Super Rugby
Round 15 talking points and video highlights
Brittany Mitchell and Sam Bruce
May 27, 2015

The Hurricanes continued on their winning ways against the Blues while the Highlanders all but secured a finals campaign with victory over Western Force in Perth as the Waratahs defeated Crusaders in the grand final rematch, but it was the Reds' performance - specifically James O'Connor's night from hell - that had everyone talking. Read on so you are fully prepared for the discussions in the office on Monday morning and through the week.

Chiefs 34-20 Bulls

Chiefs 34-30 Bulls (Australia only)

The Chiefs bounced back from a narrow defeat against the Hurricanes to produce a strong five-tries-to-three performance over the Bulls in Rotorua. Augustine Pulu made the most of a rare start for the Chiefs to demonstrate his amazing skills in scoring two tries in two minutes, and the Chiefs produced a fantastic attacking display in creating spectacular tries with ball in hand. The Chiefs dished 30 offloads in comparison to just eight from the Bulls, while the visitors also missing a huge 35 tackles. Still the hosts only started playing after they had conceded two tries, the first from Jan Serfontein who just got his fingers on a loose ball that had bounced awkwardly away from Hosea Gear before Tom Marshall failed to bat away a high ball; the ball simply went back in field to Bjorn Basson, who simply placed the ball for the side's second try. Liam Messam bagged a double before a superb team effort that put the side's even at the break. Pulu grabbed his double early in the second half to put the game out of doubt, and a final-minute try to Tim Nanai-Williams iced the win that ensured the Chiefs maintained second spot in the New Zealand conference.

Reds 14-21 Sharks

Reds 14-21 Sharks (Australia only)

James O'Connor endured a night to forget, for as he struggled to get the basics right and got involved in a televised spat with team-mate Adam Thomson at the half-time break. He was poor with the boot and struggled to create any running options, but his blunder in the 69th minute put the icing on the cake; the fullback shanked a clearing kick that went straight to Sharks half-back Stefan Ungerer in front of a unobstructed tryline. The Reds were sluggish and conceded 23 turnovers in a performance that was just about as far away as possible from the previous week's dismissal of the Rebels. Chris Kuridrani impressed with some fancy footwork down the sideline for the Reds' opening try, but the hosts' poor discipline and handling woes gave the Sharks a strong half-time lead. A converted Samu Kerevi try in the second half closed the gap to just two points, but O'Connor could do nothing but watch the clock tick down after his 69th minute shocker gave the Sharks a seven-point win.

Blues 5-29 Hurricanes

Blues 5-29 Hurricanes (Australia only)

Not even the slippery conditions in Auckland could stifle the Hurricanes as they picked up yet another bonus-point win and all but locked up top spot for the play-offs; victory against the Crusaders in Nelson on Friday will secure that position but they require just three points in their final three games to achieve a deserved top seeding for the semi-finals. They were made to work hard by the Blues for the first 30 minutes at Eden Park, but two tries in the run-up to half-time, to Chris Eves and TJ Perenara, condemned the Blues to another defeat. Dane Coles and the flying Nehe Milner-Skudder added tries after the break, with the Hurricanes winger providing a wonderful finish for a superb flick pass from Julian Savea. Outside centre Rey Lee-Lo proved a fine deputy for skipper Conrad Smith, who missed the match through concussion, while No.8 Victor Vito got through a mountain of work up front that surely must have caught the eye of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

Waratahs 32-22 Crusaders

Waratahs 32-22 Crusaders (Australia only)

These teams delivered a fitting end to the 2014 campaign, and the grand final rematch served up another thriller as the Waratahs repeated their triumph over the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium. The margin may have been 10 points this time around, but that was inflated by a late try from Bernard Foley, the Waratahs fly-half sliding in for the bonus-point try four minutes from time. The Crusaders made a dream start, as has been their wont this season, as Taqele Naiyaravoro knocked on from the kick-off to gift the visitors a golden opportunity that Nemani Nadolo accepted in the corner. Naiyaravoro redeemed himself almost immediately with the first of his two tries after Nick Phipps and Israel Folau - who enjoyed one of his best games of the season - had made excellent runs in the lead-up. The game had the potential to swing the Crusaders way when Tolu Latu was sin-binned for a lifting tackle, and he may have been lucky not to have been sent off for what appeared to be a punch, but the Waratahs scored 10 points during Latu's absence. Naiyaravoro's second try looked to have secured the match for the hosts but, just as they did in last year's final, the Crusaders worked their way back into the contest before Foley's late try put the result beyond doubt.

Force 3-23 Highlanders

Force 3-23 Highlanders (Australia only)

The Highlanders marked Ben Smith's 100th Super Rugby game with a gritty 20-point win over Western Force, giving them two wins from their three-week road trip. The man known as "Bender" was as solid as ever at the back as the Force repeatedly kicked away possession. Super Rugby's cellar-dwellers actually had the best chance of the tryless first half through Marcel Brache, but the outside centre was unable to regather a loose ball close to the line and five points went begging. The Highlanders broke the game open via a rolling maul five minutes after the interval via John Hardie before Aaron Smith secured the four points seven minutes from full-time. The Highlanders sit just one point behind the Chiefs, whom they welcome to Invercargill on Saturday before two final away games against the Blues and Hurricanes. The Force, meanwhile, face a likely wooden spoon-deciding clash with the equally woeful Reds in Perth; the future of both coaches, Michael Foley and Richard Graham, could be on the line.

Cheetahs 17-40 Lions

Cheetahs 17-40 Lions (Australia only)

The Lions remain in the hunt for a semi-finals birth after another strong performance in a must-win match. The Lions scored the first try of the game with Jaco Kriel sneaking over the line from the back of another rolling maul, and they produced slick hands shortly before half-time to put Lionel Mapoe over the line and push the lead out to 23-3 at oranges. The visitors crossed again with wing Courtnall Skosan finding the corner, but a dangerous tackle from Robbie Coetzee gave the Cheetahs the numerical advantage - and the hosts made sure to put it to use with flanker Boom Prinsloo crossing for his first of two tries. Faf de Klerk scored for the Lions in the 65th minute to secure the victory and the Lions now are seventh on the overall ladder just one point behind the Brumbies.

Stormers 31-15 Rebels

Stormers 31-15 Rebels (Australia only)

The Rebels had to win to keep alive their slim play-off hopes, and they looked good throughout the first half before a crucial error just after the siren gave momentum to the Stormers: the hosts lest by three points when Pat Leafa threw a pass straight to Stormers winger Dillyn Leyds only metres from the Rebels' tryline. The Stormers then overpowered the Rebels' scrum in the second half, the set-piece gaining 10 metres before the hosts spread the ball wide to Leyds for his double. Tom English snuck over for a Rebels try to rekindle feint hope, but the game was over once Demetri Catrakilis landed a penalty in the 65th minute to push the lead to 31-15. The Stormers' win pushed the South African side to the top of their conference and third on the overall standings.

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