NEW ZEALAND – The Highlanders downed the Brumbies in Dunedin to reignite their Super Rugby championship hopes while the Melbourne Rebels' passion to win cost them their clash with the Jaguares on Saturday.
The Highlanders bounced back from two consecutive losses to beat the Brumbies 43-17, while the Jaguares pulled off an upset 25-22 win over the Rebels who rejected a late chance to draw with a penalty in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to score a match-winning try.
In Japan, in the battle of the cellar dwellers, the Auckland Blues triumphed 24-10 over the Sunwolves to record their second win of the season.
The Highlanders picked up a bonus point with their six tries to two victory over the Brumbies and stretched New Zealand's winning run over Australian sides to 34 matches.
The game swung midway through the second half when the Highlanders, leading 15-10 but down to 14 men with Lima Sopoaga in the sin bin, scored three tries in 10 minutes.
Waisake Naholo ignited the spree with an intercept as the Brumbies swarmed towards the line, and he sprinted the length of the field to score.
It eased the pressure on the Highlanders who followed up with tries to Ben Smith and Shannon Frizzel to open up a 36-10 lead.
Joe Powell scored for the Brumbies and Fletcher Smith for the Highlanders in the helter-skelter closing minutes.
"We lost our way a bit in that second half. Obviously that intercept hurt us," Brumbies skipper Christian Lealiifano said, while Highlanders captain Ben Smith said it played into his side's hands.
"When the game gets a bit unstructured that's what we like," Smith said.
Argentina's Jaguares put behind a gruelling travel schedule to storm back from 14-3 down at half-time to overhaul the Rebels in Melbourne.
"It was a tough week for us, a long trip, but we wanted to win this game, I think we wanted to win it more than them," Jaguares skipper Pablo Matera said.
The Rebels looked to be heading for victory when Wallaby scrum-half general Will Genia engineered two tries with linebreaks but once he left the field with hamstring trouble early in the second half, the home side lacked direction.
They had a chance to snatch a draw in the final minute with a penalty after pounding the Jaguares defence over 34 phases, but decided to go for an all-or nothing shot at a winning try only to lose the ball and hand the Argentinians their third win. It was the Rebels' third loss.
In Tokyo, Jordan Hyland grabbed two of the four tries for the Blues who picked up a bonus point but remain at the bottom of the New Zealand conference.
The struggling Sunwolves, who scored only one try, stretched their losing streak to seven games and stay bottom-ranked in the Australian conference.