Australia 18-18 New Zealand
Despite being written off as relatively meaningless, the third match of the year between New Zealand and Australia turned out to be the most exciting match-up between the two teams all year. Auckland-born Mike Harris got things started for the Australians in the 2nd minute with a penalty goal before Dan Carter responded with two of his own. Throughout the match the action was very much back and forth with each team trying to create chance after chance. Each side was a bit sloppy at times, especially Australia who had Michael Hooper sent off in the 54th minute for repeated infringement. The pinnacle of the match fittingly came in the 80th minute when Dan Carter missed a drop goal that would have won the match. Instead, it ended in an 18-18 tie. The draw ends the All Blacks winning streak at 16. The match was also likely to be Nathan Sharpe's last match at home.
It's not surprising, that after a season in which several teams took over first place in the Currie Cup, that there would be an upset in the semi-finals. Western Province atoned for a lousy second half of the season with a 21-16 win over the Lions. It was a back and forth affair and it looked like the Lions had taken the lead for good in the 76th minute with Elton Jantjies hit a penalty to give them the lead. However, Western Province showed their strength, and after a line out drove over the line where Duane Vermeulen was able to touch down for the winning score.
Western Province will now take on Sharks who made light-work of the Blue Bulls, winning 20-3 at home. Lwazi Mvovo had the only try of the game while Pat Lambie had five penalties. The Blue Bulls only points of the match came from Morne Steyn.
By finishing last during the regular season, the Cheetahs were forced into a relegation playoff with First Division champions, and future Super Rugby team, the Eastern Province Kings. However, the Cheetahs have grabbed firm control of their future by winning the first of a two-leg match 53-14.
It was a scary moment in Pukekohe this weekend as Southland's Hoani MacDonald suffered a heart attack in his team's 48-23 loss to Counties Manukau in the Championship semi-finals. MacDonald was taken to Auckland where he was put into a medically-induced coma. He has since come out of the coma but is still not out of the woods. Here's hoping he makes a full recovery. In the other Championship semi-final, Otago outlast Tasman in a tight 41-34 victory. The result means that Otago will play Counties Manukau next week for promotion to the Premiership.
In the Premiership semi-finals, Canterbury stormed to a 51-27 win over Taranki. The match was tied 27-27 after regulation but Canterbury took control of the match in extra time. The other semi-final final saw rivals Auckland and Wellington fight it out in a close match. Wellington looked to be in control after taking a 22-14 lead, but Auckland's Malakai Fekitoa scored two tries in the second half to give his team the lead. Auckland will now take on Canterbury next week for the title.
British & Irish Cup
The British & Irish Cup was back for a second round of play last weekend. In Pool 1, Bristol stayed in first place with a 34-28 win over the Ulster Ravens. In the all-Welsh match in the pool, Bridgend defeated Cardiff 25-7. In Pool 2, Bedford romped to a 87-10 win over Stirling Country while Neath defeated Bedwas 45-27. In Pool 3, the Cornish Pirates beat Scottish-side Dundee 32-6. Carmarthen Quins defeated Swansea 41-17 in an all-Welsh encounter. In Pool 4, Newcastle beat the Connacht Eagles 34-3 and Newport beat Cross Keys 24-20. Pool 5 saw Jersey pick up their first win in any competition this year with a surprising 33-27 win over Leeds. Pontypridd also picked up a shock 25-23 win over Leinster A. Moseley stayed perfect in Pool 6 with a 41-37 win over fellow RFU Championship side London Scottish. Llanelli picked up a 38-28 win over Gala. In Pool 7, Rotherham had to fight to a 25-21 win over Aberavon while Munster A defeated Plymouth Albion 22-26. Lastly, in Pool 8, Doncaster beat Nottingham 27-12 whil Llandovery beat Melrose 28-14.
Not lost in the busy weekend around the world was the Top League, who featured some great matches. Suntory Sungoliath stayed perfect by defeating Sonny Bill Williams and the Panasonic Sanyo Wildknights 34-20. The loss drops the Wildknights to sixth in the table. The Kobelco Steelers stayed in second place with a 29-37 win over the NTT-Docomo Red Hurricanes. Other winners included Toshiba Fuchu Brave Lupus 48-33 over the NEC Green Rockets, Toyota Verblitz 18-10 over the Kintetsu Liners, the NTT Shining Arcs 30-23 over Fukuoka Sanix Blues, the Yamaha Jubilo 52-8 over Kyuden Voltex, and the Ricoh Black Rams 35-17 over the Canon Eagles.
It was a busy weekend in the Pro D2 with several close matches. Oyonnax kept their lead at the top of the table with a 29-16 win over Massy. Lyon lost ground but stayed in second after they lost to Auch 13-10. In other scores, Aurillac beat La Rochelle 17-10, Beziers defeated Albi 25-13, Dax topped Pau 15-9, and Colomiers beat Aix-en-Provence 28-9. The loss means that Aix-en-Provence are still in last place. Elsewhere, Brive beat Tarbes 26-15 and Narbonne beat Carcassonne 28-13.