Cape Town - On a weekend where their local rivals in the South African conference suffered defeats, it was the Lions who made up lost ground with an important 29-28 win over the Waratahs in their Super Rugby match in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Earlier on Saturday the Sharks gave another impressive away performance but had to settle for a 29-23 loss to the Chiefs in an exciting encounter in Waikato, Hamilton.
The Bulls lost their Friday evening encounter 45-13 against the Crusaders in Pretoria, while the Jaguares went down 32-27 to the Highlanders in Dunedin. The Stormers had a bye this weekend.
Lions snatch one-point win over Waratahs
The Lions survived some anxious moments late in their Super Rugby match against the Waratahs but managed to hold on for a close, hard-fought 29-28 win in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.
On a weekend when their South African Conference rivals – the Bulls, Sharks and Jaguares – all failed to win, it was the Highvelders who managed to register a vital victory, which allowed them to move away from the foot of the table into fourth place, above the Stormers, who were not in action this weekend.
The opening half was a fast, open affair with several missed tackles which led to three tries by both sides. The Waratahs converted all three of their tries which saw them go into halftime with a two-point advantage at 21-19.
The teams scored one try piece in the second half but it was a successful penalty goal by the Lions’ replacement back Shaun Reynolds that finally secured victory.
NSW scrumhalf Nick Phipps opened the scoring for the visitors and he was followed by Michael Hooper and Rob Simmons, with Bernard Foley slotting all three conversion kicks. Springbok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi grabbed the home team’s first try, while Stephan Lewies and Kwagga Smith also went over for two more home tries.
After the break, Springbok wing Courtnall Skosan scored from a sweeping move while Tom Staniforth crashed over for the Waratahs’ fourth try of the afternoon.
Saturday’s victory saw them move to fourth place on the local log with 26 points from 11 games and six wins. The Lions host the Highlanders next Saturday while the Waratahs now travel to Brisbane for their Australian derby with the Reds.
Lions 29 (19) – Tries: Aphiwe Dyantyi, Stephan Lewies, Kwagga Smith, Courtnall Skosan; Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3); Penalty goal: Shaun Reynolds.
Waratahs 28 (21) – Tries Nick Phipps, Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons, Tom Staniforth; Conversions: Bernard Foley (4).
Chiefs strike late to edge Sharks
The Sharks gave another impressive performance on the road but they unfortunately went down 29-23 to the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday morning (SA time) in their last Super Rugby tour match through Australasia.
It was an entertaining fixture between two evenly matched teams, with the men from Waikato taking a 17-13 lead into the break through two tries and a penalty goal. The Chiefs eventually scored four tries, three conversions and a penalty goal, while the Durbanites replied with two converted tries and three penalty goals.
The Durbanites did extremely well to play themselves back into a potential winning position and led 23-17 with just under 20 minutes to go – the result of good defense, powerful forward surges and good tactical kicking from Bosch.
However, two quick tries in the last 13 minutes tilted the momentum and scoreboard in favour of the Kiwis. Chiefs midfielder Anton Leonard-Brown dotted down before Brad Weber (scrumhalf) scored another try straight from the restart.
The Chiefs led 29-23 going into the final few minutes, but the Sharks turned over possession deep inside their own half, and in a tense finish, the visitors forced the men from Waikato to defend for 18 phases before Bosch made an unfortunate handling error after the full-time hooter.
The Sharks can be very pleased with the overall outcome of their three-match tour which started with a win over the Waratahs in Sydney and a draw against the Crusaders in Christchurch. They now return to Durban for a well-earned break next weekend and then resume action when they host the Lions on 25 May in another big local derby.
Chiefs 29 (17) – Tries: Brad Weber (2), Mitch Karpik, Anton Lienert-Brown. Conversions: Marty McKenzie (3). Penalty goal: McKenzie.
Sharks 23 (13) – Tries: Hyron Andrews, Ruan Botha. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2). Penalty goals: Bosch (3).
Crusaders outplay Bulls at Loftus
The Crusaders were in impressive form when they dismantled the Bulls with a 45-13 triumph in a Super Rugby clash at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday evening.
The defending champions scored four tries in the first half to lead by 26-6 at the break, and proceeded to score three more in the second half for a commanding victory. Crusaders flyhalf Richie Mo’unga gave a lively performance for the visitors while their speedy right wing Sevu Reece helped himself to a hat-trick of tries.
The first half was a fast and frantic affair and it was the Crusaders who made their intensions clear right from the start by speeding up play and not allowing the home side any time to settle. They used quick lineout throws to unsettle the home side and clever kick passes to stretch the defence, while their finishing was also clinical.
The Bulls would not have been satisfied by this performance, on the eve of their four-match Australasian tour.
A fortunate bounce of the ball – which looped over the head of Handre Pollard – allowed Mo’unga to run in for the first of two tries. He was followed over the line by Mitchell Dunshea (lock), who scored his maiden Super Rugby try, and Reece.
The home team replied with two Pollard penalty goals in an otherwise forgettable opening 40 minutes, which left them with a mountain to climb against the rampaging Crusaders.
Reece opened the scoring in the second half for his second try and to put his side in an even bigger commanding lead. The right wing scored a third one just after the hour mark when he jumped high into the air to collect another clever cross field kick to score try number six for the visitors.
Lock forward Scott Barrett completed the scoring for the visitors when he finished off a clever lineout move. Midfielder Burger Odendaal scored a consolation try for the Bulls, who simply made too many errors and missed too many tackles in this match.
Bulls 13 (6) - Try: Burger Odendaal. Conversion: Handre Pollard. Penalties: Pollard (2).
Crusaders 45 (26) - Tries: Richie Mo'unga (2), Mitchell Dunshea, Sevu Reece (3), Scott Barrett. Conversions: Mo'unga (5).