If the playoffs started next weekend the games would be: Crusaders v Lions, Hurricanes v Rebels, Jaguares v Bulls, Brumbies v Sharks.
New Zealand Conference
Desperate defence summed up the desire that has driven the injury-plagued Chiefs team this year and they achieved a deserved 19-13 win over the Reds in Hamilton. It was a game that could have frustrated the home side after an early TMO ruling denied them a try to wing Etene Nanai-Seturo but they held their focus and in the final 10 minutes made their goalline impregnable with some stunning defensive play to deny the Reds.
QUICK TAP: HEROIC DEFENSIVE EFFORT KEEPS CHIEFS SEASON ALIVE
With all that had gone on during the Crusaders' week, the off-field distractions and all, the Blues knew they would have to be on their game like no other time this season. But still they couldn't break the home team's resolve and they must have been left wondering after their 11-19 loss when they will ever win again in Christchurch? It is impossible, against a team like the Crusaders, to make the mistakes the Blues made at key moments and expect to win. The Crusaders were all class with tactical niceties and awareness of the virtues of field position and a kicking game that exploited the wet conditions perfectly.
'Kick tennis' was how one report summed up the Cape Town game which saw the Stormers claim a 34-22 win over the Highlanders. The game wasn't without its moments as wing Seabelo Senatla twice had tries ruled out by the TMO. But the loss of Matt Faddes to the sin-bin for an illegal tackle gave the Stormers the chance they sought and they got out to a 17-3 lead by halftime. Typically, the Highlanders came back strong but it was always a bridge too far.
The Reds were given a reminder of the ability that Chiefs and All Blacks flanker Sam Cane has at the breakdown when securing vital ball to deny the Reds on more than one occasion in Hamilton. There was no doubting the promise available in the Reds unit but ultimately promise couldn't break down the defensive screen the Chiefs employed especially during the desperate last 10 minutes where they held on to secure a 19-13 win.
Centre Tevita Kuridrani picked up a hat-trick of tries in the Brumbies 22-10 win over the Bulls in Canberra and helped his side to the top of the Australian Conference with games against the Sunwolves, Waratahs and Reds to come. They claimed a try bonus point with second five-eighths Irae Simone also crossing to complete a great night for the Brumbies midfield. Again, it was the better start after halftime that subdued the tourists and when they tried to mount a recovery the home defence proved impenetrable.
The Rebels maintained their push for the playoffs with an eight tries to one 52-7 win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo. The home side were guilty of far too many errors. Not even the loss of Matt Philip to the sin-bin for a cynical foul could deny the Australians, who even scored during his absence as wing Marika Koroibete scored his second try of the first half. The game suited the inside back pairing of halfback Will Genia and first five-eighths Quade Cooper perfectly and they dictated play as a result.
The Waratahs face a difficult path to achieve a playoffs place after going down without a bonus point due to an injury time penalty goal conceded to the Jaguares who won 23-15 at Parramatta. The visiting backs, and wing Ramiro Moyano especially, were too good for the home side, who did have a chance while the Jaguares were reduced to 14 men when Pablo Matera was sin-binned. But the Waratahs lacked the necessary finish to make the most of opportunities, not least when near the end of the game the Jaguares opted for a penalty kick to the corner rather than the penalty shot, only to lose the ball in subsequent play.
A second half drop-off by the Bulls in Canberra does not augur well for their remaining tour games against the Blues and Highlanders in New Zealand. They went to the halftime break 10-12 down but couldn't score again in the second half as the Brumbies claimed a Conference-topping 22-10 win. The only time the Bulls looked dangerous was while Tom Cusack was in the sin-bin for a professional foul which resulted in Hanro Liebenberg scoring the Bulls' only try.
The 23-15 win by the Jaguares over the Waratahs has moved them three points clear in the South African Conference. It was a continuation of the remarkable record the Jaguares have fashioned of never losing a game in Australia. They dominated position with close to 70 percent possession in the first half. Wing Ramiro Moyano unleashed his skills in another fine display to score two tries. The loss of Pablo Matera for collapsing a rolling maul resulted in a penalty try and allowed the Waratahs within two points when Curtis Rona followed with a try moments later. However, they were unable to break the restored defence and it was the tourists who came through strongest.
Knowing they still had a chance of qualifying for the playoffs the Stormers, after a stuttering start marked by some ill-placed kicking options, made the most of their opportunities to beat the Highlanders 34-22. Support play from rising halfback Herschel Jantjies resulted in their first try while skipper Siya Kolisi made the most of Matt Faddes' absence in the sin-bin to score the second. No sooner had Patelesio Tomkinson scored for the Highlanders than Cobus Wiese was on hand to take an offload from Dillyn Leyds to score. Jean-Luc du Plessis also got over before Waisake Naholo and Siate Tokolahi scored late tries to reduce the final margin.
Two intercepts proved crucial for the Sharks in their 27-17 win over the Lions in Durban. First first five-eighths Curwin Bosch, who had just missed a sitter of a penalty goal, got the ball 50m out and raced in for the try. In a game marred by mistakes by both sides, the Lions were in the contest at 14-14 just after halftime. However, when hot on attack with a lineout throw five metres from the Sharks line, the ball was overthrown allowing Makazola Mapimpi to secure the ball and sprinted 95m to seal the Lions' fate. Both sides had tries ruled out by the TMO during the game. The loss made securing a playoffs place much more difficult for the Lions who face the Stormers, the Hurricanes and the Lions in their remaining games.