Super Rugby: South Africa’s Stormers close in on conference victory

The Western Stormers, with a convincing 57-31 win over the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday, solidified their position atop the Africa 1 conference as they seek a home play-off match.

Damian de Allende of the Stormers dives to score a try against the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday in Super Rugby. Joe Castro / EPA / July 2, 2016
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Associated Press

The Cape-Town-based Western Stormers edged closer to a home play-off spot with a seven-try, 57-31 win over the Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby on Saturday.

The Stormers claimed a bonus point after the ful-ltime siren through a try to reserve hooker Scarra Ntubeni. Flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis finished with 27 points, including a try.

The win gave the Stormers a nine-point Africa 1 conference lead over the Blue Bulls, who played late Saturday at Buenos Aires against the first-year Jaguares of Argentina.

There are only two rounds remaining in the regular season after this weekend, with conference winners receiving a home play-off in the first round.

Earlier, Reece Robinson scored two second-half tries as the New South Wales Waratahs overwhelmed Japan’s Sunwolves 57-12 at Tokyo.

And flyhalf Beauden Barrett returned from Test duty to kick 17 points, including conversions of two second-half tries by lock Vaea Fifita, as the Wellington Hurricanes came from behind to beat the Auckland Blues 37-27.

Robinson crossed in the 46th minute for a 33-12 lead, and the visiting Waratahs put the game beyond reach with another converted try a minute later that made it 40-12. Matt Lucas, Matt Carraro and Taqele Naiyaravoro added tries to complete the rout.

Barrett scored 26 points in the All Blacks’ 46-6 win over Wales last weekend and he maintained that outstanding form, kicking seven goals from seven attempts as the Hurricanes kept alive their play-off chances.

Blues flanker Jerome Kaino also made an impact on his return from international rugby, touching down twice during a frenetic 13-minute period in the first half in which the teams exchanged five tries.

The Blues scored three of those through Kaino and his fellow flanker Kara Pryor while the Hurricanes replied with tries to prop Reg Goodes and All Blacks hooker Dane Coles as the lead see-sawed before the Blues took a 24-17 lead to half-time.

Barrett reduced the margin with two penalties early in the second half before Fifita, who hadn’t previously scored a Super Rugby try, ran among the backs to score tries in the 55th and 71st mintues to give the Hurricanes a winning lead.

“It was a gritty win,” Hurricanes captain Dane Coles said. “We were just guilty in that first half of playing attack and no defense.

“In that second half we turned our defense around and just got some intent, some line speed, and slowed their ball down. We had to work really hard for that win.”

How things stand

Africa 1 conference

Western Stormers 8w 1d 4l 41pts

Blue Bulls 7w 1d 4l 32pts

Central Cheetahs 4w 0d 9l 21pts

Japan Sunwolves 1w 1d 11l 9pts

*Bulls to play Argentina Jaguares

Round 16: Stormers at Western Force (Perth); Bulls v Sunwolves

Round 17: Stormers v Southern Kings; Bulls at Cheetahs (Bloemfontein)

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