Crusaders march on as Stormers Super Rugby run ended

Sydney (AFP) - New Zealand's Canterbury Crusaders are the only unbeaten team left in Super Rugby after the Golden Lions ended the Western Stormers' winning start to the season this weekend.

The Johannesburg-based Lions downed the Stormers in a bonus-point 29-16 win in Cape Town while seven-time champions the Crusaders crushed Japan's Sunwolves 50-3 in Christchurch.

The Waikato Chiefs are two points adrift of the Crusaders in the New Zealand conference following a 41-27 come-from-behind win over the endangered franchise Central Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

Defending champions Wellington Hurricanes are one point behind the Chiefs in the competitive New Zealand conference after a 28-24 win over the Blues in Auckland.

The Northern Bulls gained some ground on the Stormers in South Africa 1 conference after a 26-13 victory over Argentina's Jaguares in Pretoria.

The Melbourne Rebels produced a fighting response to a tumultuous week with a tense 19-17 victory over the ACT Brumbies, while the Queensland Reds ended a run of six defeats with a free-scoring 47-34 win over threatened South African franchise Southern Kings in Brisbane.

Australian outfits -- the Western Force and the NSW Waratahs -- along with New Zealand's Otago Highlanders and South Africa's Coastal Sharks all had the Easter weekend off.

The Lions scored four tries to one to earn a bonus point as they beat the Stormers at Newlands stadium for the first time in the competition.

The outcome was in doubt until eight minutes from time when substitute winger Sylvian Mahuza scored.

Manasa Mataele claimed a hat-trick of tries as the Crusaders overwhelmed the Sunwolves.

The Crusaders remained unbeaten after seven matches as they raced in eight tries to none to secure a point.

The hapless Sunwolves have only won once this year to go with their sole win in their maiden season last year.

The Chiefs overcame a 24-point deficit to knock over the Cheetahs.

- Barrett stings the Blues -

Trailing 24-0 after 22 minutes, the Kiwis responded with a six-try scoring spree to claim a bonus-point.

Beauden Barrett produced a masterclass performance, albeit with another yellow card, to get the Hurricanes home over the Blues.

Barrett was instrumental in three of the four Hurricanes tries in the fast but scrappy encounter.

But Barrett again found himself in hot water with his third yellow card in two weeks. He received two last week for deliberate knock downs against the NSW Waratahs, and he was sent off late in the first half against the Blues for knocking the ball out of the hands of scrum-half Pulu.

The Blues have not beaten a New Zealand side at home since they downed the Highlanders in the first round of 2016.

Fly-half Handre Pollard booted 16 points as the Bulls snapped a three-game losing sequence against the Jaguares.

The Springbok converted tries by winger Trevor Ismaiel and lock Lood de Jager and slotted four penalties in a flawless goal-kicking performance.

The Rebels, stung by attempts to cut them from next season's competition, fought back to win with a penalty goal by Reece Hodge in the final minutes in Melbourne.

The Australian conference-leading Brumbies, who outscored the home side three tries to one, led for most of the second half before Hodge kicked the Rebels to victory.

The Reds scored seven tries to five against the Kings with Quade Cooper returning from suspension to kick six conversions.

Former Wallaby flanker George Smith celebrated his 150th Super Rugby appearance with a try.

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