phases at times, but are getting ever more accurate and penetrative.
Jaque Fourie and Juan de Jongh are dangerous each time they touch the ball, without ever busting the line fully yet. I thought Sireli Naqelevuki was strong and had his best Super 14 game yet.
Habana we know is always good and he was rewarded for his effort to seal the 4th try bonus point with a try only Habana can score.
The key for the Stormers is to now maintain consistency and become more polished in attack so that pressure turns into points.
Cheetahs (28) vs. Hurricanes (12)
Finally, the Cheetahs have beaten overseas opposition!
It looked ominous as the Cheetahs conceded a soft early try, but they came back superbly.
It shows the value of maintaining focus and intensity. Whilst not always accurate, pressure will always cause the opposition to make mistakes. The Cheetahs forwards were superb in being patient, making tackles, and then capitalising on Hurricanes' mistakes.
It helps having kickers who can boot the ball miles, and they were able to pin the Hurricanes back with field position to relieve the pressure.
Whilst the Cheetahs didn't ask a lot of questions on attack, they grew more confident as the game wore on and started to run from deeper in their own territory.
I especially liked the tactic of two forwards running together, at pace in midfield. It paid handsome dividends, and Juan Smith led by example superbly here.
It was an important win for both the Cheetahs, but more importantly the Bulls and Stormers Super 14 hopes.
It's what South Africa has been lacking, making life difficult for touring sides to deny them easy log points. At the end of the season, these games will have the most telling effect on the log.