Stormers down Waratahs to claim top spot
May 20, 2012
The Blues' Ali Williams and the Crusaders' Sam Whitelock come to blows during their Super Rugby clash in Christchurch © Getty Images
The Stormers climbed to the top of the Super Rugby standings with a hard fought 19-13 win over the Waratahs on Saturday.
The South African side were far from their best but did just enough to claim the victory and edge ahead of the Chiefs in the overall standings with their New Zealand rivals enjoying a bye. Fullback Joe Pietersen and Tiaan Liebenberg scored their tries with Pietersen and Peter Grant adding points from the boot. "It was a tough game of rugby,'' said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee. "We must give this Stormers side credit for grinding out wins."
The Brumbies sit third in the table and continue to top the Australian conference after Zack Holmes inspired a 37-25 victory over the Hurricanes at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday night. The 21-year-old fly-half, was thrust into the pivotal role after season-ending injuries to Matt Toomua and Christian Lealiifano, scored a try and landed three conversions and a penalty on his way to a 22-point haul as the Brumbies came from 20-13 behind to consolidate their place at the top of the Australian conference ahead of the rest of the weekend's fixtures. "All credit to him. He's been there since July and he's been listening and taking it all in," said coach Jake White.
Elsewhere on Saturday, the Highlanders handed the high-flying Bulls a rare defeat and kept their own play-off hopes alive with a 16-11 victory in their Super Rugby clash in Dunedin. A try from lock Jarrad Hoeata and 11 points from the boot of fly-half Mike Delany were the highlights of a battling display that ended the Bulls' five-game winning run and saw them lose their grip on top spot. The Bulls, who lost prop Dean Greyling to a yellow card in the second half, rallied with a try from replacement Willie Wepener but were unable to break down the home side's stubborn defence. "It was a pretty big game for us,'' said Highlanders captain Jamie Mackintosh. "The way the competition is, we're still in the hunt. We've got big games coming up and it's a good way to start.''
In the Saturday's second game, the Crusaders returned to winning ways in emphatic style with a nine-try 59-12 victory over the Blues in Christchurch. The contest was all but over at half-time after the hosts had powered into a 31-0 lead on the back of scores from Matt Todd, Adam Whitelock, Richie McCaw and Corey Flynn. Andy Ellis heaped woe on the hapless Blues after the break before Flynn added his second. Lachie Munro stopped the rot momentarily with a try for the Blues but tries from Zac Guildford and Tom Marshall completed the rout. Munro had the final say with his second score it could not prevent the Blues sinking to a new low in a troubled season.
McCaw said: "We didn't do anything really different [to the Rebels match]. It was just that we were clinical when we had the ball. We played at the right end of the field and the opportunities we got we made count. There's not a lot between having a good day and a bad day but when it comes together like tonight it's pretty pleasing."
Elsewhere, the Sharks downed the Cheetahs 34-20 in Bloemfontein. The Sharks ran in four tries through JP Pietersen, Frederic Michalak, Lwazi Mvovo and Meyer Bosman with Michalak adding a further 14 points with the boot. The Cheetahs only managed one score of their own through JA Strauss but it proved to be far too little to stop the Sharks' charge.
Also on Saturday, Quade Cooper made his much-anticipated comeback from injury as the Reds beat the Lions 34-20 in Brisbane. The Wallabies fly-half completed 40 minutes after recovering from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament injury, which has kept him out of the game since last year's Rugby World Cup. It was a further boost for the Reds, who ran in four tries to secure an important bonus-point victory. Rhys Gill, Saia Faingaa, Chris Feauai-Sautia and Will Genia all touched down for the hosts while Mike Harris kicked 14 points. "Running out in front of a big home crowd was a lot of fun, and it was a big pat on the back for the big road I've come from," Cooper said.
In the weekend's final game, the Rebels claimed a narrow 32-31 victory over the Force in Perth with a late Kurtley Beale penalty giving the visitors their first win on the road this season.
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