Defending Super Rugby champions the Otago Highlanders yesterday cruised to a bonus point 27-3 win over the Melbourne Rebels in their clash in Melbourne.
A week after downing the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney, the Highlanders outmuscled the Rebels to score three tries to none on a wet night in the Victorian capital.
The Highlanders’ defense was superb throughout the whole game as they kept their tryline intact, making 119 tackles, missing only nine and forcing a host of turnovers from the Rebels.
They kicked brilliantly, with their first two tries coming courtesy of well-placed kicks behind the Rebels’ line.
“It was an awesome way to finish [the two-match tour of Australia] — we wanted to put in an 80-minute performance and I think we did that tonight,” Highlanders co-captain Shane Christie said. “We’ll now head back home and look forward to the Force next week. We’ve had an awesome couple of weeks on the road and it will be nice to get back home.”
Otago dominated right from the start and opened the scoring thanks to a Lima Musophaga penalty.
They crossed for the first try midway through the first half, when Rebels fullback Jonah Placid spilled an Aaron Smith box kick and inside center Rob Thompson towed ahead to touch down.
Sopoaga converted to bring up his 500th point in Super Rugby, then brought up three more with a second penalty to send the Highlanders into the break up 13-0.
Rebels flyhalf Jack Debreczeni kicked a penalty early in the second half, but the Highlanders extended their lead when Jack Wilson crossed following a Thompson kick ahead.
The Rebels threw everything at the Highlanders, but could not break the defense and they were left shattered when winger Pat Osborne took an intercept 10m from his own line and raced the length of the field to touch down in the corner.
Rebels captain Sean McMahon conceded his team had been outplayed.
“The Highlanders came out and performed at top quality as you’d expect from a championship team,” McMahon said.”All credit to our boys, but we just let a few things go. They were coming hard at us — our defense was good, but we turned too many balls over. They’re great at counterattack and you could see what they did to us when they got the opportunity.”
BULLS 30, SUNWOLVES 27
The Bulls’ bulk and grunt yesterday proved too much for the craft and guile of the Sunwolves as the South Africans claimed a 30-27 in Singapore to leave the new Japanese franchise still searching for a first win.
Bulls skipper Adriaan Strauss, flanker Roelof Smith and winger Jamba Ulengo barged over for the tries at the National Stadium as the three-time champions picked up their second win from four matches this term.
The three-point victory was the least the South Africans could have managed, such was their domination of possession and territory against a side clearly lacking the physicality of their opponents.
CHIEFS 53, FORCE 10
Charlie Ngatai yesterday bagged four tries as the attack-focused Waikato Chiefs opened up in the second half to thump the Western Force in their Super Rugby clash in Hamilton.
It was all one-way traffic after halftime as the Chiefs added 41 unanswered points to their 12-10 lead at the break.
They outscored the Force nine tries to two and picked up a bonus point to remain firmly at the top of the New Zealand conference.
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.