Upsets galore in rough weekend for Aussie teams
Two bonus points. That’s all the Australian franchises mustered between them in Round 9, with the Brumbies pipped by the previously winless Blues, the Force and Waratahs hammered at home by South African sides, and the Reds crushed on the first leg of their trip to the Republic. The Rebels had a bye. The prospect of just one Aussie side qualifying for the top six is becoming all too real. In a horror weekend for tipsters, just one of the bookies’ favourites saluted.
Blues break duck to stun Brumbies
The Blues’ season of woe received an injection of euphoria with a 16-14 upset of the Australian conference-leading Brumbies. After losing all seven of the previous games by 12 points or less, the Blues raced out to a 13-0 lead – but more heartbreak appeared to be on the menu as the Brumbies clawed their way back to the front. A clutch penalty from the sideline by replacement flyhalf Ihaia West in the latter stages proved the match-winner as Nic White missed an attempt from halfway on fulltime. The Blues’ boilover saw them leap to 13th on the ladder after bringing up the rear all season.
Force, Waratahs rolled on home patch
The Force effectively watched the finals ship sail with a 24-15 loss to the Cheetahs, while the Waratahs’ title defence suffered a significant blow courtesy of 32-18 hammering from the Stormers. The Force led 15-8 early in the second half in Perth, but conceded the last 16 points of the match and now sit in second-last with a 1-7 record. The Waratahs also led at the break, 15-13, but managed just a solitary penalty goal after the break. The champs are languishing in 10th.
Highlanders triumph in southern derby
The Highlanders broke a six-match losing streak at the hands of the Crusaders and notched their first win in Christchurch since 2011 with a stirring 25-20 result on Saturday night. The home side began in imperious form, scoring two scorching tries to lead 14-3. But the Highlanders posted two long-range tries against the run of play, before wing sensation Waisake Naholo zipped over for his second to set up an 11-point advantage. The plucky visitors held off a determined late fight-back to seal the upset and consolidate their position in the top six; the Hurricanes and Chiefs are the only sides in the competition with a better record than the 5-2 Highlanders.
Reds sink to rock bottom
There seems no way out of the abyss for the hapless Reds, who took possession of last place with a 43-22 loss to the Bulls. Trailing 24-5 at halftime, the Reds at least showed enough enterprise to grab a four-try bonus point but their defence ultimately leaked six tries to a Bulls outfit that surged to the top of the South African conference.
Lions’ run continues
The Lions notched their fifth win in six games, backing up their upset of the Bulls with a thrilling 23-21 defeat of another South African heavyweight in the Sharks. Just four points now separate the Bulls, Stormers, Lions and Sharks in a conference logjam, with the Lions – pre-season wooden spoon favourites – only one point shy of the sixth-placed Stormers.
SUPER XV ROUND 9 RESULTS
Blues 16 d. Brumbies 14 @ Eden Park
Highlanders 25 d. Crusaders 20 @ AMI Stadium
Stormers 32 d. Waratahs 18 @ Allianz Stadium
Cheetahs 24 d. Force 15 @ nib Stadium
Lions 23 d. Sharks 21 @ Ellis Park
Bulls 43 d. Reds 22 @ Loftus Versfeld