Crusaders beat Rebels in Super Rugby; Brumbies down Waratahs
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The back three of Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece, and David Havili shared eight tries as the Crusaders emphatically sealed first place in Super Rugby by routing the Melbourne Rebels 66-0 in their last match of the regular season on Saturday.
Wingers Ennor and Reece scored three tries each and fullback Havili scored two as the defending champion Crusaders unleashed all of their backline armory in a 10-tries-to-nil win to make sure of home advantage through the playoffs. Ennor missed a fourth try when he knocked on with the line open in the last minutes.
Scrumhalf Bryn Hall combined with Reece for another try and center Ryan Crotty scored the last and most celebrated try to mark his 150th game for the Christchurch-based Crusaders. He added the conversion after flyhalf Richie Mo'unga, who created several tries with pinpoint kicks or passes, converted seven for 14 points. They led 26-0 at halftime.
The ACT Brumbies clinched Australian conference honors and ended the playoff hopes of the New South Wales Waratahs with a 35-24 win.
The Brumbies had the match all but wrapped up at halftime. Four tries in 18 minutes — to Rory Arnold, Andy Muirhead, Irae Simone and Folau Faingaa, all converted by skipper Christian Leali'ifano — had the visitors up 28-3 at the break.
Flanker Tom Cusack sealed victory with the Brumbies' fifth try with five minutes remaining.
"I felt like we took our opportunities. We tried to play reasonably simple and our forward pack were really strong and it was nice to get a mixture of scores there," Leali'ifano said. "So things are working really well. Top of the conference is nice."
The Waratahs denied the Brumbies a bonus point when Curtis Rona touched down after the fulltime siren.
"The Brumbies stuck to their guns and played a really dominant game there," Waratahs captain Michael Hooper said. "Their first half, their penalty to sideline to driving maul was clearly too hard to stop and credit to them. They've worked out a really strong way of playing."
Stung by last week's shock loss to the Hamilton-based Chiefs in Suva, the Crusaders produced a brilliant attacking performance to crush the Rebels and move 14 points clear of the Wellington-based Hurricanes on the overall table.
"Obviously last week the pressure came on a little bit," Crusader captain Sam Whitelock said. "But it was awesome for (Crotty) to score in his 150th and wind back the clock by taking the shot at goal, too."
The Crusaders tore to shreds a disorganized Rebels defense, especially taking advantage of wide gaps on both flanks. Mo'unga kicked to those spaces and Ennor, Reece, and Havili provided slick finishing touches.
Reece took his tally of tries for the season to 13, moving clear atop the list of try-scorers.
Ennor and Reece, both uncapped, are strong contenders for New Zealand's squad for the Rugby World Cup.