Super Rugby has returned in all its glory in 2015 and here we review the eighth round of games, focusing on the New Zealand franchises with the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour in mind.
In an all-Kiwi clash at Waikato Stadium, it was the Chiefs who emerged triumphant, downing the Blues 23-16 thanks to Tom Marshall’s try ten minutes from time.
In truth, it was a sub-par performance from the Chiefs throughout, as they laboured to see off a beleaguered Blues outfit that have failed to win any of their seven games this term.
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden kicked 13 points for the hosts as James Lowe crossed the whitewash although visiting captain Jerome Kaino did notch a try of his own.
That wasn’t enough to stop the Blues slipping to a ninth consecutive loss to the Chiefs, who are coached by All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan.
Following their win, the Waikato-based side stay second in the New Zealand conference, three points behind top-of-the-table Hurricanes.
The Wellington-based outfit made it seven wins out of seven this season as they held off a determined comeback from Cape Town’s Stormers to win 25-20 at the Westpac Stadium.
The Hurricanes’ Ma’a Nonu impressed as he made his 150th Super Rugby appearance, the most by a back in the competition.
But it was his international team-mates Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea as well as the only non-All Black in the ‘Canes backline, youngster Nehe Milner-Skudder, who dotted down to establish a 25-3 half-time lead.
To their credit, the Stormers responded after the interval as Huw Jones and a penalty try ensured a nervy finish but, ultimately, the hosts held on.
But arguably the most impressive performance of all the New Zealand teams came from the Crusaders who ran in eight tries to thump a listless Sharks side 52-10 in Durban.
In a game riddled with ill-discipline, Crusaders saw three players sin-binned over 80 minutes while Sharks flanker Jean Deysel saw red for kneeing Matt Todd in the head.
Todd recovered to touch down in the second half while All Blacks Colin Slade, starting at fly-half in place of Dan Carter who was attending the birth of his second child, Andy Ellis and Israel Dagg also crossed in the rout.
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