The ITM Cup Round 1 2013 is over and there were plenty of high scoring matches with most punters tipping six results with the Tasman victory over Southland the only upset.
Usually the early rounds see plenty of scrappy low scoring matches with teams battling it out in wintry conditions and some upsets with the competition heavyweights dropping the odd game to the minnows, but that didn't happen in Round 1. What has caused so many high scoring games?
The new scrum engagement laws probably meant there was more time for teams to score points as there were less resets than usual. I also think that the mild and dry conditions and the referees combined to help games to flow. Sure, the referees did hate players being in front of the kicker at restarts, but they usually let things flow in the opening round. It was a thoroughly enjoyable round unless you were on the losing side of the ledger.
I picked five wins from seven games but didn't expect so many one sided matches. On average each team scored over 30 points each which is crazy for the ITM Cup Round 1, where there are plenty of early season mistakes, upsets and terrible weather conditions.
Canterbury and Wellington look like they will contest the Premiership final if their convincing wins over Taranaki and Counties are anything to go by. It is amazing how these two teams, especially Canterbury managed such a convincingly display with so many new faces.
Hawkes Bay will be tough to beat in the Championship after they thrashed Manawatu at the weekend. Their main rivals will probably be Otago who beat Premiership team Bay of Plenty in a thriller 32 - 29. Tasman will be a threat too after an upset win over Southland. This was a convincing performance with Tasman winger James Lowe impressing.
It could be a long season for Southland and Manawatu in the Championship. The Stags are usually slow out of the starting blocks, but they lost at home to another Championship side in the Tasman Makos and so they are already on the back foot. Manawatu were easily outclassed by Hawkes Bay.
It seems that the glory days of Southland rugby from 2009-2011 are over. In those days the Stags probably spent more on players than they do now and while it crippled them financially, it meant that they were a more successful team.
Back then they often scraped together low scoring wins based on gritty defence. Fast forward two years and unfortunately they will struggle to even make the semi finals of the ITM Cup Championship.
Counties and Taranaki both had terrible starts, but it is difficult to know if it was as much to do with strong first up performances by Wellington and Canterbury or not?
Auckland and Waikato had relatively narrow wins over Championship teams North Harbour and Northland. Auckland and Waikato weren't as convincing as their rivals Canterbury and Wellington.
With the first round of any competition, it is difficult to know if the winning team was good or the losing team bad and it can be difficult to know how much to read into the size of the margin.
For those playing SuperBru, with only one real upset, plenty of people got the Grand Slam Points for picking all seven winners. The main problem for tipsters was the magnitude of some of the victories. It would take a gutsy tipster to have picked Wellington's massive winning margin over Counties for example.
The other problem for SuperBru tipsters who don't want to forget to enter their tips is that because of the first game of the round is on a Thursday night, therefore most teams haven't been named for the later games of the round.
How many results did you pick in ITM Cup Round 1? Which teams impressed you the most in ITM Cup Round 1?
This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Scott Donaldson, author of www.superrugbytips.com