Sharks, Brumbies only unbeaten teams left in Super Rugby
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) The Sharks joined the ACT Brumbies as the only unbeaten teams left in Super Rugby following a contentious 18-13 win over South African rivals the Stormers to end the third round of games on Saturday.
The Sharks came from 10-3 down helped by a dubious penalty try early in the second half at Newlands. However, there was no doubting flyhalf Joe Pietersen's try to seal victory in the 77th after the teams were locked at 13-13.
Also Saturday, defending champions the Highlanders of New Zealand ended the Lions' unbeaten start to the season, Melbourne Rebels added to Queensland Reds' early-season woes, and the Sunwolves of Japan came desperately close to marking their debut season with a victory in the first Super Rugby game in Singapore. The Sunwolves blew a 31-13 lead to lose 32-31 to South Africa's Cheetahs.
The Chiefs scored seven tries in a 58-24 win over another newcomer to the competition, South Africa's struggling Southern Kings.
The Cape Town-based Stormers, also unbeaten ahead of round three, had the best of the early territory and possession in a typically tight top-of-the-table derby against the Durban-based Sharks. Wing Leolin Zas' first-half try, when he chased a cross-kick and juggled the ball while tip-toeing down the left touchline, gave the Stormers the edge.
They lost it when the television match official ruled flanker Siya Kolisi kicked the ball out of Sharks scrumhalf Cobus Reinach's hand as he reached out for the tryline five minutes into the second half. The action by Kolisi, who was also yellow-carded, appeared accidental.
Struggling in the second, the Stormers collected their first points of the half in the 75th through a Kurt Coleman penalty for 13-13. But Springboks wing JP Pietersen made a burst down the middle of the field and set Joe Pietersen free for the clinching try for the visiting Sharks with three minutes to go.
Winger Matt Faddes scored two tries as the Dunedin-based Highlanders beat the Lions 34-15. Faddes scored the only try of the first half, taking a grubber kick from flyhalf Lima Sopoaga to create a 10-8 halftime lead.
The Highlanders then scored three long-range tries at the start of the second half to take control: Fullback Ben Smith and Faddes scored from intercepts in the first four minutes after halftime and center Malakai Fekitoa finished a sprawling movement for the Highlanders' fourth try that gave them a 31-3 lead.
Flyhalf Lima Sopaga kicked 14 points. The Lions rallied and denied the Highlanders a bonus point with second-half tries to Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Ruan Ackermann.
In Melbourne, a coaching change did little to change the fortunes of the Queensland Reds when they lost 25-23 to the Rebels. It was the Reds' third loss in a row to start the season and came after Richard Graham was fired last week and replaced by co-interim head coaches Matt O'Connor and Nick Stiles.
The Sunwolves scored four tries and led the battle-hardened Cheetahs by 18 points early in the second half in Singapore, but the inexperienced Japanese team lost its way and began to wilt in the stifling humidity. Cheetahs flyhalf Niel Marais ignited his team's comeback when he scored his second try of the match, with Uzair Cassiem and Boom Prinslo going over late to seal the win.
While the Sunwolves have shown promise, the Kings of South Africa have appeared out of their depth on their return to Super Rugby after being relegated in 2013.
Surprisingly, the Kings led the Chiefs 12-10 after 27 minutes on South Africa's south coast, but the Chiefs went up a gear to run away with a big win. All Blacks flanker Sam Cane scored two tries and fullback Damian McKenzie had a try and kicked another 23 points to put the Chiefs second behind ACT in the Australasian group.
The Sharks are now the pace-setters in the South African standings.