Chiefs continue to set the pace
April 29, 2012
The Crusaders' Robbie Fruean races away to score one of his two tries against the Waratahs in Sydney © Getty Images
The Chiefs produced a stunning second-half display to down the Hurricanes 33-14 in Waikato on Saturday and cement their place at the top of the Super Rugby standings.
Fly-half Aaron Cruden's boot gave the Chiefs a 12-8 lead at half-time with fullback Andre Taylor keeping the visitors in touch with a first-half try. The Chiefs stepped up a gear after the break and ran in three scores including yet another for prop Sona Taumololo who has now notched an incredible seven tries in nine games. Winger Lelia Masaga and replacement Toby Smith rounded out the scoring to leave the to help condemn the 'Canes to their fifth defeat of the season.
Elsewhere on Saturday, the Stormers held on to the top spot in the South African conference with an industrious 17-3 win over the Western Force in Perth in dreadful conditions. Torrential rain ensured endless unforced errors with Bryan Habana's intercept try midway through the first half eventually proving to be the difference between the two teams. However, replays suggested the Springboks winger may have lost control of the ball before grounding it. Peter Grant added a second try in the 48th minute with the Force offering little in return and as a result they slipped to their seventh reverse of the campaign.
In Saturday's other game, the Highlanders kept the pressure on the Chiefs in the New Zealand Conference with 36-33 comeback victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. First-half tries from prop Coenraad Oosthuizen and lock Andries Ferreira put the hosts in control and there was worse to come for the visitors when fly-half Johan Goosen added another after the break. But back came the Highlanders with a try from replacement Chris Noakes and two from fellow bench-warmer Jimmy Cowan turning the game on its head. It was then left to Noakes, who finished the game with 17 points, to complete the comeback from the kicking tee.
The Crusaders also remain in the mix following a 37-33 victory over the Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday. A brace for centre Robbie Fruean and other scores for wingers Zac Guildford and Adam Whitelock saw the Crusaders home with fly-half Tim Taylor slotting 17 points and there was more good news with Richie McCaw making his long-awaited return from injury with a 25-minute cameo. A late try from replacement Sarel Pretorius ensured the Waratahs notched a valuable losing bonus point.
On Friday, the Brumbies cemented their spot at the top of the Australian conference with a 34-20 win over the Lions in South Africa. The Brumbies were in ruthless form running in six tries en route to their victory. Loosehead Ruaidhri Murphy got the scoreboard ticking over early on with Henry Speight and Andrew Smith also crossing in the first-half. The Lions offered little in return with the Brumbies adding a further three scores in the second-half. Speight grabbed his second with the other tries coming from Joseph Tomane and Wallaby Ben Alexander. The Lions crossed for two scores in the second 40 but it failed to halt the Brumbies' charge.
Earlier on Friday, the Reds got their Super Rugby campaign back on track with a 23-11 victory over the Blues in Auckland. With Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia pulling the strings in an impressive display, the defending champions bounced back from their defeat at the hands of the Stormers last time out to keep the pressure on conference leaders the Brumbies and condemn the Blues to their sixth straight loss.
The visitors raced into a 12-0 lead thanks to tries from centre Digby Ioane and fullback Luke Morahan and while the Blues rallied with a try from flanker Luke Braid, there was no coming back after Reds winger Dominic Shipperley crossed for his side's third try shortly after the break.
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