CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Christchurch-based Crusaders took advantage of an injury-depleted ACT side to beat the Brumbies 37-26 in a Super Rugby Pacific match on Friday.
It was the 11th straight win by the Crusaders over the Canberra-based Brumbies.
The second-place Brumbies had lost only once this season before Friday’s match, but injuries to powerful backrower Rob Valetini and flyhalf Noah Lolesio left the side without two of its best players.
Irae Simone scored an unconverted try in the third minute to put the Brumbies briefly ahead, but the Crusaders came back with 23 unanswered points by halftime after tries to Codie Taylor and Sevu Reece and three penalty goals by flyhalf Richie Mo’unga.
Simone added his second try of the match and Nic White converted to make the score 23-12 seven minutes into the second half. The Crusaders still led by 11 at the 62nd-minute mark before Will Jordan's try three minutes later helped clinch it for the New Zealand side.
Tom Wright's interception try for the Brumbies made it interesting with eight minutes left but the Crusaders held on for their ninth win in 12 matches.
The loss leaves the Brumbies level with the Crusaders and two points behind the first-place Auckland-based Blues. The New Zealand side won’t play its 12th match until Saturday at home against the Queensland Reds.
ACT captain Allan Alaalatoa said that how the Brumbies respond to Friday’s loss — they play the Blues in Canberra next weekend — will help determine their championship aspirations.
“Whether we’ve bounced back off a loss is going to be huge, we want to see a change in intensity throughout the week,” he said. “We obviously know the Blues are in some good form, we’ve just got to make sure (we improve) with errors and our physicality . . . because if we do the same thing again next week, we’ll probably be in the same situation.”
In the opening match of the 13th round, the Dunedin-based Highlanders strengthened their claim to a place in the playoffs by scoring nine tries in a 61-10 win over the Perth-based Western Force.
The Highlanders’ third straight win of the season came with a bonus point which left them comfortably in eighth place. Eight teams advance to the playoffs when the regular season ends after two more rounds.
The Highlanders made a fast start, scoring two tries to lead 14-0 after only six minutes. Backrower Marino Mikaele-Tu’u had a double by halftime when the Highlanders led 28-10.
Hooker Andrew Makalio scored his second try in the 43rd minute and replacement halfback Folau Fakatava scored two second-half tries as the Highlanders overran the Force. Flyhalf Sam Gilbert was successful with eight conversions and the Highlanders posted their highest-winning margin in Super Rugby.
The match descended into chaos in the second half when the Force dropped to 13 men. Former All Blacks center Richard Kahui was shown a red card over a head clash with a Highlanders player while the Force already had a player in the sin-bin.
The Force were left without a hooker and the teams had to resort to uncontested scrums. The final conversion of the match was taken by prop Daniel Lienert-Brown to commemorate his 100th Super Rugby game for the Highlanders.
“It was an outstanding result for us,” Highlanders captain Aaron Smith said. “It’s great to be back at home and then to put a performance like that out there, something we’ve probably been searching for all year.”
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