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Reds down Crusaders in Brisbane
ESPNscrum Staff
May 29, 2011
The Reds' Anthony Faingaa is wrapped up by the Crusaders, Reds v Crusaders, Super Rugby, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia, May 29, 2011
The Reds' Anthony Faingaa is wrapped up by the Crusaders in front of a record Australian Super Rugby crowd in Brisbane © Getty Images
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The Reds closed in on a home semi-final with a narrow 17-16 win over the Crusaders in their Super Rugby clash at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Sunday.

A controversial late penalty from fly-half Quade Cooper sent a record Australian Super Rugby crowd of 48,301 home happy after an enthralling see-saw contest. With 58 points the Reds have bolted four points clear of the Blues, who had a bye this week, at the top of the overall standings with three rounds remaining, while the Stormers are third on 52 points and the Crusaders fourth, a further three points adrift after suffering their fourth loss of the campaign.

Crusaders fly-half Dan Carter gave the visitors the lead before the Reds struck back with a try for centre Ben Tapuai that was converted by Cooper. But their lead was short-lived with Crusaders winger Brent Ward crossing on the half hour with Carter's conversion giving the Kiwis a 10-7 lead at the break. Reds scrum-half Will Genia scooted over early in the second half with Cooper adding the extras before two penalties from Carter edged his side ahead once more. But when Australian referee Stuart Dickinson contentiously pinged Crusaders captain Richie McCaw for hands in the ruck in the final minute, Cooper was able to win the game.

The Lions triumphed in Dunedin for the first time by coming from behind to defeat the Highlanders 26-22 in a dramatic encounter at Carisbrook on Saturday. After a bye last weekend, the home side looked rusty during the opening 40 minutes but they still managed to reach the interval 16-9 to the good, with a converted try from centre Shaun Treeby proving the difference between the two sides.

However, within ten minutes of the restart the Lions had drawn level. Fly-half Elton Jantjies, who kicked terrifically all night, added the extras after No.8 Josh Strauss had driven his way over from close range. Jantjies then edged the visitors into the lead with a penalty but two successful strikes on goal from opposite number Limo Sopoaga, who ended with 15 points to his name, meant that it was the Hurricanes who led by three as full-time approached. However, Sopoaga then failed to find touch with a late clearance and that enabled the Lions to launch a series of attacks, which eventually led to lock Wikus van Heerden forcing his way over to claim a famous win for the Lions, which leaves the Highlanders' play-off hopes in serious jeopardy.

The Stormers maintained their drive for a home draw in the play-offs with a hard-fought 16-3 win over the Brumbies in Canberra later in the day. Centre Christian Lealiifano opened the scoring for the Brumbies with a long-range penalty 10 minutes in but the Stormers had the better of the opening period, showing the greater attacking menace throughout, and it was they who reached the interval with a slim advantage thanks to the boot of fly-half Kurt Coleman.

The Stormers stretched their advantage six minutes into the second half when flanker Francois Louw powered through two tacklers on his way to the line. The Brumbies enjoyed plenty of possession thereafter but they just could not find a way through a superbly well-marshalled Stormers defence and the visitors sealed their maiden victory in the Australian capital when Gio Aplon landed a penalty with just over 10 minutes remaining.

The Bulls bolstered their play-off hopes with a 32-21 victory over the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. The hosts lead 11-0 at the break following centre Bjorn Basson's second minute try and two penalties from fly-half Morne Steyn. The Cheetahs came back into the game after the break with a try from flanker Ashley Johnson, which was converted by fly-half Sias Ebersohn.

But the Bulls responded two tries from replacement Daine Roussow, both of which were converted by Steyn, to open up a 25-7 lead. The Cheetahs refused to give in and rallied again with Johnson's second try before Ebersohn scored a try of his own to end the game with a personal haul of 11 points. With the Cheetahs trailing just 25-21 the Bulls were reduced to 14 men as Deon Stegmann saw yellow. But scrum-half Francois Hougaard's injury time try sealed the win for the Bulls and ended the Cheetahs' run of four successive wins.

The Sharks consolidated their place among the wildcard places with a 26-21 victory over the Waratahs at Kings Park. Young Springbok fly-half Patrick Lambie was the hero for the home side, scoring 21 points to confirm second spot, behind the Stormers, in the South African conference. Kurtley Beale landed the opening points with a fourth minute penalty, but Lambie crossed for the opening try five minutes later to edge the hosts ahead, having capitalised on his side's scrum platform.

The No.10 kicked two further penalties before the break, but Wallabies winger Lachie Turner breached the Sharks' defence after good work from Dave Dennis to ensure that there were two points in it at the break, Beale having landed another penalty. Six minutes into the second-half the 'Tahs stole the initiative with a try to playmaker Dan Halangahu, who beat Meyer Bosman and Louis Ludik to score. Beale converted and added another penalty after Jean Deysel was shown a yellow card for clearing out Tom Carter by the neck. Sharks wing JP Pietersen scored the decisive try in the corner after 55 minutes and Lambie's touchline kick made it a one-point game. He landed two further penalties as the clock ticked down, with the Waratahs unable to find another score.

The Hurricanes kept their slim hopes of a top-six finish alive with a 34-28 bonus-point victory over the Western Force in Palmerston North on Friday night. The Hurricanes found it difficult to combat the visitors' regimented and disciplined approach, with their only try of the opening spell, to centre Ma'a Nonu, owing everything to a clever offload from Conrad Smith following a break by halfback Chris Eaton. The Force hit back with two of their own, the first to centre Rory Sidey after wing David Smith was dragged down just short of the line, and the second to Shepherd after a patient build up through 11 phases of play.

All Blacks halfback Piri Weepu was injected into the game at the start of the second-half and nine minutes later the Hurricanes were back in the game. Again it was Nonu who crossed the line, his second try coming when he ripped the ball from Smith, whose footwork had taken him close to the line before he was held up. The Force hit back moments later when sweet stepping fly-half James Stannard eluded two tacklers to lay on a try for No.8 Ben McCalman but Hurricanes playmaker Aaron Cruden came into his own as the match wore on, his running game being employed to telling effect in the last 10 minutes when he set up tries for lock James Broadhurst and fullback Corey Jane through a combination of snappy footwork and quick hands. His goalkicking was tidy as well, as the Manawatu product enjoyed returning to his home ground by nailing six from six in a personal haul of 14 points.

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