Jaguares beat Chiefs 21-16 in Super Rugby quarterfinal
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina's Jaguares scored a try in the opening minute but still had to rally to beat the Chiefs 21-16 in a Super Rugby quarterfinal on Friday, reaching the tournament semifinals for the first time.
Pablo Matera crashed over the line less than a minute from the kickoff to give the Jaguares a 5-0 lead. But they fell behind 16-8 early in the second half before a try to winger Matias Moroni and two penalties to flyhalf Joaquin Diaz Bonilla allowed them to regain the lead and extend a record-breaking season.
The Jaguares topped the South African conference with an 11-5 record in the regular season to win a home quarterfinal for the first time in their four-year history. They will now host a semifinal against the winner of Saturday's last quarterfinal in Canberra between the ACT Brumbies and Durban-based Sharks.
The Jaguares looked strong early, buoyed by Matera's try and cheered on by a large home crowd. But the Chiefs overcame a tough travel schedule to take the upper hand on either side of halftime.
A converted try to flanker Lachlan Boshier and penalty to Jack Debreczeni gave the Chiefs a 10-8 lead at the break and they extended that with penalties to Debreczeni and his replacement Marty McKenzie in the first seven minutes of the second half.
But handling errors and a loss of discipline by the Chiefs allowed the Jaguares to fight their way back into the match. A 52nd-minue try to Moroni brought them within a point of the Chiefs and two penalties to Diaz Bonilla carried them to a five point lead in the 60th minute.
That slim lead made the last 20 minutes of the match nail-biting for Jaguares fans as their team chased an historic achievement. The Jaguares were out-muscled at scrums but produced a superb, unified defensive performance to protect their line.
The Chiefs attacked relentlessly around the 70th minute before another handling error cost them the chance of a try and a lead. Their last chance came with a penalty near their own goalline in the final minute but they were unable to force their way out of their 22 in the face of stiff Jaguares defense.
Earlier Friday, a powerful forward display and flawless performance by flyhalf Richie Mo'unga lifted the Christchurch-based Crusaders to a 38-14 win over their South Island neighbors the Dunedin-based Highlanders.
Mo'unga scored a try in each half and kicked five goals from five attempts as the Crusaders moved a step closer to their third-straight Super Rugby title.
The Crusaders will now host a semifinal next weekend between the winner of Saturday's match between the Wellington-based Hurricanes and Pretoria-based Bulls.