Waratahs top Australian conference
July 6, 2014
Jacques Potgieter celebrates scoring a try © Getty Images
The Waratahs secured overall top spot in the Australian conference for the first time ever thanks to a comfortable 44-16 win over the Highlanders on Sunday. They now have an unassailable 13-point lead at the top of the tree and will go into the play-offs as one of the top seeds. It was a comfortable win for the men from Sydney as they ran in six tries with Rob Horne, Israel Folau, Sekope Kepu, Nick Phipps, Jacques Potgieter and Taqele Naiyaravoro all scoring. Phil Burleigh crossed for the visitors, who had Aaron Smith sin-binned in the first-half, but they were second best throughout.
The Crusaders secured a Super Rugby finals berth while landing an almost fatal blow on the Blues in a tight affair at the AMI Stadium. The hosts scored tries early and late through Nemani Nadolo to extend their margin at the top of the New Zealand conference, but the Blues otherwise dominated possession and territory and looked likely to claim their second successive away victory with a 100-metre breakaway try from Frank Halai and a 100% kicking performance from Ihaia West. The Crusaders can still be toppled from the top rung of the New Zealand ladder by the Highlanders, who play competition-leading New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday, but they are now assured a wildcard spot in the semi-finals. The Crusaders host the Highlanders in the final round of the home-and-away season next week, while the Blues will host the Chiefs at Eden Park.
The Crusaders' Nemani Nadolo scores the try that secured victory © Getty Images
Western Force kept alive their quest for a maiden appearance in the finals by defeating Queensland Reds by 10 points in Nick Cummins' final home match before he heads to Japan. The Force looked to be on target for the bonus-point victory that would have seen them replace the Brumbies in the top six when they led the Reds 17-3 inside 20 minutes, through tries from Cummins and Ben McCalman, two of their season's stars. But they failed to put away the Reds, who were awful in the first half yet went to the sheds just seven points adrift after a fine individual try from rookie centre Samu Kerevi shortly before the break converted by Mike Harris.
The Bulls' play-off hopes were ended as they went down to a 16-0 defeat to the Stormers in a scrappy encounter in Cape Town. Jaco Taute scored the only try, with Kurt Coleman booting 11 points, as the already-eliminated Stormers took advantage of some sloppy play to go in 16-0 up at half-time. The Bulls came into the game more after the break, but could find a way to score in testing conditions as the home side eased to victory. There was one bizarre moment as the second half began when the Bulls gained a penalty at the scrum, but referee Craig Joubert then reversed the decision after Deon Greyling slapped Deon Fourie on the head.
In Bloemfontein, the Cheetahs put the Sharks chances of a home semi-final in doubt with a 27-20 win, a result which moved the Cheetahs off the bottom of the Super Rugby standings into fourth place after outscoring the Sharks by two tries to one. The Sharks took a losing bonus point from the match but they remain in third place behind the Crusaders on points difference.
Western Force's Nick Cummins celebrates victory with his fans © Getty Images
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