Crusaders edge Reds; ACT, Chiefs also win in Super Rugby
Defending champions the Crusaders narrowly avoided a massive upset when they edged the Queensland Reds 24-20 Friday in a sixth-round match in Super Rugby.
The Christchurch-based Crusaders lead the New Zealand conference with a 3-1 record and came into the match seven points clear of the Reds who had only one win from five games and were third in the Australian conference.
The Reds were also substantially under-strength, having lost Wallabies backline stars Jordan Petaia and James O’Connor to injuries.
They started the match as massive underdogs against the three-time defending champion Crusaders who are now unbeaten in 34 consecutive matches at home. But they outscored the Crusaders by four tries to three and were only undone only by their goal kicking; they missed all four conversion attempts while the Crusaders landed three conversions and a penalty.
“I’m incredibly proud,” Reds captain Liam Wright said. “I asked my guys this week to step it up. There’s no bigger challenge than the defending champions in their home city.
“We didn’t come here for a strong loss. We wanted to win and we put ourselves in a position to do it. Unfortunately, we missed out again.”
The Reds, who haven’t beaten the Crusaders since the 2011 final, were probably the better team, matching the three-time defending champions try for try.
Earlier, Ryan Lonergan scored his first Super Rugby try in his first start at scrumhalf for the ACT Brumbies to launch their 47-14, seven-tries-to-two win over Japan’s Sunwolves.
Lonergan touched down after 10 minutes, converted his own try and added four more conversions as the Brumbies extended their large lead atop the Australia conference.
Will Miller doubled the Brumbies’ lead after 19 minutes but the Sunwolves, playing with barely 20% of possession, scored through debuting hooker Efitusi Maafu to cut the lead to 14-7 close to halftime.
Flanker Rob Valetini, who had a big role in Lonergan’s opening try, scored just after the siren to make the lead 21-7 at halftime.
A burst of scoring between the 46th and 56th minutes carried the Brumbies to an unassailable 40-7 lead.
The New South Wales Waratahs were ahead at halftime against the Chiefs, but just 25 minutes after the break found themselves 32 points behind. They never recovered and lost 51-14 to the Hamilton, New Zealand-based side.
The Waratahs conceded six tries and 38 unanswered points in the second half as the Chiefs won for the first time in Sydney since 2007. The bonus-point victory saw the Chiefs jump from seventh to first on the competition ladder.
The Waratahs led 14-13 at halftime before All Blacks and Chiefs halfback Brad Weber stunned the Waratahs with two tries in two minutes. The onslaught continued through Sean Wainui, Lachlan Boshier, Solomon Alaimalo and Anton Lienert-Brown, who all scored second-half tries.
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