South Africa's Sharks remained the only undefeated team in Super Rugby after a fourth round in which their match and one other pivoted on penalty kicks in extra time.
Flyhalf Joe Pietersen missed a penalty after time had expired on the clock to leave the Durban-based Sharks locked at 16-16 with the Pretoria-based Blue Bulls on Friday, ending the Sharks’ run of three straight wins.
But the Sharks found themselves still atop the table after four rounds when the previously unbeaten ACT Brumbies lost 31-11 to the Western Stormers.
On Saturday, the Queensland Reds stopped their run of three straight losses but were denied their first win of the season when the Auckland Blues kicked an extra-time penalty for a 25-25 draw. It was one of six matches on Saturday in five countries across four continents.
The Wellington Hurricanes, Christchurch Crusaders, Golden Lions of Johannesburg and Cape Town-based Stormers all achieved big home wins in round four, while New Zealand’s Otago Highlanders and Waikato Chiefs posted important wins on the road.
The Melbourne Rebels also won away, beating Japan’s Sunwolves 35-9 in Tokyo for their third win from four games.
The Dunedin-based Highlanders beat the New South Wales Waratahs 30-26 in a clash between Super Rugby’s last two champions. The Hamilton-based Chiefs, the 2012 and 2013 champions, beat Argentina’s Jaguares 30-26 in the first-ever Super Rugby match in Buenos Aires.
The match between the Jaguares and Chiefs was the most thrilling of the round. The Chiefs scored a try three minutes from fulltime to win after the Jaguares had scored tries in the 70th and 73rd minutes to briefly take the lead.
“Credit to the Jaguares, they pushed us right to the end,” Chiefs captain Sam Cane said. “It was a new experience for a lot of our guys coming over here, experiencing the crowd, the culture and a new brand of football.”
The Sharks and Bulls met in a see-sawing match that finally ended drawn at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria. The Bulls led 13-6 at halftime after fullback Warrick Gelant scored the only try in the first half.
The Sharks rallied, tying the score with a try to Willie le Roux and led for the first time when Pietersen kicked his third penalty. But the Bulls locked up the game again when replacement flyhalf Tian Schoeman kicked a penalty from halfway two minutes from fulltime.
The Blues secured a draw with the Reds in Brisbane when head coach Tana Umaga overruled his players’ decision to go for a try from a late penalty, ordering the kick that tied the score. The Blues had trailed by 10 points with 10 minutes remaining.
“We were a man down, it had been a long evening in this heat and we weren’t assured of winning the game,” Umaga said. “On those terms, I just thought best for us to go get the points.”
The Highlanders had to hold off a concerted late rally from the Waratahs to post their third consecutive win. The Highlanders led 30-0 midway through the second half before the Waratahs threatened their lead with 26 unanswered points.
The Brumbies conceded three tries, including two in the last five minutes. Although they scored the only try of the first half, the Brumbies trailed 9-5 at the break and were under pressure from the Stormers for much of the match.
They were forced to play the last 16 minutes with 14 men after hooker Josh Mann-Rea was sent off for punching. The Brumbies also believed the Stormers were incorrectly awarded a decisive try to Dilyn Leyds when the winger appeared to lose the ball over the line.
“The Stormers taking the ball into touch, but then getting the lineout throw, the red card, the try,” Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said. “It was one of those games where it just didn’t eventuate for us.”
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport