The Lions scored a dramatic late try at Emirates Airlines Park to beat the Bulls on a weekend where the Johannesburg-based side was the only SA team to register a win in the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition.
The losing bonus point secured by the Vodacom Bulls did push them to the top of the South African Conference standings though as they moved past the Cell C Sharks who lost heavily to the Crusaders in Durban.
Both sides have 19 log points, but things are tight in the conference, with the DHL Stormers, who were edged out by the Hurricanes in Wellington, and the Emirates Lions are on 17 points. The Toyota Cheetahs, who lost to the Brumbies in Canberra, props up the local conference with nine league points.
There was plenty of drama in Durban on Saturday, where a plethora of cards almost made a mockery of the fifteens code. The Crusaders at one stage had three players in the bin with yellow cards, before Jean Deysel was shown a red for using his knee on an opponent’s head.
This was their second biggest defeat suffered by the Cell C Sharks in the competition, as this 42 point deficit is one less than the 43 points’ difference they suffered against the Crusaders in 2005, when the home side won 77-34 in Christchurch.
The Toyota Cheetahs found little comfort in Canberra, a venue they have never won at. The Toyota Cheetahs are looking for their first-ever win in Canberra, a venue South African teams have won only five from 45 previous encounters since 1996.
Two early tries in the beginning of each half helped the Brumbies to beat the Cheetahs, who failed to cross their opponent’s tryline, with a lone Joe Pietersen penalty the only reward to the central franchise team.
On Friday, the DHL Stormers found the home side to slick in the first half and could not overhaul the 25-3 deficit in the second 40 minutes of play. The Cape side dropped to a fifth consecutive defeat to a New Zealand opponent, the first time they have lost five in a row in New Zealand since 1998.
Hurricanes 25 (25) DHL Stormers 20 (3)
The Hurricanes withstood a brave and determined DHL Stormers second half comeback to hold out for a 25-20 win at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday that cements their place at the top of the Vodacom Super Rugby log nearing the halfway mark.
The Hurricanes dominated the first half, during which they scored three tries to open up a 25-3 advantage at the break.
However, the Stormers enjoyed forward dominance throughout, and that dominance became even more marked in the second half, when they took complete control of the territory and possession battle. They scored two tries in that period, one of them a penalty try, but unfortunately for the Cape team, the Hurricanes’ defensive system stood firm.
The visitors will be looking at improving their defence as they have conceded 11 tries in their last three matches.
The first try, which came just beyond the 20-minute mark with the Hurricanes leading 6-3 after two Beauden Barrett penalties had cancelled out one from Demetri Catrakilis.
The DHL Stormers were attacking on the Hurricanes line, but turned the ball over and the Hurricanes made their way up-field before a Barrett cross kick bounced in a way that evaded Stormers fullback Cheslin Kolbe, and also Julian Savea, but found the hands of Hurricanes No.15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, who was adjudged by the TMO to have dotted the ball down.
Two more tries from counter-attacks had the Cape side in trouble, but credit to them as the second half belonged to the DHL Stormers.
Their first try was a penalty try awarded after the Hurricanes had repeatedly been penalised at a sequence of scrums under their posts, and the second one with a 15 phase build-up after a poor Hurricanes clearance eventually seeing centre Huw Jones go off after a thrust down the right flank from Vermeulen as the home team ran out of defenders.
Hurricanes: Tries: Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2). Penalty goals: Beauden Barrett.
DHL Stormers: Tries: Huw Jones, Penalty try. Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (2). Penalty goals: Demetri Catrakilis, Kurt Coleman.
Brumbies 20 (13) Toyota Cheetahs 3 (3)
Brumbies pivot Christian Lealiifano scored 15 points as his team beat the Toyota Cheetahs 20-3 in their Vodacom Super Rugby match in Canberra on Saturday.
The Brumbies scored in the first five minutes, as they took advantage of some lacklustre defence on the Cheetahs part to launch an attack from a lineout and then spread it wide before Lealiifano bumped off Joe Pietersen to stroll over the line for the opening try.
The Cheetahs were lucky not to concede more points as Matt Toomua was denied by a double movement and the home side were over the line twice more during the game where they didn’t get the reward.
Lealiifano made it 13-3 at the break through two more penalties, again with the Cheetahs unable to answer except for a brief flurry that led to the penalty by Pietersen.
The second half disintegrated into a freefall of errors, although in the opening few minutes of the half, the home side scored their second. David Pocock took a lineout drive close to the line before Blake Enever picked up and went over the line.
Brumbies: Tries: Blake Enever, Christian Lealiifano. Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (2). Penalty kicks: Christian Lealiifano (2).
Toyota Cheetahs: Penalty: Joe Pietersen
Cell C Sharks 10 (3) Crusaders 52 (28)
The Crusaders record an overwhelming 52-10 victory over the Cell C Sharks in a Vodacom Super Rugby match played at Kings Park on Saturday.
The Crusaders exposed cracks in the home side’s defense almost at will, running up a 28-3 half-time lead, booking their four-try bonus point as early as the 34th minute, and effectively wrapping up the match by the fifth minute with a quick-fire two-try burst.
Odwa Ndungane did get one back for the Sharks in the second half, but not before the New Zealand team had added two more, and what made it even more unbearable surely for Sharks fans, was the fact that the first of those second-half tries was scored while it was 12 Crusaders playing against 14 Sharks.
That was after a bizarre end to the first half, with the Crusaders losing three players in quick succession to yellow cards in the last five minutes, while the Sharks had senior player Jean Deysel red carded for an unforgiveable kick to a Crusaders players head.
The first try was scored after just three minutes, Kieran Read featuring in a sweep down the right flank that resulted in scrumhalf Andy Ellis going over off an inside pass.
Just two minutes later, it was the turn of Israel Dagg to break through an inept tackle attempt from just a few metres out as the Crusaders were propelled into a 14-0 lead at a time when many supporters weren’t even settled yet into their seats or in front of the TV.
Sharks skipper Patrick Lambie drew three points back with a penalty, but Fonotia slipped a tackle attempt by Marais to make it 21-3 after as many minutes, and the bonus point was secured when Ryan Crotty crashed over off an inside pass with six minutes to go before the break.
Cell C Sharks: Try: Odwa Ndungane. Conversion: Fred Zeilinga. Penalty: Patrick Lambie.
Crusaders: Tries: Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, David Havili, Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Matt Todd, Ryan Crotty, Tom Taylor. Conversions: Colin Slade (5), Tom Taylor.
Emirates Lions 22 (6) Vodacom Bulls 18 (9)
Emirates Lions reserve hooker Akker van der Merwe scored an epic 80th minute try to give his side an amazing last-gasp 22-18 victory against the Vodacom Bulls in their Vodacom Super Rugby match at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
Van der Merwe’s score was the only one of the game, and came in the last movement as the Lions simply decided to ‘never say die’ after the Bulls looked to have clinched the game with a penalty a minute earlier.
But instead of accepting the loss, the Lions took a quick restart, had luck go their way as they claimed the ball and took it up, forming a strong rolling maul that claimed a penalty.
And then, in the spirit of positivity, they backed themselves and Faf de Klerk took the quick tap, passing to Van der Merwe who bounced off two poor tackles to plop over and start scenes of ecstasy both on the substitutes bench and in the stands.
It was the perfect conclusion to an epic game, one which may have lacked tries, but never lacked in passion, heart and physicality.
There may have been rain but both sides went at it hammer and tongs, never giving an inch with the match descending into a fascinating arm-wrestle. Both sides made more than 100 tackles – 113 by the Lions to 104 by the Bulls – shows just how close it all was.
Emirates Lions: Try: Akker van der Merwe. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalty kicks: Elton Jantjies (5)
Vodacom Bulls: Penalty goals: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (6).
Other results – Round Eight:
Chiefs 23 Blues 16
Rebels 23 Reds 15