As talk in the Southern Hemisphere starts to move towards the upcoming international matches, fans in South Africa and Australia would certainly be hoping for better from some of their Super Rugby sides.
Only one of six South African sides playing gained victory this weekend, while the lead for the Australian conference seems to be changing on a weekly basis as the sides battle to find consistency.
However you look at it, the New Zealand conference is the strongest and all four of their sides in action this weekend claimed wins to keep up the playoff push as the season moves past the halfway point.
Canes put 50 past Lions to lead Kiwi double over South African opponents
After a slim home defeat to the Chiefs last weekend, the Hurricanes headed for South Africa and showed no signs of any jet lag whatsoever. Their dominant five-try opening half against the Lions saw them build a 36-5 lead, which they turned into a 50-17 win to claim their sixth win of the campaign.
Cory Jane scored a first-half brace for the ‘Canes, with further tries coming from Reggie Goodes, Julian Savea and Matt Proctor, while Armand van der Merwe crossed for the hosts only points of the half.
The Lions showed signs of recovery with tries from Lionel Mapoe and Jaco Kriel to reduce the deficit to 19, before the visitors scored two tries in the final quarter of the match through Savea and Vince Aso to reach the half-century.
The first part of the New Zealand-South Africa head-to-head this weekend took place on Friday evening in New Plymouth, when the Chiefs took on an improving Sharks side.
After the Chiefs had gained an early 15-3 lead thanks to tries from Seta Tamanivalu and Michael Leitch, a Sharks side with renewed belief following last week’s victory over the Highlanders, fought back through tries from Garth April and Kyle Cooper to draw the scores level.
The leading points scorers in Super Rugby this season had a really tough time against a rugged Sharks defence, and only managed to add three penalties after the break from the boot of Aaron Cruden. It proved to be enough though, as the Chiefs prevailed 24-22, with Sharks replacement hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle scoring the only try in the second 40, but it proved to be too little, too late.
Africa 1 conference blown open after big Bulls win coincides with Stormers surprise home loss
The Bulls are now just one point from the top of the Africa 1 conference lead, after they comfortably defeated the Force 42-20 on Friday evening in Perth.
The first-half was a competitive affair, with the Bulls only leading by five at the break after outscoring their hosts two tries to one. The Pretoria based side produced some of their best running rugby we’ve seen from them in a long time exhibited by the tries scored by Jan Serfontein and Hanro Liebenberg, with the Force’s 'Mr Dependable', Matt Hodgson hitting back with a five-pointer just before the half-hour mark which cut the deficit to five.
A yellow card to the Force’s Brynard Stander in the 52nd minute saw the Bulls capitalise, scoring twice against 14 men through Serfontein and Adriaan Strauss, extending their lead to 22 points. Strauss then added his second try with Stander back on the field to take the Bulls past 40, before the Force had the final say, scoring a length of the field try in the final minute which was finished off by Kyle Godwin.
The Stormers now have the Bulls breathing down their necks, after Robbie Fleck’s side were defeated 32-30 at home by the Waratahs. The Australian outfit started the season really poorly, but have improved in recent weeks and are now on a two-game winning streak, with both matches having come away from Sydney.
After penalty misses from both kickers, the Tahs opened the scoring when slick hands set away Kurtley Beale who dived over for the game’s first try. The Stormers then came firing back, with Schalk Burger smashing his way over for a try, and then Pieter-Steph du Toit doing likewise nine minutes later.
Just before the half-time whistle, the visitors scored with their last attack of the half when Israel Folau flew through a gaping hole in the Stormers midfield to close the gap to two at the break.
The sides traded a pair of penalty goals each in the opening minutes of the half, before the game’s major talking point turned the game in the visitors favour. Chasing a high-ball, Stormers winger Leolin Zas slipped before taking out a flying Bernard Foley, who landed dangerously on his neck. In a repeat of last week’s match in Dunedin which saw Jason Emery sent from the field, the referee decided that Zas’ actions were deserved of a red card, which meant the Stormers had to play with 14-men for the final 25 minutes.
The lead changed hands three times with Zas off the field, which started with the Waratahs edging ahead after Rob Horne eased over in the corner with 69 minutes on the clock. Three minutes later, the 14 men of the Stormers camped themselves on the visitors line, before du Toit spotted a gap in the defence to dive over under the posts.
Just as it looked as though the 14 men had done enough, they were turned over at the scrum in their own 22 and following a number of darts at the line, captain Michael Hooper reached out to dot the ball over the line, with Foley adding the extras for a famous victory.
Blues attack and Highlanders defence prove to be enough against Aussie pair
In Auckland, the Blues kept alive their faint hopes of a playoff spot, after beating the Rebels 36-30, their fourth victory of the campaign so far.
The Blues scored four tries in the first-half, but only led by six points at the break against a dogged Rebel side who crossed at the beginning and end of the half through Reece Hodge and Jordy Reid.
For a 15-minute period in the middle of the opening half, the Blues were absolutely sensational, crossing four times through James Parsons, Charlie Faumuina, Ihaia West and Jerome Kaino. After the break, Tevita Li and Lolagi Visinia extended the Kiwi sides lead to 36-18, before two tries in quick succession from Colby Fainga’a and Sefa Naivalu bought the sides within six points with ten minutes left on the clock.
The Blues managed to hold out for the win, yet they remain eight points outside of a playoff spot, following the Highlanders 23-10 triumph over the Brumbies in Invercargill.
Following two straight defeats, last year’s champions were starting to be questioned in some quarters but they hit back with a defensive masterclass to beat a Brumbies side who have now suffered three defeats to the Kiwi franchises.
In an extremely tight first half, the Brumbies had much of the territory and possession but found themselves behind on the scoreboard after Lima Sopoaga broke the line before converting for a 7-3 lead.
Malakai Fekitoa had a storming game and made the game’s crucial break, setting up Ben Smith for a second Highlander try in the 46th minute, only for the Brumbies to hit back straight away with Josh Mann-Rea the man with the ball at the back of the driving maul.
Sopoaga kicked the Highlanders to victory with three second-half penalties, with the home side soaking up any Brumbie attacks with ease.
Jaguares notch 73 in big win over Kings, while Reds topple Cheetahs
Following a run of seven straight defeats, the Jaguares could have been forgiven for looking tentative in their home match against the Kings in Buenos Aires. That however, was most definitely not the case, and they played some sensational rugby, running in 11 tries in a 73-27 win that will them some confidence for the games ahead.
The Jaguares flew out of the blocks, scoring four tries in the opening 20 minutes against a shell-shocked Kings side, running at more than a point-a-minute early on.
Only one member of the starting backline failed to cross for a try in the big win, with Emiliano Bofelli, Santaigo Cordero, Juan Martin Hernandez, Manuel Montero, Nicolas Sanchez and Martin Landajo all crossing for a try at one stage during the match. Up front, captain Agustin Creevy and lock forward Matias Alemanno both crashed over for scores, with number eight Leonardo Senatore the star of the show, scoring a hat-trick of tries.
The Kings scored four tries of their own, and put together some decent rugby despite suffering their heaviest defeat in the competition so far. Stefan Watermeyer, Steven Sykes and back-row pair Thembelani Bholi and Chris Cloete each scored five-pointers for the Kings who sit bottom of the overall standings.
In Queensland, the Reds got back to winning ways with a 30-17 triumph over the Cheetahs thanks to two tries from Nick Frisby. Frisby crossed twice in the second-half, adding to Curtis Browning’s try and 15 points from the boot of Jake McIntyre to help the Reds to just their second win of the season.
The Cheetahs are now on a two-game losing streak in Australia, only mustering a try in either half from Uzair Cassiem and Raymond Rhule.