26 Apr 2009

Canes go top as Chiefs just miss out against Bulls

8:35 am on 26 April 2009

The Super 14 rugby coach Colin Cooper has described Saturday night's emphatic 56-7, eight-try victory over the ACT Brumbies in Wellington as one of the best in his time with the Hurricanes

The Hurricanes set-piece worked well, even their lineout, which has been the Achilles heel of the side in recent times.

They also completely dominated the breakdown against the likes of George Smith and their backs were dangerous with ball in hand.

The Hurricanes are now top of the competition with three rounds remaining while the Chiefs are third after a 33-27 bonus point loss to South Africa's Bulls in Pretoria.

And while the Chiefs picked up the vital bonus point for finishing within seven, the visitors also denied the Bulls one for scoring four tries. The Chiefs held the home side out from their line and still posed enough of an attacking threat near the end that the Bulls eventually kicked the ball out to end the game, rather than keep on pushing and possibly getting exposed.

The Chiefs coach Ian Foster knows how crucial that point could be. He says the competition's always tight at this time of year, with even the lower sides still getting up to beat the top teams.

Foster says it's those sides that hold their nerve in the last three weeks that will make it through.

The defending champion Crusaders are eighth and slipping out of play-off contention after losing 20-13 against the bottom-placed Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, while the Blues are fifth thanks to two bonus points in their 31-24 loss to the Queensland Reds in Auckland.

The Reds enjoyed one of their best Super 14 victories this decade after the lights came back on at North Harbour Stadium, ending three years of heartbreak away from Brisbane.

The remarkable triumph against the All Black-laden Aucklanders ended a 20-match drought on the road for the embattled Reds, giving them just their second win in 27 matches on New Zealand soil since 1999 and first ever away to the Blues.

The match began in bizarre fashion with a power outage claiming two sets of floodlights, forcing the game to be stopped after five minutes and prompting a 50-minute postponement.