Crusaders survive Super scare as Brumbies, Chiefs romp
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Defending Super Rugby champions the Canterbury Crusaders survived a 24-20 scare against the Queensland Reds on Friday, as the ACT Brumbies romped past the virus-disrupted Sunwolves and the Chiefs smashed the Waratahs.
The Reds outscored the Crusaders by four tries to three but missed all their conversions and a penalty to let the 10-time champions off the hook.
The result puts the Crusaders on top of the Super Rugby ladder alongside the Brumbies on 18 points, overhauling the Western Stormers on 17, who have a bye this week.
It also extends the Crusaders' undefeated home record to 34 matches, but captain Scott Barrett admitted they failed to dominate a committed young Reds side.
"We were ill-disciplined and tried to push too many passes, we didn't play that smart really," he said.
Reds skipper Liam Wright said he was "incredibly proud" of his side, even though they posted their fifth loss in six matches and an eighth straight defeat to the Crusaders.
"We didn't come here for a strong and brave loss, we wanted a win and we put ourselves in a position to do it," he said, refusing to blame his goalkickers for the loss.
The Crusaders opened the scoring when Joe Moody barged between the posts in the 12th minute but the Reds hit back immediately, working the ball wide to winger Chris Feauai-Sautia.
The Queenslanders locked up the scores at 10-10 when Harry Wilson edged the ball through a crush of players onto the line and they were unlucky not to be ahead at the break.
The sides exchanged tries after the restart but the Reds -- who saw botched kicks from Jock Campbell, Scott Malolua and Bryce Hegarty -- could not convert while Richie Mo'unga slotted home to make it 17-15.
The Crusaders scored their third through Leicester Fainga'anuku before Henry Speight sparked a Reds resurgence with a try-scoring break and the Queenslanders chased the win until the final moments.
- Rolled on -
Earlier, the Brumbies, semi-finalists last year, made it four wins from five in a seven-try 47-14 thrashing of Japan's Sunwolves.
The game was moved to the neutral venue of Wollongong, south of Sydney, from Japan because of the deadly coronavirus, which has thrown the world's sporting calendar into turmoil.
"We started well in the first half then lost our way a bit, but happy with the way the boys started the second-half," Brumbies skipper Alan Alaalatoa said after the bonus-point win.
Halfback Ryan Lonergan made a dream debut by finding a gap in the defensive line then converting his own try, and it was 14-0 inside 20 minutes when flanker Will Miller crossed.
The Sunwolves, playing their final season as unwieldy Super Rugby slims down to 14 teams, responded when hooker Efitusi Maafu dotted down from a driving maul.
But they were caught on the hop when Rob Valetini darted down the left wing to put the Brumbies up 21-7 at half-time.
The Canberra-based team ruthlessly exposed the Sunwolves' suspect defence with another four tries before big lock Michael Stolberg's consolation effort.
In the late match in Wollongong, the Waratahs took a 14-13 advantage into half-time but then collapsed spectacularly, conceding six tries to crash 51-14.
Two penalties by Aaron Cruden gave the Chiefs an early lead and they raced further ahead with Shaun Stevenson barging over in the corner for a converted try.
But Wallaby Kurtley Beale and Jack Dempsey both went over to give the Waratahs the lead at half-time.
But that was as good as it got. Brad Weber caught them napping three minutes after the restart and got another try two minutes later.
The floodgates opened with further five-pointers to Sean Wainui, Lachlan Boshier, Solomon Alaimalo and Anton Lienert-Brown leaving the 'Tahs stunned.
"Second half, really happy," said Chiefs captain Sam Cane. "I thought a lot of our defensive pressure allowed us to turn the ball over. We took some opportunities early and it just rolled on from there."
© 2020 AFP