MELBOURNE, Australia ( Associated Press) – Teams from New Zealand beat Australian opponents again during the first “Super Weekend” of Trans-Tasman matches in Super Rugby Pacific.
The ACT Brumbies beat the Dunedin-based Highlanders 28-17 on Sunday to post the only win by an Aussies over Kiwi rivals in five matches in three days at Melbourne’s AAMI Stadium.
Neither match was a blowout but a gap was still evident between the New Zealand and Australian teams, especially in the ability of the Kiwi teams to finish matches more strongly.
In the first match of the round between the Hamilton-based Chiefs and the New South Wales Waratahs, the Waratahs were only three points behind, 30–27, after 51 minutes. But the Chiefs scored 21 unanswered points in the final 29 minutes, including third and fourth attempts for winger Jonah Lowe.
Waratahs coach Darren Coleman said, “At the moment there is a gap of the last 15 to 20 minutes between us and the Kiwis.” “That’s the biggest thing we need to improve.
“The cream rises, as they say and we are not quite there yet. The crux of it was that the Kiwis blew us away in the last 15-20 minutes, as they have been doing for years, so it would have been better.” Let’s fix it.”
The Auckland-based Blues led Fijian Drua 28-18 after 59 minutes in a match between top-ranked New Zealand and last-placed Australians. Fijian Drua shocked the Blues with his physical approach throughout the match and spent the bulk of the second half in the blues zone. But the Blues made two attempts from intercept and winger AJ Lam completed the double in the 64th minute to end the win.
“It was a poor performance and we couldn’t get our flow going at all,” said Blues coach Leon Macdonald. “But we won and we got five points and that’s what we wanted.”
In the most striking example of the New Zealand teams’ comeback potential, the Wellington-based Hurricanes trailed the Queensland Reds 17–0, then scored 30 unanswered points to beat the defending Australian champions 30–17.
The match was scary, punctuated by stoppages and three yellow cards – two for the Hurricanes. Ballin Sullivan and Tyrell Lomax both made two attempts for the Hurricanes, and Sullivan also received a yellow card in the ninth minute.
“These New Zealand teams will pay you for your lack of discipline,” said Reds coach Brad Thorne. “You have to learn your lesson fast.”
The Brumbies scored a crucial victory for the Australian teams to prevent New Zealand’s sweep, which could have been detrimental to the Trans-Tasman section of the competition. The Australian teams were expected to learn from last season’s Trans-Tasman competition in which they won only two out of 26 matches.
Demonstrating that Australian teams could beat New Zealand teams, the Brumbies maintained interest in the competition, although crowds at Super Weekend fell short of expectations.
The Melbourne Rebels also showed interest in the competition with a bold performance against the Christchurch-based Crusaders. The Crusaders were expected to win easily, but led only 7–3 at halftime in front of determined rebels’ defense.
While they eventually went out victorious in two out of six tries, the Crusaders’ struggle gave hope to other Australian teams.
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