Super Rugby

Blues outclass Brumbies 18-12 in Canberra

Despite being last in the New Zealand group, the Blues were too good for the conference-topping Brumbies in a stark illustration of the gulf between Kiwi outfits and their trans-Tasman rivals.

It was the Brumbies' third loss in a row and ninth consecutive defeat to New Zealand opposition.

The Blues dominated possession from the outset on Sunday but were unable to breach the Brumbies dogged defence for the opening half hour in front of 12,072 at GIO Stadium.

Winger Matt Duffie broke the deadlock, with a George Moala offload helping him to cross after 31 minutes.

Crusaders stick with tried and true

The forward pack remains from last weekend's win over the Stormers, while Bryn Hall will start at halfback, pushing Mitchell Drummond to the bench.

In the reserves, Andrew Makalio comes on to the bench, to cover Codie Taylor at hooker.

Openside Matt Todd will play his 100th Super Rugby game.

Coach Scott Robertson said he had no doubt that Todd would give his all on Saturday night.

"Matt is an absolute work horse who gives full energy and commitment every time he takes the field - it wouldn't matter if it was his first game or his 100th."

     

Highlanders fans will have to wait at least another week for Sopoaga's return

There was hope Sopoaga, who hasn't played since picking up a hamstring injury against the Blues in round three, would return to play the Stormers in Dunedin in Friday night.

However, Sopoaga will sit out a seventh consecutive game, meaning Marty Banks will again run the show and Fletcher Smith will provide cover off the bench. 

Sopoaga is joined on the sidelines by loose forward Luke Whitelock, who has been struck down by concussion-type symptoms on the back of the Highlanders' 40-15 win against the Sunwolves last weekend. 

Matulino off to Tigers

The long serving 28-year-old made his 197th NRL appearance in his first outing of the season in last night's Anzac Day loss to the Storm in Melbourne.

The long-serving Matulino, who is returning from an injury lay-off following knee surgery, informed club management at the weekend that he had decided to take up an offer from Wests Tigers.

The 28-year-old has been inconsistent over the last several seasons and last year was one of five players dropped from the New Zealand Test team for taking a cocktail of prescription drugs and energy drinks.

Six match Super Rugby ban for Sharks centre Andre Esterhuizen

Esterhuizen's early dismissal left his side down at 14 men for more than an hour of the game and he was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing on Monday of a reckless challenge that "placed the opposing player in an extremely dangerous position".

The 23-year-old Esterhuizen was similarly suspended two years ago but what would have been an 11-week ban this time round was reduced to six due to a guilty plea, an on-field apology to the Rebels wing Sefa Naivalu and his conduct in the judicial process, said a Sanzaar statement.

Fumiaki Tanaka-Joe Wheeler enjoy some banter in middle of Super Rugby game

Not because the now Sunwolves halfback misses his former Highlanders team mates, but because someone pointed him towards the tribute song Highlanders lock Joe Wheeler did for him before the game.

Wheeler penned a song to the music of Adelle's hit song Hello as a comical tribute to Tanaka.

"Before the game I laughed so much. I was about to cry, I was almost in tears," Tanaka said after the 40-15 loss to the Highlanders.

Crusaders back on top after demolishing Stormers

The Crusaders ran in five tries in the opening 40 minutes, All Blacks skipper Kieran Read grabbing two, as they had the game won with a 36-3 lead at the break.

The win leaves the Crusaders atop the New Zealand conference and the overall standings, the only unbeaten team after eight weeks.

The Stormers, coming off a 29-16 loss last week to the Kings, sorely tested the Crusaders' defence early, but could only come away with a Robert du Preez penalty.

Highlanders cruise to victory against Sunwolves

The final result was never in doubt, although the Highlanders looked rusty coming off the bye and weren't always convincing, particularly in the first half.

Their scrum was generally efficient and the set piece solid despite the absence of All Blacks flanker Elliot Dixon, ruled out late by a knee infection.

It took just four minutes for the Highlanders to punish the Sunwolves' slow start, the visitors' poor handling gifting plenty of early possession.

Penalty kick hands Lions the win

It was the seventh win in eight games for last year's runners-up but they were fortunate against feisty opponents as they stayed top of their conference standings.

The teams traded converted tries to be level with 10 minutes to go but the Lions won a penalty two minutes from time which Jantjies slotted over to seal victory.

The Jaguares struck inside the opening five minutes to serve notice of their determination to halt a run of two successive losses as Matias Orlando burst over to score after a break by influential flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez.

End-game penalty spells defeat for Jaguares in Lions clash

It was the seventh win in eight games for last year's runners-up but they were fortunate against feisty opponents as they stayed top of their conference standings.

The teams traded converted tries to be level with 10 minutes to go but the Lions won a penalty two minutes from time which Jantjies slotted over to seal victory.

The Jaguares struck inside the opening five minutes to serve notice of their determination to halt a run of two successive losses as Matias Orlando burst over to score after a break by influential No 10 Nicolas Sanchez.