New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders won their fifth-straight game to be one of only three unbeaten teams in this season’s Super Rugby as Argentina’s Jaguares won again this weekend.
The seven-time champion Crusaders whipped the hapless Western Force of Australia 45-17 to stake their claim for this year’s southern hemisphere provincial crown.
Fellow Kiwis Waikato Chiefs and South Africa’s Western Stormers are also yet to lose with the Stormers denying Japan’s Sunwolves 44-31 in Singapore while the Chiefs had a bye.
Across in Buenos Aires the Jaguares won for the fourth time this season, downing Australia’s Queensland Reds 22-8 to lie just one point off the lead held by the Golden Lions in the Africa 2 conference.
The Lions overpowered the endangered Southern Kings 42-19 in an all-South African derby in Port Elizabeth, while the Coastal Sharks won a high-scoring derby 38-30 over the Central Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
There was little joy for the beleaguered Australian hopes with the ACT Brumbies succumbing to an 18-13 loss at home to New Zealand’s Otago Highlanders, while the NSW Waratahs won a thrilling derby with a last-minute try 32-25 over the Rebels in Melbourne.
In the remaining game, the Blues downed South Africa’s Northern Bulls 38-14 in Auckland, while the defending champions Wellington Hurricanes had a bye.
The Crusaders posted seven tries to two and kept the Force scoreless in the second half to make it five wins from five this season.
It was a lopsided defeat the Force could have done without amid speculation the Perth club faces the axe as governing body SANZAAR look to revamp the dysfunctional competition.
The Stormers survived an audacious challenge from the struggling Sunwolves to maintain their unbeaten start, winning a 10-try thriller at Singapore’s national stadium.
Trailing for most of what was a high-paced, free-flowing match after being caught out by the Sunwolves’ innovative attack, the South Africans needed all their extra big-match experience to wear down the tournament newcomers, who faded badly in the last quarter of the match.
“The Sunwolves are a smart side and they’re very well coached,” Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said.
“We knew it was going to be tough but they still surprised us with some of the things they did, especially when they kicked in behind us.”
The Jaguares fortunes continue to improve this season with a side-stepping try by winger Ramiro Moyano the highlight of a bruising battle with the Reds.
Democratic Republic of Congo-born Madosh Tambwe scored his first Super Rugby tries as the Lions pounded the Southern Kings.
Tambwe took just four minutes to score, intercepting a pass before collecting a pass on the tryline to dot down for his second try.
Teenager Curwin Bosch proved an outstanding back-up for injured skipper Patrick Lambie, kicking 18 points in the Sharks win over the Cheetahs.
The 19-year-old fly-half slotted four penalties and three conversions from eight attempts and was voted man of the match as the Sharks made it four straight wins since losing the opening game of the season.
Centre David Horwitz scored a try in the final minute to cap a second-half fightback to give the Waratahs a thrilling win over the Rebels.
The Waratahs trailed 25-6 at half-time but squeezed home on the back of four second-half tries to deny the Rebels a prized victory over their better-resourced Australian rivals.
The Highlanders returned to the ground where they knocked the Brumbies out of last season’s quarter-finals to overturn a 10-5 half-time deficit.
Otago’s victory extended Australian teams’ misery against Kiwi opposition this season with New Zealand boasting a 7-0 winning record so far this year.
A second half revival sparked by two Matt Duffie tries gave the Blues a comfortable win over the Bulls.