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Aussie Super 14 teams losing ground


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Australia’s hopes of having a team in the Super 14 semi-finals hopes are slipping as all four teams lost ground and the fancied Western Force stumbled at the weekend.

The Force Australia’s highest ranking team (19 points) dropped from fourth to fifth at the weekend after the reminder that they they struggle to win matches at home.

The Hurricanes (also on 19) jumped above the Force into fourth with a bonus point from their 20-13 loss to runaway leaders the Crusaders (33) in Wellington.

The Blues (24) held onto third position with a second straight narrow home win, thanks to a late Nick Evans drop goal which gave them a 23-21 victory in Auckland over the 11th placed Bulls (9) whose title defence looks doomed.

The Stormers’ win, their third in four games in Australasia, was bad news for the Waratahs and Brumbies.

The Waratahs (17) paid for its inability to secure bonus points as it dropped from seventh to eighth, despite a 23-19 home victory over the winless Cheetahs (6) in Sydney.

The Brumbies (15), who had their bye week, slipped three spots to ninth, behind the Stormers, Waratahs and Chiefs (18), who scored a 39-24 bonus point win over the last-placed Highlanders (4) in Hamilton.

The Canberra-based team will be boosted by the return from injury of skipper Stirling Mortlock and fellow Wallabies back Adam Ashley-Cooper, for what looms as a must-win home game against the Chiefs on Friday.

Queensland (12) remained tenth following their 22-10 loss to the unbeaten second-placed Sharks (25) in Durban.

The Force have won just four of their 15 home games in two and a half seasons that represents a paltry victory percentage of just 26 compared to 62 in South Africa, where they have won five out of eight fixtures and 28 in New Zealand.

After winning four out of five matches in South Africa and new Zealand, the sloppy Force were outscored four tries to two by the Stormers, who took only 48 seconds to cross the home team’s line.

“It was out worst performance by an absolute country mile, I reckon over the last two years,” Force skipper and lock Nathan Sharpe told AAP following his 100th Super appearance .

Force coach John Mitchell was equally scathing about his team, who host the Bulls and Waratahs over the next two weeks.

“It was not acceptable,” Mitchell said.

In Sydney the Cheetahs scored three tries to two and outscored the Tahs 12-3 in the second half.

The win may have marginally eased the pressure on Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie, but the unconvincing performance did little to assist his cause.

“I’m sure someone will ask me the question (about my coaching position this week),” McKenzie said following the Waratahs’ fourth win in six games.

The Waratahs next game is at home to the Blues have managed just one bonus point and have yet to get one for scoring four tries.

“We tried to go out there and play with intent, that’s what everyone’s been telling us we have to try and do,” McKenzie said.

“We came up with some errors. That’s going to happen, but we’ll be better for the run.”

Queensland were level at 10-10 at halftime in Durban and defended heroically before conceding two final quarter tries.

“We’re certainly making progress,’ Queensland coach Phil Mooney said.

“We’re bitterly disappointed we didn’t come away with any points, but certainly showed what we’re about this year.”

With thanks AAP

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