A summary of the weekend’s Super Rugby results and log standings. By Reuters Sportsdesk
Sharks 25 – Stormers 20
The Sharks kept their Super Rugby playoff hopes alive with a 25-20 win over the Stormers in a tense all-South African clash in Durban on Saturday. The Sharks' fourth victory in a row lifted them to sixth in the standings and they also moved to within five points of the Stormers who still top the South African conference.
“The South African derbies can be tough and you have to be on your toes to win them," Sharks captain Keegan Daniel said in a pitch-side interview. “We came up with a new game-plan after the loss to the Chiefs and it has worked out for us,” he added. The Sharks were full value for their victory as they ran in three tries to two against a Stormers' defence which had conceded just 12 tries in their previous 11 matches.
Cheetahs 35 – Waratahs 34
Winger Willie le Roux scored a brilliant try to lift the Central Cheetahs to a 35-34 victory over the New South Wales Waratahs in a fluctuating Super Rugby clash on Saturday. Le Roux's 57th-minute try, which quickly followed a try by prop WP Nel, came after the Cheetahs attacked from the restart, replacement flyhalf Sias Ebersohn chipping over the defence and Le Roux gathering and kicking again before reclaiming the ball and dashing over the tryline. The Waratahs, who led 34-21 in the 48th minute after scoring four tries in the first half, can look back on a disappointing second half and their failure to convert two late chances to claim victory. Flyhalf Berrick Barnes was short with an angled 55-metre penalty in the 76th minute and, as regular time came to an end, they had a maul inside the Cheetahs 22 but they could not get the ball out to Barnes for a drop goal after great work by Cheetahs loose forwards Ashley Johnson and Heinrich Brussow.
The Waratahs took advantage of 18 missed tackles in the first half and particularly poor defence around the fringes to rush to the four-try bonus point in 33 minutes.
Force 17 – Lions 11
Western Force pushed the visiting Lions one step closer to the wooden spoon by winning their Super Rugby match 17-11 in Perth on Saturday. Force trailed 8-3 at halftime after an early try to Lions winger Michael Killian but scored two tries after the break to post their third win of the season after 14 weeks of the southern hemisphere provincial competition. The Lions suffered their 11th loss of the season but cobbled a bonus point by finishing within seven points courtesy of a penalty kick after the siren by replacement back Ruan Combrinck. Force captain David Pocock drew the Force level by barging over near the posts in the 58th minute and winger Napolioni Nalaga sealed the win in the 71st with his team's second try shortly after Lions flanker Derick Minnie was shown a yellow card.
Reds 13 – Brumbies 12
Zack Holmes missed a penalty kick seconds before the final whistle to allow the Queensland Reds to prevail 13-12 over the ACT Brumbies in a dour territorial battle in their Super Rugby match in Canberra on Saturday. Holmes's miss brought a dramatic end to what had been for the most part an uninspiring arm-wrestle between two Australian conference rivals too timid to carry the ball in hand and all too eager to kick it away. The ugly win kept the Reds' title defence alive, leaving them only five points behind the conference-leading Brumbies and also within striking distance of the top six for a berth to the playoffs. "Great result," Reds vice captain Will Genia said of his team's rare win at Canberra Stadium in a pitchside interview. "We were very fortunate at the end, we gave it away and gave away a penalty and the young kid missed."
Blues 20 – Highlanders 27
Winger Hosea Gear raised his hand for All Blacks selection with a brace of tries as the visiting Otago Highlanders withstood a late charge by the Auckland Blues to win their Super Rugby match 27-20 at Eden Park on Saturday. Gear, whose omission from a 35-man squad for the world champion All Blacks raised eyebrows in New Zealand, scored a try in each half to keep the Highlanders' playoff ambitions alive in the southern hemisphere provincial competition. Late tries by Tevita Mailau and Tony Woodcock put the Blues within a converted try with two minutes to play, but the Highlanders held on to jump into the top six in the standings and in contention for a postseason wild card berth. The Highlanders may be bundled out of the top six if the Sharks beat the visiting Stormers in Durban later on Saturday but captain Jamie Mackintosh was just pleased to come away with four tries and a bonus-point victory.
Hurricanes 66 - Rebels 24
Scrumhalf TJ Perenara emphatically stamped his future All Blacks credentials into the national consciousness on Saturday as the Wellington Hurricanes demolished the Melbourne Rebels 66-24 in their Super Rugby match. The 20-year-old was widely considered unlucky not to have made Steve Hansen's extended All Blacks training squad, which re-assembles on Sunday in New Zealand's capital before being thinned down for three tests against Ireland next month. At the Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday, the lively Perenara appeared to have a point to prove as he sniped around the fringes, set his backline away with crisp passing and bamboozled the Rebels defence with intelligent kicking as the Hurricanes ran in nine tries. The bonus-point victory kept alive the Hurricanes slim hopes of making the top-six playoffs as they moved to 40 points and into seventh place in the standings. The Rebels, who had won their two previous games, did not help themselves with terrible ball retention at the breakdown and an inability to adapt their defensive pattern as the home side mixed up their attack.
Chiefs 28 – Bulls 22
The Waikato Chiefs attacked with abandon in the second half to fell the visiting Bulls 28-22 in Hamilton on Friday and reclaim top spot in the Super Rugby standings. Fired by slick passing from flyhalf Aaron Cruden and line-breaking inside centre Sonny Bill Williams, the Chiefs overcame a 16-8 halftime deficit to send the Pretoria-based Bulls back to South Africa with a second straight loss on tour. "We're thrilled that we could kick on in a very tight game," Chiefs skipper Craig Clarke said in a pitchside interview. "We knew we were playing some good footy and needed to keep doing what we were doing and we did that ... we didn't want to play a controlled, structured game, that's sort of their style." Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn was typically razor-sharp in front of the posts, finishing with 17 points, but his team's vaunted defence buckled under pressure to concede two tries in the second half. DM
Photo: Stormers wing Brian Habana is tackled by Sharks centres Paul Jordaan (L) and Meyer Bosman (R) during their Super 15 South African derby rugby match in Durban May 26, 2012. REUTERS/Rogan Ward