SYDNEY (AP) — The Christchurch-based Crusaders won their sixth consecutive match to begin the Super Rugby season, defeating the New South Wales Waratahs 41-22 on Sunday to give New Zealand sides a clean sweep of four weekend matches against their Australian opponents.
The win moved the Crusaders into first place overall, ahead of two other unbeaten teams, the Chiefs and Stormers, who are 5-0.
The Chiefs roused themselves from a slow start for a 28-12 bonus-point win over the Bulls, while the Stormers were never in danger against the Cheetahs, scoring eight tries in a 53-10 win.
In other sixth-round action between New Zealand and Australian teams, the defending champion Hurricanes were too slick for the Queensland Reds, winning 34-15, the Blues struggled before finally subduing the Western Force 24-15, and on Friday, the Highlanders outclassed the Melbourne Rebels 51-12.
At Sydney on Sunday, the Crusaders led 19-10 at halftime but struggled early in the second half as the Waratahs kept it close. But the home side paid the price for a sloppy defensive display, missing 24 tackles in the first half and allowing two soft tries from lineout losses.
The Crusaders have an unprecedented 10 consecutive wins over Australian sides stretching back to 2015. They'll be able to rest on their laurels for at least a week — they have a seventh-round bye next weekend.
A late try by Lions flanker Jaco Kriel settled a titanic South African derby against the Sharks in Johannesburg. The Lions won 34-29 in a game that swung back and forth before replacement Kwagga Smith burst away and put fellow loose forward Kriel clear down the right wing in the 76th minute.
The Chiefs trailed 9-3 after a scrappy first half at home against the Bulls but took the lead for the first time with wing Shaun Stevenson's try in the 48th minute, and clinched a bonus point with tries in the last 10 minutes from Damian McKenzie and Atu Moli.
"We asked the boys for a bit of a mental shift at halftime and they obviously responded," Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden said.
No. 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe scored three tries and wing Dillyn Leyds added two to lead the Stormers to their convincing win over the Cheetahs.
In Johannesburg, the Sharks led the Lions 13-3 with an early try from prop Coenie Oosthuizen, who thundered down the middle of the field after supporting a break from wing Kobus van Wyk. A yellow card for lock Etienne Oosthuizen let the Lions back in the game, with the home team scoring 14 points while the Sharks were down to 14 men. The Lions then went out to a 23-16 lead.
The momentum changed again as Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch kicked a huge penalty from well inside his own half to edge the Durban-based team ahead near the end. Opposite number Elton Jantjies levelled at 29-29 before the try from Kriel extended the Lions' winning run at its Ellis Park home to nine games in Super Rugby.
"That was fantastic, thoroughly enjoyable," Lions captain Warren Whiteley said. "We play rugby for games like these. We probably had it a bit easy in our previous games. This was really a fight."
The ACT Brumbies of Australia, Argentina's Jaguares, Japan's Sunwolves and South Africa's Kings had weekend byes.