Super Rugby

Super Rugby Notebook, Mar 19: Crusaders crush Kings, Chiefs in last-gasp win

Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock was pleased with the team's emphatic return as they secured a comprehensive 57-24 victory over Southern Kings in Christchurch on the back off their bye.

Todd Blackadder made nine changes from the win over Blues last time out and Crusaders subsequently lacked cohesion in the early stages, falling 10-0 behind at AMI Stadium when Wyatt Crockett's stray pass enabled Luzuko Vulindlu to touch down the first try.

However, Richard Mo'unga went over once in a 16-point haul and Nemani Nadolo crossed the whitewash twice in a strong response that pleased Whitelock.

"There was a bit of rust there. The boys were pumped up and really wanted to play so we had to try and keep them back and play with a bit of structure," he said.

Brumbies first defeat of the season against Stormers means Sharks are now the only unbeaten side in the competition, while Lions returned to winning ways against Cheetahs but conceded two late tries to miss out on a bonus point.

Sunwolves and Queensland Reds remain winless after the Japanese franchise were beaten by Melbourne Rebels and the Reds were held to a draw by Blues, while Chiefs edged Jaguares.

 

THE LOWDOWN

Sunwolves 9-35 Melbourne Rebels

The search for a first win in Super Rugby continues for Sunwolves after they were comprehensively beaten by the Rebels, with lacklustre defending once again at the heart of a third successive defeat.

 

Crusaders 57-24 Southern Kings

An eight-try display saw Crusaders breeze past Kings in Christchurch, building upon their win over Blues last time out, with Richie Mo'unfa's haul of 16 points helping send the seven-time champions up to joint second in the New Zealand Conference.

 

Queensland Reds 25-25 Blues

Despite holding a 15-7 lead in the first half, Blues required a late penalty from Ihaia West to deny the Reds their first win of the season, securing the draw beyond the 80 minutes despite playing the final moments with a man fewer after Sione Mafileo was shown a yellow card for a scrum infringement.

 

Lions 39-22 Cheetahs

Having suffered a 34-15 defeat to Highlanders last time out, Lions responded in style with Elton Jantjies leading the charge, running in a try and proving influential in a further two as the hosts went into the break with a 21-point advantage, but late tries from Cheetahs duo Tiaan Meyer and Jacques du Toit denied them a bonus point.

 

Stormers 31-11 Brumbies

A 22-point haul in the second half saw Stormers - sporting yellow armbands to support South Africa Rugby's anti-racism week - inflict a first defeat of the season on Brumbies, who lost Josh Mann-Rea to a red card for elbowing Oliver Kebble in the 63rd minute. Stormers now hold a comfortable lead at the top of South African Conference 1.

 

Jaguares 26-30 Chiefs

Matias Moroni thought he had the game won for Jaguares after scoring in the corner with seven minutes remaining but Chief broke the hosts' hearts when Brad Weber crossed over two minutes from time.

 

THE KEY MOMENTS

The Reds were penalised for not rolling away after the full-time hooter at Suncorp Stadium, and it proved to be a costly error against the 14-man Blues. It could have been worse had referee Andrew Lees not pulled play back after disallowing a try for a forward pass on the advantage, with Ihaia West kicking the resultant penalty.

With Kings leading Crusaders 10-7 at AMI Stadium, Johnny McNicholl did brilliantly to collect a fumbled pass near the sidelined at the halfway line and cross the whitewash beneath the posts to put the hosts in charge, and from there they never looked back, going on to complete an emphatic victory.

 

THE REACTION

"It was amazing the support of the people. We are very happy to return to play in Velez. We enjoyed it very much [but it was a] shame about the result, we would have loved to win for people to go home even happier," Juan Manuel Leguizamon said after the Jaguares' first home game.

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said: "There were still some soft moments and we were not clinical enough. We are still a work in progress but we made a step up."

 

THE UPSHOT

Chiefs lead the Australian Group with 14 points, one more than Brumbies, Highlanders and Rebels.

Stormers are second to Sharks in the South African section, while Kings remain rooted to the bottom of the group without a point.