Super Rugby
Reds and Blues slip to shock defeats
ESPNscrum Staff
June 4, 2011

The Brumbies pulled off only their third victory of the season as they upset Super Rugby leaders the Reds 22-14 in Brisbane on Saturday.

Brumbies fly-half Matt Giteau kicked 17 points while fellow Australia international Stephen Moore barged over for a try as the Brumbies finally found some form to rock the Reds' hopes of finishing top of the table.

Giteau kicked three early penalties for the Brumbies while opposite number Quade Cooper notched two three-pointers for the Reds as the visitors put the hosts under huge pressure. The Brumbies' ambitions to flood the breakdown and generate quick ball for Giteau and scrum-half Patrick Phibbs paid dividends when Moore burst over under the posts after 17 minutes. Giteau added the conversion before slotting another penalty.

The Reds hit back when Cooper fed fullback Ben Lucas on the blindside and he struggled his way to the tryline to reduce the Burmbies lead to 19-11 at half time. Cooper missed the conversion but kicked a penalty early in the second half to edge closer to their rivals.

But the Brumbies showed a ferocious fighting spirit, which has been lacking so far this season, as their aggressive and relentless defence held the Reds' star backline at bay. In the dying moment the Reds conceded a penalty which Giteau kicked to cost the Reds a losing bonus point.

New Zealand conference leaders the Blues also slipped to a shock 16-11 defeat to the Chiefs at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday as they lost their third game on the bounce.

Luke McAlister, again operating a fly-half in favour of Stephen Brett, gave the Blues a steady start with two early penalties as they looked to bounce back from defeats to the Reds and the Stormers. But veteran centre Tana Umaga burst through the Blues' defence to reduce the deficit before Chiefs fly-half Stephen Donald converted to give them a 7-6 half time lead.

Donald overcame some erratic kicking from the tee to add a penalty before Jared Payne crossed for the Blues to put the hosts back in front. But some strong defence from the Chiefs in the second half, wayward kicking from McAlister and two further penalties from Donald ensured they closed the gap on the Hurricanes at the foot of New Zealand conference.

The Bulls climbed above the Waratahs in the Super Rugby standings with a hard-earned 23-17 victory over the men from New South Wales at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening.

The Waratahs were on top for long periods of the first half and twice took the lead courtesy of penalties from fullback Kurtley Beale. However, Morne Steyn's boot promptly restored parity on both occasions before the Bulls shocked their vistors with a fine try right on the stroke of half-time from Wynand Olivier. After a clean take by Victor Matfield at a lineout some 40 metres from the Tahs' line, Francois Hougaard fed the onrushing Gerhard van den Heever, who, with the aid of a fantastic line, scythed through the visitors' defence before leaving Olivier with a simple finish.

The Bulls were over again within four minutes of the second half, Bjorn Basson cruising over for his ninth try of the season after a terrific move by the home side which had started inside their own 22 and featured some fast hands from van den Heever, Zane Kirchner and Jaco Pretorius.

Beale kept the Waratahs in touch with a penalty on 51 minutes before replacement Atieli Pakalani drew the Aussies right back in to it when he dived over unopposed in the right corner on the hour mark. Beale failed to convert but he landed a penalty six minutes later to draw his side to within three points but then team-mate Pat O'Connor was given a straight red card for a headbutt Flip van der Merwe at the base of a ruck. Steyn nailed the resulting penalty and the Bulls survived some late Waratahs pressure to claim a vital victory.

The Sharks completed a decent weekend for South Africa's play-off hopefuls with a hard-fought 23-18 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.

John Plumtree's side remain on course for a top six spot despite a scare at Free State Stadium, where the home side raced out of the blocks to snatch an 11-6 half-time lead. Fly-half Sias Ebersohn landed two penalties either side of a try to the excellent Sarel Pretorius, his halfback partner.

The Sharks mustered two penalties of their own through playmaker Pat Lambie, who added a third just after break as the visitors wrestled control of the contest. Springbok winger Lwazi Mvovo bagged their first try after 48 minutes, with the conversion giving his side a five-point cushion. JP Pietersen increased that advantage just before the 70-minute mark, with Cheetahs winger Riaan Viljoen snatching a losing bonus point with a late try.

A second-half fightback lifted the Hurricanes to a resounding 38-27 Super Rugby victory over the Lions in Wellington on Saturday.

Trailing 20-8 after tries by Jaco Taute and Doppies La Grange cancelled out an early five-pointer by Aaron Cruden, the Hurricanes looked to be in trouble as defensive lapses and an inability to control the ball hampered them.

But a Hosea Gear try just before half-time sparked the home side and they kept up the pressure in the second spell with Ma'a Nonu adding a third try and Gear completing his double to give the Hurricanes back-to-back wins for the first time this season. Cruden continued his fine goal-kicking form with four penalties and three conversions for an 18-point haul.

The Stormers routed the Melbourne Rebels 40-3 at AAMI Park on Friday to keep alive their healthy lead at the top of the South African conference.

Allister Coetzee's side secured a prized bonus point in the dying embers of the game thanks to two tries in the last two minutes. Replacement back-rower Nick Koster crashed over on 78 minutes, with Springbok centre Jean de Villiers adding a fifth score on the hooter.

Stormers playmaker Kurt Coleman opened the scoring with the second-minute penalty, Julian Huxley responding for the hosts 10 minutes later to establish parity for the last time in the game.

Bryan Habana bagged the first try soon after but the Stormers were forced to wait until 15 minutes into the second-half for their second, when Coleman crossed to cap a fine individual performance. Moments later, Springbok midfielder Jaque Fourie was celebrating a further score, with the Rebels' hopes of at least denying the visitors a full five points disappearing late on thanks to Koster and De Villiers.

Also on Friday, the Highlanders were left cursing a late double from winger David Smith as they blew an 11-point half-time lead to lose 21-14 to the Western Force in Dunedin.

Jamie Joseph's side, playing their final game at Carisbrook before next year's move to the Forsyth Barr Stadium, sported a controversial new lime green playing strip for a clash with a Force side ravaged by injuries.

They were comfortable at the break following fullback Ben Smith's try - following a wayward Nathan Charles lineout throw - and three penalties from Limo Sopoaga. A 10th minute penalty was all the visitors had to show for their first-half efforts and they looked to be heading for another defeat as the game moved into the final quarter.

Smith's first try arrived on 65 minutes and was converted by the superb James Stannard, who added two late penalties to his winger's second try, a mesmerising break from halfway on 74 minutes, to ensure that the Highlanders' last memory of the House of Pain was just that.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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