Super Rugby round-up: Wins for Chiefs, Brumbies and Sunwolves
Last Updated: 30/06/18 9:24pm
The latest round of Super Rugby action gets underway with victories for the Chiefs, Brumbies and the Sunwolves.
Sharks 31-24 Lions
Lwazi Mvovo scored an intercept try to take the Sharks to a 31-24 victory over South African rivals the Lions and keep their hopes of a Super Rugby play-off place alive on Saturday.
Replacement winger Mvovo raced clear to secure a vital four points for the Sharks, who are now within nine of the Lions at the top of the South African Conference with a game in hand.
The Lions remained in pole position with 41 points from 15 games, but the defeat opened the door for Argentinas Jaguares to also hunt them down.
The Sharks scored the opening try inside three minutes as a ball to the front of an attacking line-out set up the driving maul, from which Dan du Preez barged over.
The Lions struck back quickly as Warren Whiteley carried the ball up and Jantjies floated skip-pass was perfect for Combrinck to cross.
That score had a little finesse about it, but the Lions second try was all power as Brink collected the ball 20 yard from the tryline and smashed his way through two Sharks tackles to score.
It took until a minute before the break for the visitors to get their third try as Marx set Smith free down the touchline and the Sevens veteran showed his pace to race clear and dot down to give the Lions a 21-11 halftime lead.
The Lions were dominant early in the second period, but after turning down a number of kickable penalties, had their lead cut to three points when Esterhuizen crossed in the corner for the Sharks.
The scores were level when Sharks fly-half Robert du Preez kicked a penalty after the Lions were punished at a scrum, but the lead was restored when Jantjies added three points from the tee.
The see-saw game tilted again in the favour of the home side with Mvovos intercept try and Du Preez added both the conversion and a penalty to extend the home advantage to seven point.
"We just kept on fighting and trying to stay in the game," Sharks captain Ruan Botha said at the presentation.
"We knew it would be a big battle up front and it was about keeping focus and defending well."
Highlanders 22-45 Chiefs
The Chiefs stunned the Highlanders with six first-half tries, including two to winger Tony Pulu, and went on to win 45-22 Saturday in a match in Fiji's capital Suva which may be pivotal in Super Rugby's wild-card playoff race.
The match was thought likely to be close between teams separated by only three points in the New Zealand Conference; the Highlanders in third place and the Chiefs just behind in fourth.
The Chiefs, playing with a powerful wind at their backs, dominated the Highlanders with three tries in the first 15 minutes, another that made it 28-0 after 25 minutes and two more tries in one of the most one-sided halves seen in a New Zealand conference match.
The Highlanders weren't able to compete, even to get their hands on the ball. They did rally strongly with four tries in the second half, including a late try to new All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell, which denied the Chiefs a valuable bonus point.
"That was a classic example of how to play with the wind," Chiefs captain Sam Cane said. "We got it spot on in the first half but the Highlanders played pretty sharp with it in the second half so we feel glad we got enough points in the first half to hold on."
Both teams were returning after a one-month break for June internationals. The match was technically a home gave for the Highlanders but the Chiefs were much more at home having played in Suva in each of the last two years.
"I think they won the physicality and beat us to the punch in the first half," Highlanders captain Ben Smith said. "They were winning every race and you just can't give it to a team like the Chiefs."
Jaguares 25-14 Stormers
The Jaguares made it seven wins on the trot with a 25-14 win over the Stormers in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
Of the Jaguares lineup, 14 started for Argentina against Wales on June 9 and were crushed 23-10. The lineup changed little in a second loss to Wales and a thrashing from Scotland last weekend.
But against the Stormers, tries to winger Bautista Delguy and lock Guido Petti in the first 15 minutes for 15-0 gave the Jaguares control they never looked like relinquishing.
The Jaguares are threatening the Lions for the South African conference lead, and play the last two rounds in the republic.
Brumbies 24-12 Hurricanes
The Brumbies held the Hurricanes scoreless in the second half for a 24-12 win, their first win over a New Zealand team since 2016.
The Hurricanes, who led 12-5 at halftime, remained in second place in the New Zealand conference, nine points behind the leading Crusaders, who had a weekend bye.
The Hurricanes, who went to Canberra without stars Beauden Barrett, Vaea Fifita, Ardie Savea and Brad Shields, took their 12-5 lead into the break through a try from Julian Savea.
But the Brumbies took the lead early in the second half with tries to hooker Folau Fainga'a and lock Rory Arnold.
Fainga'a's effort made the Brumbies the first Australian team to reach 1,000 Super Rugby tries and third in competition history behind the Hurricanes and Crusaders.
"Really pleased with the effort of the team, a quality opposition that tested us all the way," Brumbies skipper Christian Lealiifano said.
"We were probably guilty of kicking the ball away too much in the first half and when we held the ball we made some good metres."
Sunwolves 42-37 Bulls
Sunwolves' loose-forward Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco scored a try five minutes from time as they claimed victory over South Africa's Bulls in a see-saw clash at the Singapore National Stadium on Saturday.
Neither side is in contention for the play-offs, but the Sunwolves will be pleased with a record third victory of the season, while for the Bulls it is an 11th straight loss outside South Africa.
The Sunwolves scored six tries to the four of the visitors and came back from a 21-14 halftime deficit to secure the win, which means they have won as many games in 2018 as they managed in the previous two years combined.
With the Sunwolves trailing by two points going into the closing stages, Warren-Vosayaco muscled his way through the Bulls defence and despite being brought down he was not held in the tackle and got back to his feet to score under the posts.
Rebels 26-31 Waratahs
The Waratahs strengthened their grip on the top of the Australian Conference with a hard-fought victory over nearest rivals the Rebels in a six-try thriller at AAMI Stadium in Melbourne.
The Tahs, without the suspended Israel Folau and injured Michael Hooper, took charge with wing Taqele Naiyaravoro's 12th try of the season that followed what proved to be a costly yellow card for the Rebels' Bill Meakes.
A five-pointer from full-back Dane Haylett-Petty propelled the Rebels back into the contest but a try from flanker Will Miller gave the visitors a 17-10 lead as they headed into half-time.
Back came the Rebels after the break with a try from scrum-half Michael Ruru that was converted by fly-half Reece Hodge who then added three further penalties to raise hopes of a Rebels victory.
The Tahs had other ideas with a Kurtley Beale interception laying the foundation for a try by flanker Ned Hanigan that brought them to within striking range.
Captain Bernard Foley then pounced for another interception before racing away for another score and his subsequent conversion gave them a five-point lead late in the contest.
The Rebels rallied once more but their hopes were eventually extinguished by a crucial turnover from Hanigan.
"We found ourselves in a real grind tonight and it was really pleasing that the guys fought their way out of it," said Foley, whose side are now four points clear at the top of the Australian Conference with two games remaining.
"It wasn't easy, the Rebels team really showed up and challenged us today, we probably lost our way in that third 20, but the way that we responded and stayed at it was really pleasing."
Blues 39-16 Reds
The Blues ensured a fitting farewell for departing stalwart Jerome Kaino with their first home win of the season against the Reds in a trans-Tasman clash at Eden Park.
Blues wing Melani Nanai put the hosts in control with a try midway through the first half, before the reckless Reds were dealt a double blow.
Wing Jordan Petaia was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle and then prop Taniela Tupou was yellow-carded for a similar offence just two minutes later.
The Blues capitalised on their numerical advantage with tries from centre Rieko Ioane and hooker Matt Moulds helping to propel the home side into a 21-6 lead at the break.
Fly-half Stephen Perofeta notched the Blues' fourth try midway through the second half before a yellow card for Blues lock Matiaha Martin for cynical play offered the Reds a lifeline.
Centre Duncan Paia'aua pounced for the Reds' first try almost immediately and a few minutes later it was the Blues' turn to be reduced to 13-men with replacement prop Sione Mafileo sin-binned following a long line of scrum penalties.
The Reds reduced the arrears with another try from replacement Alex Mafi but the Blues would have the final say with wing Caleb Clarke crossing in the closing stages of the contest.
Kaino, who is heading to the northern hemisphere to link up with French side Toulouse, was given the chance to bring the curtain down on his Blues career with the conversion but his kick failed to hit the target.
"Maybe on reflection I'll look back and think about all the memories but tonight was an awesome result," said Kaino following the game.
"I don't think there are words that say how grateful I am for the support I have had and the boys have had this season.
"It's been a tough road this year and to see the turnout means a lot to the guys. Personally, thank you for the support and everything you have done throughout the years and I'm glad the boys could get the win for you tonight."