Super Rugby: Highlanders beat Rebels, Crusaders crush Blues, Lions, Sharks & Brumbies victorious
Last Updated: 14/07/18 7:21pm
The Crusaders eased into the Super Rugby play-offs with a 54-17 thrashing of the Blues on Saturday, while the Rebels missed out after they were beaten by the Highlanders.
Highlanders 43-37 Rebels
The Highlanders rallied from 17-3 down in the first half and 34-22 in the second to beat the Rebels 43-37 in Super Rugby on Saturday.
Fly-half Reece Hodge scored three tries among 27 points for the Rebels but that wasn't enough to lift his team to the win they needed to secure a place in the quarter-finals for the first time.
Hodge's replacement Jack Debreczeni kicked a last-minute penalty to earn the Rebels a bonus point but their qualification hopes now hang on the outcome of other matches in the last regular-season round.
While the Highlanders had clinched their place in the play-offs before Saturday's match, allowing them to play an under-strength team, the Rebels needed to win to be sure of claiming the eighth and last play-off spot.
Their play-off hopes depended on the outcome of a match later Saturday between South Africa's Sharks and Argentina's Jaguares - one which the Sharks won by 10 points.
The Rebels seemed to have Saturday's match in safekeeping after brisk starts to both halves, but the Highlanders showed spirit to rally twice and open a 43-34 lead before Debreczini's late penalty. A massive tackle by Highlanders winger Waisake Naholo on Rebels full-back Jack Maddocks after the final siren ended the last hope for a Rebels victory.
The Rebels took early control of the match with tries to back rower Amanaki Mafi and Hodge to lead 17-3 midway through the first half. A superb sideline dash by Naholo made it 17-10 and a try by scrum-half Kayne Hammington leveled the score at 17-17.
The Rebels led again with Hodge's second try, which was one of two he scored from charged-down kicks. After a try to Highlanders center Tei Walden, the Rebels went to half-time with a 24-22 lead.
Hodge completed his third try from another charge down in the 52nd minute and added a penalty for a 34-22 lead.
The Highlanders dug deep and rallied again with tries to winger Tevita Li and prop Greg Pleasants-Tate, leading for the first time in the 66th minute. Lock Tom Franklin scored the decisive try in the 70th minute, giving the Highlanders a 43-37 lead which survived the Rebels' late comeback attempt.
Crusaders 54-17 Blues
The Crusaders eased into the Super Rugby play-offs with a 54-17 thrashing of the Blues on Saturday.
The Crusaders already had the top spot sewn up and were able to score points when it mattered against a Blues side destined to finish second to last on the overall table.
Tries to Jack Goodhue, George Bridge and Seta Tamanivalu saw the Crusaders lead 19-5 at the break with the Blues' sole points coming from a Melani Nanai try.
Bridge was to score two more tries in the second half to go equal top of the try scoring list with 14 for the season.
Although the Blues had parity with possession, they lacked the Crusaders' ability to recycle quick ball which nullified their attempts to build momentum until midway through the second spell when they bounced back with two tries.
One was a penalty try from a rare dominant scrum, and Nanai followed with his second to close the gap to 26-17.
That was enough for the Crusaders to put the foot down again, which saw Bridge score twice more with a try each to Whitelock and Bryn Hall.
Waratahs 31-40 Brumbies
A losing bonus point for the Rebels ended the slender play-off hopes of the Brumbies, who finished their season with a 40-31 victory over the Australian Conference winners the Waratahs in Sydney.
The Brumbies scored six tries to four for their hosts as they finish two points adrift of the Rebels in third place in their conference.
Tries from Tom Banks, Richie Arnold, Isi Naisarani, Andy Muirhead, Kyle Godwin and Lausii Taliauli proved too much for the Waratahs who scored through Damien Fitzpatrick, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Will Miller and Brad Wilkin.
The Waratahs needed only a win to finish in second spot, guaranteeing the right to host two consecutive finals, but they fizzled against the Brumbies.
Three Brumbies tries in the first 20 minutes blew the game open, in one of the their best outings of the season and the momentum the Waratahs had built in recent weeks was sapped out of them along the way.
Lions 38-12 Bulls
The Lions clinched top spot in the South African Conference for the third consecutive season, and second on the overall Super Rugby table, after a rampant 38-12 bonus-point victory over the Bulls in a frenetic local derby at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Johannesburg-based side, losing finalists in the previous two seasons, ensured they would be the second seeds in the quarter-finals behind only defending champions Crusaders as they overturned an early deficit to claim a handsome win.
The Bulls were quick out of the blocks in Johannesburg and tries by Manie Libbok and Jesse Kriel built a 12-point advantage in as many minutes.
But 2016 and 2017 Super Rugby runners-up Lions methodically clawed their way back into the match and Ruan Combrinck and Malcolm Marx scored to bring the teams level.
The Lions took advantage of Pierre Schoeman's yellow-card when Courtnall Skosan claimed a try for a 19-12 half-time lead.
The Bulls then failed to score in the second half and their fate was sealed within three minutes midway through the half when the Lions were awarded a penalty try and Combrinck scored again.
Sharks 20-10 Jaguares
South Africa's Sharks clinched a Super Rugby quarter-final against defending champions Crusaders with a 20-10 victory over an under-strength Jaguares in Durban as the round-robin phase of the competition was completed on Saturday.
Hooker Akker van der Merwe and winger Kobus van Wyk scored tries as the Sharks pipped the Melbourne Rebels for the final playoff berth and set up a match in Canterbury next weekend.
Argentina's Jaguares were already assured of seventh-place in the overall table and fielded a side that containing 10 changes as they prepared for a first ever playoff fixture against the Lions in Johannesburg.
The Sharks finished level on 36 points with the Rebels, both sides having won seven matches in the season, but edged their Australian rivals on points difference.
Confirmed Super Rugby quarter-finals lineup:
Crusaders v Sharks
Lions v Jaguares
Waratahs v Highlanders
Hurricanes v Chiefs