AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Mar 14 – The Canterbury Crusaders went to the top of the Super Rugby table after securing a 49-14 bonus point win over the Tokyo Sunwolves in Brisbane on Saturday.
The Crusaders scored seven tries to two to move to 23 points, one ahead of fellow New Zealand outfit the Auckland Blues, who earlier thumped the Golden Lions 43-10 at Eden Park.
In the second match of the double-header in Brisbane, the Queensland Reds came from 17-0 down after just 16 minutes to beat the Pretoria-based Bulls 41-17.
The Sunwolves, who could well have been playing their last ever Super Rugby match because of uncertainty over the competition’s future due to the coronavirus pandemic, were much improved on previous weeks and were within a converted try midway through the second half trailing 21-14.
However, the Crusaders stamped their authority on the match, running in four converted tries in the last 20 minutes.
Canterbury, who rested a host of All Blacks for Saturday’s match, led 14-7 at half time and then scored immediately after the break when lock Luke Romano crashed over.
Sunwolves flyhalf Garth April struck back with a brilliant solo try under the posts to narrow the gap, but despite losing replacement hooker Hugh Roach to a red card in the 66th minute and Sevu Reece to a yellow two minutes later, the Crusaders had too much class for their Japanese rivals.
“It was a little bit touch and go there for a bit,” Canterbury captain Bryn Hall said.
“It just comes back to the enthusiasm and experience in the side — down to 13 men in the second half — it just shows the resilience and character we have in our group.”
The Queensland Reds pulled off one of the great recoveries with their win over the Bulls.
The Bulls stunned the home crowd with three quick tries to Embrose Papier, Rosko Speckman and Warrick Gelant as the Reds struggled to get their hands on the ball.
But they didn’t panic and slowly worked their way back into the game, with tries to captain Liam Wright and replacement fullback Isaac Lucas ensuring they headed into the break only 17-14 down.
They then hit the front with a try to Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and dominated after that, crossing three more times to secure the bonus point win.
Earlier, Rieko Ioane scored a double as the Auckland Blues burnished their finals credentials with a big win over the Lions.
New Zealand’s perennial underachievers scored six tries to one to post a fourth straight victory and remain on course for their first finals berth since 2011.
Captain TJ Faiane praised the composure of the team, which has faced accusation in past seasons of wilting under pressure.
“We stayed disciplined and didn’t give away too many penalties, for me that’s the most pleasing thing,” he said.
Ioane, the one-time winger who is reinventing himself in the centres, opened the scoring in the eighth minute.
Daniel Kriel hit back with a converted try to briefly give the Lions the lead but from there it was one-way traffic as the Blues dominated.
Stephen Perofeta dotted down after 31 minutes and the Blues were then awarded a penalty try just before half time after Lions flanker Ruan Vermaak was sin-binned for a deliberate knock down.
Ioane scored his second shortly after the restart, before Gerard Crowley-Tuioti and Hoskins Sotutu completed the rout.