Super Rugby round-up: Wins for Sunwolves and Crusaders

Hosea Saumaki scored a hat-trick as the Sunwolves thrashed the Reds in Tokyo on Saturday

The Crusaders produced a stunning fightback to regain the Super Rugby lead with a 31-29 win over the Waratahs, while the Sunwolves thrashed the Reds 63-28 to record their first win on Saturday.

Sunwolves 63-28 Reds

The Sunwolves picked up their first win of the Super Rugby season at the 10th attempt when Hayden Parker and Hosea Saumaki led the way in a rousing 63-28 victory over the slumping Reds in the Japanese capital on Saturday.

In the final match to be held in Tokyo this season – with the last two Sunwolves home games in Hong Kong and Singapore – fly-half Parker amassed 36 points and winger Saumaki scored a hat-trick of tries to inspire a much-needed victory.

Tries from Parker and lock Grant Hattingh, as well as five penalties from the former, gave the Sunwolves a 15-point lead at halftime and Jamie Joseph’s men continued to punish the 2011 Super Rugby champions after the break.

Three second-half scores from Saumaki and a penalty try sealed the victory and means the Sunwolves leave Tokyo with a sense of relief after finally getting a win on the board and rewarding their faithful fan base.

Joseph made five changes to the side that lost to the Wellington Hurricanes two weeks ago, including a return for talismanic Brave Blossoms skipper Michael Leitch from injury.

However, it took some time for the revamped lineup to make an impact as converted tries from Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Ben Lucas in the first 22 minutes gave the Reds a 14-9 lead.

Highlanders 39-27 Lions

The Highlanders held off a late charge by the Lions to win their Super Rugby clash 39-27 in Dunedin on Saturday and leave South Africa’s conference leaders still chasing their first victory over New Zealand opponents this season.

Lima Sopoaga, Liam Coltman, Luke Whitelock, Waisake Naholo and Teihorangi Walden scored tries for the home side, who grabbed their seventh win for the season to keep their playoffs hopes alive.

Robbie Coetzee touched down either side of half-time for the Lions, who pulled to within six points of the home side when Elton Jantjies converted Marnus Schoeman’s 73rd minute try.

However, Sopoaga slotted a penalty minutes later to stretch the lead to nine points before kicking another in the final seconds to finish with 19 points for the game.

Crusaders 31-29 Waratahs

The Crusaders pulled off the biggest comeback in Super Rugby history to reel in a 29-0 deficit and overhaul the Waratahs 31-29 in Christchurch on Saturday as a slew of disputed calls rubbed salt into the visitors’ wounds.

The Waratahs stunned the Crusaders with four tries in the opening half hour but the home side roared back to extend New Zealand’s winning streak over Australian teams to 39 consecutive matches.

The Crusaders snatched the lead with a penalty try 12 minutes from the siren, their forwards having repeatedly routed their opponents’ scrum.

Yet the Waratahs still had a chance to claim what would have been by far the biggest upset of the season when fly-half Bernard Foley lined up a penalty from 40 metres out, directly in front, in the 76th minute.

His kick sailed well wide and the Crusaders held on in a frenetic finish to leave the Waratahs heartbroken.

Brumbies 24-27 Rebels

Rebels’ inside centre Reece Hodge slotted a 79th-minute penalty from a tight angle to lift them to a rousing away win over the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.

The Rebels came back from 24-10 behind with 20 minutes left, with fullback Jack Maddocks and debutant winger Semisi Tupou scoring tries to pull the visitors back into the game.

Hodge’s late penalty snapped a five-game losing streak for the Rebels, breathing new life into their campaign while all but ending the Brumbies’ (3-7) hopes of reaching the playoffs.

Second in the Australian conference, the Rebels are now only a point shy of the leading New South Wales Waratahs in the race to the post-season.