Crusaders beat 'Canes in Super Rugby heavyweight fight
Sydney (AFP) - The Canterbury Crusaders have strengthened their claims for an eighth Super Rugby crown with a dominating win over defending champions Wellington Hurricanes to stay unbeaten this season.
Crusaders' forward pack crushed the Hurricanes 20-12 in Christchurch to remain unbeaten after 11 games and open an eight-point lead in the formidable New Zealand conference.
Kiwi teams have dominated this season's Super Rugby competition ahead of next month's much-anticipated British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.
Saturday's showdown between the two Super Rugby heavyweights was expected to be a try-fest. But at half-time it was locked up at 9-9, with all the points from penalties.
Eventually, the power of the Crusaders' All Blacks-laden forward pack and the smart direction of centre Ryan Crotty defused the Hurricanes strike force of Beauden and Jordie Barrett and kept them tryless for the first time in three years.
The Crusaders had more than enough power up-front despite being without injured All Blacks Kieran Read and suspended Sam Whitelock.
Scott Barrett (ankle) and Matt Todd (concussion) also had to leave the field during the game.
"It was such a massive effort," said Crotty, who ended up captaining the side in the absence of Todd.
"We didn't let them get anything going off set-piece, which was massive, a credit to the tight five."
South Africa's Golden Lions won their third Australian tour game with a resilient 13-6 win over the ACT Brumbies in Canberra.
The Lions scored the only try of the dour contest through Springbok Sevens star Kwagga Smith early in the second half after trailing the Australian conference leaders 3-0 at half-time.
- 'It was a grind' -
It was only the second win for the Johannesburg-based Lions in Canberra, with the result lifting them to a 13-point lead over the Coastal Sharks in the Africa 2 conference.
"It was a grind. Gee, it was a tough battle, the conditions were tough, the ball was slippery and we had to keep it tight, so I am extremely proud of the boys," Lions skipper Warren Whiteley said.
The Sharks went down 35-32 to the revitalised Southern Kings -- who are under threat of the axe when Super Rugby reverts to only 15 teams next year -- in Port Elizabeth.
It was the seemingly-doomed Kings' fourth win of the season and their first over a fellow South African side.
All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa scored a brilliant solo try to give New Zealand's Otago Highlanders a 17-10 win over the Northern Bulls in Pretoria.
The Highlanders are fourth in the New Zealand conference but in contention for a berth in the post-season eight-team finals with 36 points.
Skipper Samu Kerevi scored a last-minute try to grab a thrilling 29-24 victory for the Queensland Reds over the Rebels in Melbourne.
The Reds scored five tries to two to stay alive for the finals but found it difficult to put away the Rebels, whose place in next year's competition is still to be determined.
Queensland's win pushed them above the NSW Waratahs into second place in the Australian conference and three points behind the Brumbies.
All Black prospect Rieko Ioane scored a try double as the Auckland Blues trounced South Africa's Central Cheetahs 50-32 at Eden Park.
Australia's Western Force won on the road in Super Rugby for the first time since last May when they upset Argentina's Jaguares 16-6 in Buenos Aires.
The Waikato Chiefs, Western Stormers, Sunwolves and Waratahs all had byes.