Super Rugby wrap: Crusaders and Stormers start Round Nine on winning notes
Last Updated: 12/04/19 1:16pm
In Christchurch, the Crusaders beat the Highlanders with a bonus point, while Stormers also started Round Nine of Super Rugby with a comfortable victory on Friday.
Crusaders 43-17 Highlanders
The Crusaders recovered from a half-time deficit for a second week to prevail over the Highlanders and extend their unbeaten run at home to 24 matches.
Ten points down after 12 minutes in Christchurch, the Crusaders ran in six tries to secure a bonus-point victory and stretch their lead over the resting Hurricanes at the top of the New Zealand conference to 11 points.
Starting outside backs Braydon Ennor, David Havili, and Sevu Reece all crossed for the Crusaders before replacements Mitchell Drummond and Will Jordan added two more tries late on, the latter with his eighth of the season.
The forwards got in on the act when their pressure forced the award of a penalty try from a five-metre scrum in the 52nd minute, one of three tries in 10 minutes after the break that turned the match decisively in their favour.
"We weren't happy with the first 20 minutes, they came out and put us under pressure and it took us a while to adjust to that," said Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock.
"The best thing is that we did, and managed to come out on top of them. A battle against the neighbours is always a tough one."
All Blacks full-back Ben Smith was playing his 150th Super Rugby match, and he gave them a flying start when he cut through a gap in the defensive to score in the third minute.
Josh Ioane kicked a penalty nine minutes later, but the error-prone visitors were unable to get on scoreboard again until the match was already long lost, and the young fly-half crossed for a consolation in the 74th minute.
"They were pretty clinical in the second half," said Smith. "We gave them a few opportunities. Against the Crusasders, you've got to take everything you've got. They're a pretty class act and setting the standards in Super Rugby."
Melbourne Rebels 24-41 Stormers
The Stormers ended their Australasian tour on a high with an emphatic victory over the Rebels in Melbourne.
The side struck early and ran in three tries in a nine-minute burst after the break after three successive defeats had made it a challenging trip.
However, a brilliant individual try from winger Dillyn Leyds and a huge defensive effort gave them hope of returning to Cape Town with a win when they led 10-3 at halftime.
Reece Hodge intercepted a Jean-Luc du Plessis pass for a converted try that levelled up the scores straight after the break, but Juarno Augustus, Damian de Allende, and Ruhan Nel then crossed in quick succession for the visitors.
Will Genia and Campbell Magnay scored tries for the Australian Conference leaders to cut the deficit to 10 points with three minutes remaining, but Nel raced almost the length of the pitch for his second five-pointer to seal the victory.
Super Rugby Schedule
The round of Super Rugby, live on Sky Sports, continues at pace on Saturday with no less than four live matches.
The day starts with a New Zealand North Island derby between the Chiefs and the Blues, who are on a four-match unbeaten run.
However, the Chiefs themselves are undefeated in their last 14 Super Rugby games against their opponents - but only one of the previous eight encounters has been decided by a margin greater than seven points. Find out how the next one pans out on Sky Sports Action from 8.30am.
A little later on, the spotlight turns onto the Brumbies and the Lions from 10.40am, before the afternoon's action moves to Durban, where the Sharks are taking on Los Jaguares.
The final spot of the day will be a meeting between the Bulls and the Reds - each of their last 12 Super Rugby games have been won by the home side on the day.