South Africa’s Stormers scored four unanswered tries to thrash their compatriots the Sharks 32-12 on Saturday and climb to second on the Super Rugby table.
The Stormers notched their eighth win in nine matches to move to 42 points, one behind New Zealand’s Auckland Blues.
In a bruising match between the country’s two leading teams, it was the home side who won the battle of the breakdown against their much-vaunted opponents.
“It was a fantastic win, especially as we haven’t always performed that well after a bye,” Stormers captain Schalk Burger said. “Our defense is pretty solid, but we’d still like to work on our attack.”
Stormers stand-in flyhalf Lionel Cronje, who kicked 13 points against the Lions last week filling in for regular pivot Peter Grant, gave the hosts an early 3-0 lead with a penalty in the ninth minute.
Sharks flyhalf Patrick Lambie equalized two minutes later, before the Stormers scored the first of three first-half tries to confirm their ascendancy.
Springbok center Jean de Villiers worked a dummy scissors from a scrum in the 16th minute to dot down underneath the posts to make it 10-3.
Lambie narrowed the gap with a second penalty, but the crowd of 46,018 were soon celebrating a second try for the home team, scored by winger Gio Aplon after the Sharks, having tried to run the ball from deep in their own half, spilled the ball in contact.
The Stormers’ defense, which has been their hallmark during the past two seasons, held in the second half against a resurgent Sharks team. However, they were penalized twice for dangerous tackles, allowing Lambie to cut the deficit to 10 points in the 54th minute.
BULLS 43, CHIEFS 27
A sensational burst of try scoring at the start of the second half gave the Bulls a 43-27 victory over the Chiefs in their match at Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls had hardly looked the side who have won the southern hemisphere’s premier provincial competition three times in the last four years when they trailed 20-3 after 32 minutes.
However, a try by Wynand Olivier and a conversion and a penalty by flyhalf Morne Steyn just before halftime gave the Bulls a glimmer of hope when they went into the break down 20-13.
Springbok center Olivier then sparked a match-winning burst of three tries in eight minutes as he broke through the line to score again in the 42nd minute.
Steyn’s conversion meant the Bulls were level and they then totally overpowered a shell-shocked Chiefs side to record only their fifth win in 10 matches.
A classy dash down the left touch line by replacement wing Gerhard van den Heever followed three minutes later for the Bulls’ third try. The home side then crammed a third try into the opening 10 minutes of the second half when No. 8 Pierre Spies muscled over.
The Bulls used their combative forwards as their main attacking weapon, their rolling maul gaining them many meters, and they also successfully disrupted the Chiefs lineout.
Flyhalf Steyn gave an -exceptional display of kicking, succeeding with all eight of his shots at goal, as well as a drop-goal that opened the scoring.
The New Zealanders had enjoyed an excellent first half and scored the first try of the match in the 18th minute when flanker Liam Messam ripped the ball out of loose forward Danie Rossouw’s hands and burst upfield. Fullback Mils Muliaina rounded off the move with a classic show of the ball and duck inside to score the try.
A try by scrumhalf Brendon Leonard, converted by Stephen Donald, gave the visitors a 20-3 lead and the Chiefs will be wondering why they fell to pieces so dramatically in the second half.
CRUSADERS 42, FORCE 30
The Canterbury Crusaders scored two tries in the last 10 minutes to quash a desperate challenge from Western Force and ride out 42-30 winners in a pulsating match in Perth, Australia.
Trailing 30-25 in the last quarter, the Crusaders counter-attacked furiously to wrest back the lead with a 71st minute try to hooker Corey Flynn before scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i crossed four minutes later to seal victory.
Despite dominating possession, ill-discipline threatened to undo the Crusaders as they conceded a raft of penalties to let the Force back in to the match in the second half. Inside center James O’Connor took advantage with five penalty goals, the last giving his team a five-point lead with 20 minutes to play.
Crusaders got off to a flying start courtesy of rampaging fullback Israel Dagg, who crossed twice to put his team up 10-0 by the eighth minute.
The spring-heeled All Black burned away from the Force defense to plant his first try in the right corner in the third minute. His second left another string of Force defenders in his wake as he crossed right of the posts after trampling over winger David Smith.
The Force steadied through O’Connor, who slotted three quick penalties and sparked his team’s first try with a sprint down the left wing after Smith swooped on a turnover ball deep in defense.
The Wallabies back passed inside to split the Crusaders’ defense, allowing flyhalf Willie Ripia to hand off to fullback Cameron Shepherd, who crossed in the left corner.
Ripia’s conversion put the Force in front 15-14 before Dagg exploded again, combining with Sonny Bill Williams to wrest the lead back a few minutes later with a searing run through the middle that set up the center to cross right of the posts.
O’Connor slotted a penalty goal to cut the deficit to 22-19 at halftime and the Force appeared set for an unlikely victory when Shepherd notched his second try in the right corner 13 minutes after the break.
However, the Crusaders mounted a withering assault on the Force line that culminated in Flynn’s try, the hooker leaping to his feet after being brought down in a tackle and scampering over the line to put the Crusaders 33-30 up.