Chiefs stay 'perfect'; Crusaders bounce back
Melbourne scored four tries against the unbeaten Super Rugby Pacific leaders, but the Chiefs recovered from a poor start to record a 44-25 win in Hamilton.
The Chiefs scored six tries of their own and picked up a fourth straight bonus-points win, while the Rebels dropped to 1-3.
Melbourne scored the first eight points of the contest, but conceded the next 27.
They scored the last try of the first half and got back to 27-15 by halftime, but the home side crossed twice in the first five minutes after the restart to pull away again.
Melbourne lost centre and Wallabies utility back Reece Hodge to an injury early in the game.
Rising flyhalf Carter Gordon was prominent in the Rebels’ good start after Hodge notched the first points of the game with a penalty goal.
A well-timed pass from Gordon put Hodge through and he beat two players before being pulled down just short of the line.
Melbourne recycled and a long cutout pass from Gordon found captain and flanker Brad Wilkin, who put hooker Alex Mafi over in the corner.
The Chiefs got on the board through a penalty to flyhalf Bryn Gatland and Gordon came close to adding another try with a fine solo run, before he was tackled by fullback Shaun Stevenson close to the line.
The hosts retained possession better in the latter part of the opening half and unlocked the Rebels’ defence, scoring three tries.
A great run down the right from Emoni Narawa set up inside centre Rameka Poihipi, and he returned the favour for the former with a good chip kick which the winger gathered and just managed to stay inside the field of play before touching down.
The rampaging Chiefs added another try when Stevenson raced onto a kick, toed the ball through and won the chase.
Melbourne got a much-needed score before the break when centre Stacey Ili crossed after good work from Gordon and winger Lachie Anderson.
Any hopes of a full-scale Rebels revival were dashed when prop Tyrone Thompson burrowed over less than two minutes into the second half, and Stevenson pounced on a loose ball to score his second three minutes later.
Melbourne continued to complete and fullback Nick Jooste scored their third try, with Gordon again involved in the buildup.
The Chiefs responded again through winger Etene Nani-Seturo, crossing after the ball was quickly transferred from one side to the other after they turned it over in Rebels territory.
Wilkin was held up over the line and the Rebels created other opportunities but poor handling and options stymied them until replacement David Feliuai barged over.
* Meanwhile, the Crusaders defended bravely in the dying minutes to hold off the fast-finishing Blues in a pulsating 34-28 win.
The Blues came close to winning the match with late tries, but lock James Tucker and back row forward Hoskins Sotutu both lost the ball when they were over the Crusaders’ line.
It was the marquee match of the round and mostly lived up to that billing.
But both teams were guilty at times of errors and lapses of discipline; poor kicks, dropped ball and missed first tackles all added to the tension for the respective coaches.
The Crusaders’ set-piece edge and tenacity in defence in the last 15 minutes finally made the difference. Down to 14 men at a crucial stage, they fought bravely to defend their own line.
“I think in the first half we might have had the better of that half and then the Blues threw everything at us and we were lucky to get away with it really,” Crusaders captain Scott Barrett said.
* In the final match on Saturday, the Brumbies moved to 4-0 on the table, winning a high-scoring encounter against Moana Pasifika 62-36.
They were down 3-14 inside 10 minutes and couldn’t shake off Moana until deep in the second half, winning 62-36 thanks to four tries off the back of their set piece.
Flank Luke Reimer jagged two of them as they lent on their precision, before they opened up late when reserve scrumhalf Ryan Lonergan changed the game off the bench.
Moana simply wouldn’t give up in the 98-point, five-lead change thriller, grabbing a lead on 53 minutes when Samiuela Moli drove over the line from their own rolling maul.
But the Brumbies put the hammer down, substitute flyhalf Jack Debreczeni skipping over to retake the lead before wing Andy Muirhead’s second try had them ahead 48-36.
And Sevens converts Corey Toole and Ben O’Donnell each found a late try as the score blew out, their expansive play catching Pasifika napping as they ran out of legs.
It leaves the Brumbies 4-0 heading to their first New Zealand trip of the season, set to tackle the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.
All the Saturday scores and scorers follow below the standings
Chiefs 44-25 Rebels
For the Chiefs
Tries: Poihipi, Narawa, Stevenson 2, Thompson, Nanai-Seturo
Cons: Gatland 4
Pens: Gatland 2
For the Rebels
Tries: Mafi, Ili, Jooste, Feliuai
Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Rameka Poihipi, 11 Etene Nani-Seturo, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Cortez Ratima, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Luke Jacobson, 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 4 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 3 John Ryan, 2 Tyrone Thompson, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 George Dyer, 19 Laghlan McWhannell, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Peniasi Malimali.
Rebels: 15 Nick Jooste, 14 Lachie Anderson, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Stacey Ili, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Brad Wilkin (captain), 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Vaiolini Ekuasi, 20 Angelo Smith, 21 James Tuttle, 22 David Feliuai, 23 Lukas Ripley.
Referee: Dan Waenga
Assistant referees: Paul Williams, Nick Hogan
TMO: Richard Kelly
Blues 26-34 Crusaders
For the Blues
Tries: Telea, Clarke, Tuivasa-Sheck, Perofeta
Cons: B Barrett 4
For the Crusaders
Tries: Burke, Blackadder, Fainga’anuku 3
Cons: Mo’unga 3
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii (captain), 6 Adrian Choat, 5 Cameron Suafoa, 4 James Tucker, 3 James Lay, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Tom Robinson, 20 Taine Plumtree, 21 Taufa Funaki, 22 Bryce Heem, 23 Zarn Sullivan.
Crusaders: 15 Fergus Burke, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitch Drummond, 8 Sione Havili Talitui, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Tamaiti Williams, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Kershawl Sykes-Martin, 18 George Bower, 19 Zach Gallagher, 20 Christian Lio-Willie, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Pepesana Patafilo, 23 Macca Springer.
Referee: James Doleman
Assistant referees: Jono Bredin, Fraser Hannon
TMO: Chris Hart
Brumbies v Moana Pasifika
For the Brumbies
Tries: Tua, Samu, Reimer 2, Muirhead 2, Debreczeni, O’Donnell, Tooley
Cons: Lolesio 3, Lonergan 4
For Moana Pasifika
Tries: Faiilagi, Motuga, Inisi, Niuia, Moli
Cons: Lealiifano 4
Brumbies: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Ollie Sapsford, 11 Corey Toole, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Luke Reimer, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Nick Frost, 3 Rhys van Nek, 2 Connal McInerney, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Blake Schoupp, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Jack Wright, 20 Charlie Cale, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Ben O’Donnell.
Moana Pasifika: 15 William Havili, 14 Fine Inisi, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Danny Toala, 11 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 10 Christian Leali’ifano, 9 Ereatara Enari, 8 Lotu Inisi, 7 Alamanda Motuga, 6 Miracle Faiilagi, 5 Mike McKee, 4 Potu Leavasa, 3 Suetena Asomua, 2 Ray Niula, 1 Abraham Pole.
Replacements: 16 Samiuela Moli, 17 Taukiha’amea Koloamatangi, 18 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 19 Alex McRobbie, 20 Solomone Funaki, 21 Manu Paea, 22 Henry Taefu, 23 Anzelo Tuitavuki.
Referee: Graham Cooper
Assistant referees: Jordan Way, Amber McLachlan
TMO: James Leckie