Chiefs still unbeaten; Crusaders end Brumbies' run
FRIDAY WRAP: A short-handed Brumbies line-up has been brushed aside in Christchurch, smashed 35-17 by the Crusaders in their Super Rugby Pacific clash.
Two tries for gun wing Leicester Fainga’anuku snuffed any hopes the Brumbies had of pinching an upset win on their first trip to New Zealand for the season.
With seven Wallabies on the shelf through a combination of injuries and rest, the Brumbies were rarely in the contest and never led in the 18-point loss.
It’s the Brumbies’ first loss of the season, although they won’t be panicking with top-line stars Len Ikitau, Darcy Swain, Tom Wright, James Slipper, Rob Valetini, Pete Samu and Nic White all set to return to the line-up in the coming weeks.
They were particularly vulnerable in the forwards with two of their seven first-half penalties coming from scrums, with Slipper (rested) Swain (injured) and Allan Alaalatoa (bench) all missing from the pack.
The Brumbies snuck an early penalty goal but were behind soon after when Fainga’anuku crossed off the back of a scrum play.
The home side were 14-3 to the good when centre Braydon Ennor got on the end of a delightful Pepesana Patafilo kick, capping a brilliant counter-attacking play, while hooker Codie Taylor powered over in the shadows of halftime to effectively put the game to bed.
Alaalatoa made an immediate impact when injected in the second half with Lonergan scoring off the back of impressive forward pressure, before Fainga’anuku restored the advantage shortly after.
Brumbies wing Corey Toole dragged them back to 28-17 with 10 minutes to play courtesy of a stunning pass from Rory Scott but Christian Leo-Willie sealed the Crusaders’ bonus point a minute from time.
Lonergan said the second-half tries had shown how the Brumbies could be damaging, but lamented they hadn’t been able to get the battle on their terms for longer.
Meanwhile, the unbeaten, table-topping Chiefs have heaped more pain on the NSW Waratahs with an uninspiring 24-14 Super Rugby Pacific victory in Sydney.
Wallabies coach Eddie Jones was on hand to witness an error-riddled match on Friday night that only briefly came to life during a frenetic period in the second half.
Jones earlier on Friday admitted he hadn’t been impressed with much from Australia’s five Super Rugby sides so far this season and he might have been forgiven for wondering what he’d got himself into after the Waratahs’ lacklustre showing.
Darren Coleman’s injury-hit outfit were resolute in defence but butter-fingered and clunky in attack despite the best efforts of their faithful fans at Allianz Stadium to lift the Tahs to a desperately needed win.
Alas, the Waratahs slumped to a fourth defeat from five outings.
A runaway 40-metre intercept try to skipper Jake Gordon in the 17th minute offset a soft early cross from Chiefs five-eighth Bryn Gatland and looked to be the energising jolt the Waratahs needed.
The Chiefs mounted attack after attack but the Tahs produced a heroic defensive effort to keep the competition leaders at bay.
The Chiefs resorted to a penalty shot from near halfway, so desperate were they to convert their territorial dominance into points.
But Damian McKenzie’s long-range effort wasn’t even close as the Tahs went to the break somehow level at 7-7.
McKenzie eventually slotted a 45-metre shot to break the deadlock after halftime before Chiefs winger Emoni Narawa sent the visitors out to a 17-7 lead with a 54th-minute try.
Michael Hooper, in his milestone 133rd Super Rugby game, making the champion flanker the most-capped Waratahs back-rower ever, gave his side hope when he finished off a driving maul try on the hour.
But Narawa’s second try five minutes from fulltime sealed victory for the Chiefs and left the Waratahs empty-handed without even a bonus point.
Coleman and co travel to Canberra next Saturday to face the Brumbies in what seems an early must-win encounter for last year’s struggling quarter-finalists.
The results and scorers:
Crusaders 35-17 Brumbies
Tries: Fainga’anuku 2, Ennor, Taylor, Lio-Willie
Cons: Mo’unga 5
Tries: R. Lonergan, Toole
Cons: R. Lonergan 2
Pen: R. Lonergan
Crusaders: 15 Fergus Burke, 14 Pepesana Patafilo, 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 Dominic Gardiner, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Tamaiti Williams, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 George Bower, 18 Seb Calder, 19 Jamie Hannah, 20 Christian Lio-Willie, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Will Gualter, 23 Chay Fihaki
Brumbies: 15 Andy Muirhead, 14 Ben O’Donnell, 13 Ollie Sapsford, 12 Tamati Tua, 11 Corey Toole, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Ryan Lonergan (captain), 8 Charlie Cale, 7 Luke Reimer, 6 Rory Scott, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Jack Wright, 3 Sefo Kautai, 2 Connal McInerney, 1 Blake Schoupp
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Fred Kaihea, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Jahrome Brown, 21 Pedro Rolando, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Declan Meredith
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Referees: Angus Mabey, Marcus Playle
Waratahs 14-24 Chiefs
Tries: Gordon, Hooper
Cons: Donaldson 2
Tries: Gatland, Narawa 2
Cons: McKenzie 2
Waratahs: 15 Ben Dowling, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Joey Walton, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Will Harris, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Ned Hanigan, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 1 Te Tera Faulkner
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Tom Lambert, 18 Dan Botha, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Zac Von Appen, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Harry Wilson, 23 Nemani Nadolo
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Rameka Poihipi, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 John Ryan, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Aidan Ross,
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 George Dyer, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Cortez Ratima, 22 Daniel Rona, 23 Shaun Stevenson
Referee: Jordan Way
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner, Matt Kellahan