Super Rugby Review: Week Four
Sunday, March 11, 2018 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
New Zealand Conference
As local derbies rank they don't figure much higher than the Hurricanes against the Crusaders, and so it proved in the Hurricanes 29-19 win in Wellington on Saturday. It was a stunning first half effort by a Hurricanes side expected to be a bit flaky after their round-world tour but that proved far from the case. They took hold of the game from the outset and never looked back.
The Highlanders were also forced to work by a determined Stormers side that was never far away, until the dying moments of the game, when the score blew out a little. It as an uncompromising game with the Stormers throwing plenty at the Highlanders, but they stood firm and unleashed their own attacking skills with far greater effect.
Given the hard times the Blues have endured in recent seasons it would be a harsh critic who couldn't acknowledge their outstanding comeback at Ellis Park to edge the finalists from the last two years, the Lions, 38-35. It was the type of rugby the Blues have been renowned for but which has been too seldom seen in recent years at least.
Given they spent most of last season on tenterhooks wondering if they would survive, the Rebels have made a stunning start and stunned the Brumbies with a 33-10 win in Melbourne on Friday. They share the top of the table with the Lions while the Brumbies have some searching to do after losses to the Reds and Rebels, before they face the Sharks in Canberra on Saturday.
Battling back from 3-14 down, the Reds created something from nothing early in the second half to claim the lead for the first time and while the Bulls probed for chances, they lacked enough ball to apply consistent pressure and the Reds kicked a late penalty to get their final winning advantage.
Two converted tries to the Waratahs in the final three minutes inflated their effort in their 28-38 loss to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. Problems remain for the Sydney-based side who at one stage were down 7-33 to the home side who took that score to halftime.
Any thoughts the Lions might have had of stealing an unbeatable hold on the South African Conference were undone by the Blues who inflicted the first loss of the season on the Lions winning 38-35. That was due to the pressure the visitors inflicted with the Lions guilty of failing handling and breakdown opportunities. They are still seven points clear on the ladder but the Sharks and Bulls have a game in hand.
The Sharks warmed up for their four-game tour of Australasia with a 50-22 seven try win over the Sunwolves in Durban. Makazole Mapimpi scored twice for the home team while the Sunwolves were guilty of not taking chances, especially early in the game. The Sharks moved to second place on the South African Conference table.
Failing to capitalize on the 14-3 lead they had, the Bulls went down 14-20 in Brisbane to the Reds and now face even tougher battles against the Chiefs and Crusaders in the remaining games of their tour.
At least for the Stormers they know their Australasian tour is over with their third loss, a 15-33 defeat by the Highlanders in Dunedin, and they arrive home in Cape Town to prepare for the Blues. Both the Bulls and Stormers are sitting on five points.
The Jaguares made their first appearance on the winner's rostrum with a 38-28 win over the Waratahs in Buenos Aires.
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