Chiefs continue to set the pace
May 6, 2012
Chiefs scrum-half Brendon Leonard crosses for a try against the Lions © Getty Images
The Chiefs made it nine wins from 10 games with an efficient 34-21 win over the Lions in their Super Rugby clash in Pukekohe on Saturday.
Fly-half Aaron Cruden was the star of the show with a try, four conversions and two penalties to cement the Chiefs' place at the top of the New Zealand conference. The Chiefs' other tries came through Craig Clarke, flyer Lelia Masaga and Brendon Leonard. The Lions notched three tries of their own - with Cobus Grobelaar grabbing a brace - but they remain rooted to the foot of the South African conference with just one victory to their name.
Reflecting on what he called a "pretty flat" performance, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said: "There certainly wasn't the same sort of intensity we've played with recently." His skipper Craig Clarke added: "We've got things set down we want to achieve in the way we play the game and the way we want to defend. We've had lapses in that tonight."
Elsewhere on Saturday, the Brumbies overcame rivals the Waratahs 23-6 to underline their status as the leading Australian side this term. Brumbies winger Jeremy Speight scored a sensational solo try on the half-time whistle with Andrew Smith adding a second in the second-half but he victory was overshadowed by a broken ankle suffered by Wallabies hopeful Christian Lealiifano who has since been ruled out for the rest of the season.
The Bulls sit atop of the South African standings having come out on the right side of a 10-try thriller against the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park on Friday night. Fly-half Morne Steyn led the way with 21 points that propelled his side to a 41-25 triumph with further tries from Akona Ndungane, Bjorn Basson, CJ Stander and JJ Engelbrecht seeing the visitors home.
The Rebels - who fielded Kurtley Beale at No.10 after the departure of Danny Cipriani - pushed the Bulls all the way with two tries from Cooper Vuna and other efforts from Rodney Blake, Nick Phipps and skipper Gareth Delve but their leaky defence left little room for manoeuvre in the final reckoning. "It was pretty exciting from the stands, high intensity, good attacking from both sides, maybe not the best defensively from us but good to get the win," said Bulls captain Pierre Spies.
The Crusaders remain in the play-off mix having beaten the Reds 15-11 in a replay of last year's season finale. The Reds began brightly with a first minute try from hooker James Hanson but Crusaders fly-half Tom Taylor steered the hosts home in Christchurch with five penalties.
Fly-half Pat Lambie further enhanced his growing reputation as he scored all of the Sharks' points as they beat the Highlanders 28-16 in Durban. The 21-year-old South Africa international scored the Sharks' only try on the hour while also kicking over 23 points to keep their play-off hopes alive.
The Cheetahs kept their slim post-season hopes alive with a scrappy 17-13 win over the Western Force in Bloemfontein. Skipper Adriaan Strauss scored the home side's only try on 53 minutes and they held on to the lead to claim a fourth win of the season. The Force had threatened an unlikely success when Benson Stanley crossed after a charge down on 46 minutes but the visitors' hope was short-lived.
Earlier on Friday, the Hurricanes inflicted more pain on Pat Lam's miserable Blues with a 35-19 victory over their Kiwi rivals in Wellington where All Blacks winger Cory Jane was an impressive figure throughout. The beleaguered Blues, who have now won just once in 10 games, were in touch at the break thanks to Piri Weepu's four penalties but the Hurricanes took charge in the second half with tries by Julian Savea, TJ Perenara and Jason Eaton putting the game beyond doubt following first-half efforts from Conrad Smith and Andre Taylor.
Blues' coach Pat Lam is now fighting for his job with New Zealand Herald columnist Wynne Gray among those calling for change. "Memo Blues," Gray wrote. "It's time. The stagnation cannot be allowed to continue. Start thinking clearly and make some decisions before the franchise heads into an uncontrolled tailspin. Coach Pat Lam is one of rugby's gentlemen, but he is not cutting it as a coach, not with the Blues. They need a different supremo next season."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene