The Emirates Lions proved far too strong for a gallant Southern Kings side in their Vodacom Super Rugby match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday evening, winning by 45-10 as the Highveld-side moved within a point of leaders DHL Stormers on the Africa conference standings.
In Cape Town, the DHL Stormers survived a second half onslaught from the visiting Reds to clinch a 40-22 home win in the early Saturday afternoon fixture. The Cape side received a blow before kick-off when captain, Frans Malherbe, had to withdraw because of illness. His place in the front row was taken by Vincent Koch, while Springbok midfielder Damian de Allende took over the captaincy.
Meanwhile on Friday, the Rebels put in a strong second half performance to beat the Toyota Cheetahs 36-14 in Melbourne. They scored 26 unanswered points in the second half to clinch a bonus point win, which saw them take pole position on the Australian conference ladder.
In the first match played on Friday morning, rookie flyhalf Garth April succeeded with all five kicks at goal to guide the Cell C Sharks to a hard fought 15-14 win over a 14-man Highlanders at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. The win enabled the Cell C Sharks to snap a winless streak of four matches.
Elsewhere, the Sunwolves recorded their first ever Vodacom Super Rugby win when they outlasted the visiting Jaguares 36-28 on Saturday morning in Tokyo. That score brought to an end a run of seven consecutive defeats for the Japanese franchise in their debut season.
The Chiefs won their New Zealand derby by a single point 28-27 over the Hurricanes in a dramatic encounter in Wellington. And in the weekend’s final encounter played on Sunday morning in Canberra, the Brumbies slipped to second on the Australian conference after suffering a 40-14 loss to the Crusaders.
Vodacom Super Rugby information:
Southern Kings (5) 10 Emirates Lions (21) 45
The Johannesburg side, who beat the DHL Stormers 29-22 last Saturday, outscored the Kings by seven tries to two. Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies converted five tries as they registered their sixth win from eight starts.
Both teams made a slow start but it was the Emirates Lions who scored three converted tries in the first half through Warren Whiteley, Courtnall Skosan and Armand van der Merwe. The Kings responded with Luzuko Vulindlu crossing the whitewash to reduce the halftime deficit to 21-5.
After the break, four more tries from the visitors ensured they return to the Highveld with a comfortable win plus a well-deserved bonus point for their effort. Man of the Match, right wing Ruan Combrinck, and replacement centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg each scored two tries while Chris Cloete scored with a brilliant individual effort for the Kings, who never gave up trying.
Southern Kings 10 – Tries: Luzuko Vulindlu, Chris Cloete.
Emirates Lions 45 – Tries: Warren Whiteley, Courtnall Skosan, Armand van der Merwe (2), Ruan Combrinck (2), Rohan Janse van Rensburg; Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5).
DHL Stormers (17) 40 Reds 22 (10)
The Reds led early after Jake McIntyre slotted a penalty, but it was the home team who scored the first try through Kobus van Wyk. Junior Springbok wing Leolin Zas was next in when he darted over from close range.
The Reds hit back when Liam Gill crashed over after a set-piece move. Flyhalf Jean Luc slotted a penalty to bring the halftime score up to 17-10 in favour of the Cape side. But it was the Australians who made the better start in the second half with two tries inside ten minutes, which also gave them the lead. Karmichael Hunt scored after he had charged down a De Allende kick and then Eto Nabuli finished the move initiated by big centre Samu Kerevi.
The DHL Stormers, trailing 22-17, responded well when scrumhalf Nic Groom, who was playing in his 50th Vodacom Super Rugby match, wriggled his way over. Injured flyhalf Du Plessis then made way for debutant Brandon Thomson with 25 minutes to go.
And Thomson immediately made his mark when stretched the lead to 27-22 with his first penalty attempt. He then slotted two more in quick succession. The DHL Stormers finished the game strongly when Koch barged over for their fourth try.
Stormers 40 – Tries: Kobus van Wyk, Leolin Zas, Nic Groom, Vincent Koch; Conversions: Jean-Luc du Plessis (3), Brandon Thomson; Penalties: Du Plessis, Thomson (3).
Reds 22 – Try: Liam Gill, Karmichael Hunt, Eto Nabuli; Conversions: Jake McIntyre (2); Penalty: McIntyre.
Rebels (10) 36 Toyota Cheetahs (14) 14
The Rebels outscored the visitors five tries to two, with Tamati Ellison clinching the bonus-point just before the final whistle. The Bloemfontein outfit came into the match with plenty of confidence after posting 90 points against the Sunwolves last weekend.
It was the Toyota Cheetahs who made the brighter start when Torsten van Jaarsveld went over for the opening try following a lineout maul. But the Rebels struck back through Reece Hodge, who managed to beat four defenders before dotting down.
However, the Bloem side were rewarded for their efforts when Clayton Blommetjies scored in the right-hand corner after good work by Raymond Rhule following a 50m break. The Rebels reduced the gap when Debreczeni kicked a penalty to make the halftime score 14-10 in favour of the visitors.
The home side came out firing in the second half and they were duly rewarded with tries through Lopeti Timani and Jonah Placid. Hodge secured the win with his second try and Ellison clinched the vital bonus point with an intercept try.
Rebels 36 – Tries: Reece Hodge (2), Lopeti Timani, Jonah Placid, Tamati Ellison; Conversions: Jack Debreczeni (4); Penalty: Debreczeni.
Toyota Cheetahs 14 – Tries: Torsten Van Jaarsveld, Clayton Blommetjies; Conversions: Niel Marais (2).
Highlanders (3) 14 Cell C Sharks (6) 15
There was a real scary moment when Highlanders inside centre Jason Emery charged into Springbok fullback Willie le Roux while he was still in the air. The Springbok fell awkwardly and somehow recovered to play on until late in the second half, when he was substituted. Emery received a red card for the dangerous tackle and he now has to appear before a judicial hearing.
The Cell C Sharks was forced into an early change after Springbok scrumhalf Cobus Reinach suffered an ankle injury. He was replaced by the experienced Michael Claassens. However, the visitors could not really capitalise on their numerical advantage because they, too, played for much of the second half with 14 men because of the yellow cards shown to Stephan Lewies and then JP Pietersen.
It was an important win for the Durban side and they will feel particularly pleased to close out the game after coming so close last weekend against the Blues in Auckland. Matt Faddes scored the only try of the match and flyhalf Lima Sopoaga slotted three penalties for the Highlanders.
Cell C Sharks 15 – Penalties: Garth April (5).
Highlanders 14 – Try: Matt Faddes; Penalties: Lima Sopoaga (3).
Other results this weekend:
Saturday, 23 April
Sunwolves 36, Jaguares 28
Hurricanes 27, Chiefs 28
Sunday, 24 April
Brumbies 14, Crusaders 40