SYDNEY, March 15 (Reuters) - ACT Brumbies ran in seven tries to trounce the New South Wales Waratahs 47-14 on Sunday in the final match before Super Rugby joined much of the rest of the sporting world in putting up the shutters because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Governing body SANZAAR said on Saturday that the mostly southern hemisphere competition would be suspended indefinitely following Sunday’s match in Canberra after New Zealand announced that anyone entering the country must self-isolate for 14 days.
South Africa’s Sharks, the Canterbury Crusaders and the Brumbies filled the top three spots in the standings going into the shutdown, with the seventh of 18 rounds of the competition incomplete after the cancellation of the penultimate fixture.
The Jaguares were scheduled to host the Otago Highlanders behind closed doors in Buenos Aires on Saturday but the match was called off three hours before kickoff to allow the visiting players to return to New Zealand.
Local pride ensured a full-blooded contest in the Australian capital despite the uncertainty and a brace from winger Solomone Kata helped the Brumbies to a 21-14 halftime lead in front of a decent crowd at Canberra Stadium.
Replacement back Tom Wright also grabbed a brace after the break as the Brumbies ran in four more five-pointers and held the hapless Waratahs scoreless to move level with the Crusaders a point behind the Sharks at the top of the overall standings.
“We’ve had a little bit of adversity the whole season and the coronavirus is no exception,” said Brumbies flanker Tom Cusack, whose team had to move pre-season training camps because of the bushfire emergency in Australia earlier this year.
“It’s one of those things you can’t control, every sport around the globe is shutting down and we’re no exception. It’ll be interesting to see how the game progresses over the next couple of weeks.”
The Sharks stayed top after prevailing 24-14 in a blockbuster derby against the Stormers in Durban on Saturday largely on the back of 14 points from the boot of flyhalf Curwin Bosch, a haul which included a penalty from inside his own half.
Quick ball to the wing allowed Springboks flyer Makazole Mapimpi to race to the line to seal the victory two minutes from time and give the Sharks (24) a seven-point lead over the Cape Town-based Stormers at the top of the South Africa conference.
The reigning champion Crusaders played the Sunwolves on Saturday in Brisbane because of the coronavirus outbreak in Japan and turned a slender 14-7 lead at halftime into a 49-14 victory despite a red card for hooker Hugh Roach.
Roach was dismissed for elbowing Sunwolves prop Hencus van Wyk in the face late in the game.
The Crusaders top the New Zealand conference on 23 points ahead of the Auckland Blues (22), who thrashed South Africa’s Lions 43-10 at Eden Park to continue a promising start to a campaign that may not now be concluded.
The Waikato Chiefs are third on 19 points following their 27-24 loss to the Wellington Hurricanes (17) in Hamilton on Friday, fullback Jordi Barrett deciding a tight contest when he kicked a 40-metre penalty three minutes after the hooter.
In Saturday’s second match at Lang Park, the Queensland Reds rallied from 17-0 down after as many minutes to score 41 unanswered points and thrash the Pretoria-based Bulls in front of a crowd of only 7,335.
“It’d be nice if there was some more footy played down the track but sport on the weekend doesn’t compare to looking after people, specifically our elderly folk,” said Reds coach Brad Thorn. “We’ve got to take care of them.” (Editing by Peter Rutherford)