Victories for Highlanders, Blues highlight New Zealand’s continuing stranglehold on Super Rugby
Champions’ frustrate Brumbies and Aucklanders edge Rebels, while Reds down Cheetahs for second win of the season
Super Rugby’s Blues held on to beat the Melbourne Rebels 36-30 at Eden Park on Saturday, giving the bottom team in the New Zealand conference victory over the side that sits atop the Australian standings.
But the Auckland outfit were hard-pressed to seal their six-tries-to-four triumph, conceding two late tries after they had led 36-18 with 28 minutes left on the clock.
And a 78th-minute penalty awarded against the hard-attacking Rebels finally clinched the match for the Blues.
“My heart’s still racing,” said Blues captain James Parsons. “We didn’t close it out as we would have liked but after not starting well we got ourselves into a good position.
“We’re just looking for that 80-minute performance.”
Rebels captain Nic Stirzaker said: “The missed tackles and the Blues’ ability to offload really hurt us.”
The gap between New Zealand and Australia was further emphasised when the defending champion Highlanders, who are currently one place off the bottom of the ladder, beat the ACT Brumbies 23-10 in Invercargill.
“It didn’t always go the way we would have wanted but I’m proud the boys just stuck in there and got the job done,” Highlanders captain Ben Smith said.
Meanwhile in Brisbane, the Queensland Reds posted their second win of the season by beating South Africa’s Cheetahs 30-17.
The teams were locked 10-10 at half-time, but the Reds lifted in the second period to run out comfortable winners.
“It was pretty scrappy out there with the humidity, but obviously we’re pretty happy,” said Reds skipper James Slipper.
“It was a slippery ball. Both teams struggled with that, but our set piece dominated and we got the win.
In Super Rugby action on Friday, the New Zealand conference leading Chiefs beat the Sharks 24-22 despite being outscored three-tries-to-two by their South African visitors. Aaron Cruden’s boot was the difference between the two sides as he kicked four penalties to Garth April’s one.
In Perth South Africa’s Bulls kicked off their Super Rugby tour of Australia with a 42-20 bonus-point victory over Western Force. Jan Serfontein and Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss each nabbed a brace in the Bulls’ five-tries-to-two bonus-point victory.
Reporting by Agence France-Presse, Associated Press