Lions, Crusaders press Super title claims
SYDNEY – The Golden Lions won a vital away game to take charge of their South Africa conference as the Canterbury Crusaders edged clear in the New Zealand league with three rounds left in Super Rugby.
Winger Nemani Nadolo celebrated his return to the Crusaders with a crucial try as they regained control of the New Zealand conference with a 26-21 victory over the Auckland Blues RESTRICTED FOR EDITORIAL USEFiji’s wing Nemani Nadolo holds ice on his head during a Fiji team training session on September 29, 2015 in Swansea, south Wales during the Rugby World Cup. AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE RESTRICTED FOR EDITORIAL USE
Two-time winners ACT Brumbies hold a slight advantage over the NSW Waratahs in the Australian conference, while the Western Stormers hold down the remaining automatic finals berth in Africa 1.
The Lions won a Super Rugby match in the Pretoria fortress of neighbours Northern Bulls for the first time with a seven-try 56-20 triumph to jump to a seven-point lead in Africa 2 heading into the June Test recess.
The Johannesburg-based team’s destruction of the Bulls completed a clean sweep this season over other leading South African sides, having beaten the Stormers at home and Coastal Sharks away.
Winger Nemani Nadolo celebrated his return to the Crusaders with a crucial try as they regained control of the New Zealand conference with a 26-21 victory over the Auckland Blues.
With the competition taking a break for the international season, the seven-time champion Crusaders moved to 45 points, three more than the Waikato Chiefs, who were whipped 45-25 by the Waratahs in Sydney.
Wallabies Israel Folau and Michael Hooper scored try doubles as the Waratahs crushed the Chiefs.
The Waratahs unleashed their best rugby of the season, outscoring the Chiefs six tries to four with Bernard Foley kicking six conversions and a penalty.
The Crusaders and Chiefs clash in Fiji when the competition resumes on July 1 in a match that could ultimately decide the regular season.
The Brumbies piled on 10 tries in a 66-5 bonus-point rout of Japan’s competition newcomers the Sunwolves to take over at the top of the Australian conference.
The Brumbies were never under any threat and went on with the job in the second half against the Japanese visitors after leading 28-0 at half-time on a chilly Canberra evening.
Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore and winger Nigel Ah Wong each scored two tries as the Brumbies joined the Waratahs on 34 points, but ahead on the ladder with eight wins to their rivals’ seven.
– Boost for Hurricanes –
Ardie Savea returned from suspension to score a last-gasp try as the Wellington Hurricanes beat the Otago Highlanders 27-20 to boost their play-off hopes.
Savea, one of five players dropped last week for missing a team curfew, scored twice, his second in the final minute, as the Hurricanes ran in three tries to two in a rematch of last year’s final.
The win puts the Hurricanes two points ahead of the Highlanders in the ultra-competitive New Zealand conference, where the battle for finals spots is set to go down to the wire.
The Stormers beat Central Cheetahs 31-24 with fly-half Jean-Luc du Plessis kicking 16 points to raise his season tally to 88.
Southern Kings scored three late tries when the Jaguares were reduced to 12 men, winning an error-strewn battle of strugglers 29-22 in Port Elizabeth.
The Argentine visitors had lock Tomas Lavanini and tighthead prop Ramiro Herrera red carded during the first half for shoulder charges to the heads of South African opponents.
But having gallantly turned a 6-3 half-time lead into a 22-10 advantage, the Jaguares were dealt a further blow 10 minutes from time when flanker Tomas Lezana was yellow carded for collapsing a maul.
The three cards added to a season-long tale of Jaguares’ indiscipline, with flanker Leonardo Senatore banned for 10 weeks this month having been cited for biting an opponent.
The Melbourne Rebels and Western Force face off later on Sunday in Melbourne, while the Sharks and Queensland Reds had byes this weekend.