CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The Crusaders made a scratchy start to the defense of their Super Rugby title on Saturday while the Lions, the losing finalists last season, were also tested and overcame an early deficit to remain unbeaten after two games.
The Crusaders weathered two yellow cards and relied on a disputed penalty try and two late intercepts to beat the Chiefs 45-23 in their all-New Zealand clash.
The Chiefs led 20-19, against the run of play, after 56 minutes before the Crusaders began a concerted rally with a try to captain Sam Whitelock.
The Lions were 10-0 down at home in Johannesburg to Argentina's Jaguares, but responded with seven tries in a 47-27 win. Left wing Aphiwe Dyantyi continued his scintillating start to Super Rugby with two of those tries for the Lions after scoring on his debut last weekend.
In other matches, the Bulls held on at home to edge the Hurricanes 21-19, the ACT Brumbies rallied from 19-8 down in the first half to beat the Japan-based Sunwolves 32-25 in Tokyo, and the New South Wales Waratahs scored a try in the final seconds to beat South Africa's Stormers 34-27.
A penalty try and yellow card awarded against the Chiefs in the 68th swung the match heavily in the Crusaders' favor. Replacement back-rower Lachlan Boshier was deemed by referee Ben O'Keefe to have made a high tackle in preventing a try by Crusaders center Ryan Crotty.
The Crusaders lost flyhalf Richie Mo'unga, for a professional foul, and prop Michael Alaalatoa, for a high tackle, to yellow cards in the first half.
In an eventful contest between aspiring All Blacks flyhalves Mo'unga for the Crusaders and Damian McKenzie for the Chiefs, Mo'unga scored an early try after an opening try by Matt Todd to give the Crusaders a 12-0 lead. They scored again through back-rower Jordan Taufua while Mo'unga was in the sin-bin to take a commanding 19-3 advantage.
The Chiefs hit back with tries to captain Sam Cane and winger Solomon Aliamano in the last seven minutes of the first half, the second try while Alaalatoa was in the bin for his tackle on McKenzie, to cut the lead to 19-17 at the break.
They seized the lead, briefly, with a penalty to McKenzie but Whitelock's try set in motion the Crusaders' revival.
"The boys are blowing pretty hard," Whitelock said. "It's pretty tough when you go down to 14 men. The best thing is the boys really stuck together. We figured out what we had to do and that resolve really got us through."
The Lions were down to a try by Emiliano Boffelli in the third minute, and a penalty, before finding their attacking edge at Ellis Park. Dyantyi, who was playing university rugby not long ago, was partly responsible for that with the opener for the Lions in the 27th. He went over again early in the second half and by that time the Lions were in control.
The three-time champion Bulls, disappointing in recent seasons, pulled off a big opening win by squeezing past the Hurricanes with a late try by prop Pierre Schoeman, who settled a game where both sides scored three tries each.
The Brumbies, Australian conference winners last season and playing under new coach Dan McKellar, led the Sunwolves with an early penalty to flyhalf Christian Leali'ifano, who played all 80 minutes as he embarked on his first Super Rugby season since he was diagnosed in remission from leukemia.
Two tries to Hosea Saumaki and a try to Timothy Lafaele, answered by a try for the Brumbies by Lachlan McCaffrey, lifted the Sunwolves to 19-8. Lealiifano added the conversion to Kyle Godwin's 35th-minute try to cut the Sunwolves' lead to 19-15 at halftime.
The Brumbies hit the front with a try to Tevita Kuridrani immediately after halftime and pulled ahead with a try to Josh Mann-Rea.
The Sunwolves closed to five points at 27-22 before the Brumbies clinched their win with a try to fullback Tom Banks.
Ned Hanigan's late try gave the Waratahs their win over the Stormers. The Waratahs lost the lead five times in the match but clinched victory following a lineout steal from an overthrow after the final siren.
A strong run from reserve back-rower Jed Holloway and passes from flyhalf Bernard Foley and replacement prop and debutant Harry Johnson-Holmes set up Hanigan, who crashed through two defenders to score in the corner.