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Super Rugby Review: Round Five

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Saturday, March 16, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Bulls, Lions and Stormers are all on 13 points, with the Lions having played one extra game, while the Sharks are on 11 and the Jaguares 9.

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However, even after the cancellation of their game with the Highlanders, the Crusaders are still setting the pace with 19 points, four more than second-placed side the Hurricanes.

New Zealand Conference
Desperation resulted in a frenzied start from the Chiefs at home and they had their reward with an early try to outstanding midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown. It was also clear from the outset that fullback Damian McKenzie wanted to unleash some shackles and he fizzed around the field all game. But the Hurricanes were up for the challenge, superbly led by first five-eighths Beauden Barrett whose pin-point tactical kicking knocked the home team back several times. Centre Matt Proctor and wing Wes Goosen scored on the back of superior backplay and in the end the 23-23 outcome was a fair conclusion to a spirited contest.

Events in Christchurch were always going to hang over New Zealand teams this weekend and the decision to abandon Saturday night's game in Dunedin was fully understandable. Apart from the closeness of both sides to events in the tragedy of Christchurch's mosques, it would have been too much to expect the Crusaders to have rebounded in the same manner as they did, heroically, in the wake of the 2011 earthquake. Sometimes sport has to take a back seat and this was one of them.



Australia Conference
Waratahs indiscipline ultimately spelled the difference in the 19-13 win to the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday. The home team fought back after conceding an early try and while the sin-binning of prop Sekope Kepu didn't result in the loss of points during his absence, it highlighted issues for his side. The home team used their driving maul effectively to result in two tries for hooker Folau Fainga'a. But in another instance, midway through the second half, another maul was brought down, resulting in not only a penalty try but a sin-binning for prop Harry Johnson-Holmes. Out to a 19-10 lead, the Brumbies sensed the odds that had not been on their side at times in the first part of the season were with them and they produced a determined finish for the win.

It was only a matter of time before the Reds had some reward for some earnest endeavour during the early rounds of the competition and it was the Sunwolves who were on the receiving end after a topsy-turvy game to lose 31-34. For all that, it was still only a victory achieved with a penalty goal in the last minute. Ultimately, it was the power of the Reds' pack that proved the difference, especially on the rolling maul which resulted in their first two tries to flanker Liam Wright and replacement hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa. They had been down 5-21 at the break, but stormed back with three quick tries, one being a fine team effort from one end of the field to the other. They added 21 points in six minutes to claim the lead for the first time. The Sunwolves levelled but fullback Hamish Stewart's penalty proved the difference.

Comebacks continued when the Rebels were edged by the Lions 36-33 at Ellis Park. Up 33-5, the Rebels saw the home side scored four unanswered tries to secure what had appeared an unlikely win. Having conceded an early try to hooker Malcolm Marx, the Rebels scored tries through wing Reece Hodge, second five-eighths Billy Meakes, first five-eighths Quade Cooper and No.8 Isi Naisarani to lead 26-5 at the break. Then two minutes into the second half centre Tom English added a fifth. But a sin-binning of Meakes provided an unlikely spark for the home team who scored three tries in his absence to draw level with 15 minutes left. It took a penalty goal by replacement Gianni Lombard to seal the win in the final minute.



South Africa Conference
Pouring on the pressure through their forward pack and the goal-kicking boot of wing SP Marais, the Stormers effected a 35-8 win over the Jaguares in Cape Town on Friday. The South Americans scored the first try, but by using their pack to advantage the home side positioned themselves to gain a 16-8 lead by halftime, with centre Dan du Plessis scoring their only try. Into the second half flanker Siya Kolisi extended the lead for the home side and determined did the rest in shutting the visitors out. Halfback Hershel Jantjies and replacement back Justin Phillips added later tries to secure the winning margin.

Having been on the end of a Rebels blitzkrieg, the Lions made the most of indiscipline to force their way back into the game from being 5-33 down. First off, flanker Marnus Schoeman was fed into an opening to score the Lions second try, after Malcolm Marx' first early in the game. Then first five-eighths Elton Jantjies made up for an intercept pass which saw Meakes score by feeding replacement Andries Coetzee in for a try. Centre Lionel Mapoe out-paced Quade Cooper to score a third try before the Rebels were restored to full strength. Then Marx secured a turnover, passed to flanker Kwagga Smith who found wing Courtnall Skosan with the pass for the chance to level the score which Jantjies did. Another yellow card, to Angus Cottrell, just before the end allowed the Lions to turn on pressure at an injury time scrum were Lombard completed the scoring.