Highlanders’ heroic victory
The Highlanders were playing the competition favourites away from home. They conceded two penalty tries and a yellow card among 16 penalties as their scrum came under relentless pressure. They had just 29 per cent territory and 38 per cent possession. All the figures point to a resounding Chiefs victory in Hamilton…but the Highlanders somehow prevailed 20-17. Leading 14-3 at the break after a rousing display and a fine try to winger Patrick Osborne, the visitors were constantly under the pump during the second half. But the Highlanders refused to crumble, and a crucial yellow card in the dying minutes against Chiefs winger James Lowe offered a rare foray into the opposition half before replacement flyhalf Marty Banks buried a 40-metre match-winning penalty. You won’t see an unlikelier, more courageous win this season.
Brumbies, Waratahs roll on
It wasn’t overly convincing and it certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Brumbies and Waratahs appear set to jostle for top spot in the Australian conference again after derby wins over the Force and Reds respectively. After scoring three first half tries to lead 19-8, the Brumbies held on for a 27-15 win in a dour second 40. The Waratahs chalked up a 23-5 victory at Suncorp Stadium in one of the ugliest games imaginable, plagued by errors. The Reds were rocked by the late withdrawal of James Horwill, and with just one win in four games their campaign is already on the ropes.
Kirwan under the pump as Blues hit all-time low
In a battle between the only two winless sides in the competition, the Blues were resounding favourites against a Lions outfit notorious for being poor travellers; it was viewed as a must-win for the chronically underachieving Auckland-based franchise and their embattled coach, All Blacks legend John Kirwan. But after leading 10-3 at halftime, the Blues crumbled to lose 13-10. Kirwan’s job is reportedly safe…if he can steer the team to the finals, which shapes as a virtually impossible. Time to start updating the resumé, JK, you’ll be sending it out soon enough.
Stormers lead the way, Bulls hit back
The Stormers remain unbeaten after disposing of perennial South African heavyweights the Sharks 29-13, while the Bulls – after dropping their first two games – are on a two-game winning streak, inflicting the improved Cheetahs’ first defeat of the season 39-20 in a crucial away victory.
SUPER XV ROUND 4 RESULTS
Highlanders 20 d. Chiefs 17 @ Waikato Stadium
Brumbies 27 d. Force 15 @ GIO Stadium
Lions 13 d. Blues 10 @ North Harbour Stadium
Waratahs 23 d. Reds 5 @ Suncorp Stadium
Bulls 39 d. Cheetahs 20 @ Free State Stadium
Stormers 29 d. Sharks 13 @ Newlands