Chiefs beat Rebels, Reds defeat Sunwolves in Super Rugby
HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) Flyhalf Aaron Cruden scored a try among 14 points as the Chiefs took a bonus point from a 36-15 win over the Melbourne Rebels Saturday to reclaim their place atop the Super Rugby table.
The Crusaders started the weekend's 13th round tied with the Chiefs and Highlanders on 37 points but in first place on points differential. They moved into an outright lead with a 29-10 win over the New South Wales Waratahs on Friday.
But the Crusaders were denied a bonus point in that match, ironically by a try by former teammate Zac Guildford which reduced their advantage to four tries to two, and the Chiefs were able to edge ahead by taking a full five points from Saturday's match.
Center Seta Tamanivalu enhanced his chances of making an All Blacks debut against Wales next month when he stepped back against a sliding defense to score the Chiefs' first try in the fourth minute. But he limped from the field in the second half, raising concerns for both the Chiefs and New Zealand selectors.
Hooker Nathan Harris scored his first Super Rugby try when he touched down off Cruden's chip kick behind the defense after 14 minutes.
American-born winger Toni Pulu scored in the 23rd and Cruden added the Chiefs' fourth try from a long build-up in the 29th to give the home side a 26-3 lead by halftime.
Fullback Mike Harris, who kicked a penalty for the Rebels' only points of the first half, converted his own try five minutes after the restart to make it 26-10 as he continued a strong comeback from injury.
The Chiefs lost their way in the second half and took 29 minutes to add to their score with a Cruden penalty.
Replacement Andrew Horrell scored their fifth try two minutes later but the Rebels had the last say with a try to center Reece Hodge, created by Harris.
''We were really pleased with the first half,'' Chiefs captain Sam Cane said. ''It was disappointing we didn't show that for the whole 80 minutes but that's a mindset, attitude thing.
''The Rebels are no easy team so we're happy enough to come away with the win and the bonus point makes it a wee bit sweeter.''
Earlier, Queensland back rower Curtis Browning scored two tries to cancel out two from the Sunwolves' New Zealand import Derek Carpenter as the Reds beat the Tokyo-based side 35-25.
Japan World Cup star Ayumu Goromaru started at fullback for the Reds – facing many of his countrymen on the Sunwolves – and kicked two penalties and two conversions for 10 points.
The crowd of 19,073 was the Reds' biggest of the season, boosted by several hundred traveling fans from Japan. Several dozen Reds fans dressed in white samurai-style costumes cheered on Goromaru and the home side.
Queensland flyhalf Jake McIntyre kicked a 73rd-minute penalty to clinch the match for the Reds, who won for only the third time this season.
Sunwolves coach Mark Hammett said it was his team's best performance against an Australian side.
''We didn't get it all right by any means, but the attitude is always right,'' he said. ''It's another effort that the Sunwolves and Japan rugby should be proud of.''