NZ teams dominate the standings
The chances of more than one Australian side reaching the 2016 finals are already on tenterhooks, with the ladder-leading Chiefs (19 points), and the Highlanders (18), Hurricanes (15) and Crusaders (14) currently occupying four of the top five spots in the Australasian group.
The Brumbies (17 points) are the only Aussie side keeping pace, and are short-priced favourites to take the automatic qualifying position as the top-placed Australian franchise. In the convoluted new system, the top-placed New Zealand team is also guaranteed a finals spot, while the three teams with the next best records will claim the three ‘wild card’ slots. The other three finalists will come from the South African conferences.
Reds come up just short again
The rebuilding Reds’ improvement entailed more pain in Round 5, pipped 15-13 by the Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday – giving them two two-point losses and a draw since coach Richard Graham’s axing.
The Reds’ scrum forced a penalty try to open the scoring in the 13th minute, but two Israel Folau tries – the second coming on the last play of the first half – put the Waratahs in front. A pair of Jake McIntyre penalties edged the home side back into the lead 13-12, before Bernard Foley, in his first appearance of 2016, nailed the match-winning three-pointer from out wide with 12 minutes left.
Kiwi heavyweights trounce Force and Rebels
It was another torrid weekend across the Tasman for the struggling Force, while the Rebels were unable to build any momentum on home soil. Chiefs centre Charlie Ngatai scored a Super Rugby record-equalling four tries in a 53-10 demolition of the Force in Hamilton, the hosts crossing for nine tries in total while the visitors’ sole five-pointer came from Ben Tapuai. A supreme defensive by the Highlanders shut the Rebels out at AAMI Park, with the defending champs picking up a vital bonus point via their three-tries-to-none, 27-3 victory on Saturday night.
Honourable defeats for Sunwolves and Kings
Unfancied newcomers the Sunwolves and the Kings both punched above their weight in Round 5. The Sunwolves came agonisingly close to a maiden win yet again, edged out 33-30 by the visiting Bulls in Singapore after the home side trailed by 13 points during the second stanza. The Kings clawed back to a three-point halftime deficit against the in-form Hurricanes, before being overrun in the second stanza to go down 42-20.
Important wins in the Republic for Brumbies and Crusaders
The Brumbies and Crusaders stayed in touch with the Australasian Conference front-runners with tense victories in South Africa on Saturday. Humbled a week earlier by the Stormers, the Brumbies held off the Cheetahs 25-18 in Bloemfontein. The Crusaders trailed the Sharks 14-12 for most of the second half before Andy Ellis laid on a 72nd-minute try for Kieran Read, clinching a five-point win.
Stormers strangle Jaguares out in Buenos Aries
The Jaguares remained winless at home and suffered their third straight narrow defeat, subdued 13-8 by the Stormers after a scoreless second half.
SUPER RUGBY – ROUND 5 RESULTS
Hurricanes 42 d. Kings 20 @ Westpac Stadium
Chiefs 53 d. Force 10 @ Waikato Stadium
Highlanders 27 d. Rebels 3 @ AAMI Park
Bulls 33 d. Sunwolves 30 @ Singapore National Stadium
Brumbies 25 d. Cheetahs 18 @ Free State Stadium
Crusaders 19 d. Sharks 14 @ Kings Park
Stormers 13 d. Jaguares 8 @ Jose Amalfitani Stadium
Waratahs 15 d. Reds 13 @ Suncorp Stadium