Chiefs, Stormers, Brumbies stay on top
Sun, 01 Jul 2012 12:26p.m.
Normal service resumed after a three-week interruption to Super Rugby, with the Chiefs, Brumbies and Stormers winning 16th-round matches to remain atop regional conferences.
The Chiefs beat the Highlanders 27-21 to restart the tournament after its break for June test matches, retaining their place atop the overall standings, four points clear of the Cape Town-based Stormers.
The Brumbies claimed a four-try bonus point before halftime in a 28-17 win over the Force to return to the top of the Australian conference after the Reds had briefly moved into first place with a 32-17 win Friday over the Rebels.
The Stormers beat the troubled Johannesburg-based Lions 27-17 to keep up their pursuit of the Chiefs and stay four points ahead of the Pretoria-based Bulls in the South African conference.
The three-time champion Bulls beat the Cheetahs 40-24 in the final match of a round of local derbies to stay in fourth place overall while the Hurricanes upset seven-time champs Crusaders 23-22 to stay inside the top six.
The Crusaders seemed to suffer more than any other team from a post-test hangover, facing the Hurricanes without first-five Dan Carter, backrower Kieran Read and fullback Israel Dagg who were all injured during New Zealand's three-test series against Ireland.
It was a rare win in Christchurch for Wellington, which kept its playoff hopes alive.
Captain Conrad Smith scored two tries in the first spell to help Wellington to a 17-16 lead at halftime, then Beauden Barrett for the Hurricanes and Tom Taylor for the Crusaders both kicked two penalties after halftime.
Barrett slotted the winning goal in the 73rd minute, restoring the visitors' one-point margin, while Taylor, who kicked a conversion and five penalties, missed his last attempt. Taylor's replacement, Tyler Bleyendaal, then missed his only attempt from halfway in the 80th minute to allow the Hurricanes to cling to their lead.
"It's hero or zero," Barrett said. "It's part of the job. I know how he feels when you're in that situation and you miss a kick to lose. It's not very nice. I'm sure he'll come back."
The Brumbies opened a 22-0 halftime lead, then held off a Force comeback in the second half to retain first place in the Australian conference.
Brumbies dominated the first 15 minutes with tries to Jesse Mogg and Ben Alexander. Zack Holmes and Henry Speight added two more tries before the first half ended, but a pair of tries to Nick Cummins and one to lock Toby Lynn pulled the home side close in the second half.
"We lost a little bit of momentum in the second half, but I was happy with the way we played in the first," Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said. "We just have to make sure we play that way again. To take away five points from here, it's not an easy thing to do in Perth."
The Chiefs had almost all of their All Blacks fit and available for their match against the Highlanders at Dunedin. First-five Aaron Cruden, a star of New Zealand's 60-0 win over Ireland a week earlier, contributed 17 points from a conversion and five penalties as Waikato led throughout, posting its 12th win from 14 games while likely ending Otago's playoffs bid.
The Highlanders had the better of the first half but couldn't turn a territorial advantage into points. Waikato scored tries though Tim-Nanai Williams and Robbie Robinson for an 18-9 halftime lead which they were able to hold, though Otago scored second-half tries to Andrew Hore and Hosea Gear.
"It's very tough getting a victory down in Dunedin," Clarke said. "What pleased me the most was probably the hardened defence towards the end when they were chasing the game."
The Stormers were without lock Eben Etzebeth and winger Bryan Habana but were still too strong for the 14th-place Lions, scoring tries through fullback Gio Aplon, loose forward Jebb Sinclair and wing Gerhard van den Heever.
The Lions shrugged off the suspension of coach John Mitchell's to close to 13-10 early in the second half after captain Joshua Strauss' rampaging run and score. But Sinclair and Van der Heever scored in the last 10 minutes for the Stormers, who stayed clear of the Bulls in the South African conference.
Pierre Spies, Dean Greyling, Zane Kirchner and Francois Hougaard crossed in the first 40 as the Bulls led 26-0 at the break. Werner Kruger and Bjorn Basson went over in the second.
Defending champions Queensland kept up its challenge to the Brumbies' lead in Australia, spoiling Rebels captain Stirling Mortlock farewell match in Australia. Mortlock is retiring at the end of the Super Rugby season which concludes for the Rebels in South Africa.
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