Super Rugby notebook: Blues claim thrilling win over Highlanders, Jaguares seal historic first victory
Highlanders captain Ben Smith conceded the defending champions were not good enough in their season-opening 33-31 loss to Blues.
The visitors saw their 24-20 half-time lead evaporate as two penalties from Ihaia West nudged Blues ahead before Patrick Tuipulotu made it 33-24 with a converted try after Patrick Osborne had been sin-binned for Highlanders.
There was controversy surrounding Tuipulotu's try, with Blues prop Charlie Faumuina suspected of an illegal clear out of Matt Faddes at the ruck.
Smith's late try gave Highlanders hope, but the full-back accepted the result was a fair one, saying: "They [Blues] played really well and deserved to win, we've got to do better.
"It's tough, it's never not tough."
Blues 33-31 Highlanders
Highlanders' title last season was the first in their history and first-half tries from Smith, Teihorangi Walden and Waisake Naholo seemingly had them on course for a winning start to the defence of that crown. However, Blues remained within striking distance throughout before an impressive but contentious second-half turnaround.
Cheetahs 33-34 Jaguares
New to Super Rugby, Argentina's sole representative Jaguares started life in the competition with a pulsating victory despite having Nicolas Sanchez and Martin Landajo sin-binned in the opening 20 minutes. Cheetahs led 30-24 going into the final 20 minutes but Landajo's second try and a Sanchez drop goal gave Jaguares a four-point lead, which proved to be enough for victory despite Daniel Marais' late penalty.
Brumbies 52-10 Hurricanes
Brumbies gained revenge on Hurricanes - who they lost to in last season's semi-finals - in emphatic fashion, running in seven tries, which were all converted by Christian Lealiifano, en route to an easy bonus-point win.
THE KEY MOMENTS
With a two-point lead and Highlanders a man down, Blues struck with what proved the match-winning try nine minutes from time, working the ball in field from a line out for Tuipulotu to crash over from close range with the aid of some suspect play from Faumuina.
Meanwhile in Bloemfontein, Jaguares looked set for defeat despite working their way back from 24-3 down to level when a pair of Fred Zeilinga penalties re-established Cheetahs' command of the contest. However, Landajo split the defence 15 minutes from time to send Jaguares on their way to a famous win.
"To come out and put in a performance like that in our first game before our home fans is something we are really proud of and something to build on moving forward," Lealiifano hails Brumbies' performance in their hammering of Hurricanes.
"They [Brumbies] played very well tonight. I thought they were very physical and did very well slowing down our breakdown. We need to be better, though, going forward, we need to come up with ways to play against that sort of defence," TJ Perenara was frank in his assessment of Hurricanes' showing after their heavy defeat.
It is tough to read too much into the first round of fixtures but both Blues and Brumbies will feel they sent an early message with their respective victories. Jaguares' comeback win in South Africa should provide the new boys with plenty of reason for confidence.