Jaguares and Chiefs pull off big surprises in Super Rugby
DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — The Jaguares pummeled the Sharks 51-17 for a second straight win in South Africa, and the Chiefs ended the Blues’ four-match winning streak in a lively New Zealand derby, as Super Rugby threw up more surprises on Saturday.
The Argentina-based Jaguares’ huge victory in Durban was inspired by a hat trick from center Matias Orlando and two tries by flanker Pablo Matera, and came a week after the vastly improved Jaguares edged the Bulls in Pretoria.
This win was far more compelling, with scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli scoring the first of the Jaguares’ seven tries in the third minute and Orlando completing his hat trick in the 79th for the last.
It opened the way for the Bulls to go above the Sharks and top of the South African conference with their 32-17 win over Queensland Reds.
Earlier, the Chiefs lifted themselves off the bottom of the New Zealand conference by beating the Blues 33-29.
The teams matched each other almost try for try, scoring three apiece in the second half. But the Hamilton-based Chiefs had a vital 14-10 lead at halftime and it endured throughout the second half to give them their third consecutive win.
On Friday, South African strugglers the Stormers won away at the high-flying Melbourne Rebels for the round’s first surprise.
The one constant is the form of defending champions the Crusaders, who enjoyed a 43-17 win over the Highlanders on Friday and appear to be cruising to a third straight title and a record-extending 10th overall.
The Christchurch-based Crusaders’ lead at the top of the overall standings is now out to 11 points after nine rounds. The Pretoria-based Bulls, Rebels and Wellington-based Hurricanes are all level on points as the nearest chasers.
The Sharks were briefly in contention against the Jaguares when lock Hyron Andrews galloped away to reply to Cubelli’s early score. A penalty then put the Sharks 10-7 up.
Matera and Orlando both scored in a four-minute spell at the end of the first half and Matera had his second three minutes into the second. The Jaguares scored 15 points in the first 13 minutes of the second half and ran away for one of their best wins in their four years in Super Rugby.
The Auckland-based Blues came into their match at the Chiefs with wins over the Sunwolves, Highlanders, Stormers and Waratahs, giving them their first four-match winning streak in six years. The Chiefs lost their first four games of the season.
In a back-and-forth tussle, the Chiefs led 33-22 after a 72nd-minute try to Jesse Parete but Blues center Ma’a Nonu’s second try put them under severe pressure in the dying moments. The Blues attacked desperately from the final kickoff but turned over possession and the Chiefs were able to run down the clock.
“When we scored that final try, we talked about not letting them back in as we had every time we scored before that,” Chiefs captain Brodie Retallick said. “We were hanging on there at the end, hoping to put the ball down their end and hoping they made a mistake — which they did.”
The Bulls rebounded from that unexpected loss to the Jaguares a week ago by grinding past the Reds with powerful forward play and unforgiving defense.
Flanker Marco van Staden and lock RG Snyman, both Springboks, made successful returns from injury to bolster the Bulls pack. Van Staden scored one of the Bulls’ five tries and Snyman was man of the match.
“The Reds are quite a physical side and they come around the corner a lot,” Bulls flyhalf Handre Pollard said, “so if you don’t stop their momentum it’s going to be a long day at the office.”
Pollard also had a try and kicked two conversions and a penalty to become the first player this season to go past 100 points.
Also, the ACT Brumbies beat the Lions 31-20.
The Brumbies’ third win from eight games kept them within touching distance in the Australian conference but still seven points behind the Melbourne Rebels.
The loss was the fourth in eight matches for the Lions, who have reached and lost the last three Super Rugby finals.