Aussie conference heats up
The Brumbies and Waratahs bounced back from Round 13 losses to snare vital wins, while the Rebels perhaps showed they are a notch or two from being a genuine top-six side as their finals hopes suffered a mortal wound with a heavy defeat to the struggling Reds.
The Waratahs subdued the Sharks 33-18 at home to momentarily claim top spot in the conference, but the Brumbies reefed it back hours later via a 30-20 victory over the gritty Lions in Johannesburg. But the acid is on the Brumbies – they are one of four sides with a bye remaining. The other X-factor is the Waratahs’ impending trip to South Africa. It’s destined to go down to the wire.
Kiwis take flight
The three best records in the Super XV belong to New Zealand sides, with the Hurricanes (11-1) an amazing 13 competition points clear of the field on 52, and the Chiefs and Highlanders (8-4) locked on 39 amongst the wildcard spots. The Crusaders are primed for a late charge, currently on 31 points, and the possibility of four Kiwi outfits qualifying for the top six is not out of the question.
There is sure to be a few twists and turns, however, with the Chiefs still to face the Highlanders and Hurricanes again, while the Crusaders’ arduous run home includes the equally desperate Brumbies and Waratahs, and the sizzling Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes and Chiefs produced a tense thriller on Saturday night, with the competition leaders getting up 22-18 in Wellington.
Revived Reds stun Rebels
Languishing in last place with a 2-10 record heading into Round 14, the Reds gave their home crowd – however sparse it may have been – a rare 2015 highlight. The embattled side trailed the in-form Rebels, who had everything to play for, 17-11 at halftime. But a five-try blitz in the second stanza, including a double to Lachie Turner and a five-pointer to impressive flyhalf debutant Jake McIntyre, powered the Reds to a 29-point lead and an eventual 46-27 victory. The Reds are shaping as the spoilers of the closing rounds, looking to upset the finals bids of the Waratahs and Chiefs.
Bulls and Lions miss gilt-edged opportunity
The Bulls were edged out 23-18 but the plucky, under-strength Blues in Auckland, while the Lions went down to the Brumbies on their home patch – a crucial chance that fells by the wayside for both teams as the Stormers sat out the weekend on a bye. The Bulls hold a slender one-point lead over the Stormers in the South African conference, while the Lions – who still have a bye left – may have run their race, sitting a further four points back.
SUPER XV ROUND 14 RESULTS
Blues 23 d. Bulls 18 @ Eden Park
Reds 46 d. Rebels 29 @ Suncorp Stadium
Hurricanes 22 d. Chiefs 18 @ Westpac Stadium
Waratahs 33 d. Sharks 18 @ Allianz Stadium
Brumbies 30 d. Lions 20 @ Ellis Park
Highlanders 45 d. Cheetahs 24 @ Free State Stadium
Crusaders, Force, Stormers BYE