On the weekend where Super Rugby honoured Anzac Day, all four New Zealand franchises claimed victories, but it wasn't to be for Australia as all four of their teams failed to claim a win.
The standings at the halfway stage makes for grim reading in Australia, with all five of sides currently sitting below their Kiwi cousins in the combined Australasian table.
Over in South Africa, the Lions and Stormers look certain of claiming home quarter-finals, with the Sharks and Jaguares both fighting against the Kiwi sides to grab wildcard spots.
Aussies big-boys suffer pair of humiliating defeats
42 unanswered points after the break saw the Hurricanes claim a comprehensive 56-21 victory over the Brumbies in Nelson.
The fixture at McLean Park started well for the defending champions who stormed into a 14-0 lead after just 12 minutes following tries from Vince Aso and Cory Jane.
The Brumbies then enjoyed an extreme purple-patch just before the half-hour mark, scoring three tries in the space of seven minutes with Tevita Kuridrani first to cross from first-phase ball off the back of the lineout. The visiting captain Sam Carter was next to score, diving over from close range, before Joe Powell scored a try of the season contender, with the Brumbies breaking 80 metres up field straight from the kickoff.
A yellow card to Brumby fly-half Wharenui Hawera early in the second half came at just the wrong time, and the Hurricanes gained a foothold and the lead in the match, with Aso scoring twice in quick succession to complete his hat-trick. From the moment Aso put the home side ahead they didn’t look back, and further tries from Mark Abbott, Callum Gibbins (x2) and Ngani Laumape in the final 20 minutes helped them canter towards the huge victory.
In the biggest shock of the season so far, the Waratahs horrendous season continued as they fell to a 26-24 home defeat against the Kings.
The Kings, who are fully expected to be cut from the competition ahead of the 2018 season found themselves 17-0 down following tries from Taqele Naiyaravoro, Rob Horne and Cam Clark, before scoring 27 unanswered points to claim the astonishing victory. Justin Forwood set them on their way with a try at the end of the first-half, before efforts from Masixole Banda and Michael Willemse put them two points ahead with ten minutes left on the clock.
The Kings didn’t freeze after going ahead, and following a couple of dominant scrums close to the Waratahs line, Rohan Hoffmann awarded the penalty try which confirmed their first ever win away from home in Super Rugby competition.
Crusaders remain perfect as Kiwis continue to rack up victories
Following the Hurricanes bonus point victory on Friday, the pressure was on for the other three teams from the New Zealand conference to claim wins in round nine.
The Highlanders were first to get a crack on Saturday evening in Invercargill, and thanks to a pair of tries from Matt Faddes they eased past the Sunwolves in a 40-15 win at Rugby Park. The All Black trio of Malakai Fekitoa, Liam Squire and Aaron Smith each crossed for first-half tries, before Faddes’ double and a close range effort from Ben Smith wrapped-up the bonus point win over their Japanese opponents.
The last-standing unbeaten side, the Crusaders were next to take to the field against the improved Stormers in front of their home crowd at AMI Stadium.
A fortnight ago, the Stormers home victory over the Chiefs seem to have set them up as one of the tournament favourites, but they were blown away by a Crusaders side who are now eight from eight this season following the 57-24 win.
George Bridge was the hero during the first-half, scoring the first three tries in the match to continue his fine try-scoring form, before Kieran Read scored a quick-fire brace in the moments leading up to half-time before departing at the break.
The Stormers grabbed their first try in the opening moments of the second half thanks to an intercept from Cheslin Kolbe, and when Bjorn Basson crossed ten minutes later they looked like they might be capable of a stunning fightback.
Those hopes were extinguished on the hour mark though, with Michael Alaalatoa smashing his way over, before Peter Samu picked off an errant pass and then raced the length of the field to grab a try. Frans Malherbe reduced the arrears for the South African tourist after touching down, but it was the Crusaders who had the last laugh with substitute Manasa Mataele scoring late on.
The fourth and final Kiwi side to get amongst it in week nine were the Chiefs, and despite playing poorly they came away with a 16-7 victory over the Force in Perth.
Liam Messam finished off a fine move to put the Chiefs seven points ahead early on, before Matt Hodgson levelled things just before half-time after breaking off the back of a maul to score. There were then no tries after the break, but indiscipline cost the Force who could only watch as Aaron Cruden nailed three penalty goals to send the Chiefs to a nine-point win.
Lions strike late to beat Jaguares on tough week for South African sides
On Friday evening in Johannesburg, ten points in the final ten minutes helped the Lions come from behind to defeat the Jaguares 24-21 at Emirates Airline Park.
Tries from centre pairing Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe helped the Lions forge ahead at the break following Matias Orlando’s effort for the Argentinians after just three minutes.
The Jaguares then scored a pair of early second half tries through forwards Rodrigo Baez and Guido Petti, but criminally the visitors failed to take advantage of a yellow card to Vorster and were always vulnerable to a Lions fightback.
That fightback materialised in fantastic fashion, with a flowing move involving most of the backline finished off by flanker Ruan Ackermann to draw the sides level, before a long distance penalty from Elton Jantjies three minutes from time saw the Lions claim their seventh win of the campaign.
In the only derby of round nine, the Bulls fought from behind to defeat the Cheetahs 20-14 in a battle between two struggling sides.
A third minute pushover try from Paul Schoeman plus a pair of penalties from Niel Marais saw the Cheetahs lead 11-3 at the break, but the Bulls managed to fight back, and tries of their own from Jacques Potgieter and Jesse Kriel helped them claim the tight victory.
The final game of the weekend ended in a 9-9 draw between the Sharks and Rebels in Durban.
Andre Esterhuizen was awarded a straight red card in the 17th minute for a dangerous tackle on Sefa Naivalu, but the Rebels never took full control despite the man advantage and only led 6-3 at the break.
Curwin Bosch kicked the Sharks level with his second penalty, before referee Marius van der Westhuizen evened the red card count up, dismissing Melbourne captain Nic Stirzaker for two knock-downs, and when Bosch nailed his third penalty with three minutes left on the clock it looked as though the Sharks would sneak the victory. However, the home side were penalised at the breakdown, and Rebel full-back Reece Hodge smashed over his third penalty of the encounter with the final kick to grab a share of the points.