Resurgent Reds dent Chiefs' title charge
May 13, 2012
The Red's Will Genia dives over to score during his side's victory over the Chiefs © Getty Images
The Chiefs missed out on the chance to reclaim top spot in the Super Rugby standings as they fell to a shock 42-27 defeat to the Reds in Brisbane on Sunday.
The high-flying Chiefs looked on course for their 10th win in 11 outings this season at half-time thanks largely to three tries in seven minutes courtesy of Sonny Bill Williams, Liam Messam and prolific prop Sona Taumalolo who is the joint top tryscorer in the competition with eight. But the Reds roared back and produced an equally emphatic burst either side of the break that saw Ben Lucas, Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia and Saia Faingaa all cross to keep defending champions in the hunt for the Australian conference title. "The Reds are back, back on a roll," declared winger Digby Ioane, who celebrated his 50th Super Rugby game.
Instead it is the Bulls who head the overall table but they left it late to dispatch the Waratahs 27-24 in Sydney on Friday night. Bulls tight-head Werner Kruger crossed the line in the 77th minute for what proved to be the match-winning score. The Waratahs had led 13-10 at half-time thanks to Rob Horne's score and added another in the second-half through Atieli Pakalani. But Kruger's try, along with Francois Hougaard and Akona Ndungane was enough to give the Bulls their win and cement their place at the top of the South African conference. "It's always tough coming to Sydney," said Bulls captain Pierre Spies. "We had to fight it out to the end. I'm very proud of the team. When you're playing away from home you need that defence... We're going to enjoy tonight and re-focus on Monday."
The Melbourne Rebels produced the biggest shock of the current campaign with a 28-19 upset of the Crusaders at AAMI Park on Saturday night. A battling display from the hosts saw them overturn a nine-point half-time deficit with the second of two tries for scrum-half Nick Phipps and another for veteran centre Stirling Mortlock helping to end the in-form Crusaders' four-game winning run. Not even the presence of All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw, making his first start of the season, could inspire the Crusaders and there was more bad news with a back injury for No.8 Kieran Read. "I think that it's been building for a long time but it's nice that it's finally come to the fore," commented Rebels skipper Gareth Delve.
Later in the day, Peter Grant's boot did the damage as Stormers edged out the Cheetahs 16-14 despite being outscored by two tries to one. Stormers, who lie second a point behind Bulls in the South African conference, scored all their points in the first 24 minutes and then had to watch Cheetahs chip away at their total before ultimately falling short.
The Sharks boosted their play-off bid with a seven-try 53-11 mauling of the Western Force in Durban. Winger Lwazi Mvovo scored a second-half double, after the hosts had led 20-6 at half-time, to break open the match and send them to a crucial bonus-point win. At one point they rattled up 43 unanswered points as the Force's woeful campaign hit a new low, and left them bottom of the Australia conference.
A late try from winger Julian Savea propelled the Hurricanes to a 26-20 comeback win against the Highlanders in Dunedin. The hosts were on track for their eighth win of the campaign following first half tries from fly-half Chris Noakes and flanker Adam Thomson but the Hurricanes bounced back to keep their slim play-off hopes alive with flanker Faifili Levave crossing to bring them within striking range before Savea struck with just six minutes remaining.
Elsewhere on Friday, the Blues recorded just their second win of the season when they overcame the Lions 25-3 in Auckland. Michael Hobbs, Alby Mathewson and Luke Braid crossed for the Blues who are in the process of advertising for a new coach ahead of next season with current boss Pat Lam struggling to get the best out of his side.
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