HIGHLANDERS 57 d. STORMERS 14 @ Forstyth Barr Stadium
Whether it was the Highlanders indicating they are back to their heavyweight best or the Stormers proving they are miles off that standard – or a bit of both – it was an old-fashioned drubbing in Dunedin on Friday night.
It started very promisingly for the visiting Stormers, with NIzaam Carr finishing off a stunning long-range try in the seventh minute. But the Highlanders clicked into gear shortly afterwards as wingers Patrick Osborne and Waisake Naholo scored to put the hosts in front a little over 10 minutes later. Osborne grabbed a double inside 22 minutes, Liam Squire scored from rolling maul, and then Osborne turned provider in brilliant fashion for Rob Thompson. It was virtually all over at 31-7 at halftime.
The Stormers clotted the haemorrhage of points against them for the first 14 minutes of the second half, before Thompson’s speculative kick sat up for Naholo to finish a 90-metre try. Flanker Dillon Hunt and front-rower Greg Pleasants-Tate chalked up a couple for the ‘pigs’ to break the half-century, and after a consolation effort for Stormers reserve Dewaldt Duvenage, a chip ahead from unlikely source Joe Wheeler produced a late try for Matt Faddes.
CHIEFS 27 d. SUNWOLVES 20 @ Waikato Stadium
The Sunwolves produced one of the grittiest performances of their short Super Rugby history to go down to the hotshot Chiefs by just seven points in Hamilton. The Chiefs scored three first-half tries to lead 20-3, but former Highlanders halfback Fumiaki Tanaka and Kiwi centre Derek Carpenter scored for the unfancied tourists either side of Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie’s second try. The Sunwolves inched closer with a penalty goal and the Chiefs were forced to grimly hang on to close out an unexpectedly narrow win.
WARATAHS 29 d. REDS 26 @ Suncorp Stadium
The hapless Reds found new ways to plucky defeat from the jaws of victory, succumbing to Bernard Foley’s goalkicking prowess as the equally-desperate Waratahs stole a fiery Australian derby thriller in Brisbane. Reds fullback Karmichael Hunt starred in the first half with a try and an assist, before Quade Cooper brilliantly set up a long-range try finished off by winger Iazaia Perese. But Michael Hooper landed a crucial blow just before halftime, running away for a try to cut the halftime deficit to just two points. Foley edged the Waratahs in front just after the break, but the Reds grabbed a 26-20 lead in the 50th minute as Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore scored from a rolling maul. The Reds could only watch on forlornly, however, as Foley landed three unanswered penalties, including the match-winner with two and a half minutes on the clock.
LIONS 24 d. FORCE 15 @ nib Stadium
South African heavyweights the Lions got away with a 24-15 win over the lowly Force in Perth. The tourists scored the only two tries of the first half, but Kyle Godwin’s boot kept the Force in the contest and they trailed by just two points with 15 minutes left after his fifth penalty goal. The result was not sealed until Elton Jantjies sliced through for the Lions three minutes after the fulltime hooter.
CRUSADERS 48 d. CHEETAHS 14 @ Free State Stadium
The Crusaders stayed unbeaten via an emphatic seven-tries-to-two win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The home side trailed by just one point with seven minutes of the first half remaining, but two tries to Crusaders winger George Bridge pushed the visitors out to a 22-7 halftime lead and broke the Cheetahs’ spirit. Bridge finished with a hat-trick and fullback David Havili notched a double as the Crusaders went on with the job in the second half.
KINGS 44 d. REBELS 3 @ Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
After an upset win over the Brumbies and an unlikely draw in Durban in their last two outings, the Rebels sunk to arguably the lowest point in their Super Rugby history via a 41-point loss to South African bottom-feeders the Kings. Chalking up their biggest-ever win, the Port Elizabeth outfit scored six tries to turn an 11-3 halftime lead into a 44-3 rout.
SHARKS 33 d. JAGUARES 25 @ Velez Sarsfield
The Sharks landed a crucial blow in the race for the Super Rugby finals, while the Jaguares suffered a mortal wound to their hopes of a maiden playoffs berth as the visitors pulled off a 33-25 win in Buenos Aries. Both teams scored three tries apiece and the scores were level at 20-all at halftime, but Curwin Bosch’s 18-point haul with the boot proved crucial for the victorious Sharks.
BLUES 18 d. BRUMBIES 12 @ GIO Stadium
The Blues held on for a tense 18-12 away win over the Brumbies – and picked up a bonus point despite the tight scoreline after scoring the only three tries of the match. After Bryn Gatland and Wharenui Hawera traded penalty goals, the Blues looked to have scored the first try courtesy of a spectacular aerial finish in the corner from Matt Duffie, but the NRL convert placed the ball on the touch in-goal line. The Blues took an 8-3 lead into the sheds, however, when Duffie atoned by reaching out in the 31st minute.
The Brumbies clawed their way to a 9-8 advantage through Hawera’s accurate goalkicking, but Akira Ioane put the visitors back in front with 25 minutes to go with a try from a rolling maul. Hawera closed the gap to one point before the Blues achieved some crucial breathing space in the 68th minute, Augustine Pulu and Duffie combining to send Melani Nanai over for the Blues’ third try.
The home side’s stagnant attack meant the Blues were never in any real danger of losing the game in the dying seconds, instead securing a rare and richly-deserved victory on the road. The result made it 0-15 for Aussie Super Rugby teams against their Kiwi counterparts in 2017.