SYDNEY (AP) — A much-anticipated match between the Australian and South African conference leaders in Super Rugby turned out to be not much of a contest on Friday.
The Johannesburg-based Lions dominated New South Wales, outclassing the Australian conference-leading Waratahs 29-0.
It was a night of milestones for both teams: The Lions had never won in Sydney, and had never shut out an opponent in Super Rugby. The Waratahs had never been held scoreless anywhere in Super Rugby.
The Lions were ahead 7-0 at halftime and increased that to 19-0 before the Waratahs showed remote signs of a comeback. But the visitors poured it on in the final 10 minutes and scored a bonus-point try with less than five minutes remaining.
The Lions improved to 6-3 on the season to take a 16-point lead in the South African conference, pending other weekend results.
The Waratahs, who had won four matches in a row over Australian rivals, could be overtaken for first place in the Australian conference if second-place Melbourne beats the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
"The battle tonight was won in the forwards, but we all worked hard this week in training," said Lions captain Franco Mostert after the first of a four-match road trip for the South Africans.
The Lions will travel about 800 kilometers (500 miles) north up the Australian east coast to play the Queensland Reds in Brisbane next Saturday.
Earlier Friday at Auckland, back rower Shannon Frizell scored three tries and created another as the Dunedin-based Highlanders beat the Blues 34-16 to extend to 15 matches the Blues' two-year losing streak against New Zealand teams.
The Highlanders scored two tries in the first five minutes to set up their victory, then staved off a Blues revival with another try immediately after halftime, claiming four straight wins over the Blues for the first time in their history and posting their first back-to-back wins in Auckland.
While they worked with a minimal share of possession and were forced to make many more tackles than the Blues, the Highlanders were more effective in possession than the Blues, who remain at the bottom of the New Zealand conference with only two wins from eight games.
"It was a bloody tough game," Highlanders captain Ash Dixon said. "I think we were lucky there at times. We managed to hold the ball in certain areas of the field and come away with a couple of points. Full credit to the Blues, they came back hard and we had to fight pretty hard in that first half to get into some good positions."
The Blues came into the game with almost half their squad ruled out of action due to injuries.
The Highlanders led 20-11 at halftime and took control of the match with a try to scrumhalf Kane Hammington, built around a Frizell break, four minutes into the second half.