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Highlanders comeback beats Crusaders in Super Rugby

April 11, 2015

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The Highlanders came from behind with a three-try burst to beat the Crusaders 25-20 and push the seven-time champions out of the playoff places in Super Rugby on Saturday.

The Stormers, Cheetahs and Bulls all won their round-nine games to give South African teams a clean sweep over Australian opposition.

Fylhalf Fred Zeilinga missed a penalty for the struggling Sharks after the full-time siren as the Lions took their South African derby 23-21 in Johannesburg for a fourth straight victory.

Halfway through the regular season, New Zealand’s unbeaten Wellington-based Hurricanes still lead after their weekend bye. Australia’s second-placed ACT Brumbies missed the chance to make up ground when they lost to the bottom-placed Blues on Friday.

The Bulls were probably the biggest winners of the round, sweeping aside Queensland Reds 43-22 with six tries in the weekend’s last game to leapfrog the Stormers atop the South African conference and go third overall, a point off ACT.

In a day of comebacks, four of Saturday’s five winners were trailing at halftime.

The Highlanders scored three tries in 10 minutes on either side of halftime to rally from 14-3 down and edge the Crusaders away in Christchurch in their all-New Zealand battle. Powerful winger Waisake Naholo crossed twice early in the second half and All Blacks fullback Ben Smith had the Highlanders’ other try.

The Stormers also produced a strong second 40 to win 32-18 away at the defending-champion New South Wales Waratahs, with two tries from Damian de Allende and one each from fellow backs Kobus van Wyk and Cheslin Kolbe.

Handling errors from Australian internationals Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau, and loose passing from Will Skelton, thwarted the New South Wales attack. The usually reliable Bernard Foley had an off-night at flyhalf in Sydney, missing three from five kicks at goal.

The Waratahs led 15-13 at halftime through tries to wingers Taqele Naiyaravoro in the 13th minute and Rob Horne seconds before the break. The South Africans retook the lead when Kurt Coleman’s chip kick from inside his own 22 bounced into the arms of winger Van Wyk and he raced 70 meters to score. Foley cut the Stormers’ advantage to 20-18 but the Stormers pulled away again when De Allende intercepted Foley’s errant pass for his second try. Fullback Kolbe clinched the bonus point with a late long-range score.

“It’s not easy to come to Sydney and beat the defending champions,” said Stormers captain Juan de Jongh. “Our defense was rock-solid.”

The Waratahs lost for the third time in seven and face leaders the Hurricanes in New Zealand next week.

“We just didn’t adjust well enough to what they threw at us,” Waratahs captain Dave Dennis said.

The Cheetahs made it two successes for South African teams in Australia when they beat the Western Force 24-15 in Perth after trailing 15-8, ending their tour to Australasia on a high.

Defenses were absent in Pretoria as the Bulls and Queensland shared 10 tries at Loftus Versfeld. Two from Springbok Francois Hougaard in the first half sent the Bulls on their way. Queensland threatened another comeback with scores in quick succession by scrumhalf Will Genia and flyhalf Nick Frisby early in the second.

The Bulls shut down any hopes of a Queensland revival, crossing the line three more times to go third. The Reds slipped to the bottom.

New Zealand sides the Chiefs and Hurricanes and the Australian conference’s Melbourne Rebels all had weekend byes.

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Scoring summaries:

Highlanders 25 (Waisake Naholo 2, Ben Smith tries; Lima Sopoaga 2 conversions, 2 penalties), Crusaders 20 (Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua tries; Colin Slade conversion, 2 penalties, Israel Dagg conversion). HT: 13-14.

Stormers 32 (Damian de Allende 2, Cheslin Kolbe, Kobus van Wyk tries; Kurt Coleman 2, Demetri Catrakilis conversions, 2 penalties), New South Wales 18 (Rob Horne, Taqele Naiyaravoro tries; Bernard Foley conversion, 2 penalties). HT: 13-15.

Cheetahs 24 (Raymond Rhule, Heinrich Brussow tries; Joe Pietersen conversion, 3 penalties, dropped goal), Western Force 15 (Luke Morahan, Chris Alcock tries; Sias Ebersohn conversion, penalty). HT: 8-10.

Lions 23 (Howard Mnisi, Faf de Klerk, Harold Vorster tries; Elton Jantjies conversion, 2 penalties), Sharks 21 (Renaldo Bothma, Lwazi Mvovo, Thomas du Toit tries, Fred Zeilinga 3 conversions). HT: 11-14.

Bulls 43 (Francois Hougaard 2, Pierre Spies, Marcel van der Merwe, Burger Odendaal, Piet van Zyl tries; Jacques-Louis Potgieter 3 conversions, penalty, Tian Schoeman 2 conversions), Queensland Reds 22 (Lachie Turner, Will Genia, Nick Frisby, Marco Kotze tries; Turner conversion). HT: 24-5.

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