Stormers make it 2 wins from 2 to lead Super Rugby
The Stormers beat the 14-man Blues 27-16 to lead Super Rugby on Saturday as former champions the Crusaders and Queensland Reds bounced back from opening-round defeats.
The Cape Town-based Stormers capitalized on an early red card against Blues lock Hayden Triggs for punching, and stayed ahead of their undermanned New Zealand visitors without ever completely dominating at Newlands.
The win was still good enough to see the Stormers edge ahead of the Wellington-based Hurricanes in the standings on points difference after two rounds. The two-time champion Chiefs have also won their first two games as they attempt to regain the title they won in 2012 and 2013.
In their New Zealand derby, flyhalf Colin Slade kicked 16 points as the Crusaders rebounded from a surprise first-round loss to hold off the Highlanders 26-20. And the Reds responded to a heavy defeat to ACT Brumbies to beat the Western Force 18-6 in an Australian derby.
In the final game of the second round, Springboks Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach and Marcell Coetzee made telling contributions as the Sharks beat the Lions 29-12 — with a four-try bonus point — in an all-South African battle at a water-soaked Kings Park.
The Stormers, Hurricanes and Canberra-based ACT Brumbies hold the top three spots. South Africa’s Bulls and New Zealand’s Blues, both former champions, are struggling after opening with successive losses.
In Cape Town, Triggs’ punch on Duane Vermeulen left his Auckland-based Blues with an uphill battle against a Stormers team that had already scored the first try through scrumhalf Nic Groom’s snipe from the back of a ruck a meter out. Winger Dillyn Leyds continued his smooth start to Super Rugby with a second try in two games in his maiden season.
Blues flyhalf Ihaia West kept his team in touch with the boot, and Jimmy Cowan finished off a clinical backline attack in the second half to bring the Blues to within five at 21-16. The Stormers finally shut down any chance of a comeback with two late penalties.
In the final game of the round in Durban, a pinpoint crosskick from Springboks No. 10 Lambie allowed Odwa Ndungane to slide over for the first try. Scrumhalf Reinach scored soon after, and flanker Coetzee rumbled over for two tries in the second half as the Sharks dealt better with the persistent rain and slippery field.
Slade set up the Christchurch-based Crusaders’ win over the Highlanders of Otago after reverting to his favored flyhalf role in the absence of the injured Dan Carter. He kicked four penalties and two conversions to supplement tries by Scott Barrett and Johnny McNicholl.
In Brisbane, Australia, Lachie Turner scored 13 of Queensland’s 18 points with a try, conversion and two penalties to beat the Perth-based Western Force. The Reds played without two of their star signings: James O’Connor was ruled out after failing a pre-game medical, and Karmichael Hunt was stood down on Friday after it was revealed that he and two members of the Gold Coast National Rugby League team are facing drug supply charges in court next month.
Crusaders 26 (Scott Barrett, Johnny McNicholl tries; Colin Slade 2 conversions, 4 penalties), Highlanders 20 (Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Smith tries; Lima Sopoaga 2 conversions, 2 penalties). HT: 20-7.
Queensland 18 (Lachie Turner try, penalty try; Turner conversion, 2 penalties), Western Force 6 (Sias Ebersohn 2 penalties). HT: 11-6.
Stormers 27 (Nic Groom, Dillyn Leyds tries; Dimitri Catrakilis conversion, 4 penalties, Kurt Coleman penalty), Blues 16 (Jimmy Cowan try; Ihaia West conversion, 3 penalties). HT: 18-6.
Sharks 29 (Marcell Coetzee 2, Odwa Ndungane, Cobus Reinach tries; Pat Lambie 3 conversions, penalty), Lions 12 (Marnitz Boshoff 4 penalties). HT: 15-6.