The NSW Waratahs have put their Super Rugby campaign back on track after handing the Canterbury Crusaders their first defeat in over a year. The 20-12 win for NSW was even more emphatic than it looked, with the defending double champion Crusaders (who were still reeling from the Christchurch massacre) scoring their second try after the siren.
The win took the Waratahs to top spot in the Australian conference after the Rebels, who had been unbeaten, went through their South African tour with just a single losing bonus point. What was especially satisfying about the win is that it was built on strong defence, with the Crusaders enjoying 58% possession but unable to do much with it. This is a change in style for the ‘Tahs from last year, where they relied on all out attack to carry them to the semi-finals.
In the other match in Australia the Queensland Reds took down the ACT Brumbies in a hot and humid match in Brisbane yesterday afternoon. The Reds overpowered the Brumbies with their monster forward pack and huge centre pairing leading the way, while their set piece held up well against the main weapon that the ACT usually rely on.
Elsewhere the Blues took down the Highlanders in an upset in Auckland, with the return of Ma’a Nonu paying dividends for the traditionally underperforming NZ side. The Hurricanes knocked over the visiting Stormers on Saturday, and the Lions comfortably accounted for the Sunwolves in Hong Kong.
Over in South Africa the Chiefs pulled off the upset of the round (challenged possibly by the Waratahs) in a stunning return to form, belting the hitherto impressive Bulls 56-20 on tour in Pretoria. The Sharks comfortably accounted for the Rebels, sending them back to Australia winless from their tour after an undefeated start to the season.
After the round the Waratahs sit in third place on the table (thanks to topping their conference) with a game in hand over the other top four teams. The Rebels have sunk after their horror tour, but still sit in 8th spot, also with a game in hand over most of the other teams in finals positions. They will need to return to form this weekend against the Reds in Brisbane to stay in touch with the Waratahs, who will look for a bonus point win over the Sunwolves in Newcastle.