The Emirates Lions won their big SA derby 29-16 against the DHL Stormers in Cape Town to end the Cape side’s unbeaten run, while the Vodacom Bulls returned to winning ways thanks to their hard-fought 26-13 win over the Jaguares in Pretoria in their Saturday evening clash.
In other round eight matches involving South African sides, the Southern Kings fought bravely in their 47-34 defeat to the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, while the Toyota Cheetahs succumbed 41-27 to the Chiefs in Bloemfontein despite an early lead of 24-0.
The big match of the day saw the determined Emirates Lions outscoring the DHL Stormers by four tries to one to earn a vital bonus point win. It was the first loss for the Cape side following six straight wins since the start of the 2017 campaign, and also the first time the Joburg side had managed to defeat their rivals on the famous DHL Newlands ground (although the combined Cats side managed a couple of wins previously). Their last visit to the Mother City, in 2015, ended in a pulsating 19-19 draw.
The Highvelders dominated the first half and scored three tries to one for a deserved 22-13 halftime advantage. The visitors shrugged off the early loss of influential young centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg, who left the field during the opening stages with a knee injury, while flanker Jaco Kriel was yellow carded and later cited for a late tackle.
The positive result leaves the Highveld team on 28 points from seven matches played thus far, two more points than Robbie Fleck’s team.
In the late evening match in Pretoria, the Vodacom Bulls shrugged off three overseas losses to grind out a much needed 26-13 win over the gritty Jaguares to register their second win of the campaign. Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard played an instrumental role for the home side and the pivot kicked four penalties and two conversions for a personal contribution of 16 points, while he also initiated the opening try of the game.
The Toyota Cheetahs started the match in impressive fashion and scored 24 unanswered points during the early part of the first half. However, they failed to capitalise on that good start and the Chiefs eventually won the match in comfortable fashion following a successful comeback.
Earlier in the day the Southern Kings fought bravely in Brisbane, however, defensive errors saw them slip to a 47-34 defeat at the Suncorp Stadium. The Reds led 14-10 at halftime and the match came alive in the second half with both sides displaying their appetite for open, attacking play. The Cell C Sharks were not in action this weekend.
The weekend’s results:
Vodacom Bulls 26, Jaguares 13
The Bulls claimed only their second victory of 2017 on Saturday as they got the better of the Jaguares, winning 26-13 at Loftus Versfeld.
After five losses from six games previous to this, the Pretoria side wouldn’t have cared that this victory came in rather scrappy circumstances.
Tries came from wing Travis Ismaiel and second-row Lood de Jager while fly-half Handré Pollard impressed, kicking 16 points for his team.
In reply the Jaguares, who suffer a blow to their Africa 2 hopes, could only cross once through scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou in a poor effort.
The Bulls hit the front early in the contest when illegal scrummaging from the Jaguares led to Pollard firing over a penalty after four minutes.
However, the Jaguares levelled 15 minutes later when Iglesias was successful off the tee after a ruck offence in a slow start to the fixture.
The first try was much-needed and arrived on 26 minutes when a scrappy period of play saw wing Ismaiel gather the ball and finish strongly. With Pollard adding the two the Bulls had a 10-3 lead and would make it 13-3 before the break when Iglesias was carded for a ruck offence.
Pollard was the first scorer of the second-half too when he landed his third penalty of the game when Guido Petti was pinged on the ground.
The Jaguares though gave themselves a lifeline in the game six minutes later as after deciding to snub three points, a period of sustained pressure led to scrum-half Bertranou burrowing his way over the whitewash. Iglesias knocked over the conversion and suddenly it was 16-10.
Iglesias was on target again on 56 minutes to further reduce the arrears to three points but then came a crucial moment in the match eight minutes later, with Pollard’s kick through causing chaos before replacement wing Warrick Gelant set up lock De Jager for a converted try.
Pollard fittingly made sure of the victory on 70 minutes with a penalty from halfway as he and the Bulls enjoyed a much-needed win at home.
Tries: Ismaiel, L de Jager
Cons: Pollard 2
Pens: Pollard 4
Pens: Iglesias 2
Yellow Card: Iglesias
Vodacom Bulls 26 – Tries: Travis Ismaiel, Lood de Jager; Conversions: Handré Pollard (2); Penalties: Pollard (4).
Jaguares 13 – Try: Gonzalo Bertranou; Conversion: Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias; Penalties: Iglesias (2).
Emirates Lions 29, DHL Stormers 16
The Lions earned a hard-fought 16-29 victory over the Stormers at Newlands in Super Rugby on Saturday.
The result means the Lions usurp the Stormers at the top of the South African group and deservedly so after an excellent opening 40 minutes.
This was truly a game of two halves. The Lions enjoyed all the possession and territory in the opening 40 minutes, but in the second half it was the Stormers who came out with renewed fire and put the Lions under the cosh.
But the Lions responded with an absolutely terrific defensive effort late on, keeping the Stormers at bay.
After Stormers scrum-half Jano Vermaak was penalised for a tip-tackle just after the match got under underway, the Lions kicked for touch from the resulting penalty.
From the lineout, the Lions secured possession, before going on a powerful driving maul from which prop Malcolm Marx barged over to make it 5-0 to the Lions.
Two minutes later Lions’ star centre Rohan Janse Van Rensburg went down with what looked like a serious knee injury and was replaced by Harold Vorster in the fifth minute, in what could prove to be undoubtedly a serious blow for the Lions.
The Stormers had early lineout struggles, with hooker Bongi Mbonambi struggling to find his jumpers. Despite this, they responded in emphatic fashion with Dillon Lleyds once again proving his class.
A move which started in their own half and including great hands from the back three was finished off in trademark clinical style by Lleyds in the 10th minute, who is now becoming a firm fans’ favourite. Robert Du Preez slotted the conversion from the corner to make it 7-5 to the Stormers.
This lead lasted less than a couple of minutes before Vorster burst through the Stormers’ defensive line to
dot down in the 13th minute. Elton Jantjies slotted the conversion to make it 12-7 to the Lions.
But despite the Lions dominating possession and enjoying territorial advantage, the Stormers still managed to stay in touch when Robert du Preez slotted an easy penalty to reduce the deficit to two.
Jaco Kriel was then yellow carded in the 25th minute after a late tackle on Du Preez as the fly-half was readying himself to kick. Contact was made with the head area and Kriel could have no complaints.
While Du Preez was receiving attention, SP Marais slotted the resulting penalty between the posts to give the Stormers a 13-12 lead.
However, this lead was short-lived, as Kriel bundled over in the 27th minute for the Lions after the visitors went through numerous phases after some stoic defence by the Stormers.
One wonders how TMO Shaun Veldsman said he had ‘compelling evidence’ that the ball had been grounded when it looked as if the ball had been held up.
Jansen slotted the conversion and the sides went into the interval with the Lions leading 22-13.
After the resumption of the second half, the Stormers were really putting the pressure on the Lions, camping on their try-line for a good ten minutes but were unable to finish. This was mainly due to an incredible Lions defensive effort. Tempers started boiling over especially from the Stormers, with Eben Etzebeth at the forefront of the scuffle.
The second half consisted of one Stormers attack after another, as Robbie Fleck’s men came out with renewed vigour.
But the Lions responded with a terrific defensive effort, with the Stormers literally camped on their touchline for the first fifteen minutes of the second half.
Finally, the Stormers got points on the board, when SP Marais slotted a penalty from 47 yards out to make it 16-22 in the 70th minute to set up a thrilling finale.
However, the Stormers’ glimpse of getting something out of the game was extinguished when the Lions went over for a try in the 72nd minute when speedster Sylvian Mahuza went over in the corner after brilliant team play.
Jantjies converted to make it 29-16 to the Lions and that’s how it ended as the Lions snapped the Stormers’ unbeaten home record this year.
Con: Du Preez
Pens: Du Preez, Marais 2
Tries: Marx, Vorster, Kriel, Mahuza
Cons: Jantjies 3
Yellow Cards: Kriel
Emirates Lions 29 – Tries: Malcolm Marx, Harold Vorster, Jaco Kriel and Sylvian Mahuza; Conversions: Elton Jantjies 3; Penalty: Elton Jantjies 3.
DHL Stormers 16 – Try: Dillyn Leyds; Conversion: Robert du Preez; Penalties: Robert du Preez 3.
Toyota Cheetahs 27, Chiefs 41
A blistering comeback from the Chiefs ensured they emerged 41-27 victors over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The result means the Chiefs remain very much in the mix in the New Zealand conference standings, while the Cheetahs sit in second place in the Africa 1 conference temporarily, depending on the Bulls result.
The Cheetahs will be kicking themselves after surging into a 24-0 lead and going into half-time at 24-14. However, a dismal second-half display meant they only scored a further three points to the Chiefs’ 27.
It was the Cheetahs who surged into a 24-0 lead in the first quarter of the match before the visitors had even managed to settle in, capitalising on their territorial advantage and dominance of possession.
Raymond Rhule opened the scoring after being put into space from scrum-half Shaun Venter. Rhule cleverly spotted the mismatch and coasted past the outside of Chiefs prop Kane Hames to dot down in the 10th minute. Niel Marais converted to make the score 10-0 after 10 minutes.
Marais then put Clayton Blommetjies into space who showed incredible vision with his superb offload setting Torsten van Jaarsveld on an unstoppable angled run over the white chalk. Marais converted again to make it 17-0.
The next Cheetahs try actually came from a Chiefs penalty. After Oupa Mohoje had turned over the ball for the hosts, Blommetjies in fine creative form, beat two tacklers and offloaded to the captain Francois Venter who took a few steps and planted it between the sticks in the 20th minute.
The Chiefs, desperate to respond, after an embarassing opening stanza, then camped inside of the Cheetahs’ half for a good eight minutes before their persistence was finally rewarded with a try. From the five-metre scrum, they went to the short-side and good hands from Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Liam Messam meant Toni Pulu just got over in the corner, avoiding the touchline by inches.
Brodie Retalick then secured the ball from a five-metre lineout and offloaded to Sam Cane whose direct running pierced through the backtracking Cheetahs defence. He was brought down just before the try-line. But a quick pick-up and go from Pulu ensured he dotted down in what was great set-piece rugby from the visitors that looked like it came straight off the training ground.
The Chiefs started the second-half much like the first conceding way too many penalties. They were eventually penalised by referee Jaco Van Heerden when prop Hames was sent to the sin-bin for collapsing the maul. Marais put the penalty between the posts to extend the lead to 27-14.
His opposite number Aaron Cruden responded immediately with a penalty of his own to bring the deficit back to just 10.
And then, in the try of the match and despite still having 14 men, the Chiefs’ counter-attacking extraordinaire Damian McKenzie once again sparked off the move that led to Kerr-Barlow’s touch-down, just as he had done in the last match against the Stormers.
After beating a few players, McKenzie got one too many Cheetahs players to commit to him before cleverly putting Sam McNicol into space, whose final offload found Kerr-Barlow who had a simple finish to execute with an empty try-line in front of him.
The Chiefs completed their comeback courtesy of supreme creator McKenzie once again. The 21-year-old instinctively knows where the space is and this time it was James Lowe who benefited, who had only a few metres to run before he dropped on top of the ball. It was wonderfully controlled possession and elusive running from the Waikato side who had taken the ball through eight phases. Cruden then put a kick over from a tight angle to put his side into the lead at 29-27.
The next two Chiefs tries came purely from Cheetahs errors. The first came after Fred Zeilinga, on as a substitute for Marais, missed a crucial penalty. From the restart, Cruden kicked to the Cheetahs forwards but Henco Venter lost his footing, allowing substitute winger Shaun Stevenson a free run to the line to dot down in the 72nd minute.
The second try was even more diabolical in defensive terms. The Cheetahs get the ball at their 22 after a kick forward but are driven back to their five-metre. They lost it and Hika Elliot was the man who took advantage of the mistake, going over the line to score the try in the 76th minute and ultimately put the nail in the Cheetahs’ coffin.
Tries: Rhule, Van Jaarsveld, Venter
Cons: Marais 3
Pens: Marais 2
Tries: Pulu 2, Kerr-Barlow, Lowe, Stevenson, Elliot
Cons: Cruden 4
Yellow Cards: Hames
Toyota Cheetahs 27 – Tries: Francois Venter (2), Torsten van Jaarsveld, Raymond Rhule; Conversions: Niel Marais (3); Penalties: Marais (2).
Chiefs 41 – Tries: Toni Pulu (2), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, James Lowe, Hika Elliot; Conversions: Aaron Cruden (4); Penalty: Cruden.
Brumbies 17 Rebels 19
The Rebels claimed their first Super Rugby win of the season when they beat the Brumbies 19-17 in Melbourne on Saturday.
As the scoreline suggests, this was a hard-fought encounter and the Rebels secured the result thanks to a late penalty from Reece Hodge.
The Rebels will breathe a huge sigh of relief as poor discipline nearly cost them this match after Colby Fainga’a, Lopeti Timani and Fereti Sa’aga were all yellow carded
The result ends the Brumbies’ run of ten successive wins over Australian opposition although they are still at the top of their country’s conference while the Rebels are at the bottom despite their win
The opening exchanges were evenly contested but the home side held a slight edge and eventually took the lead courtesy of a Hodge penalty in the tenth minute.
Three minutes later, the game came alive thanks to a moment of magic from Sefa Naivalu. The Wallaby flyer showed his class when he set off on a mazy run and shrugged off the attentions of five defenders before crossing for the opening try.
Hodge added the extras which meant the home side had their tails up with the score at 10-0. The Rebels lost the initiative shortly afterwards when their flankers Fainga’a and Timani were sent to the sin bin for foul play.
Fainga’a was yellow carded for a tip-tackle on Sam Carter and Timani received his marching orders after he kneed Rory Arnold in the head at the ensuing ruck.
With a two man advantage, the Brumbies soon opened their account when Henry Speight got over for a try after Jarrad Butler did well by with a brilliant dummy in the build-up before offloading to the Wallaby flyer.
And although this was the only points scored during Fainga’a and Timani’s spell on the sidelines, the visitors scored their second try in the 32nd minute when Butler dotted down after a powerful scrum from the Brumbies close to the Rebels’ try-line.
Hodge added a penalty five minutes later which meant the game was evenly poised with the Rebels leading 13-12 at half-time.
The hosts suffered a setback early in the second half, however, when Sa’aga was sent to the sin bin for a cynical foul on defence close to his try-line and like those previous yellow cards, the Brumbies punished them with another Speight try.
This after he ran onto a pass from Joe Powell at the ensuing scrum and beat Marika Koroibete before crossing the whitewash. That was the last time the two-time champions scored points as the rest of the match turned into an arm wrestle with both sides trying to secure the result.
The Rebels narrowed the gap to a point on the hour-mark when Hodge landed a longe range penalty and although the Brumbies tried gallantly to seal the win, the home side kept them at bay with a solid defensive effort.
That defence proved crucial as two minutes before full-time Hodge slotted his fourth three-pointer from the kicking tee which secured his team their maiden win of the season at their sixth attempt.
For Melbourne Rebels:
Pens: Hodge 4
Yellow Cards: Fainga’a, Timani, Sa’aga
Tries: Speight 2, Butler
Queensland Reds 47, Southern Kings 34
The Reds got their campaign back on track when they claimed a deserved 47-34 victory over the Kings in Brisbane on Saturday.
Both sides deserve credit for making this the entertaining spectacle that it was although the Reds got the rub of the green in the end and outscored their visitors by seven tries to five with Eto Nabuli, Karmichael Hunt and Izaia Perese all scoring a brace.
The match was also a memorable one for Wallaby legend George Smith, who scored a try for the Reds in his 150th Super Rugby match.
The Kings, meanwhile, are still at the bottom of the Africa 2 Conference standings.
The Reds did most of the attacking during the opening exchanges and spent the first 10 minutes camped inside the Kings’ 22. They opened the scoring as early as the fifth minute when Nabuli found himself in space down the right-hand touchline before powering his way over for a deserved try.
Quade Cooper added the extras but the Reds could not build on that early lead.
The Kings set up several phases of attack inside the Reds’ half and were rewarded in the 22nd minute when Chris Cloete scored their first try after gathering a perfectly-weighted Masixole Banda grubber kick.
Five minutes later, the Reds cancelled out that effort when Hunt ran a good angle close to the visitors’ try-line before diving over for his first try.
The home side were dealt a blow three minutes before the interval when Duncan Paia’aua was sent to the sin bin for an illegal tackle on Luzuko Vulindlu. Lionel Cronje slotted the resulting penalty which meant the Reds held a slender 14-10 lead at half-time.
The hosts made a superb start to the second half when, from a lineout on the edge of the Kings’ 22, they launched an attack and Smith and Scott Higginbotham traded passes before Smith went over the whitewash despite the attentions of Yaw Penxe and Mzwanele Zito.
Quade Cooper added the extras which meant there was some breathing space for the Reds as they now held an 11-point lead.
The Kings did not take that lying down and five minutes later, Louis Schreuder barged over from close quarters at a ruck deep inside the Reds’ 22.
The hosts struck back and Hunt soon had his second try after Cooper did well in the build-up with a superb grubber kick.
The Reds upped the ante on attack and secured the win with two tries from Perese, within the next five minutes, which meant they led 47-17 by the hour-mark.
The Kings fought back, however, and scored three further tries in the game’s final quarter although they were also reduced to 14 men when Wandile Mjekevu was yellow card for kneeing Cooper in the back in an off-the-ball scuffle in the 69th minute.
Makazole Mapimpi scored two of those tries and Banda got the other with Mapimpi’s first one his side’s best of the night as he bamboozled the Reds defence with dazzling footwork before crossing the whitewash.
Tries: Nabuli 2, Hunt 2, Smith, Perese 2
Cons: Cooper 6
Yellow Card: Paia’aua
Tries: Cloete, Schreuder, Mapimpi 2, Banda
Cons: Cronje 2, De Wet
Yellow Card: Mjekevu
Queensland Reds 47 – Tries: Eto Nabuli (2), Karmichael Hunt (2), George Smith, Izala Perese (2); Conversions: Quade Cooper (6).
Southern Kings 34 – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi (2), Chris Cloete, Louis Schreuder, Masixole Banda; Conversions: Lionel Cronje (2), Pieter-Steyn de Wet; Penalties: Lionel Cronje.
Crusaders 50, Sunwolves 3
The Crusaders made it seven wins from seven when they cruised to a deserved 50-3 victory over the Sunwolves in Christchurch on Friday.
The seven-time champions had little trouble in seeing off the men from Japan, who looked a shadow of the side that beat the Bulls in Tokyo last week.
The Crusaders eventually outscored them by eight tries to none with Manasa Mataele leading the way with a deserved hat-trick, making it an even more special occasion for Wyatt Crockett, the All Blacks prop who became the most capped Super Rugby player of all time with 176 appearances.
The win means the Crusaders have consolidated their position at the top of the New Zealand Conference table, although the Hurricanes and Chiefs can narrow the gap if they beat the Blues and Cheetahs respectively on Saturday.
The Sunwolves, meanwhile are still languishing at the bottom of the Africa 1 Conference standings, one point adrift of the Bulls who take on the Jaguares on Saturday.
As expected, the Crusaders dominated from the outset although it took them some time to get going as wet weather made handling and underfoot conditions difficult.
This meant the opening exchanges were scrappy and the home side had to wait until the 14th minute to take the lead – Kieran Read marking his return with a trademark try from close quarters at a ruck deep inside the Sunwolves’ 22.
The hosts continued to dominate although committed several handling errors, but were eventually rewarded ten minutes later when Ben Funnell scored their second try after planting the ball against the face of the Sunwolves’ post.
The Crusaders suffered a setback in the 25th minute when Seta Tamanivalu was yellow carded for taking Teruya Goto out illegally in an aerial challenge midway between the Sunwolves’ ten-metre line and the halfway mark.
Shortly afterwards the visitors opened their account via a Yu Tamara penalty, but Tamanivalu’s sending off did not affect the Crusaders adversely as they scored two tries during this period.
Both were scored by Mataele with his first thanks to superb finishing after gathering a deft offload from Pete Samu, and his second five-pointer was an easy run-in after gathering a Jack Goodhue pass.
Mataele soon had his hat-trick after the ball went through several pairs of hands in the build-up and the Crusaders went in to the sheds at half-time holding a comfortable 29-3 lead.
The Crusaders continued to dominate in the second half and five minutes after the restart Samu – who was superb throughout – crossed for their sixth try after Mitchell Drummond and Read laid the groundwork in the build-up.
The home side upped the ante on attack and were rewarded again when Richie Mo’unga delivered a smart kick ahead which George Bridge gathered before sliding over for a deserved five-pointer.
And on the hour-mark, Whetu Douglas completed the rout with his side’s eighth try, as Marty McKenzie added the extras which notched his side’s half century of points.
With the game in the bag, the Crusaders took their foot off the pedal but this result proved that it will take a special effort to hand them their first loss of the season.
Tries: Read, Funnell, Mataele 3, Samu, Bridge, Douglas
Cons: Mo’unga 3, McKenzie 2
Yellow Card: Tamanivalu
Blues 24, Hurricanes 28
A late try from Mark Abbott secured a 28-24 win for the Hurricanes over the Blues in a thrilling contest in Auckland on Saturday.
In what has become the norm between two New Zealand sides in this competition, this was another superb encounter with both teams staying true to their attacking roots throughout.
In the end, the champions outscored their hosts by four tries to three with Abbott leading the way with a deserved brace.
The result means the Hurricanes close the gap on the Crusaders at the top of the New Zealand Conference while the Blues are still languishing at the bottom despite claiming a losing bonus point.
The Hurricanes made a terrific start and after Beauden Barrett drew in several defenders with a superb run early on, Abbott spotted a gap at a ruck close to the Blues’ try-line before crashing over for the opening try.
Jordie Barrett slotted the conversion but it did not take long for the Blues to reply. And they did it in style thanks to brilliant interplay between Augustine Pulu and Melani Nanai.
Pulu got a pass out to Nanai on the edge of the Hurricanes’ 22 and flyer set off towards the visitors’ try-line. He still had work to do and sold TJ Perenara an outrageous dummy before offloading to Pulu who dotted down.
It did not take long for current World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden Barrett to leave his stamp on this match and he did so by setting up a try for Ngani Laumape in the 15th minute.
Barrett did this with a superb line break from close to his ten-metre line and he did well to draw in a couple of defenders just outside the Blues’ 22 before offloading to the on-rushing Laumape who scored next to the posts.
It did not take long for the Blues to reply though, and once again Nanai was heavily involved. Steven Luatua laid the groundwork with a bustling run in the build-up before offloading to Nanai who outpaced the cover defence before crossing the whitewash.
The Hurricanes regained the lead when they pounced on a Sonny Bill Willams error after a lineout just inside the Blues’ half. Williams knocked on a pass from Pulu before Beauden Barrett kicked the ball upfield. He regathered and outsprinted three chasers and crossed for his side’s second try.
Williams made up for that mistake shortly afterwards when he broke open the Hurricanes defence with a powerful run before Perenara brought him to ground deep inside the visitors’ 22.
At the ensuing ruck, Beauden Barrett deliberately slapped the ball out of Pulu’s hands and was sent to the sin bin for his indiscretion.
That was ten minutes before the interval but although the Blues stepped up a few gears on attack, they could not score any points during this period and the Hurricanes led 21-14 at half-time.
The second half was a more measured affair and although the Blues improved as the half progressed, the Hurricanes showed why they are the champions as they finished stronger.
Blues head coach Tana Umaga deserves credit for his decision to bring on rookie fly-half Bryn Gatland, son of British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland, along with scrum-half Billy Guyton with 30 minutes left on the clock and the duo’s introduction helped the Blues to take control of proceedings shortly afterwards.
Gatland narrowed the gap with a penalty shortly after coming onto the field and ten minutes later, the Blues took the lead for the first time when Scott Scrafton burrowed his way over the try-line after Jerome Kaino and Matt Moulds laid the groundwork with strong carries in the build-up.
That score saw seemed to rejuvenate the Hurricanes who launched several attacks from deep inside their half in a bid to regain the lead. That approach reaped reward in the 75th minute when – after taking the ball through umpteen phases in the build-up – Abbott gathered at a ruck before crossing the whitewash for the match-winning try.
Tries: Pulu, Nanai, Scrafton
Cons: Francis 2, Gatland
Tries: Abbott 2, Laumape, B Barrett
Cons: J Barrett 4
Yellow Card: B Barrett
Rebels 19, Brumbies 17
Byes: Cell C Sharks, Force, Highlanders, Waratahs.
The updated logs after Round 8: