Super Rugby
Blues earn first win as Australian sides stumble
Sam Bruce and Brittany Mitchell
April 12, 2015

Blues 16-14 Brumbies

Blues 16-14 Brumbies (Australia only)

It's taken eight games but the Blues are finally on the board for 2015. Friday night's two-point win over the Brumbies wasn't without its drama, though, as Sir John Kirwan's side did their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Arguably their best half of the season - they were up 13-0 at the break - descended into a nervy, error-riddled effort after the break as even the simplest catch-and-pass skills were seemingly hard to execute. Having trailed for much of the match, the Brumbies found themselves in the lead when Christian Leali'ifano kicked his third penalty with seven minutes to play. Replacement Blues fly-half Ihaia West then answered for the hosts from the touchline with what looked to be the match's defining moment. But the Blues were made to endure a Nic White penalty attempt after the siren; the long-range effort drifting wide much to the delight of the small crowd on hand at Eden Park.

Crusaders 20-25 Highlanders

Crusaders 20-25 Highlanders (Australia only)
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The Highlanders ensured South Island bragging rights would be shared in 2015 with a wonderful win on the road in Christchurch. The visitors were forced to come from behind against the Crusaders but a blistering 20-minute period - broken only by half-time - saw them power into the lead on the back of two tries from Waisake Naholo and the genuine class of Ben Smith. The hosts did threaten a comeback of their own late in the piece, but they would live to regret another disappointing night when passes hit the ground and their timing was just a little bit off. The win takes the Highlanders to 5-2 for the season, and closes the gap on the Chiefs and Hurricanes in the New Zealand conference. The Crusaders are also right in the hunt just four points behind their Southern rivals while coach Todd Blackadder still has the luxury of promoting both Dan Carter and Richie McCaw to the starting line-up.

Waratahs 18-32 Stormers

Waratahs 18-32 Stormers (Australia only)
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The Force managed to do it in the opening round and the Stormers must have taken note of the Perth side's blueprint as they muscled their way to a fine win over the Waratahs in Sydney. A Herculean defensive effort and some excellent off-the-cuff rugby helped the visitors to a first win on tour after back-to-back defeats in New Zealand. The Waratahs' key strike weapons, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau, could do little in the face of a resilient Stormers defensive line as the visitors continually pushed their more-fancied hosts backwards. The Stormers' pack deserved many of the plaudits for their hard work at the tackle, the backs finished on the scoresheet with centre Damian de Allende grabbing a double with Cheslin Kolbe and Jacobus van Wyk crossed from long-range efforts.

Force 15-24 Cheetahs

Force 15-24 Cheetahs (Australia only)
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This was meant to be the Force's celebration of their 10th year in Super Rugby, but no one told the Cheetahs as they stole the show and extended their hosts' losing stretch to seven. Fighting to avoid the wooden spoon, the home game was crucial for the Force and they looked likely to become the first Australian side to win in round nine when they took the lead early and continued to make ground into the second half. But as the match got fiery and the Force squandered much of their possession in the second half, Cheetahs fly-half Joe Pietersen took control for the visitors - nailing two penalties, a drop goal and a conversion much to the disappointment of the 9000-small crowd. Now sitting on a 1-7 record, the Force have all but lost any chance of reaching a finals spot while the Cheetahs just cling onto 12th place on the standings.

Bulls 43-22 Reds

Bulls 43-22 Reds (Australia only)
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The Reds' forgettable season continued as they sunk to their seventh loss and fell to the bottom of the Super Rugby table. The Reds were always going to be against the wall without several big-name players, but they fell to their sixth straight loss only and after a strong and spirited effort; coach Richard Graham's stats continued to take a beating falling to just six wins in 24 games with the Reds. The Reds showed glimpses of their attacking prowess - scoring four-tries - but mainly their attack missed any cutting edge with the loss of Quade Cooper and James O'Connor. The Bulls, however, were brutal in defence, making it almost impossible for the Reds to break the advantage line, while their attack ran a mammoth 520-metres with only 36% possession. Young star Jesse Kriel and wing Francois Hougaard had exceptional games in what was a crucial win for the Bulls as they clung to a narrow lead on the South African conference.

Lions 23-21 Sharks

Lions 23-21 Sharks (Australia only)
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A late Sharks comeback almost ended the Lions five-game winning run, the visitors closing the margin to two points in the final minutes before a missed penalty after the full-time siren saw the Lions cling to their victory. Slotting into seventh, just one point behind the Stormers, the Lions continue to show their finals intentions, while the Sharks' season continues hangs in the balance as they slipped to ninth on the table. A tight affair in the first half, both sides swapped the lead with the Sharks scoring the first try of the match. But the Lions weren't to be outdone as they made easy work of the visitors' defence and crashed through for three tries. Trailing the Sharks by three-points heading into the break, the Lions came out firing in the second stanza as they starved the Durban-based side of possession and smothered their defence; but they were unable to put the Sharks away with fly-half Elton Jantjies struggling with boot.

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