The Waratahs, Blues and Highlanders all scored desperately-needed wins in Round 5, but the general story for the Australian sides was another narrative of disappointment.
CRUSADERS 45 d. FORCE 17 @ AMI Stadium
The underdog Western Force competed for 40 minutes against the Crusaders, who subsequently powered away to a 28-point win at home with three unanswered second-half tries. The Crusaders led 28-17 at halftime after scoring four tries to the Force’s two, but the visitors were unable to trouble the scorers in the second stanza and late five-pointers to David Havili and Ben Funnell confirmed the bonus-point result.
WARATAHS 32 d. REBELS 25 @ AAMI Park
It was the archetypal game of two halves in Melbourne, with the Rebels leading 25-6 at halftime only to watch the Waratahs charge back to snatch a dramatic late victory. Reece Hodge scored 20 first-half points – including two of the Rebels’ three tries – but the desperate ’Tahs clawed back with tries to Ned Hanigan and Reece Robinson trimmed the deficit to seven points by the hour mark. Michael Wells and David Horwitz crossed inside the final four minutes to grab the much-needed results for the visitors.
BLUES 38 d. BULLS 14 @ QBE Stadium
The Blues eased the pressure on coach Tana Umaga, scoring five second-half tries to run out comfortable winners over the struggling Bulls at North Harbour. The scores were locked 7-all at the break, but a Matt Duffie double put the Blues firmly in control, before Ihaia West, Matt Moulds and Melani Nanai put the bonus-point result to bed.
HIGHLANDERS 18 d. BRUMBIES 13 @ GIO Stadium
The Highlanders continued the trend of desperate teams snatching key wins in Round 5, coming from behind to down the Brumbies in a tense clash in Canberra. Chris Alcock scored the Brumbies’ only try in the 27th minute, before winger Sio Tomkinson crossed a couple of minutes out from halftime for the Highlanders. The hosts led 13-5 thanks to the boot of Wharenui Hawera, but reserve flyhalf Marty Banks inched the Highlanders back into it with a pair of penalties, and forward-pack newcomer Aki Seilui burrowed over for the match-winners with seven minutes left.
STORMERS 44 d. SUNWOLVES 31 @ Singapore National Stadium
The Stormers recovered from an early Sunwolves onslaught to grab the win in Singapore. The unfancied hosts led 24-10 after 25 minutes, but the weight of territory and possession ultimately saw the Stormers score the last four tries of the match.
LIONS 42 d. KINGS 19 @ Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
The Lions notched a bonus-point win in Port Elizabeth to stay at the forefront of the South African Group. The 2016 runners-up scored five tries to two in the opening 40 minutes to lead 35-12, before clocking off in a drab second stanza that saw just the rivals cross for just one try apiece.
SHARKS 38 d. CHEETAHS 30 @ Free State Stadium
The Sharks held off a spirited Cheetahs side in another high-scoring clash in Bloemfontein. The home side led 23-15 early in the second half, but Kobus van Wyk’s second try for the Sharks and a further five-pointer to Daniel du Preez swung the momentum. Sharks No.10 Curwin Bosch’s boot proved crucial, finishing with 18 points – including three second-half penalties.
JAGUARES 22 d. REDS 8 @ Velez Sarsfield
The Jaguares strong start to 2017 continued, while the Reds extended their losing streak in a disappointing road trip to Buenos Aries. Jaguares No.12 Jeronimo de la Fuente scored two tries as the hosts pushed out to a 22-3 lead after 50 minutes. Scott Higginbotham pulled a try back for the Reds with 23 minutes to go, but they were never a realistic chance of completing a comeback.