Rebels shock Crusaders 20-10 in Super Rugby opener
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The Melbourne Rebels shocked the seven-time champion Crusaders 20-10 and the ACT Brumbies overwhelmed the Queensland Reds 47-3 in Super Rugby’s opening matches on Friday.
The Hurricanes then won 22-8 at the Lions to complete the first day of games in the southern hemisphere rugby championship.
The Christchurch-based Crusaders were stacked with All Blacks, among them stars Dan Carter and Richie McCaw, making rare appearances in the first round. They hadn’t lost at home to Australian teams in 23 matches in 11 years.
But they were outplayed by a Rebels team which had never won in New Zealand, finished last in 2014, but had been significantly strengthened by offseason recruitment.
Nic Stirzaker was shown a yellow card during a first half in which both teams saw their scrumhalves sin-binned, but returned to score the winning try in the 65th minute.
Carter, whose early season appearances have been restricted in recent years by injuries and sabbaticals, turned out to enhance his chances of selection in New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup squad. After a hesitant first half, operating behind a Crusaders forward pack which couldn’t establish any superiority, he limped from the field with an ankle injury during the second half.
“It was a tough game, very physical as we knew it was going to be,” Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham said. “We knew the Crusaders would play an 80-minute game. Credit to them, but credit to our boys for getting the win.”
The Reds were never in the game at Canberra, home of the Brumbies, and trailed 21-3 at halftime. The Brumbies scored six tries to nil for their biggest winning margin over the Reds, eclipsing the 51-8 result 11 years ago.
The embarrassed Reds finished with 14 men when former captain James Horwill received his second yellow card with four minutes left.
New Zealand’s Wellington-based Hurricanes soaked up mounds of pressure in the opening 30 minutes at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, and struck with an opportunist TJ Perenara try to take an 11-8 halftime lead over the Lions. Replacement Matt Proctor went over a minute from the end after the Hurricanes won a tighthead on the Lions’ line.
Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff had missed three early penalties to set the tone for the wasteful home team, which did score the first try through right wing Ruan Combrinck.
But the Lions failed to make use of plenty of possession and the Hurricanes seized their chances to win their opening game of the season for the first time since 2010. Flyhalf Beauden Barrett kicked four penalties for the visitors.
Melbourne 20 (Lopeti Timani, Nic Stirzaker tries; Mike Harris 2 conversions, 2 penalties), Crusaders 10 (Ben Funnell try; Dan Carter conversion, penalty). HT: 13-10.
ACT 47 (Robbie Coleman, James Dargaville, Tevita Kuridrani, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White tries; Christian Leali’ifano 4 conversions, 3 penalties), Queensland 3 (Karmichael Hunt penalty): HT: 21-3.
Hurricanes 22 (TJ Perenara, Matt Proctor tries, Beauden Barrett 4 penalties), Lions 8 (Ruan Combrinck try; Marnitz Boshoff penalty). HT: 11-8.