A round-up of the weekend’s Super Rugby results from week 15.
Bulls 14 – Stormers 19
The Stormers hung on to top spot in the South African Conference with a 19-14 victory in the SuperRugby derby at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Trailing 14-9 the Stormers were pinned back in their own territory for most of the second half by the Bulls’ dominant forwards but the unerring boot of flyhalf Peter Grant landed a penalty before wing Bryan Habana scored a 69th-minute try. The Bulls’ percentage rugby seemed to be wearing down the Stormers as flyhalf Morne Steyn kicked three penalties and number eight Pierre Spies muscled over for a try after a free kick from a lineout inside the Stormers 22. But it was the only try the Stormers’ brilliant defensive system allowed, despite the Bulls spending 66% of the match in their territory.
Lions 38 – Sharks 28
The Lions upset the odds by stunning the Sharks 38-28 in an all-South African Super Rugby clash on Saturday. The Lions began the match rooted to the bottom of the table with one win in 12 matches while the Sharks were in sixth position and in the hunt for a playoff place. The hosts found some form as they ran in four tries and flyhalf Elton Jantjies contributed 18 points courtesy of three conversions and four penalties. The Lions raced into a 27-6 lead after 31 minutes and also wrapped up a bonus point for scoring four tries in the first half. The Durban-based Sharks, who had won their previous four games, opened the scoring thanks to an early penalty from fullback Patrick Lambie but the rest of the half belonged almost exclusively to the home side.
Waratahs 12 – Hurricanes 32
Replacement hooker Motu Matu’u, captain Conrad Smith and scrumhalf Chris Eaton scored second-half tries as the Wellington Hurricanes beat the New South Wales Waratahs 33-12 in their Super Rugby match in Sydney on Saturday. The win kept alive the Hurricanes’ slim playoff chances as they moved to 45 points, though several sides above them are still to play later on Saturday. “”It’s the first time we have had a win here and I’m stoked with that,” Smith said in a pitchside interview. “We’ve got a couple more games to go but who knows? “We’re enjoying playing together and have defied a lot of the critics who wrote us off at the start of the year, so we’re loving it.” The Waratahs dominated possession and territory, particularly in the second half with their pack finally giving them momentum, and dominating the set piece, but could not crack the Hurricanes defence and made numerous handling errors.
Blues 34 – Chiefs 41
Asaeli Tikoirotuma scored four tries as the Waikato Chiefs all but secured a Super Rugby playoffs berth with a 41-34 victory over an Auckland Blues side that refused to roll over at North Harbour Stadium in Albany on Saturday. The victory consolidated the Chiefs’s lead at the top of the Super Rugby standings as they moved to 58 points following the bonus-point win for scoring five tries. Teams that achieved 57 points or more in the standings last year made the top-six playoffs. “We are definitely happy with the five points. They were hard earned,” Chiefs captain Liam Messam said in a pitchside interview. “It was a tough game and full credit to the Blues they really took it to us.”
Rebels 19 – Brumbies 27
The ACT Brumbies consolidated their lead at the top of the Australian Super Rugby conference with an efficient 27-19 victory over the Melbourne Rebels on Friday. The Brumbies moved to 49 points on the table with the victory, nine ahead of the Queensland Reds (40), who have a bye and will be awarded four points at the end of the round. The Canberra-based side were in turmoil last season but have thrived under 2007 World Cup winning coach Jake White and short of a major collapse in their final three games should make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 – when they last won the competition.
Crusaders 51 – 18 Highlanders
The seven-times champion Canterbury Crusaders continued their ominous late-season march to the playoffs with a 51-18 demolition of the Otago Highlanders on Friday. The Crusaders, who hammered the Auckland Blues 59-12 two weeks ago then had the bye last week, often begin to show their title credentials at the business end of the season and now head into the international break comfortably placed for their final three matches of the season. They moved to 51 points on the points table, two behind the table-topping Waikato Chiefs, who play the Blues at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday.
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