Super Rugby: Perfect Blues stay top, Crusaders march on

By Sports Desk June 04, 2021

The Blues beat the Reds 31-24 in Brisbane on Friday to stay top of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman table.

Leon MacDonald's side have now won four out of four in the competition, though they were denied a precious bonus point at Suncorp Stadium against the injury-plagued Reds.

Harry Wilson found a gap to score the opening try of the match for the home team, but Brandon Paenga-Amosa's yellow card for collapsing a maul proved to be a turning point.

Dalton Papalii and winger Mark Telea crossed over for the Blues in the space of seven minutes as MacDonald's charges took full advantage of the one-man advantage.

Patrick Tuipulotu and Finlay Christie were next to dot down for the leaders, either side of Paenga-Amosa's try, to give their side a 17-point advantage.

The Reds made a fight of it late on when a crosskick sent Filipo Daugunu over, soon followed by a successful penalty from the Fiji-born winger, but the comeback fell just short.

The Blues are one point better off than Super Rugby Aotearoa champions the Crusaders, who also made it four wins from four by defeating the Western Force 29-21 in Christchurch.

Scott Robertson's side were made to work hard for the victory after falling behind to Toni Pulu's well-taken try inside the opening four minutes.

Manasa Mataele finished soon after and Will Jordan slid over to complete a quickfire turnaround for the Crusaders, who went further ahead thanks to Whetu Douglas.

Ollie Callan's score from close range looked to have given the Force some hope, only for Sione Havili to cross the whitewash after the half-time hooter had sounded.

Jordan got his second of the game to give the Crusaders a 15-point lead and they stayed strong at the back until the final seconds.

Jordan Olowofela chased down Kyle Godwin's kick and went over, denying the Crusaders a bonus point in the process.

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    New Zealand returned to the top of the world rankings with their win over Argentina on Saturday, but coach Ian Foster is more concerned by the upcoming double-header against South Africa.

    With a 36-13 defeat of the Pumas in Brisbane – their ninth consecutive Test win – New Zealand leapfrogged South Africa at the summit.

    Foster's side also moved 10 points clear at the top of the Rugby Championship table and could wrap up the title even with a defeat against the Springboks next time out – if the All Blacks secure a losing bonus or prevent their opponents earning a try bonus.

    But the opportunity to test themselves against the world champions is of greater interest in what will be the 100th Test meeting between the teams.

    Asked about New Zealand's number one ranking, Foster said: "My mindset is you've got to beat number one to be number one.

    "It's not on our mind at all. I'm not saying that to downplay it. We're about to play South Africa next week, we'll get excited about that.

    "We're more interested in winning a Test match than where we sit [in the rankings].

    "If we focus too much on the other thing, we'll get tripped up and won't be there for very long, and that doesn't interest us either."

    Of the South Africa matches, he added: "We love playing Test matches, but we really love playing South Africa, probably because of the amount of respect we've got for them.

    "Over history, it's been an outstanding rivalry.

    "We're not so much talking about number ones and number twos, we've got a chance to go to Townsville to play a foe we've got a lot of respect for and put ourselves in a pretty nice position in this championship."

  • Argentina 13-36 New Zealand: All Blacks on the brink after another bonus-point success Argentina 13-36 New Zealand: All Blacks on the brink after another bonus-point success

    New Zealand pulled further clear at the top of the Rugby Championship standings and closed on the title with a 36-13 victory over Argentina in Brisbane.

    The All Blacks were as dominant in this nominal away Test as they had been in the previous clash last week, even if the scoreline was this time a little closer.

    Patrick Tuipulotu, TJ Perenara, Tupou Vaa'i (twice) and Samisoni Taukei'aho each contributed tries for a fourth bonus-point win from four to move Ian Foster's men 10 points clear of South Africa ahead of a double-header against the world champions.

    New Zealand had to wait only until the sixth minute for their opening try, as Will Jordan carried to the line after a break from Hoskins Sotutu, before Tuipulotu's power got the ball over.

    After Emiliano Boffelli's penalty ensured Argentina would not go scoreless for a third straight Test against the All Blacks, the Pumas were soon on the back foot again.

    New Zealand had a further three tries – for Jordan and Rieko Ioane twice – ruled out before half-time, but they were still able to successfully cross twice more, with Perenara stooping through following a scrum and pressure on the stroke of the interval producing a simple score for Vaa'i in the corner.

    A flowing move from left to right created space for Taukei'aho after the restart, although Boffelli's excellent stretching catch on the left then allowed him to get the ball grounded before he was taken into touch by a combination of Jordie Barrett and Jordan.

    That prompted an improved Argentina spell, yet the All Blacks countered effectively and Vaa'i was unmarked to complete the scoring.

    Will makes it work... eventually

    Jordan was influential in much of the All Blacks' best work, but he was also involved in two of their disallowed tries. The wing was just ahead of Taukei'aho before racing through to score and then played a forward pass of his own to Ioane following a superb take from Damian McKenzie's kick.

    Jordan got it right for the first try of the second half, however, unloading a superb ball to Taukei'aho.

    Celebration against the Springboks?

    The All Blacks have now won nine Tests on the bounce, last enjoying a longer run between August 2015 and October 2016 (18 wins), and the next one should be special – their 100th meeting with the Springboks.

    Anything less than a bonus-point South Africa win, with New Zealand failing to earn a losing bonus, would see last year's Tri-Nations champions crowned again.

  • Australia 30-17 South Africa: Ikitau and Koroibete lead Wallabies to victory Australia 30-17 South Africa: Ikitau and Koroibete lead Wallabies to victory

    Australia got the better of South Africa for the second week running as Len Ikitau and Marika Koroibete led the Wallabies to a 30-17 victory in the Rugby Championship.

    Having triumphed 28-26 over the Springboks on the Gold Coast last week, Australia came out on top again in Saturday's tussle in Brisbane.

    The victory takes Australia to within one point of the second-place Springboks on 10 points, who are five behind leaders and reigning champions New Zealand, who face Argentina in the later game.

    Quade Cooper was the star for Australia last time out, converting eight kicks, though he missed his first two-pointer here after Ikitau had crossed following Faf de Klerk's early booking for knocking the ball from Nic White's hands.

    Handre Pollard pulled the 'Boks to within two points with a long-range penalty, though Australia swiftly struck again, Ikitau once more finding the gap and this time Cooper hit his mark from the conversion.

    Pollard hit another two penalties either side of a Cooper three-pointer as, back to their full count, South Africa attempted to turn the screw, yet even with Lachlan Swinton seeing yellow (after initially being given a red card for a high tackle) the visitors could not prise Australia's defence open before the break.

    Lukhanyo Am finally managed to do so just after the break to nose South Africa ahead for the first time, but it was a short-lived lead, Cooper winning a penalty and converting it before Koroibete steamed in for his first.

    Cooper made no mistake and, five minutes later, Koroibete helped himself to his second to wrap up the result – Jasper Wiese's late yellow adding more frustration for the Springboks.

    No place like home

    Australia are now undefeated in their past seven men's Tests against South Africa on home soil (W6, D1), although Saturday is the first time they have won by a margin of seven points or more in that span. It is also the first time the Wallabies have earned back-to-back wins in men's international rugby since October 2019.

    South Africa's resistance stutters

    Heading into the match, South Africa had conceded just 13 points in the final quarters of games in the tournament, fewer than any other team. However, Australia had scored the most points (27) in the last 20 minutes, and they took that tally to 39 with their 12 points scored between the 62nd and 68th minutes, breaking the Springboks' resolve in the process.

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