Pretoria- We saw some riveting action in the fourteenth weekend of Super Rugby with the Lions announcing themselves as big title contenders in Super Rugby in 2016. Although the Crusaders head the overall standings, the Lions dare not be discounted. Reports Piet Lategan.
In the first match of the weekend the Hurricanes met the Highlanders at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington as the Hurricanes won a titanic scrap with 27-20 at the end. Openside flanker of the Hurricanes, Ardie Savea, was the difference on the night scoring a brace of tries as well as enjoying a superb all-round game. With the result the Hurricanes and Highlanders swopped places in the Australasian Group with the Hurricanes now being in fourth spot on 40 points and the Highlanders being in fifth spot on 38 points with both teams clinging onto playoff spots. The Waratahs beat the Chiefs with 45-25 in a 10-try thriller at Allianz Stadium in Sydney as the Waratahs dominated and penetrated the Chiefs-defence in vital and critical stages of the match. Pragmatic outside centre, Israel Folau, scored a intercept try where he read play extremely well as well as to sprint 90 meters to score while openside flanker, Michael Hooper, scored a vital converted try just before the break as lock, Will Skelton, impressed with one of his bullocking runs to give the Waratahs a lead of 17-13 at the break. The Chiefs were first to score after the break to once again take the lead, but from then on it was one-way traffic as a rampant Waratahs outfit ran the Chiefs off their feet with both Folau and Hooper notching up a brace of tries.The victory left the Waratahs second in Australia on 34 points while the Chiefs remain in third spot in Australasia on 42 points. In the last game on Friday the two poorest sides of 2016 in the Kings and the Jaguares had a go at each other with the Kings winning a titanic struggle with 29-22 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. It was a game worth nothing to write home about as we saw two red cards in the first stanza. Two forwards from the Jaguares got their marching orders for wrecklessly barging into rucks with their shoulders making contact with the head of the opponent. Despite the two red cards the Jaguares had a 6-3 advantage at the break as the rugby connoisseur got overwhelmed with a feeling of nausea. In the second half the Kings struggled and toiled for all their worth against 13 Jaguares and they only got the better of them and won the game in the final 10 minutes which says a lot for appalling standard of rugby seen in the game and were it not for tries by left-wing, Wandile Mjkevu, and replacement-back, Dewald Human, the Kings would have left the Stadium with egg on their faces.
On Saturday the Crusaders beat the Blues with 26-21 at Eden Park in Auckland in a tight game where the Blues made a great fist of it. With the Blues having a tendency to blow hot and cold the Crusaders were expected to walk all over them. The Blues pitched up in a big way as flyhalf, Ihaia West, outside centre, George Moala, and blindside flanker, Jerome Kaino, turned in barnstorming games with West and Moala both scoring tries. The Crusaders impressed with their speed and efficiency at the breakdown as well as their handling skills with left wing, Nemani Nadolo, and replacement scrumhalf, Andrew Ellis, scoring tries. The try by Ellis on 60 minutes for the Crusaders broke the back of the Blues as the game hanged in the balance right up until the end. The Crusaders moved top of the Australasian Group on 45 points after the victory. The Brumbies beat the Sunwolves with 66-5 at the GIO Stadium in Canberra in scoring 10 tries to one. Right wing, Nigel Ah Wong, and hooker, Stephen Moore, both scored a brace of tries as the Brumbies moved into second spot in the Australasian Group on 34 points having won one more game than the Waratahs. The Stormers did enough to beat a gallant Cheetahs outfit with 31-24 at DHL Newlands in Cape Town in a clutch encounter the Stormers had to win to stay in contention in the South African Group. Blindside flanker, Siya Kolisi, and eighthman, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, should be commended for very solid games as the Stormers moved into second spot in the South African Group on 36 points with the victory. The Sharks who had a bye this weekend are third in the South African Group on 35 points and they also hang onto the last playoff spot in the Group.
The Lions beat the Bulls with 56-20 at Loftus Versfeld as they impressed all who witnessed a great spectacle with their way of keeping the ball alive, their continuity, their offloads in the tackle, their support play and with the sheer confidence in which they play champagne rugby. Inside centre, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, scored a brace of tries with his last try being a candidate for try of the season. It was the first ever victory for the Lions against the Bulls in Super Rugby at Loftus while it ended the Bulls winning streak on their home paddock in 2016. With the victory the Lions moved to 42 points in topping the South African Group and also being second overall.
On Sunday the Rebels beat the Force with 27-22 at AAMI Park in Melbourne in another encounter that was in the balance till the end as the Rebels did enough to claim the spoils. Right wing, Sefenaia Naivalu, scored a brace of tries for the Rebels while the left wing, Luke Morahan, scored a brace of tries for the Force.
Super Rugby now takes a break for a month to accommodate the International Tests.