Recap: Round 2 of Aupiki 23
The second round of Super Rugby Aupiki is done and dusted. Here are a few points worth considering as Round 3 emerges.
The second round of Super Rugby Aupiki is done and dusted. Defending champions Chiefs Manawa are the only unbeaten team after slaying the Blues 50-31 at North Harbour Stadium. Hurricanes Poua revived their campaign with a gusty 25-24 success over Matatū in Christchurch. Down 19-8 at halftime, the Hurricanes prevailed but only after holding Matatū up over the goal line in the final minute.
Competition At Halfback
The retirement of Kendra Cocksedge leaves a gaping hole for the Black Ferns to cover at halfback. The three-time World Champion appeared in 68 of the Black Ferns 115 tests. There have been four halfbacks on regular display thus far in Aupiki. Incumbent Black Ferns Ariana Bayler and Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu have started for the Chiefs and Blues, respectively.
Bayler, whose battled injury, has relished the extra game time. Despite being yet to win a game, she has performed with polish and authority. Marino-Tauhinu has enjoyed being behind a rampant Chiefs pack and reinforced their authority further with good option-taking, mature leadership, and the occasional snipe, a key part of her game.
Iritana Hohaia graduated as a policewoman in the off-season and has fared well for Hurricanes Poua. Things were torrid at times in round one, but her energy and spark in round two helped spark the Matatū resurgence. Regarding Matatū Di Hiini has emerged as their leading halfback. She has formed a solid combination with Rosie Kelly. A quick pass and the ability to spot a gap make her a real handful for any opposition.
And the Chiefs Manawa remain undefeated. ✅#Aupiki23 | #LoveEveryMinute pic.twitter.com/BYqmUBM6gH— Super Rugby NZ (@SuperRugbyNZ) March 4, 2023
World Cup Winners on Fire
The confidence gained by World Cup winners has been immeasurable and has translated into startling Aupiki form. Hooker Luka Connor tops the competition with four tries. Chiefs Manawa boats the most accurate lineout. Tighthead prop Tanya Kalounivale is another who has flourished for the Chiefs with her bullying runs and robust scrummaging causing headaches.
With tries in each match and her usual toil, Kendra Reynolds has been noteworthy for Matatū, as has Liana Mikaele-Tu'u for the Blues with her busy and bustling carries. Renee Holmes played a blinder for Matatū against the Hurricanes, who have Joanah Ngan-Woo. She has made 23 carries, 25 tackles, beaten 11 defenders, and won nine lineouts in two matches. She is in the top five in each of those categories.
Powerful. 😤#Aupiki23 | #LoveEveryMinute pic.twitter.com/hBEae9vP6r— Super Rugby NZ (@SuperRugbyNZ) March 4, 2023
Attack Wins Matches
There have been 42 tries scored in four matches, with forwards remarkably responsible for half that tally. Luka Connor scored the first Aupiki hat-trick last weekend, while young Blues lock Maama Vaipulu, with two tries against the Chiefs, has emerged as a fascinating prospect.
The Chiefs' maul has been devastating, but most tries have been scored through slick passing, speed, beating defenders, or creative back moves.
The Blues are second in carries (246), meters gained (1678), and first in offloads (40).
Bring on Round 3.#Aupiki23 | #LoveEveryMinute pic.twitter.com/edBGEcbg0V— Super Rugby NZ (@SuperRugbyNZ) March 7, 2023