July 15 (Reuters) - Highlights from week 17 of Super Rugby:
Tries from Malcolm Marx, Andries Coetzee and stand-in captain Jaco Kriel, plus four penalties from flyhalf Elton Jantjies, ensured the Lions finished top in the overall standings.
It means the Lions are guaranteed home advantage for all their remaining matches if they get through to next month’s final.
They meet the Sharks again on Saturday in the quarter-final but this time at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The Sharks’ only try came from Kobus van Wyk with Garth April kicking the other five points.
Lions top Super Rugby standings after win at Sharks
Sunwolves record first win against a NZ side
Cheetahs claw back late to beat Kings
Highlanders dispatch Reds in Super Rugby return
Lions promote De Bruin to replace Ackermann
Brumbies lose backs Godwin and Toua to injuries
Tonga make World Cup after Fiji beat Samoa
Wallabies sent to the country to build fitness
Ringrose ruled out for up to five months
Respect earned, Gatland mulls third Lions tour
Seabelo Senatla scored a dramatic last-minute try to see the Stormers to a hard-fought away win over their long-standing rivals in this classic South African clash in Pretoria on Saturday.
It was the last of an 11-try feast for the small crowd at Loftus Versfeld as the Stormers got a bruising warm-up for next weekend’s quarter-final against New Zealand’s Chiefs.
Cheslin Kolbe, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dillyn Leyds, Siya Xolisi and teenage flyhalf Damian Willemse also went over for the Stormers.
Jesse Kriel (two), Jason Jenkins, Duncan Matthews and Piet van Zyl were try scorers for the home side, playing a last game under coach Nollis Marais.
The Western Force marked possibly their last Super Rugby game with an emotive, and one-sided, win over the Waratahs as they scored five tries and picked up a bonus point in Perth on Saturday.
The Force could be cut by the Australian Rugby Union from a revised 2018 competition and did not waste the opportunity to exit in style as they scored four first half tries through Alex Newsome, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Marcel Brache and Jonno Lance to go onto their biggest win.
The second half started with a dream try from Matt Hodgson, the 36-year-old playing his last game, and the flanker also kicked over a penalty for the last score of the match as he headed off into retirement.
Both teams were already out of the running for a playoff place. The Waratahs took 75 minutes before substitute Hugh Roach scored their only try.
Jordie Barrett slotted a 78th-minute penalty to shake up the Super Rugby playoffs picture and end the Canterbury Crusaders’ quest for a perfect season at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday.
The win also ensured the Hurricanes will travel to Canberra next week for the quarter-finals after they leapfrogged the Waikato Chiefs, who head to Cape Town to face the Stormers.
The Chiefs had beaten the Brumbies 28-10 earlier in Hamilton and put pressure on the Hurricanes to win the game and move back into the fifth-seeding for the playoffs.
Damian McKenzie dominated the scoring for the Chiefs with a try and 13 points from the boot as the home side battled to a scrappy victory over the ACT Brumbies at Waikato Stadium that put pressure on the Hurricanes.
McKenzie crossed in the first half and set up Michael Leitch’s late try as the Chiefs gave themselves a chance of facing the same opposition in Canberra next week for the quarter-finals instead of travelling to South Africa.
The Hurricanes, however, beat the Crusaders in Wellington later on Saturday to ensure they moved back above the Chiefs and will make the shorter trip across the Tasman Sea to face the Australian Conference-winning Brumbies.
The Brumbies gave many of their backup and fringe players a chance to impress with Nigel Ah Wong scoring a try for the visitors, who had Tomas Cubelli sinbinned for a professional foul in the second half.
Timothy Lafaele scored a hat-trick of tries as the Sunwolves fought back from a 21-5 first half deficit to earn their first victory over a New Zealand side with a comprehensive win over the Blues in sweltering conditions in Tokyo on Saturday.
James Parsons, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti and Michael Collins scored tries for the Blues inside the first 25 minutes before the home side responded with some scintillating backline play and superb scrambling defence.
Keisuke Uchida reduced the deficit to 21-12 at halftime before the home side ran riot after the break as they capitalised on Jerome Kaino being sinbinned for a high tackle, adding a penalty try with Kaito Shigeno also going over.
Leafale crossed twice more before Yoshitaka Tokunaga burst out of three tackles with less than two minutes remaining to end the scoring after a pulsating second half performance.
Replacement flyhalf Niel Marais slotted a penalty six minutes from time as the Cheetahs rallied late to snatch victory from the Southern Kings in the final match of the year for both South African sides as they exited the competition on Friday.
The fixture was billed as an emotional farewell for the duo, but far from being played in a sombre atmosphere, there was a festival feel to a game played in front of a sizeable crowd at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
Tries from wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Wandie Mjekevu, to go with a score for giant lock Lubabalo Mtyanda, had the Kings in control as they led 20-6 with 12 minutes remaining.
But two tries in quick succession from centre Clinton Swart and winger Raymond Rhule brought the Cheetahs to within two points of their opponents, before Marais’ late penalty edged them in front.
The Jaguares launched a spirited comeback in the second half to beat the Melbourne Rebels in what could be the Australian side’s last Super Rugby match.
The Rebels went into Friday’s match unsure if it would be them or the Western Force to be cut by the Australian Rugby Union from a revised 2018 competition, and they led 19-10 at halftime, with all points coming from fullback Reece Hodge.
Lock Guido Petti’s try got Jaguares close to the Rebels while Gonzalo Bertranou gave them the lead before winger Santiago Cordero crossed for his second try to set up the win.
Rebels lock Steve Cummins dived across the line in the final minute for the hosts but it was too late for the Rebels, who managed just one victory in their season.
The Highlanders showed a few signs of rust but were far too strong for the lowly Reds as they warmed up for next week’s quarter-finals with a 40-17 victory at Otago Regional Stadium in Dunedin on Friday.
Waisake Naholo, James Lentjes, Kayne Hammington, Tevita Li and Ash Dixon all crossed for the home side, while referee Mike Fraser awarded a penalty try after an attacking scrum splintered the Reds pack with the line open.
Lock Izack Rodda, replacement hooker Alex Mafi and loose forward Caleb Timu all crossed for the visitors, who finished the season with just four wins from their 15 games. (Reporting by Mark Gleeson, Greg Stutchbury, Sudipto Ganguly and Nick Said; Editing by Ed Osmond)