JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The Hurricanes and Lions got back on track in Super Rugby, rediscovering the form that took them to last year's final to register big wins on Saturday.
The defending champion Hurricanes beat the Highlanders 41-15 in their New Zealand derby, with center Ngani Leaumape scoring two tries and fullback Jordie Barrett assisting on two others for the Wellington-based team.
The Lions, losing finalists last season, also rebounded from a loss in compelling fashion, with winger Courtnall Skosan grabbing four tries in a 44-14 hammering of Queensland Reds, for whom Quade Cooper was sent off.
Also in South Africa, the Sharks avoided a big upset with a late 50-meter penalty from fullback Curwin Bosch to beat the Southern Kings 19-17.
In Australia, ACT Brumbies won at New South Wales Waratahs 28-12.
At Buenos Aires, the Jaguares completed the round by beating the Cheetahs 41-14.
In their inaugural season last year, the Argentine side won just four matches. This time, they've won three of their first four against some strong opposition, including over the Lions last week in Argentina.
After four rounds, the Chiefs are still the pacesetters in Super Rugby, but the Hurricanes stayed in touch in the New Zealand conference. The Jaguares lead the South African group, equal on points with the Lions, and the Brumbies, after a slow start, lead the Australian conference.
Following last weekend's loss to the Chiefs, the Hurricanes needed a home win, and they got it, putting seven tries past the Highlanders and conceding just two.
The Hurricanes trailed briefly, 8-5, in the first half and led by only 10-8 at halftime but scored five of their tries in the second spell to claim a bonus point as the Highlanders lost some of their structure when forced to go to their bench.
"Discipline was a major factor and our defense tonight was outstanding," Hurricanes captain Dane Coles said. "We really got off the line this week and put them under a bit of pressure."
Jordie Barrett produced two brilliant pieces of skill on either side of halftime to create tries and set the Hurricanes on course to an emphatic victory. He first put in a pin-point cross kick which led to Leaumape's first try in the 35th minute, then a behind-the-back pass which created a try for center Matt Procter immediately after halftime.
The Lions lost to the Jaguares in Argentina last weekend, but their form at home at Ellis Park in Johannesburg has been formidable.
Like the Hurricanes, the Lions scored seven tries to two from the Reds, who were 20-0 down when Cooper was issued the red card. He hit Lions center Rohan Janse van Rensburg high as Van Rensburg went over for a try, and reduced the Reds to 13 men for a while after the sin-binning of Eto Nabuli moments earlier.
For his hat-trick try, Skosan sent a deep kick out of his own 22, chased, collected, and scored without being touched by the defence, putting the Lions out to 39-0 as they outplayed the Reds across the field.
It took the Reds nearly 70 minutes to register their first points, when center Duncan Paia'aua was put clear by Karmichael Hunt.
The Kings led for much of the game against a sloppy Sharks team that made a heap of handling errors in Durban. The turning point came, though, with the introduction of flyhalf Garth April from the bench. He gave the rudderless Sharks direction and set up a late try for wing Kobus van Wyk to close the gap before Bosch's penalty from the halfway line sealed victory. The Kings suffered from a late yellow card to influential flanker Chris Cloete.
Still, Lionel Cronje missed a penalty for the Kings with a minute to go that would have given the Port Elizabeth-based team the upset of the season so far.
In an Australian derby in Sydney, winger Henry Speight scored two tries to lead ACT Brumbies past the Waratahs. They were 7-7 at halftime, but two tries in two minutes midway through the second half helped ACT to clinch a record ninth straight win against Australian opposition.
At Buenos Aires, the Jaguares scored five tries to two and led 24-7 at halftime, playing strongly defensively in the second half before the Bloemfontein, South Africa-based Cheetahs scored their second try of the match off a rolling maul with eight minutes remaining. But the Jaguares scored two tries in the final minutes, including from a penalty try after the siren had sounded, giving them a bonus point.