And then there were four.
The first weekend of the Super Rugby finals saw the Australian contingent of the competition wiped out, three New Zealand sides progress, and the top South African outfit squeak through to the semis.
Hurricanes put Brumbies away late
The Brumbies ran out of steam in their home final against the Hurricanes, going down 35-16 after leading at halftime. The unfancied hosts powered to a 13-5 advantage and still led by one point at the break, but tries to TJ Perenara and Wes Goosen – who finished with a double – in the final 12 minutes carried the defending champs to an emphatic win.
Crusaders shut out Highlanders in big wet
Widespread flooding in the South Island prevented the Highlanders from getting to Christchurch until game-day and significantly affected a mouth-watering derby as a spectacle, with the Crusaders handling the adverse conditions far better to run out 17-0 winners at AMI Stadium. The visitors defended bravely in the face of a massive possession and territory disadvantage, but tries in the final eight minutes of the first half to Joe Moody and Codie Taylor gave the home side an imposing lead. The Highlanders never looked a realistic chance of eating into the deficit during a scoreless second stanza.
Lions hold on for nervy win
After downing the Sharks 27-10 in Durban a week earlier, the Lions stayed alive with a 24-21 victory at Ellis Park. The underdogs took a shock 14-3 lead before the Lions finally posted their first try seven minutes into the second half. Despite falling behind, the upset looked on when the Sharks scored a go-ahead try with 14 minutes left. But a penalty goal from beyond halfway in the 78th minute sealed the Lions’ passage through to a semi-final showdown with the Hurricanes next week.
Chiefs get the job done in Cape Town
It was a far cry from their 60-21 win in the corresponding match last year, but the Chiefs secured a semi-final date with the Crusaders by subduing the Stormers 17-11 at Newlands. The Chiefs led 9-3 at the end of a try-less first half, before the Stormers scored the opening try in the 45th minute. The hosts trailed by just one point with five minutes left when Aaron Cruden sent Shaun Stevenson over for the sealer with a brilliant long ball.