Super Rugby Saturday wrap: Hurricanes rally; Brumbies beat Reds, Sharks book play-off & Lions miss out
By Sky Sports Rugby Union
Last Updated: 15/06/19 6:33pm
A recap of Saturday's Super Rugby action as Hurricanes, Brumbies, Sharks and Bulls collect entertaining victories.
Hurricanes 29-24 Blues
The Wellington-based Hurricanes took advantage of their bench strength to rally from 24-7 down at half-time to beat the Auckland-based Blues 29-24 in Super Rugby on Saturday.
Having qualified for the play-offs and already being assured of fourth place and a home quarterfinal regardless of the outcome of Friday's match, the Hurricanes started an inexperienced combination.
The lineup was third string, and some of the starting backline had played fewer minutes in Super Rugby than the numbers on their backs.
The Blues took advantage and scored three first-half tries through center Tanielu Tele'a, winger Caleb Clarke and fullback Melani Nanai.
But when the Hurricanes rolled out the heavy artillery in the second half, including scrumhalf T.J. Perenara, back-rower Ardie Savea, and hooker Asafo Aumua, the tide of the match changed and the Blues couldn't score again.
Passive and defensive in the first half, the Hurricanes went on attack in the second, camping in the Blues' half and scoring tries through flyhalf Fletcher Smith, lock Isaia Walker-Leawere and winger Peter Umaga-Jensen.
Flyhalf Jackson Garden-Bachop kicked a late penalty to clinch the Hurricanes' 12th win of the regular season.
"It was a bit of a tale of two halves, that's for sure," Hurricanes captain Dane Coles said.
"I'm just proud of the young lads. We threw some of the guys in the deep end and it wasn't pretty in the first half. But the way they responded with a bit of a rev-up at halftime ... it was a good way to finish the round-robin."
All Blacks center Sonny Bill Williams return to action for the Blues after an almost 10-week absence with a knee injury. In front of the New Zealand selectors, he produced a quiet performance.
Brumbies 40-27 Reds
At Canberra, the Brumbies moved into the play-offs with their sixth straight victory, a 40-27 win over the Reds. The Brumbies had already clinched first place in the Australian conference.
Canberra's six tries to three win ensured a home quarter-final next Saturday in Canberra against an opponent to be determined following later matches in South Africa on Saturday.
"We're pleased with the way we're performing at the moment and the growth in the team has been nice," Brumbies fly-half Christian Lealiifano said.
"So we've just got to continue to keep working hard and hopefully we've got another few more weeks to go. Hopefully it doesn't matter who we get."
Stormers 9-12 Sharks
Lukhanyo Am scored a last gasp try to hand the Sharks a dramatic 12-9 away victory against the Stormers on Saturday and a Super Rugby play-off place.
With time up and the Sharks facing elimination, Springbok centre Am cut inside and through the Stormers defence with a darting run to snatch victory as the Durban side desperately searched for success in a must-win contest.
They were 9-5 down after three penalties had seemingly handed the Stormers a berth in next weekends quarter-finals but instead it is the Sharks who progress.
Their opponents will be determined later on Saturday once the last regular season game between the Bulls and Lions in Pretoria has concluded.
The Sharks scored two tries to three penalties for the home team. Flyhalf Josh Stander struck over the first two and Jean-Luc du Plessis the third.
Frenetic early exchanges between the two teams saw both sides putting together series of attacking phases, sprinkled with some creative running, but stout defence with hard hits kept the first 23 minutes scoreless.
Stander put the injury-hampered Stormers ahead with a penalty and they looked odds-on to increase the score just five minutes later as they attacked the Sharks line.
But a loose pass from the flyhalf hit the knee of Sharks centre Rhyno Smith and the ball sat up perfectly for the midfielder to grab it and run the entire length of the field for an intercept try.
A second Stander penalty had the Stormers back ahead 6-5 at the break.
The home side were celebrating prematurely four minutes from time when Du Plessis put over another kick to stretch the lead, only for the Sharks to come back and win the game at the death and silence a stunned home crowd.
Bulls 48-27 Lions
The Bulls overcame an early scare to overwhelm their neighbours the Lions 48-27 and take the last Super Rugby playoff place after Saturdays derby at Loftus Versfeld.
The home side outscored the Lions by seven tries to two, despite going behind after 16 seconds, and will now go away to face the Hurricanes in next weekends quarter-final.
The Bulls were 31-19 ahead at half-time in a convincing performance as the regular season came to a close, leaving eight teams left to chase for the title in the playoffs.
For the Lions, it ended a run of three successive trips to the final where they finished runners-up on each occasion.
Hanro Liebenberg, Marco van Staden, Lizo Gqoboka, Burger Odendaal, Cornal Hendricks, Handre Pollard and Manie Libbok scored the tries for the home side with Pollard converting five of them and adding a penalty.
Hacjivah Dayimani and Cyle Brink got the Lions tries with one conversion from Elton Jantjies, who also kicked over four penalties. Fullback Andries Coetzee also contributed a drop kick.
The Lions went ahead straight from Pollards kick-off as Aphiwe Dyantyi fielded the ball, setting off on a mazy run through the home defence before offloading for eighth man Dayimani to power his way over and dot down.
But the Bulls responded almost immediately as Liebenberg finished off a pick-up-and-drive and Van Staden, Gqoboka and Odendaal were also over the opponents try line before the break.
The Lions took every kicking opportunity they could to keep down the deficit. They would have grabbed a playoff place had they picked up a bonus point.
When Bulls lock RG Snyman was sin-binned, Brinks try brought the score back to 31-27 but the Bulls then turned on the power, dominating in all areas to score three more tries and secure a well-earned victory