Blues edge Rebels in high-scoring thriller; Highlanders beat Brumbies
A round-up of the action from week 10 of Super Rugby, with the Auckland Blues almost blowing a huge lead.
HIGHLANDERS 23 BRUMBIES 10
The Highlanders produced a superb defensive effort while flyhalf Lima Sopoaga contributed 18 points to beat the Brumbies 23-10 in Invercargill on Saturday.
Sopoaga scored a try and added 13 points from the boot, including three second half penalties that slowly increased his side's lead as they soaked up immense pressure.
All Blacks fullback Ben Smith also scored an early second half try, while Brumbies hooker Josh Mann-Rea grabbed a try for the visitors with Christian Lealiifano adding a conversion and penalty.
BLUES 36 REBELS 30
The Auckland Blues squandered a big lead but held their nerve to beat the Melbourne Rebels 36-30 at Eden Park on Saturday, after referee Craig Joubert penalised the visitors from an attacking lineout in the closing stages of the match.
The home side led 36-18 with 25 minutes remaining following tries by James Parsons, Jerome Kaino, Charlie Faumuina, Ihaia West, Tevita Li and Lolagi Visinia, before Colby Fainga'a and winger Sefa Naivalau touched down for the Rebels.
The visitors then had an opportunity to win the game in the dying minutes from an attacking lineout but Joubert ruled their rolling maul had been stopped and a new one formed illegally, which gave the home side the relief they needed.
FORCE 20 BULLS 42
South Africa's Bulls rampaged to a bonus-point victory over a spent Western Force in Perth on Friday.
Centre Jan Serfontein and hooker Adriaan Strauss bagged a brace of tries each to go with a score from number eight Hanro Liebenberg.
The visitors had a narrow 18-13 lead at the break, but pulled away in the second half to move level with the Stormers at the top of Africa Conference 1 on 28 points with both teams having played eight matches.
CHIEFS 24 SHARKS 22
The Chiefs held on grimly to stave off a late assault by the visiting Sharks and maintain top spot in the New Zealand conference after an energy-sapping clash in New Plymouth on Friday.
The Sharks scored three tries to two but costly lapses of discipline allowed Chiefs flyhalf Aaron Cruden to give the hosts breathing space with three penalties late in the second half after the game was locked 15-15 at the break.
Replacement hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle set up a tense finish with a late try for the Sharks but the Chiefs soaked up the final minutes deep in attack.