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Canes move up Sharks & Chiefs move down in Super 14

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The top four teams in rugby’s Super 14 took on a new look after the 12th round as the Hurricanes and Stormers moved up, displacing the Sharks and Chiefs.


The Crusaders clinched a home semifinal when they beat the Sharks 18-10 on Friday. The Waratahs and Chiefs losses ensured that the Crusaders semi final place became a home semi-final.


Friday’s and subsequent results left them 10 points clear of the Waratahs at the top of the table, out of the range of other teams clamoring for playoff places.


With two regular-season rounds remaining and a maximum of 10 points available to championship hopefuls, nine teams remain in mathematical contention for playoffs spots.


Only nine points separate the second-placed Waratahs (37 points) from the ninth-placed Western Force (28 points), and there are only five points – a single win – between third and seventh place.


The Crusaders are able to watch the prospective chaos of the last two rounds from their lofty position at the top of the table, with 47 points and a semifinal in Christchurch already assured.


They have a leisurely finish to the regular season, with matches against the Reds and Highlanders who are both out of the playoff race.


However, the Crusaders are unlikely to relax in their last two matches as they attempt to keep up their high standard of play ahead of the May 23 semifinal.


“Yes, it’s a cliche, isn’t it, but we strive to be perfectionists,” Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis said.


“We are not totally happy with how we are playing at the moment.


“It was a good gutsy effort (against the Sharks) because the conditions were not great but we are not playing as we would like.”


Props Greg Somerville and Wyatt Crockett scored tries to help the Crusaders to a two tries to one victory over the Sharks but it was the Crusaders’ defense in a grueling second half which clinched the win.


The loss was the Sharks’ third in succession on a five-match trip through Australia in New Zealand which first stripped them of their unbeaten record then pitched them out of the top four.


The now lie sixth on 32 points, three points adrift of the fourth-placed Stormers and five points out of the second place they held through 10 rounds.


The Waratahs held on to second place despite a 16-13 loss to last year’s champions, the Bulls, in Pretoria.


The match gave the Bulls their fourth win of the season and made the Waratahs grip on second place, a home semifinal and even a playoff spot more tenuous.


The Hurricanes, who beat the Lions 38-12, and the Stormers, who beat the Brumbies 20-10, both moved up with those wins.


The Hurricanes moved from fifth to third and the Stormers from sixth to fourth, displacing the Sharks and the Chiefs who lost 22-21 to the Western Force.


The Chiefs’ loss, which ended a five-match winning streak, dropped them to fifth place, two points out of the top four while the Force revived their slim playoffs hopes.


Chiefs captain and All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the loss.


“It’s pretty gut-wrenching,” he said.


“There’s probably a few opportunities that we let slip, but the Force definitely put a lot of pressure on us and they deserved the win.”


The Blues, now seventh with 31 points, also kept alive their playoffs hopes with a 35-22 win over the Reds.


“We didn’t play nearly as well as last week (against the Crusaders),” Blues coach David Nucifora said.


“But last week we lost and got one point and this week we won and got five points. That’s just the nature of the game.”


Weekend summaries:


Crusaders 18
(Greg Somerville, Wyatt Crockett tries; Stephen Brett conversion, 2 penalties),
Sharks 10
(Ryan Kankowski try; Rory Kockott conversion, penalty).
HT, 13-10.


Western Force 22
(Matt Hodgson, Drew Mitchell, James Stannard tries, Matt Giteau 2 conversions, penalty),
Chiefs 21
(Lelia Masaga, Stephen Donald tries, Donald 2 penalties, conversion, Callum Bruce drop goal).
HT, 14-3.


Hurricanes 38
(Ma’a Nonu 2, Zac Guildford, Andrew Hore, Scott Waldrom tries; Willie Ripia 2 conversions, 3 penalties),
Lions 12
(Willie Wepener, Jannie Boshoff tries; Earl Rose conversion).
HT, 26-7.


Blues 35
(Jerome Kaino, Isa Nacewa, Kurtis Haiu, Taniela Moa tries, Nick Evans 3 conversions, 3 penalties),
Reds 22
(David Croft, Van Humphries, Peter Hynes tries, Clinton Schifcofske 2 conversions, penalty).
HT, 20-7.

Highlanders 31
(Adam Bancroft 2, Adam Thompson tries; Mike Delany 2 conversions; Delany 4 penalties),
Cheetahs 28
(J. W Jonker, Duane Vermeulen, Hendro Scholtz, Rory Duncan tries; Conrad Barnard 2, Meyer Bosman 2 conversions),
HT, 11-14.


Bulls 16
(Derick Kuun try; Morne Steyn conversion; Steyn penalty; Derick Hougaard, Steyn drop goals),
Waratahs 13
(Rob Horne try; Kurtley Beale conversion; Beale penalty; Beale drop goal).
HT, 6-7.


Stormers 20
(penalty try, Jean de Villiers try; Peter Grant 2 conversions; Grant 2 penalties).
Brumbies 10
(Adam Ashley-Cooper, Peter Kimlin tries).
HT, 20-0.


Sapa-AP – Super14.com

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