Sydney – Australia's ACT Brumbies vaulted to a six-point lead at the top of rugby's Super 15 with a convincing victory in South Africa, as the Canterbury Crusaders and champions Waikato Chiefs bounced back this weekend.
The Brumbies, under former World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jake White, were too strong for last year's finalists Coastal Sharks, winning 29-10 in Durban on Saturday to make it four wins on the trot this season.
The Canberra-based outfit are chasing their third Super Rugby title and opened their two-game South African tour with an emphatic victory to boost their championship claims.
The Chiefs hit back from a narrow loss last week to round off the New Zealanders' South Africa tour with a 35-24 victory over Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
The Chiefs reaped a four-try bonus point and they return home with seven points after bagging two in the loss to the Western Stormers last week.
The seven-time champion Crusaders broke through for their first win of the campaign with a spectacular 41-19 home victory over South Africa's three-time champions Northern Bulls.
Queensland Reds, the 2011 champions, lost ground with only a bonus point in a 19-12 home loss to the Western Force on Saturday.
The Wellington Hurricanes defeated the Otago Highlanders 23-19
in their New Zealand derby in Dunedin, while South Africa's Central Cheetahs edged the New South Wales Waratahs 27-26 in Sydney.
It was a surprisingly one-sided contest in Durban where a superb first-half team effort set up the Brumbies.
Brilliant ball retention and powerful straight and angled running by backs and forwards earned the Australians a four-try bonus point.
Former All Black Lelia Masaga scored three tries as the Chiefs won their first encounter against the Kings Ä making their debut in this season's southern hemisphere tournament.
The right winger dotted down twice during a first half that ended with the visitors 18-13 ahead, and he completed his hat-trick 13 minutes into the second half.
In Christchurch, the Crusaders emerged from their early season lethargy by hammering the previously unbeaten Bulls.
They scored six tries to one against the Bulls, who went into the match brimming with confidence after their impressive win last week over the Blues in Auckland.
Kiwi scrum-half Alby Mathewson inspired the Force to their first win of the season over the try-less Reds in Brisbane.
The Force broke a losing six-match run going back to last season to down the Reds, scoring the only try of the match.
While most interest centred on the return from injury of Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia for the Reds, it was his opposite number former All Black Mathewson who was the star.
The Hurricanes scored three tries to one against the Highlanders to make it two wins from four this season.
Sarel Pretorius came back to haunt the Waratahs as the Cheetahs stretched their winning streak over the struggling Australian side to three games.
The Cheetahs scored three tries to two to follow up their win over the Highlanders, with scrum-half Pretorius the architect behind the triumph.
Pretorius was recruited by the Waratahs as their marquee player last year, but he was released from the final year of his contract and returned home to play for the Cheetahs.
The Auckland Blues, Melbourne Rebels and Stormers had byes this weekend. – Sapa-AFP