Rameka Pohipi scored a match-winning try after the siren as Waikato Chiefs upset the Canterbury Crusaders, but the ACT Brumbies and Queensland Reds kept their unbeaten Super Rugby Pacific records intact at the weekend.
The Crusaders led 21-10 early in the second-half at Christchurch, but the Sam Cane-led Chiefs refused to go away and two tries in the last six minutes was just reward after they dominated possession.
It was the Chiefs’ first away victory against the Crusaders since the opening round of the 2016 campaign, and ended the 12-time champions winning start to the season.
“Every time the Kiwi teams play it’s down to the wire,” said Cane, with two tries from winger Shaun Stevenson and nine points off Bryn Gatland’s boot also contributing to the 24-21 win.
“We had a mountain of possession in that second half and they defended so well. We just had to keep plugging, building phases and we stayed disciplined and managed to get what we needed just in the nick of time.”
Defeat saw the Crusaders slip to third on the 12-team table after round four with the Brumbies and the Reds the only two unbeaten sides.
The Brumbies cruised past the struggling Melbourne Rebels 36-17 to bag a bonus point, but it was a much harder task for the Reds against newcomers Fijian Drua who staged a incredible fightback before falling 33-28.
The Reds led 28-9 with 18 minutes left at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane after scoring four unanswered tries. But as their defence tired the Drua pounced with three tries in five minutes to set up a frenetic finish.
A five-pointer three minutes from time by Reds flanker Seru Uru ultimately sealed the game.
“A lot of good footy played but from our end not executing the final parts of it and Fiji jumping on errors almost like a New Zealand-style where a turnover costs you a try,” Reds coach Brad Thorn told reporters.
He added: “How good for Fijian rugby and footy.”
‘Should be here’
The Drua lost their opening two games of the season heavily, but bounced back to secure a first win the previous week against the Rebels before pushing the Reds to demonstrate their calibre.
“Inside our own rooms we believe we should be here (in Super Rugby),” their coach Mick Byrne said.
“But we’ve just got to put out performances on the field will be how other people will start judging whether we do or not.”
Fellow newcomers Moana Pasifika’s start has been more chaotic with their third match in four weeks postponed because of Covid, this time among their opponents Wellington Hurricanes.
Moana’s first two matches were called off after the virus was detected among a number of their players before finally making a belated competition bow the previous week in a 33-12 loss to the Crusaders.
In Melbourne, Wallabies winger Tom Wright scored two of the dominant Brumbies’ six tries in their thrashing of the Rebels, who have leaked 118 points and recorded just 51 in a horror start to the season.
Otago Highlanders are also winless after four games, crashing 32-20 to the Auckland Blues at Albany.
The Blues were missing All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett, one of several Auckland stars forced out by Covid-19, and struggled in the first half, going to the break trailing 13-3.
But they rallied with tries from Rieko Ioane, Stephen Perofeta and a two by rookie back-row forward Taine Plumtree to earn the hard-fought win.
The NSW Waratahs held off a late charge from Western Force in Sydney to win 22-17 on Sunday and move to fourth, seven points behind the table-topping Brumbies.