The Lions and Vodacom Bulls earned come-from-behind home victories in Vodacom Super Rugby this weekend, whilst the DHL Stormers slipped to a third tour loss against the Brumbies.
The side from Johannesburg scored two late tries to deny the Reds by 23-20 after they were still behind by 20-3 shortly before the break at Ellis Park.
In the process, Lions flyhalf and kicking ace Marnitz Boshoff became the first player this season to reach 100 points when he kicked his second penalty goal in the 40th minute of the match.
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In the final match of the weekend, the Cell C Sharks lost their first encounter of 2014 when they went down 23-19 to a determined Vodacom Bulls side at Loftus Versfeld.
The home team outscored their visitors from Durban by two tries to one in a typically tough South African derby, where room to move was kept to a minimum through good defence, which also forced both sides to make too many mistakes.
Earlier on Saturday, the Toyota Cheetahs came unstuck against the Blues in Auckland (40-30), whilst the DHL Stormers played well but still went down 15-25 to the Brumbies in Canberra.
In probably the upset of Round Six, the only other unbeaten side in the competition, the defending champion Chiefs, lost by 18-15 to the Force in Perth.
Blues 40 (30) Toyota Cheetahs 30 (16)
For the first time since 2009, the Toyota Cheetahs will return from their Australasian Vodacom Super Rugby tour after losing all four matches and not scoring one log point in the process.
The team from Central South Africa paid the price for making too many unforced errors at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday morning when they were beaten by 40-30 by the Blues.
The Toyota Cheetahs put up a brave display after last weekend’s big defeat in Wellington. With 20 minutes gone, the scores were tied at 13-13 following Boom Prinsloo’s converted try.
But a few minutes later Prinsloo was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul and the tide turned in the Aucklanders’ favour. With the Toyota Cheetahs one player short, the Blues scored two converted tries before the break.
Despite making too many errors and defensive lapses, the visitors never gave up though – Cornal Hendrics and Hennie Daniller scored second-half tries, but in the end the gap the Blues had opened up was simply too big for the Toyota Cheetahs to close.
The only small consolation was that their 30 points was the most the Toyota Cheetahs have ever scored against the Blues in New Zealand.
Blues: Tries: Steven Luatua, George Moala, Tevita Li, Tony Woodcock. Conversions: Simon Hickey (4). Penalty goals: Hickey (4).
Toyota Cheetahs: Tries: Boom Prinsloo, Cornal Hendricks, Hennie Daniller. Conversions: Johan Goosen, Elgar Watts (2). Penalty goals: Goosen (2), Watts.
Brumbies 25 (13) DHL Stormers 15 (10)
The DHL Stormers were largely undone for a second time in three weeks by themselves as they were beaten by 25-15 by the Brumbies at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Saturday morning.
Individual errors and poor decision-making at key moments, as well as bad kicking – tactical and at goal – let the visitors down badly. They looked good at times, but struggled to get out of their own half and kept on making key mistakes which gifted the Brumbies points.
This lack of composure also cost the DHL Stormers dearly a fortnight ago when they lost by one point to the Crusaders in Christchurch, as well as last weekend in Hamilton when the Chiefs scored two late tries to put some daylight between them and the Capetonians on the scoreboard.
Duane Vermeulen scored a great try from a rolling maul as the DHL Stormers looked to have the upperhand up-front. Later in the match, Juan de Jongh – back to full fitness from a pre-season knee injury – added much-needed spark off the bench and was also rewarded with a good try.
But a last-minute penalty try for a scrum infringement on their own goalline meant the DHL Stormers missed out on a losing bonus point as they suffered a third successive tour defeat.
Brumbies: Tries: Robbie Coleman (2), Penalty try. Conversions: Nic White (2). Penalty goals: White (2).
DHL Stormers: Tries: Duane Vermeulen, Juan de Jongh. Conversion: Peter Grant. Conversion: Grant.
Lions 23 (6) Reds 20 (20)
The Lions scored 17 unanswered points in the second half of their Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Reds at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday to win this match by 23-20.
It was a rather scrappy match, but the Lions won’t mind after they staged one of the finest fightbacks of recent times. The home team’s performance in the first half wasn’t great and the Reds, through flyhalf Quade Cooper, who scored all their points, pounced when they got the chance.
The Men from Gauteng were behind by 20-3 shortly before the break, when Marnitz Boshoff slotted his second penalty goal to make the score at half-time 20-6 as the Lions flyhalf became the first player to reach 100 season points.
The home team controlled possession for most of the second half as they started finding their groove. Boshoff added another penalty goal before Lionel Mapoe’s converted try in the 65th minute made it a four-point game.
Courtnall Skosan scored what turned out to be the match-winner in the 77th minute after a period of sustained Lions pressure during which two Reds players were sin-binned for professional fouls.
But the visitors didn’t give up and the Lions’ defence was properly tested in the dying moments. They held out though and won their third straight home game of the season – a feat they last achieved in 2007.
Lions: Tries: Lionel Mapoe, Courtnall Skosan. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2). Penalty goals: Boshoff (3).
Reds: Tries: Quade Cooper (2). Conversions: Cooper (2). Penalty goals: Cooper (2).
Vodacom Bulls 23 (6) Cell C Sharks 19 (13)
The Vodacom Bulls’ home resurgence continued at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria where they were too good for a disrupted Cell C Sharks in the final Vodacom Super Rugby match of the weekend.
The home team won 23-19 after erasing a 13-6 deficit at half-time with two second half tries to win their third successive home game of the season. It was also the KwaZulu-Natalians’ first defeat of 2014, but they remain at the top of the log.
The Cell C Sharks lost both their halfbacks, Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie, to injuries within the first 15 minutes, which upset their rhythm, but they remained composed, with a superb scrum performance putting the Vodacom Bulls under pressure upfront.
Willem Alberts exploited some defensive errors by the home team for the visitors’ first and only try in the first half.
The Vodacom Bulls started the second half very strong though and when Jacques du Plessis burst through weak tackles from the Cell C Sharks to score from 30m out in the 48th minute, the contest was on at 13-all.
JJ Engelbrecht’s try saw the Vodacom Bulls take the lead five minutes later, at which stage the home team hit their attacking straps. But Frans Steyn, who was named Man of the Match, kept the visitors in the hunt with superb goalkicking.
A 79th minute penalty goal by Handré Pollard though put the Vodacom Bulls ahead by four points and that is how it ended in Pretoria in JP Pietersen’s 100th Vodacom Super Rugby match.
Vodacom Bulls: Tries: JJ Engelbrecht, Jacques du Plessis. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (2). Penalty goals: Potgieter, Handré Pollard. Drop-goal: Potgieter.
Cell C Sharks: Try: Willem Alberts. Conversion: Tim Swiel. Penalty goals: Frans Steyn (4).
Other results – Round Six:
Highlanders 35 Hurricanes 31 (Dunedin)
Waratahs 32 Rebels 8 (Sydney)
Force 18 Chiefs 15 (Perth)