Brumbies shock Chiefs to leave Stormers top of Super Rugby
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) The Stormers relied on unflinching defense once again, and a moment of magic from Springboks scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, to become the only unbeaten team left in Super Rugby on Saturday.
The Cape Town-based Stormers beat the Jaguares 17-7 in wet weather to move three points clear at the top of the standings with four wins from four.
The rain suited the Stormers' preference for breaking down opponents with suffocating defense and a powerful and direct forward game. The South African team duly took advantage of the conditions, and a surprise loss earlier Saturday for the Chiefs, who were the only other unbeaten team.
Defending champions the Crusaders were second behind the Stormers after four rounds.
The ACT Brumbies beat the Chiefs 26-14 despite a preparation disrupted by an outbreak of mumps in their squad.
The Brumbies shocked New Zealand's Chiefs with their intensity on attack in the first half and in defense in the second and also with their style, departing from the rolling mauls which have been the feature of their play to produce a more attacking game.
Stung by a last-second loss last week, the Brumbies overwhelmed the Chiefs, scoring three tries to lead 19-0 at halftime and another to lead 26-0 after 43 minutes.
The Chiefs hit back with two tries in the first 15 minutes of the new half. But their comeback stalled in the face of desperate Brumbies defense led by center Tevita Kuridrani.
"We did really well to hold them out," Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa said. "The boys were just holding on to that grudge from last week."
Tom Banks, Solomone Kata and Pete Samu scored the Brumbies' first-half tries and Samu scored again in the second half as the Brumbies posted their first win in New Zealand since 2014. It was also the first win in seven games this season by an Australian team against a foreign opponent.
"We just didn't front up, especially in that first half," Chiefs captain Sam Cane said. "We were pretty much still on the bus."
It was no classic from the Stormers, who led Argentina's Jaguares 3-0 at halftime despite having prop Frans Malherbe sent to the sin-bin for a no-arms tackle.
The key moment came five minutes into the second half with the first of the Stormers' two tries.
Jantjies intercepted Juan Cruz Mallia's pass on the bounce, sidestepped Domingo Miotti and streaked away from the rest of the defense for a 60-meter breakaway. Ruhan Nel scored soon after - he also got the winning try when the Stormers won after the final hooter last weekend - and they led the Jaguares 17-0.
No. 8 Rodrigo Bruni bashed over for the Jaguares' try with 15 minutes to go, converted by Miotti. They were the first and only points the Stormers defense has conceded at home in three games.
The round concluded with a thriller in Pretoria, South Africa, where the visiting Auckland-based Blues sneaked home against the Bulls 23-21 with a penalty by flyhalf Otere Black from the last kick of the game.
The Blues had three tries to the Bulls' two and deservedly created the match-winning kick for Black by running from their own 22 in a last throw of the dice while trailing 21-20.
The Durban-based Sharks extended a two-year winning streak against the Melbourne Rebels after a 36-24 win.
The Sharks played with just 13 men to start the second half and were leading 22-10. After the Rebels pulled to within 22-17, the Sharks scored on a 19-phase try to give them some breathing room over the final 15 minutes.
A length-of-the field run ending with a try to flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who was given the ball by winger Makazole Mapimpi over the tryline, clinched it with eight minutes remaining. Mapimpi would have had a hat trick if he'd scored himself instead of gifting it to Bosch.
A late Rebels try prevented the Sharks from taking a bonus point.
The game was played in Ballarat, a former gold mining town about 110 kilometers (70 miles) west of Melbourne. The Rebels hadn't played a match in regional Victoria in 10 years.
In Brisbane, the Queensland Reds notched their biggest Super Rugby total, scoring 10 tries to thump Japan's Sunwolves 64-5. The Reds' previous best was 53-3 against the Rebels in 2011.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated February 22, 2020