Tue, Jul 17, 12:43pm by Staff Writer
The Crusaders capped off a near flawless regular season on Saturday night with a 54-17 win against the hapless Blues in Christchurch.
The Crusaders are $1.57 to win the Super Rugby title at Sportsbet, the shortest price they have been all season.
The home side ran in eight tries to two in an exhibition of running rugby. They host the Sharks from South Africa in the finals on Saturday night.
The Sharks were a long shot of playing finals rugby until a few weeks ago, but have snuck in as the eighth seed after a 20-10 win against the Jaguares on Sunday morning.
The Sharks are $126 to win the title and face a tough test, travelling to New Zealand to take on the Crusaders. The Jaguares are $51 to win Super Rugby.
They were given the opportunity to advance to the post-season after the Melbourne Rebels squandered numerous opportunities in the past fortnight to guarantee a finals position.
The Rebels lost against the Waratahs, Reds and Highlanders after holding leads at half-time.
Despite being without co-captain Ben Smith, the Highlanders manufactured a narrow 43-37 win against the Rebels in Dunedin on Saturday night.
Trailing 17-3 early in the game after the Rebels fullback Reece Hodge charged down a kick for a try, the Highlanders looked out of sorts.
A second half revival ensued, where the home side grabbed all of the momentum in the match, scoring three converted tries in 10 minutes.
The Rebels had one last chance to salvage an unlikely victory after the hooter, but an epic try-saving tackle by Waisake Naholo 10 metres out from his try line ended the match.
The Highlanders are $12 to win Super Rugby and face the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night.
The Tahs ended the regular season with a whimper, losing to rivals the Brumbies convincingly at home.
The 40-31 loss means they relinquished second position in the standings and now have a much tougher draw in the finals. Instead of playing the Jaguares, they must now host the Highlanders.
Nonetheless it has been a resurgent season for Darryl Gibson’s charges, who have shown they have what it takes to win a finals game.
The Tahs are $15 to win Super Rugby. The Brumbies ended the season with three straight wins and after a poor start to the season, have something to build on for the 2019 season.
The Lions 38-12 win against the Bulls in Johannesburg crowned them South African conference champions for the third successive season.
The Lions are $11 to win Super Rugby and have a favourable first final against the Jaguares.
The home side trailed 12-0 early in the match, but kept the Bulls scoreless for more than an hour as they dominated the second stanza.
The Chiefs grabbed a 28-24 victory against the Hurricanes on Friday night despite being without Sam Cain and Damien McKenzie.
Both sides will meet again in the finals, but in Wellington on Friday night.
The Chiefs are $11 to win Super Rugby, with the Hurricanes priced at $5 at Sportsbet.
Leading 21-0, the Chiefs looked to be in total control and a chance of overtaking the Canes in the standings if they won the match by more than 23 points.
A second half revival for the Hurricanes followed and they threatened to come away with an unlikely victory when Jonathan Faauli was red carded midway through the second half.
A handy try by Mitch Karpik in the final ten minutes allowed the Chiefs to hold on for a confidence-boosting win ahead of the finals.
The Reds 48-27 win against the Sunwolves on Friday night was soured by another red card against the Japanese franchise, which was borderline at best
Ed Quirk was sent off just before half-time for the Sunwolves, who suffered their second red card in as many matches and were on the end of another big scoreline.
Super Rugby Championship
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