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Super Rugby Review: Round 14

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Lynn McConnell     19 May 2019     Getty Images

Again it is the Africa Conference that is closest with six points separating top from bottom, the same as the separation between the four Australian teams. In New Zealand the Blues closed to within three points of the Highlanders.

QUICK TAP: BLUES MOVE BACK INTO PLAYOFFS CONTENTION

If the playoffs were contested at the weekend they would see: Crusaders v Highlanders, Hurricanes v Jaguares, Bulls v Sharks, Brumbies v Lions.

New Zealand Conference

The Blues weren't able to put the Hurricanes away last week but the Jaguares made no mistake in Wellington in claiming a 28-20 win. The Hurricanes got an early try but that was the only time on the night they were in front, as the Jaguares demonstrated their growing stature in the competition by taking the contest to the home team. Pressured into mistakes the Hurricanes were forced to pay this time and the margin of their defeat was greater than the final score suggests due to their post-fulltime hooter try.

It was dicey for the first quarter as the Blues unfolded all their old frustrations, giving up great field position with mistakes that resulted in the Chiefs sending them back downfield. But resolute defence proved the key for the Eden Parkers and they denied the Chiefs several opportunities. They then marshalled their firepower up front to drain the Chiefs' resources and in the end it was a scrum in front of their own posts that resulted in the visitors being overpowered and the winning try being scored, with the extra satisfaction being that it produced a rare bonus point in the 23-8 win.

The Highlanders have made finishing strongly an asset and they pushed the Lions hard at altitude at Ellis Park before finally succumbing 29-38. Both sides scored five tries but in the end it was the goal-kicking of Lions first five-eighths Elton Jantjies that made the difference. There was still only two points in it with five minutes to play but the Lions made it safe on the final hooter with their last try.

Crusaders players and fans would have been bewildered by the TMO's call of a forward pass by centre Braydon Ennor which denied wing Sevu Reece another of his try-scoring specials at Newlands. What made it even worse was that the Stormers were able to use the field position and scrum feed to work their way into Crusaders territory where they won a penalty which resulted in them going for the draw. Having failed to score from similar opportunities earlier in the game, they opted for two points rather than attempting four.



Australia Conference

Enjoying a wealth of possession, the Rebels gave the Bulls defence a solid workout forcing them to make two tackles to one and missing 23 tackles to 14. The Rebels also won twice as many rucks as the visitors but the Bulls managed 21 clean breaks to 15, and that proved crucial in the final outcome and their 32-17 win. Failing to get within loser's bonus point territory might also prove costly to the Rebels in the long haul.

If the Blues finally ended the Chiefs' run of dominance over them after 16 games, the Reds have still to find a way to restrict the Waratahs' winning streak which reached 11 when they managed a 40-32 win in Brisbane. It was something of a triumph for the Waratahs after all the potential distractions of the Israel Folau saga, while also having to cope with their return from their African tour. They didn't have it all their own way and the Reds were only beaten by three late penalty goals landed by Bernard Foley who contributed 20 points from his boot while rival first five-eighths Bryce Hegarty was only able to convert one of the Reds' five tries.



South Africa Conference

Playing an assured tactical game and backing it with great following up for their multitude of kicks, the Jaguares put pressure on the home team to claim a 28-20 win. That wasn't only in their kicking game. They contested key lineouts and while the Hurricanes won 13 lineouts to eight, they also conceded four which suited the Jaguares. The control achieved by Joaquin diaz Bonilla proved crucial in getting his outside moving with Ramiro Moyano especially effective in making 126 running metres. Fullback Emiliano Boffelli also relished the running chances making 100m in the game.

Needing to pick themselves up after their hammering by the Crusaders, the Bulls proved too strong for the Rebels to claim a 32-17 win for their all-important opening game of their Australasian tour. That allowed them to reclaim the lead in the South African Conference from the Jaguares who held it for only an hour or two.

Having been involved in a close contest throughout, the Highlanders went to halftime down 12-14. After the break, the Lions were out to a 21-12 lead, their widest of the game, flanker Kwagga Smith having scored consecutive tries, but the Highlanders came back with Jordan Hyland adding to his Super Rugby try-scoring feats by grabbing one for the Highlanders. But each time the Highlanders came back the Lions responded.

The Stormers felt like they had claimed a win when holding the Crusaders to a 19-19 draw after being written off by all and sundry. Yet they played attritional rugby and relied on drawing penalties from the Crusaders, initially to attempt to utilise their rolling maul, unsuccessfully, before deciding to chase penalty goals in a bid to secure some reward for getting themselves into Crusaders' territory.