While fumbling Stormers and groggy Bulls suffer defeats
The Lions mauled the Sunwolves 37-24 in Singapore in their Super Rugby match on Saturday and later in the day the Sharks returned to winning ways with a splendid 28-14 triumph over the Melbourne Rebels in Durban.
The Stormers, for their part, played courageously but went down 34-28 to the Hurricanes in Wellington, while it was not a good day at the office for the Bulls in Pretoria where they suffered a 56-20 loss to the Chiefs.
The Stormers almost caused an upset in Wellington, but ultimately paid the price for too many missed tackles and a high error count as the Hurricanes edged them by six points. It was especially in the second half when the home team sped up play and shifted the ball out wide, that the Stormers paid the price.
Wes Goosen, who was born in East London, scored two of the Hurricanes’ five tries, both after the break. The final nail was hammered into the Capetonians’ coffin by All Black flyhalf Beauden Barrett, with his first try of the year in the 72nd minute.
The home team then had to work hard to keep the Stormers out in the final moments of the match for their third consecutive home victory over the men in blue and white, whose pack of forwards put in a very good performance on the night.
Meanwhile, in Singapore a first-half brace by Malcolm Marx and four tries in quick succession after the break were more than enough for the Lions as they beat the Sunwolves by the 37-24 margin.
Marx was massively influential in the first half when things were still pretty tight. His two tries came from the back of rolling mauls, while he also won two crucial penalties on the ground with his ball poaching capabilities.
The home team did manage to get on the scoreboard first through an early penalty try against the Lions when Sylvian Mahuza failed to intercept and was yellow carded in the process. Then Marx took control and the visitors went into the sheds leading by 12-7.
The second half started a bit slowly, and the Sunwolves closed the gap to 12-10 before Nic Groom showed great awareness as he broke close to the try-line after another strong Lions maul in the 52nd minute. Five minutes later, yet again after a strong maul, Elton Jantjies popped up on the blind side to cross in the right-hand corner for another well-worked try, and the men from Johannesburg stretched their lead even more on the hour mark when Lionel Mapoe went over from a move that was sparked by a great run by Aphiwe Dyantyi, who had just come on as a replacement.
The Sunwolves finally breached the Lions’ defence in the 65th minute when Rahboni Warren Vosayaco crashed over, but the visitors were not done yet and Hacjivah Dayimani got their sixth try in the 75th minute. Vosayaco scored his second just before the end, but by then the victory was already sealed for the Lions.
The Joburg side have a bye next weekend.
Back home, at Loftus, Damian McKenzie provided the spark for the Chiefs as they romped to a comprehensive 56-20 victory over the Bulls on Saturday afternoon for their first win in Pretoria since 2001.
The men from Pretoria returned from a week’s lay-off and they struggled to find any rhythm in the first half. They were guilty of committing far too many handling errors and also allowed themselves to be pinned down for large periods of time in their own half of the field. They were also dealt a heavy blow in the first half when influential number eight Duane Vermeulen left the field because of a knee injury.
And down in Durban, the Sharks bounced back to winning ways with a thoroughly deserving 14-point victory over the Rebels on Saturday evening. The hard-fought home win allowed the coastal side to move into the second spot on the South African Conference log with 15 points, three behind the Lions, and one ahead of the Stormers.
Next up, the Sharks host the Bulls in another tough local derby, while the Rebels travel to Brisbane for their encounter with the Reds.