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02 Mar 2008 08:16
The Auckland Blues took the outright lead in rugby’s Super 14 when they racked up 50 points for the second straight week against a South African opponent.
The Blues followed last week’s 55-10 win over the Lions with a 50-26 win Saturday over the Cheetahs to secure their third straight bonus point and to open a one-point lead over their compatriots, the Canterbury Crusaders.
The Crusaders also posted their third straight win, their second in South Africa, but a bonus point eluded them in their 22-0 win over the Stormers.
The Sharks were the only other unbeaten team after three rounds following their four-try, 29-15 win over the Bulls in a match which reversed the result of last year’s final.
Round three saw four teams emerge from a mid-table ruck of eight sides which had 1-1 records after two rounds.
The New South Wales Waratahs, who beat the Otago Highlanders 15-12, the Western Force, who beat the Lions 18-16, the Wellington Hurricanes, 39-19 winners over the Waikato Chiefs, and the ACT Brumbies, who beat the Queensland Reds 43-11, all improved to 2-1 to occupy the upper rungs of the table.
The Reds, Lions, Chiefs and, most notably, last year’s champions the Bulls, all have 1-2 records while the Highlanders, Cheetahs and Stormers are winless after three rounds.
Auckland scored seven tries in beating the Cheetahs 50-26 but the Cheetahs saved some face by scoring four tries of their own to take a bonus point from the match.
All Blacks winger Joe Rokocoko scored three tries and his international teammate, centre Isaia Toeava, scored two as the Blues captured a vital win in South Africa.
“That score today didn’t reflect the physicality of the match,” Blues captain Troy Flavell said.
“It was a very hard-fought match, the Cheetahs forwards gave us a real fight.
“I thought we stuck to our guns, managed to keep our composure and scored some good tries.”
The Crusaders relied on solid defense and control of possession, rather than all-out attack, to beat the Stormers in Cape Town.
“It was a big motivation for us to get two wins in South Africa,” captain Richie McCaw said. “It would have been a long flight back home if we had lost.”
French international Frederic Michalak scored a 72nd-minute try to spark a spectacular late comeback which carried the Sharks to a win over the Bulls. The Sharks trailed by five points with 10 minutes remaining but Michalak’s try and others to Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes lifted them to a 14-point win.
The Bulls have yet to find their running game this season and all of their points came from the boot of flyhalf Morne Steyn.
Wallabies fullback Julian Huxley was taken from the field with a neck injury in the opening minutes of ACT’s clash with Queensland.
Precautionary scans of Huxley’s neck were carried out at hospital on Saturday night but further details of his injury were not available. - Sapa-AP
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