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Rebels continue perfect start to Super Rugby season

March 11, 2018

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Melbourne Rebels continued their perfect start to the new Super Rugby season by beating the ACT Brumbies to take over as the overall competition leaders for the first time after the Canterbury Crusaders and the Johannesburg-based Lions both suffered their first losses of the campaign.

The undefeated Rebels thrashed the Brumbies 33-10 to register their third straight win with a bonus point to overtake the Lions on points difference at the top of the overall standings, as well as extending their lead in the Australian conference to seven points.

The Rebels have never finished better than 10th since joining Super Rugby in 2011 and finished 18th last season after winning just once.

“It’s a bit of a dream start,” Rebels coach Dave Wessels said. “To not only win the game but to win it with a bonus point is a bit special.”

The Lions saw their three-game winning streak ended when they lost 38-35 to the Auckland Blues, who won for the first time this season. Super Rugby finalists in 2016 and 2017, the Lions remain on top of the South African conference standings, seven points clear of the Sharks.

Beaten in their first two matches the season, the Blues scored two tries in the last four minutes to defeat the Lions at Ellis Park. The Lions looked to have the match under control when Dylan Smith scored in the 73rd minute to give the home team a 35-24 lead, but a try to Jimmy Tupou and another to Murphy Taramai on the final siren gave the New Zealanders the win.

“As you’d expect after a hard-fought win the spirits are high,” Blues coach Tana Umaga said. “We’ve been close before and it’s gone the other way.

“We’ve known what’s been within this group and the work they’ve down around showing the resilience and toughness to grind out wins. We’ve just been waiting for them to show it. They did that in leaps and bounds tonight.”

The Wellington-based Hurricanes overcame an arduous travel schedule, which required them to play their first two matches in South Africa and Argentina, to beat the defending champion Crusaders 29-19. Tries to prop Chris Eaves, scrumhalf T.J. Perenara, winger Ben Lam and center Matt Proctor gave the Hurricanes a 26-5 lead after 31 minutes. The Crusaders closed within seven points at 26-19 but the Hurricanes made the game safe with a penalty to Jordie Barrett.

The Dunedin-based Highlanders are third, a point behind, despite being undefeated after two games. Coming off an early bye, the Highlanders beat the Cape Town-based Stormers 33-15.

The Jaguares scored from the first play of the game and went on to beat the New South Wales Waratahs 38-28 for their first win of the season while the Queensland Reds won consecutive matches for the first time in almost four years when they beat the Pretoria-based Bulls 20-14 in Brisbane.

The Durban-based Sharks crushed the Sunwolves 50-22, leaving the Japanese franchise as the only winless team in the competition.

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