Stormers deny Sunwolves rare win as Waratahs lose Beale

Sydney (AFP) –


South African title contenders Western Stormers denied Japan's Sunwolves a prestige win with a late try, as the NSW Waratahs went top of the Australian conference but lost Wallaby star Kurtley Beale for the rest of the Super Rugby season.

Vincent Koch saved the Stormers' blushes with a last-minute try to snatch a 17-17 draw against the struggling Sunwolves in Singapore on Saturday to stay top of the Africa 1 conference.

The Waratahs paid a high price for their bonus-point 31-8 win over South Africa's Northern Bulls with Beale, who had just announced signing a lucrative deal to play for Wasps in England next season, suffering a serious knee injury in the opening minute.

The fiercely-competitive New Zealand conference has three joint leaders after champions Otago Highlanders downed seven-time winners Canterbury Crusaders 34-26 while the Waikato Chiefs had the weekend off.

Springbok Patrick Lambie kicked a 40-metre, final-minute penalty to snatch a 25-22 win for the Coastal Sharks over Argentina's Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

The Sharks remain second behind the Golden Lions in Africa 2 conference after the Lions thumped New Zealand's Auckland Blues 43-5 in Johannesburg.

In this weekend's other matches, Wellington Hurricanes pulled to within one point of the three New Zealand conference leaders with a 29-14 win over Australia's Queensland Reds at home.

The ACT Brumbies are second behind the Waratahs in the Australian conference following a 30-22 win over the Rebels in Melbourne, while the Central Cheetahs downed the hapless Southern Kings 34-20 in Bloemfontein.

Tournament newcomers the Sunwolves were on track for only their second win when winger Akihito Yamada scored a try and had another disallowed against the high-flying Stormers.

But the Sunwolves faded in the last 20 minutes on a hot and humid Singapore night and were reeled in by the South Africans.

Replacement Koch crashed over for the try and reserve kicker Brandon Thomson added the conversion to seal the draw.

- Beale crocked -

While the improving Waratahs clinically dispatched the Bulls, the post-match talk was all about Beale's potentially significant knee injury.

Beale, who had only just announced the Wasps deal, reportedly worth in excess of 700,000 pounds a season (Aus$1.37 million, $1 million), fell awkwardly while jumping for a high ball.

The Wallaby back was treated for a left knee injury and took no further part in the game.

Team medics said Beale may have injured his patellar tendon which, depending on the severity of the injury after scans, could mean months out of the game and will almost certainly force him out of the Test series against England next month.

Wingers Matt Faddes and Waisake Naholo both scored two tries as the Highlanders claimed a bonus point five-tries-to-two win over the Crusaders.

With the Highlanders coming into form late in the season, there is now a New Zealand log-jam at the head of the table with the Crusaders, Chiefs and Highlanders separated only by points differential.

Humiliated at home by the Hurricanes in their previous match, the Lions took out their frustrations on another New Zealand team by hammering the Blues with seven tries.

South Africa fly-half Lambie, starting in his first game this season after recovering from a shoulder injury, scored 20 points for the Sharks against the Jaguares through six penalties and the conversion of Daniel du Preez's try.

The Brumbies proved more clinical in their execution than the Rebels, whose poor handling and conceding penalties cost them chances to put the Canberra-based side under greater pressure.