Canes knock Crusaders off top spot as Reds, Sharks win


Durban (South Africa) (AFP)

A storming start set up Wellington Hurricanes for a 29-19 triumph over title-holders Canterbury Crusaders Saturday in a clash of the last two Super Rugby champions.

Queensland Reds continued to recover from a first-round mauling, coming from 11 points behind to beat Northern Bulls 20-14 in Brisbane.

Coastal Sharks achieved their first victory of the season by overcoming defensively brittle Sunwolves 50-22 before a small Durban crowd.

In later fourth-round fixtures, Golden Lions host Auckland Blues in Johannesburg and Jaguares have home advantage over Waratahs in Buenos Aires.

Jordie Barrett stole the limelight from big brother Beauden as the Hurricanes replaced Crusaders as New Zealand conference leaders on points difference.

The win by four tries to three was the Hurricanes' sixth in a row at home against the Crusaders.

They made a storming start and were up 21-0 after 21 minutes.

Crusaders' cause was not helped by the loss of captain Sam Whitelock and backline general Ryan Crotty with head knocks in the first seven minutes.

The match was billed as a celebration of Beauden Barrett's contribution to Hurricanes rugby as the All Blacks' fly-half played his 100th match for the Wellington franchise.

But it was Jordie, in his 19th game, who put the Hurricanes on a winning path, playing an instrumental role in two early tries and landing a crucial 50-metre penalty in the second half.

There was no sign of travel fatigue with the Hurricanes in their first home game of the year after playing in South Africa and Argentina.

Captain Brad Shields said they were determined not to use travel as an excuse if the game did not go their way.

"We knew we had to start really well and I'm really proud of he way we came out," he said.

"It was a pretty tough test out there and playing these New Zealand teams you've got to stay on for 80 minutes."

Crusaders' comeback after twice trailing by 21 points cut Hurricanes' lead to 26-19 when Mitch Hunt converted a Michael Alaalatoa try.

But their hopes of a come-from-behind victory were dashed by Jordie Barrett's long-range penalty.

In Brisbane, a Reds team that were down 14-10 at halftime dominated possession and territory in the second period to overhaul the Bulls.

Their scrum has been particularly dominant this year and had the Bulls pack under pressure throughout.

"We're pleased (with the scrum) but we still want to work hard on it. We're a young pack, but we're not small," Reds captain James Slipper said.

The second half belonged to the Reds and they hit the front thanks to an Aiden Toua try under the posts which James Tuttle converted.

A Jono Lance penalty gave the hosts a six-point buffer and they never looked like relinquishing the lead.

Reds climbed to second in the Australian conference, seven points adrift of Melbourne Rebels, who trounced ACT Brumbies 33-10 Friday.

Springbok Tendai "The Beast" Mtawarira became the most capped Shark in Super Rugby when he made his 138th appearance in a comfortable bonus-point win over Sunwolves.

"The forwards did their job and the backs finished off our work," said the loosehead prop. "This was the performance we had been looking forward to."

Wing Makazole Mapimpi scored twice for the home team, who led 24-3 at half-time against the Tokyo-based outfit.

Collecting five points moved the Durban team from fourth to second in the South Africa standings ahead of a four-match Australasia tour.