A round-up of the weekend's Super Rugby matches.
Reds 42 – Chiefs 27
The Queensland Reds mounted an stirring fightback to snap the Waikato Chiefs’ nine-game winning streak with a 42-27 victory in Brisbane on Sunday thay keeps their Super Rugby title defence alive. The Reds recovered from a 22-8 deficit shortly before halftime to stun the Chiefs with four tries in 10 minutes at Lang Park and retain hope of sealing a playoff berth. The bonus-point win left the home side trailing the ACT Brumbies by eight points in the Australian conference, while also keeping them in touch with the top six. The three conference winners from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa automatically qualify for the post-season of the southern hemisphere provincial competition, with the three next best teams taking wildcard spots. The match was not without controversy, however, with officials failing to penalise a tip tackle by Reds fullback Luke Morahan that would normally result in an automatic yellow card.
Stormers 16 – Cheetahs 14
The Stormers needed a strong rearguard action to hold on for a 16-14 triumph over the Cheetahs in an all-South African Super Rugby match at Newlands on Saturday. The first half was one-way traffic with the Stormers cruising into a 16-0 lead at the break. Flyhalf Peter Grant kicked three penalties in the first 16 minutes as the Cheetahs repeatedly infringed. Lock Eben Etzebeth also muscled his way through three defenders to score the Stormers only try in the 24th minute, Grant converting. The Cheetahs, though, were a different team in the second half and a series of top-class drives by their forwards took them deep into the opposition 22 where a slick pass by wing Willie le Roux allowed fullback Hennie Daniller to score in the corner with Le Roux scoring the visitors second with an intercept try.
Sharks 53 – Force 11
Lwazi Mvovo ran in two of seven tries by the Sharks to inspire his team to an emphatic 53-11 victory over the Western Force in their Super Rugby match at Kings Park on Saturday. The left wing scored two touchdowns in five minutes early in the second half as the Sharks climbed to sixth in the table by inflicting the ninth defeat in 11 matches for their Australian opponents. Whilst the Sharks dominated the first half, they were starved of possession and territory in the second when Mvovo managed to pick up his two tries. His first try came when he intercepted a loose pass on his own 22-metre line and outstripped the defence. Five minutes later he collected his own kick ahead before setting off on a 70-metre run for a converted touchdown. As the match wore on, the home team regained control and eased home with an impressive all round performance.
Rebels 28 – Crusaders 19
The Melbourne Rebels scored two second half tries in four minutes to stun the Canterbury Crusaders and secure a rousing 28-19 home victory in their Super rugby match on Saturday. Fired by a brace of tries from scrumhalf Nick Phipps and incisive kicking from veteran back Mark Gerrard, the Rebels kept the Crusaders scoreless for an entire half to register only their third win of the season in front of an ecstatic crowd of 18,000. The Crusaders’ shock loss weakened their position in the southern hemisphere provincial tournament’s top six and was compounded by injury to number eight enforcer Kieran Read, who limped off the turf gingerly at the start of the last quarter after a heavy fall in a lineout. “We said that we’d set a bit of standard how we wanted to play the game,” the Rebels’ Welsh captain Gareth Delve said in a pitchside interview, referring to his team’s gallant loss to the powerful Pretoria-based Bulls in their previous match. “To hold a fantastic team like the Crusaders scoreless in the second half is amazing and shows that we’re making some progress. “The confidence is building in this team and it makes such a massive difference.”
Highlanders 20 – Hurricanes 26
Julian Savea stunned the Highlanders on their home turf with a try six minutes from time to secure a rousing 26-20 victory for the Hurricanes in their Super Rugby match in Dunedin on Friday and keep the Wellington side’s playoff hopes alive. The jet-heeled winger fended off prop Chris King then burned away from a clutch of defenders to plant the ball at the right corner and silence a boisterous crowd under the transparent roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium. The win kept the Hurricanes within striking distance of the top six and left the shocked Highlanders vulnerable to tumbling out of it, should the Sharks beat the Perth-based Western Force at home in Durban.
Bulls 27 – Waratahs 24
Werner Kruger scored a 78th-minute try to push the Bulls past the Waratahs 27-24 in their Super Rugby match at Sydney Football Stadium on Friday and all but end the home side’s playoff hopes. Prop Kruger rolled over beneath a pile of players to plant the ball over the line and secure the Johannesburg-based side’s eighth victory of the season, cementing top spot in the South African conference of the southern hemisphere provincial competition. “It’s always tough coming to Sydney,” Bulls captain Pierre Spies said in a pitchside interview. “We had to fight it out to the end. I’m very proud of the team. “When you’re playing away from home you need that defence… We’re going to enjoy tonight and re-focus on Monday.” The late try was a cruel blow for the Waratahs who dominated possession and territory for most of the night but wilted under pressure in the final minutes. The Waratahs were left trailing local rivals ACT Brumbies by nine points, with the Canberra-based side holding a game in hand and in the box seat to secure an automatic spot in the playoffs at the top of the Australian conference.
Blues 25 – Lions 3
The Auckland Blues snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 25-3 victory over the Lions at Eden Park on Friday in an uninspiring match likely to decide Super Rugby’s wooden spoon. Inside centre Michael Hobbs scored a try in the first half, before replacement back Alby Mathewson and captain Luke Braid scored tries after the break to secure the Blues’ second victory of a dismal, controversy-tainted season. The Blues’ win, their first since their surprise victory in week three over the Bulls in Pretoria, lifted the home side off the bottom of the standings and consigned the Johannesburg-based Lions to their ninth loss from 10 games.
Overall standings P W D L B F A BP Pts
Bulls (SA) 10 8 0 2 2 338 230 6 46
Waikato Chiefs (NZ) 10 9 0 2 1 302 225 5 45
ACT Brumbies (AU) 10 6 0 4 2 265 212 7 39
Stormers (SA) 10 9 0 1 2 226 158 1 45
Crusaders (NZ) 11 7 0 4 1 287 245 5 37
Sharks (SA) 11 6 0 5 1 283 245 8 36
Highlanders (NZ) 11 7 0 4 1 264 257 3 35
Hurricanes (NZ) 11 6 0 5 1 314 309 6 34
Reds (AU) 10 6 0 5 1 229 269 3 31
Cheetahs (SA) 11 4 0 7 1 291 303 7 27
Waratahs (AU) 11 4 0 7 1 256 269 7 27
Rebels (AU) 10 3 0 7 2 217 301 4 24
Force (AU) 11 2 0 9 1 208 299 6 18
Blues (NZ) 11 2 0 9 1 231 278 4 16
Lions (SA) 10 1 0 9 2 174 285 2 14
Photo: Napolioni Nalaga of Australia’s Western Force is tackled by South Africa’s Sharks Marcell Coetzee (L) and Charl McLeod during their Super 15 rugby match in Durban May 12, 2012. REUTERS/Rogan Ward.
"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall