Chiefs, Stormers remain unbeaten in Super Rugby

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — All Blacks playmaker Damian McKenzie had a major role as the Chiefs continued their unbeaten start to the Super Rugby season on Saturday and took over top spot on points difference from the Stormers.

Both have three wins from three and are the only unbeaten teams left after three rounds.

The Hamilton-based Chiefs won 43-17 over the Sunwolves in Tokyo among three victories in three matches by New Zealand sides.

The Cape Town-based Stormers conceded their first points of the season and were trailing the Lions 30-26 nearly two minutes after the final hooter in their South African derby in Johannesburg. The Stormers kept the ball alive and worked an opportunity for center Ruhan Nel to score a dramatic match-winning try in the last play of the game. The 33-30 win was the Stormers’ first in Johannesburg in five years.

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The Chiefs’ McKenzie missed last year’s World Cup and most of the 2019 season with a knee injury but has made a strong return over the last two weeks after sitting out the opening round of Super Rugby.

The Sunwolves scored first with a try to flyhalf Garth April after strong running from former England center Ben Te’o.

McKenzie featured as the Chiefs struck back with tries on both flanks, using the width of the field to score through wingers Solomon Alaimalo and Shaun Stevenson.

The Sunwolves missed a vital chance to score in the 17th minute when McKenzie tackled Jarred Adams inches from the line.

McKenzie then made a second try for Alaimalo which gave the Chiefs a 24-7 lead. The Sunwolves had to score next and did so when Georgia hooker Jaba Bregvadze wrestled the ball over the line from a maul just before halftime.

The Chiefs made the game safe when flanker Lachlan Boshier scored within three minutes of the restart, pouncing on a Sunwolves turnover. The last hope of a Sunwolves rally was snuffed out by a try-saving tackle by Chiefs scrumhalf Brad Weber on Sunwolves center Shogo Nakano, though Nakano did score in the 73rd minute.

The Chiefs punished a tiring Sunwolves team with late tries to Quinn Tupaea and Kaleb Trask.

The Durban-based Sharks lost their unbeaten record when they went down 38-22 to the Hurricanes in Wellington in a match of spectacular long-range tries.

The Sharks set the ball rolling in the 13th minute with an 80-meter intercept try involving captain Lukhanyo Am and winger Madosh Tambwe.

After Wes Goosen scored for the Hurricanes and Tyler Paul for the Sharks, All Blacks center Ngani Laumapi scored a superb try for the Hurricanes from a cross-kick by Jordie Barrett.

Winger Ben Lam struck twice from distance to give the Hurricanes a 29-17 lead after 51 minutes and All Blacks hooker Dane Coles, who came off the bench for his first appearance of the season, scored from a lineout drive to put the home team ahead 38-17.

A late try to replacement Mzamo Majola wasn’t enough to bridge the gap and the Sharks and Hurricanes now share 2-1 records.

Like the Stormers, the New Zealand-based Highlanders scored a converted try way after the final hooter to claim a 23-22 win over the ACT Brumbies.

The 84th-minute score ended the Brumbies’ 11-game winning streak at home, while the Highlanders made it five straight victories against the Australian team.

ACT hooker Folau Faingaa scored a hat trick of rolling maul tries but it wasn’t enough as the hosts failed to take advantage of a yellow card in the second half. Highlanders winger Patelesio Tomkinson was lucky to avoid being sent off after making no attempt to wrap his arms as his shoulder made contact with Tom Banks’ head in a tackle.

Referee Nic Berry deemed the initial contact shoulder to shoulder and only opted for the sin bin in the 45th minute.

The Highlanders hung tough before Teariki Ben-Nicholas crashed over next to the posts way after the final siren and Josh Ioane slotted the match-sealing conversion.

“This is a tough place to come. There was a lot of courage showed in that last five or six minutes,” Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said. “I’m really proud of the way we fought back and gave ourselves an opportunity to win it. We train for those scenarios and I thought the guys executed their plan very well.”

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