ACT continues to set the pace against the Southern Hemisphere’s best.
Australia’s ACT Brumbies continued to set the pace in rugby’s Super 15 with a bonus-point victory as champions Waikato Chiefs won their rematch of last year’s final with the Coastal Sharks.
The Brumbies kicked away to a five-point break on the overall standings with a crushing six-try 41-7 win over Western Force at home on Saturday, retrieving the Australian conference lead from the Queensland Reds.
The Reds temporarily grabbed the conference lead after their titanic 12-11 victory over the Auckland Blues the previous night in Brisbane.
The Chiefs rallied from back-to-back defeats to win a re-run of last year’s Super Rugby final with a 37-29 victory over South Africa’s Sharks in Hamilton to hold down second place overall.
The Northern Bulls cling on to the South African conference lead and are third overall following their 30-19 win over the New South Wales Waratahs in Pretoria.
The three-time Super Rugby champions are one point clear of the Central Cheetahs in their conference after the Cheetahs downed fellow South Africans Southern Kings 26-12 in Bloemfontein.
The Wellington Hurricanes dropped out of the top-six playoff frame after losing 18-16 to South Africa’s Western Stormers in Palmerston North, while seven-time champions Canterbury Crusaders fought off Australia’s Melbourne Rebels to win 30-26 in Christchurch on Sunday.
The Brumbies outclassed the woeful Force six tries to one in Canberra with Fijian winger Henry Speight scoring a double to take over as the tournament’s leading tryscorer with seven touchdowns.
Jake White’s Brumbies bounced back from the previous week’s dogged 19-19 draw with the Reds to play some scintillating rugby and wrapped up a four-try bonus point by half-time.
The Reds are keeping the pressure on the Brumbies in the Australian conference with a crucial win over the in-form Blues.
The Blues scored the only try of a titanic duel but Quade Cooper’s four penalties proved decisive with the winning kick coming five minutes from time.
With the victory, the Reds completed a clean-sweep over Kiwi opposition this year having previously beaten the Hurricanes, Highlanders and Chiefs to make it 12 wins from their past 13 games against New Zealand teams.
They are not scheduled to face the Crusaders in this season’s regular rounds.
A powerful opening burst laid the foundations for the Chiefs’ win over the Sharks to arrest a two-match losing streak and overtake the Blues at the head of the New Zealand conference.
Both sides took a four-try bonus point from the match, which was as much a reflection of fragile defensive systems as it was a testimony to their attacking intent.
Springbok ace Morne Steyn was the Bulls match-winner with 25 points in the triumph over the Waratahs.
After kicking six penalties and a conversion the fly-half scored a last-minute try to seal an eighth consecutive victory over the Waratahs and deprived them of a losing bonus point they deserved.
The Cheetahs’ joy at defeating the Kings was tempered by their failure to secure a four-try bonus point.
The surprise side this season in the southern hemisphere provincial championship, the Cheetahs scored three tries but a fourth, which would have earned an extra point and taken them top of the South African conference, proved elusive.
The Stormers opened their Australasian road trip with a hard-fought win over the Hurricanes, with both sides scoring two tries and two penalties apiece in a close match where the lead changed five times.
Only a Joe Pietersen conversion separated them at the final whistle to give the Stormers their first away win of the season.