A summary of the weekend’s matches from the Super Rugby competition and the standings after week 13.
Force 31 – Rebels 32
Kurtley Beale continued to give Australia coach Robbie Deans a selection headache with another controlled performance at flyhalf, kicking the game-winning penalty from the sideline as the Melbourne Rebels beat the Western Force 32-31 in their Super Rugby clash in Perth on Sunday. Beale, who has principally played at fullback for the Wallabies, slotted into the pivotal role at flyhalf after Danny Cipriani was released from his contract last month. The Rebels backline responded, operating with more direction and purpose since the 23-year-old Beale took the number 10 jersey with his deft passing, linebreaking ability and tactical kicking keeping them going forward. With Queensland’s Quade Cooper only returning on Saturday from a serious knee injury and Rebels utility James O’Connor recovering from a lacerated liver, Beale’s form is putting pressure on Deans to pick him in the position for their tests against Scotland and Wales next month.
Stormers 19 – Waratahs 13
The Stormers hung on despite their creaking set-pieces to beat the New South Wales Waratahs 19-13 at Newlands on Saturday and climb to the top of the Super Rugby standings. The Stormers scored two tries in the first half and, with dominance in possession and territory, seemed to have set up a comfortable victory over the Australians. But the Stormers lost their structures after the break as the boot of Waratahs flyhalf Berrick Barnes kept them pinned in their own territory. But the much-vaunted defence of the South Africans held firm and they only conceded one try. Lock Andries Bekker was chiefly to blame for a defensive failure that allowed replacement lock Kane Douglas to burst through and, with No. 8 Dave Dennis carrying the ball well, Waratahs centre Rob Horne was able to stroll over the tryline. Grant provided relief for the Stormers with a 50th- minute penalty, but the home side had to work exceptionally hard to keep the Waratahs out and secure the win.
Cheetahs 20 – Sharks 34
Flyhalf Freddie Michalak posted 19 points as the Sharks beat the Cheetahs 34-20 in an all-South African Super Rugby match at the Free State Stadium on Saturday. The Sharks enjoyed a slight edge in a bruising encounter, with their direct running taking them over the advantage line, allowing their backs space to run in four tries and notch a vital bonus point. The Sharks laid down an early marker after keeping the ball from the kickoff for 12 phases and two minutes and 25 seconds, loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira and hooker Bismarck du Plessis carrying the ball strongly and providing outside centre JP Pietersen with the space to dot down. The Sharks dominated the closing stages, with Michalak increasing the lead to 27-20 with a penalty. The bonus point try came in the 73rd minute when Pietersen stole the ball on the right wing, Mvovo jinked his way deep into the Cheetahs 22 and replacement centre Meyer Bosman dived over. Michalak added the conversion as the Sharks kept themselves inside the top six and the playoff places.
Reds 34 – Lions 20
Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper took 17 minutes to stamp his mark on the game, and showed glimpses of his mercurial ability, as the Queensland Reds beat the bottom-placed Lions 34-20 in their Super Rugby clash at Lang Park on Saturday. Cooper linked well with scrumhalf Will Genia, who was superb for the Reds as he scored one try and set up another, while Mike Harris slotted 14 points for the Queenslanders, who closed the gap on the ACT Brumbies in the Australian conference. The Brumbies, who beat the Hurricanes 37-25 on Friday are on 44 points, while the Reds are on 36 and still within sight of the top-six playoffs. The Reds and Brumbies clash next week in Canberra.
Crusaders 59 – Blues 12
The Canterbury Crusaders responded to the verbal rocket they received from coach Todd Blackadder earlier in the week by clinically demolishing the Auckland Blues 59-12 in their Super Rugby match in Christchurch on Saturday. The normally measured Blackadder, not prone to verbal outbursts, ripped into the seven-times champions after they lost 28-19 to the Melbourne Rebels last week and left them in no uncertain terms he expected better against the Blues. The Crusaders ruthlessly responded. Hooker Corey Flynn (twice), loose forwards Matt Todd and Richie McCaw, wingers Adam Whitelock and Zac Guildford, lock Luke Romano, scrumhalf Andy Ellis and replacement Tom Marshall all scored tries for the Crusaders. All Blacks flyhalf Daniel Carter also resumed goal-kicking after recovering from a groin surgery and added six conversions before he was replaced by Tyler Bleyendaal, who added a late conversion.
Highlanders 16 – Bulls 11
Lock Jarrad Hoeata scored a late try as the Otago Highlanders upset the Bulls 16-11 in their Super Rugby match at Otago Regional Stadium on Saturday and kept alive their hopes of a playoff spot. The Highlanders had lost their two previous games and were in danger of losing touch with the New Zealand conference leaders the Waikato Chiefs (45) and second-placed Canterbury Crusaders (37). The Highlanders moved to 39 points with the win. The Crusaders play the Auckland Blues later on Saturday, while the Chiefs have a bye and will receive four points at the end of the round. The Bulls had been at the top of the table on 46 points and could now be over-hauled by the Stormers (45) in the South African conference later on Saturday when they face the New South Wales Waratahs.
Hurricanes 25 – Brumbies 37
ACT Brumbies flyhalf Zack Holmes gave his side a big lift towards the Super Rugby playoffs when he guided them to a 37-25 victory over the Wellington Hurricanes on Friday. Holmes scored a try and slotted 17 points with the boot as the Brumbies seized their limited opportunities and moved to 44 points on the Super Rugby table. They lead the Queensland Reds, who play on Saturday, by 13 points in the Australian conference. Scrumhalf TJ Perenara, who was considered unlucky to miss out on an expanded All Blacks training squad earlier this week, scored two tries for the Hurricanes, who had a wealth of possession and territory but were outplayed at the breakdown by Brumbies openside flanker Michael Hooper.
Photo: PHOTO Winger Gio Aplon of South Africa’s Stormers is tackled by scrum-half Brendan McKibbin of Australia’s New South Wales Waratahs during their Super Rugby union match in Cape Town, May 19, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
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