The ACT Brumbies regained first place in the Australian conference of Super 15 rugby yesterday, picking up a four-try bonus point before halftime in a 28-17 win over the Western Force.
The Brumbies briefly gave up the conference lead to the defending champion Queensland Reds after the Reds’ 32-17 win over the Melbourne Rebels on Friday.
However, the Brumbies staked their claim to first place and a likely playoff spot with two rounds to play with their win over the Force, leading 22-0 at halftime and then holding off a Force comeback in the second half.
The ACT win came in Nathan Sharpe’s final match in Perth for the Force. Sharpe, their most capped player, is retiring after the season.
The Brumbies dominated the first 15 minutes with tries to Jesse Mogg and Ben Alexander. Zack Holmes and Henry Speight added two more tries before the first half ended, but a pair of tries to Nick Cummins and one to lock Toby Lynn pulled the home side close in the second half.
Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said he was pleased with the win, regardless of the up-and-down nature of it.
HURRICANES 23, CRUSADERS 22
AP, CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND
New All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett kicked a 73rd-minute penalty to secure the fifth lead change of a seesawing match and give the Wellington Hurricanes a 23-22 win over the Canterbury Crusaders in Super 15 rugby yesterday.
Barrett’s opposite, Crusaders flyhalf Tom Taylor, kicked five penalties and a conversion for 17 points to give the Crusaders a 22-20 lead with 15 minutes remaining. However, Taylor missed his final shot at goal five minutes from fulltime and his replacement, Tyler Bleyendaal, missed a long-range chance in the last minute to allow the Hurricanes to hang on for a crucial win.
Wellington’s ninth win from 15 matches and the reversal of their loss to the Crusaders earlier this season keeps them in the top six and in a close race for the playoffs while Canterbury’s challenge to the Waikato Chiefs for first place in the New Zealand conference suffered a setback.
Hurricanes captain and All Blacks center Conrad Smith scored two first-half tries and played a heroic role in defense as Wellington turned around their 42-14 first-round loss to the Crusaders to post a rare win in Christchurch.
Smith scored in the 17th and 39th minutes to give the Hurricanes a 17-16 lead at halftime after an evenly contested first half. Canterbury emerged from the changing rooms determined to take control of the match in the second half and an improved territorial performance allowed Taylor to kick penalties that gave them a 22-17 lead after 55 minutes.
However, Barrett, who made an outstanding All Blacks debut in last weekend’s third test against Ireland, kicked penalties in the 65th and 73rd minutes to wrest back the lead for Wellington at 23-22. Taylor then missed his final attempt, finishing with a 6-9 goalkicking record on the night, and Bleyendall missed a last-gasp attempt from halfway just as the fulltime siren sounded.
“It is pretty pleasing to see this after they put 40 points on us and hurt us pretty badly up home [earlier in the season],” Smith said.
Wellington came off a three-week layoff for the All Blacks’ mid-year tests against Ireland determined to sustain its challenge for a playoff place. They played courageously, never allowing the Crusaders more than the six-point lead they held after winger Zac Guildford’s first-half try.