Mon, Jun 17, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Bulls end Lions’ season, Stormers also exit

AFP, CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, and JOHANNESBURG

Sunwolves center Takuya Yamasawa, right, tackles Jaguares wing Sebastian Cancelliere during their Super Rugby match at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani in Buenos Aires on Friday.

Photo: AFP

The Golden Lions, beaten in the past three Super Rugby finals, failed to reach the knockout phase this season after a 48-27 hammering by fellow South African club the Northern Bulls on Saturday as the semi-final matchups were decided by the final regular-season game.

The Johannesburg-based Lions needed one point from the match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria to secure a quarter-finals place, but after scoring within a minute of the kick-off, they conceded four tries to trail 31-19 by halftime.

A Cyle Brink try narrowed the gap to just four points on 56 minutes, but the visitors then faded and conceded three more tries to finish a well-beaten team.

The Otago Highlanders from New Zealand were grateful for the result, as they crept into the quarter-finals, finishing one point above the Lions in the combined standings. The Lions finished the regular season with more wins than the Highlanders, meaning they would have advanced had the two teams finished equal on competition points.

The other last-eight place on the line on Saturday went to the Coastal Sharks after a dramatic 12-9 win over the Western Stormers, who began the match one point ahead of their opponents. The Stormers were leading by four points when the hooter sounded for fulltime, but the Sharks kept the ball in play and Lukhanyo Am scored an 82nd-minute try.

The quarter-finals are to begin on Friday with an all-New Zealand clash between defending champions the Canterbury Crusaders and the Highlanders in Christchurch. On Saturday, the Wellington Hurricanes host the Bulls, the ACT Brumbies meet the Sharks in Canberra and the Jaguares face the Waikato Chiefs in Buenos Aires.

The Jaguares finished the regular season with a 52-10 win over the Sunwolves.

The Crusaders look ominous as they bid for a third consecutive Super Rugby crown, with news that they expect to be at full strength for the play-offs.

The nine-time champions already have an impressive record, having never lost a home playoff game since Super Rugby’s launch in 1996 and they are unbeaten in their past 27 home fixtures.

The Crusaders achieved home-ground advantage for the play-offs despite having many of their All Blacks out of action for much of the season, but they are to return at the weekend.

Tighthead prop Owen Franks, who has been plagued by a shoulder injury and only played four games in the regular season, has been cleared to return as has hooker Codie Taylor, who has been out for a month with a broken finger.

Another All Blacks frontrower Tim Perry, who broke an arm in round one, rejoined the side for their final pool match, while senior All Blacks Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock were rested for the first month to manage their workload in a World Cup year.

“To win a championship, a lot has got to go right. Full squad, full team. To give every chance to go through in that finals series, you need to have the opportunity to pick your best squad,” Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said.

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