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Super pain continues for Australian clubs

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/04/2017 Matt Coughlan

The lowest-ranked Kiwi side's victory over Australia's conference leaders has epitomised the chasm in quality between the two countries' Super Rugby outfits.

The Brumbies' 18-12 defeat at the hands of the Blues in Canberra on Sunday made it 15 straight for Kiwi teams against their trans-Tasman rivals and 38 of the last 41 clashes.

Blues coach Tana Umaga believes the downturn of Australian rugby is partly cyclical, but agrees the gulf has never been so wide.

"I've never been a part of New Zealand rugby when it's getting the amount of wins it is at the moment against Australian teams," Umaga said.

The prolonged uncertainty in Australia around the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels is part of the problem, according to Umaga.

"Things are happening here that are probably not helping the stability of Australian rugby and it's tough," he said.

The wounded Force put in another brave performance in Perth but couldn't overcome the Lions who notched their fifth-straight victory.

The Force face a tough couple of weeks on the road against the Sharks in Durban and the Jaguares in Buenos Aires before returning home to meet the Highlanders.

The Rebels, the other Australian franchise facing extinction, were humiliated by fellow strugglers the Kings 44-3 in Port Elizabeth.

It was an embarrassing end to a tour which started with a gritty draw with the Sharks and the Rebels' pain was compounded by the loss of skipper Nic Stirzaker who was a late withdrawal before the match against the Kings.

While Stirzaker faces up to three weeks on the sidelines, his replacement Mick Snowden went off injured during the match, leaving coach Tony McGahan with a selection headache at halfback.

It doesn't get any easier for the Rebels who host the high-flying Lions on Saturday.

The Waratahs clawed back some ground on the Brumbies, with a Bernard Foley penalty goal in the dying minutes lifting them to a 29-26 derby win over the Reds.

They can edge closer to the ACT-based franchise by beating the Blues next weekend in a match where a bonus point win would close the gap altogether as the Brumbies have the week off.

Not even a surprise return to their maroon strip could inspire Nick Stiles' Reds, whose disciplinary woes were highlighted by a 16-5 penalty count.

Elsewhere, New Zealand teams continued their march with the Highlanders hammering the South African conference-topping Stormers 57-14 and the Crusaders keeping their perfect record in tact with a victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

In the other South African division, the Sharks strengthened their claims for a finals berth with a 33-25 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

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