Super Rugby has returned in all its glory in 2015 and here we review the seventh round of games, focusing on the New Zealand franchises with the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour in mind.
It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams, but the Hurricanes kept their winning streak alive with a resounding 36-12 victory over the Melbourne Rebels.
The Canes made it six wins from six for their best ever start to a Super Rugby season, and did it without rested All Blacks Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea.
But Kiwi internationals TJ Perenara and Cory Jane grabbed tries either side of half-time for the hosts, while Jason Woodward was imperious with the boot slotting five kicks from the tee.
And the Chiefs built on their promising start to the Super Rugby season with an enthralling 37-27 win at home to the Cheetahs.
Scores from All Blacks duo Liam Messam and Sam Cane helped the Chiefs into the top four, while Sonny Bill Williams returned from concussion but could not force his way onto the scoresheet despite a couple of dangerous breaks in the second half.
The Highlanders also got back to winning ways after a disappointing showing last time out against the Canes, with a classy attacking performance seeing them to a 39-21 triumph over the Stormers.
Halfback Aaron Smith, capped 38 times by New Zealand, flew over the whitewash for the Highlanders to cancel out South African Juan de Jongh’s opener.
Then Fijians Waisake Naholo and Patrick Osborne got in on the act, with Naholo touching down twice, but there was still time for de Jongh to get his second.
But it was not all good news for the Kiwi sides, as not even the return of Dan Carter – scourge of the Lions in 2005 – to his favoured No.10 Jersey could prevent the Crusaders going down to the Bulls in Pretoria.
Carter kicked 14 points for the visitors in the 31-19 defeat, but was matched blow for blow by Springboks star Handre Pollard who managed 16 himself from the tee in response – becoming the first player to pass 100 points in 2015 in the process.
And despite a flawless goal-kicking performance, Carter was intercepted on 66 minutes by Grant Hattingh who made the long gallop for the try-line and crashed over for the decisive score.
Elsewhere, another All Black, Francis Saili, was on the scoresheet as the Blues were dominated in Sydney by the Waratahs.
It was the Aussies who ran riot with internationals Nick Phipps and Peter Betham touching down, while Wallabies fly-half Bernard Foley also kicked 13 points, meaning the Auckland outfit remain winless in Super Rugby this season.
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