Durban (South Africa) (AFP) – Ben Lam bagged a hat-trick as Wellington Hurricanes downed Golden Lions in Super Rugby Saturday and Western Stormers skipper Siya Kolisi marked his 100th cap with a victory over Northern Bulls.
Hurricanes’ 28-19 win put them two points behind the Canterbury Crusaders in the New Zealand conference, but with a game in hand, while the Lions suffered their fifth loss but remain top of the South African division.
Stormers overcame a five-point deficit after 48 minutes to triumph 29-17 in Cape Town through tries from SP Marais and Ramone Samuels, who had been yellow-carded earlier.
Lam, the leading try scorer in the competition this season with 12 and seen by many in New Zealand as an All Black-in-waiting, was a central figure in Hurricanes’ win.
“He’s on fire. He’s playing really good football,” said captain Brad Shields.
With his mix of pace and power, Lam is seen by the Hurricanes as a special weapon.
“He’s starting to realise the potential he’s got. He’s big and fast. He’s doing a good job for us, but at the end of a good backline,” coach Chris Boyd said.
The Hurricanes have been smarting since the semi-finals last year when they surrendered a 19-point lead to lose to the Lions in Johannesburg.
They were determined to exact revenge and when they again took an early lead it was one which they would not surrender in a game which never reached great heights, partly because of a strong, swirling wind.
Tries to Lam and Ardie Savea had the Hurricanes ahead 14-7 at half-time with Nic Groom scoring for the Lions.
Lam scored twice more in the second half with Beauden Barrett converting all four Hurricanes tries as the forged a 28-7 lead before the Lions staged a comeback with tries to Marnus Schoeman and Sylvian Mahuza.
In a Cape Town match of three phases, Stormers began impressively to build a 12-3 lead off tries from Damian Willemse and Wilco Louw.
– ‘We never got momentum’ –
Bulls, guided by former New Zealand All Blacks coach John Mitchell, recovered to score 14 unanswered points before Stormers regained control.
Springbok flanker Kolisi shifted the attention away from his 100th appearance, saying: “It is all about the team, not me.
“Today, we put into practice what we had worked on in training all week. I was particularly pleased by our breakdown work.”
Bulls skipper Burger Odendaal said: “We never got momentum at the set pieces and conceded too many penalties.”
A try after 35 seconds by Akker van der Merwe set Coastal Sharks up for a surprisingly comfortable 38-12 bonus-point victory over Otago Highlanders in Durban.
The home team, whose form has been erratic this season, led 17-7 at the break and pulled away in the second half as brothers Daniel and Robert du Preez and Sibusiso Nkosi scored tries.
Robert du Preez, one of three sons of Sharks coach Robert du Preez in the starting line-up, scored 18 points for a season total of 132, the highest in the competition after 12 rounds.
“This victory shows what the team can achieved when we stick to our game plan,” stressed Sharks skipper Ruan Botha.
In Sydney, Auckland Blues beat NSW Waratahs 24-21, even though they were outscored by the top Australian team three tries to two.
It was the 38th consecutive win for Kiwi sides in the competition over their trans-Tasman rivals.
Blues’ win was only their third of the season, while the Waratahs have now lost three of nine.
Waratahs wanted to play at pace, but turnovers proved costly as the Blues cashed in on errors to lead 18-14 at half-time.
In the second half, the Australians tightened their game only to be confronted by an uncompromising Blues defensive wall.
“It was a massive effort from the boys,” said captain Augustine Pulu.
“We needed our big players to step up and have those big plays in those crucial moments.”