Canberra (AFP) – Defending champions Canterbury Crusaders went top of Super Rugby as the Queensland Reds upset the Golden Lions and the Jaguares beat the Blues for their first-ever win over a New Zealand side on Saturday.
The Crusaders were reduced to 13 men during the second half but were too organised and clinical for the ACT Brumbies, winning 21-8 in Canberra to stretch Australia’s losing sequence against New Zealand teams to 36 matches.
Elsewhere, the Reds, coming off four losses, set up their shock 27-22 win over South Africa’s leading team with a rousing four-try first half to lead 24-0 at half-time and battled hard to hold on in the second half.
The Jaguares, full of confidence after beating the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels in the past two weeks, came from behind in Auckland to beat the Blues 20-13.
The eight-time Super Rugby champions Crusaders fell behind to a try by Henry Speight after 90 seconds but powered away to lead the Brumbies 21-8 at half-time.
The Brumbies had more territory and possession in a scoreless second half but despite the Crusaders losing Scott Barrett and Ryan Crotty to the sin bin, they could not close the gap.
The win pushed the Crusaders to the top of the standings after the Lions upset and it was their 10th straight win outside New Zealand.
“There were guys in the sin bin, that’s never nice, and full credit to the boys who stayed out there, they remained pretty calm and we worked through those issues of having two guys on the sidelines,” Crusaders skipper Sam Whitelock said.
The Reds, coached by former All Black lock Brad Thorn, jumped to third in the Australian conference with four wins from nine games, while the Lions, with six wins from 10, remain top in South Africa.
“Last week you could tell quite early we weren’t quite there, but this afternoon that first try in the first five minutes was indicative of how we wanted to play, be aggressive in the contact area,” Reds veteran flanker George Smith said.
“We came out well for that first 10 minutes of the second half and we were holding on in the last 30.”
Jean-Pierre Smith, Caleb Timu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Smith all scored for the Reds in the first half.
The spluttering Lions finally scored through their outstanding hooker Malcolm Marx to trail 27-5 after 55 minutes.
Marx powered over once more and replacement Marnus Schoeman added two further tries before the Lions revival ran out of time and they had to settle for a losing bonus point.
The Jaguares and Blues battled away in persistent rain in Auckland which detracted from a spectacle but was not helped by 24 penalties, 15 of them by the Blues.
The Argentinians stepped up the pressure as they demolished the Blues pack in the second half and were rewarded with tries to Emiliano Boffelli and Tomas Lezana with a conversion and penalty by Nicolas Sanchez.
The win moved the Jaguares into the top eight to the delight of captain Joaquin Tuculet.
“We are very happy,” he said.
“In the second half we played very well and we won the game. The forwards, their work was amazing and the scrum and lineout, so our win is for them.”