The Canterbury Crusaders were given a scare by the Cheetahs but rallied to secure a 28-21 Super Rugby victory in their first match in their home city of Christchurch for nearly two years on Saturday.
All Black flyhalf Dan Carter played the second half in his first match since being injured at the World Cup and had a role in a back move that resulted in fullback Israel Dagg crossing to secure the victory five minutes from time.
The Cheetahs confirmed their reputation as one of Super Rugby's most entertaining teams with fine second half tries from teenager Johan Goosen and replacement back Sias Ebersohn, the first of which will be a contender for try of the season.
The seven-times champion Crusaders would have wanted a more convincing win after Sean Maitland and Robbie Fruean had put them in charge with tries in eight minutes around the halftime break.
Having not been able to play in Christchurch since the deadly February 2011 earthquake wrecked their Lancaster Park stadium and coming into the match on the back of two defeats, however, a victory of any sort was welcomed.
"It's good to get back to winning ways," Crusaders captain Kieran Read said in a pitchside interview at the packed 17,000-seater Christchurch Stadium.
"This is going to be our fortress and we're looking forward to getting back here in a couple of weeks."
A forgettable first half was drawing to a close with the Crusaders 6-3 ahead when Maitland scored the first try at the new stadium after his fellow winger Zac Guildford had created space outside with a strong thrust into the heart of the Cheetahs' defence.
Centre Fruean cut through the same defence with his characteristic power and pace four minutes after the restart and when Tom Taylor converted the home side had a 18-3 lead.
Two minutes later, however, the Cheetahs attacked from inside their own 22 on turnover ball and 19-year-old Goosen touched down in the corner after a sweeping move of brilliant passing interchanges.
Goosen failed to make the conversion but soon added his second penalty to cut the lead and five minutes later Robert Ebersohn crossed after another fine back move.
A third penalty from the impressive Goosen tied the scores up at 21-21 with 10 minutes to go and set the scene for Dagg's winning score five minutes later.
Defending Super Rugby champions the Queensland Reds came horribly unstuck at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday when they were hammered 61-8 by the Northern Bulls.
It was the second time in five years that the Reds had been humiliated at Loftus following a record 92-3 loss in 2007.
The Reds were missing several injured members of their triumphant 2011 team, notably flyhalf Quade Cooper, centre Anthony Faingaa and wing Digby Ioane, and they were never in the contest on Saturday.
The Bulls scored just one try in the first half through fullback Zane Kirchner after a five-metre scrum but flyhalf Morne Steyn kicked three penalties and a conversion to give them a handy 16-3 lead.
However, the Bulls were creating space on attack almost at will and the Reds plunged into despair midway through the second half as the Bulls scored three tries to open up a 37-3 lead.
The powerful running of flank Jacques Potgieter and the great hands of Steyn put centre Wynand Olivier over for a try in the second minute of the half, before the strength of lock Flip van der Merwe carried him over the line in the 15th minute.
Potgieter then scored the try of the match as he burst clear rom the halfway line and held off the cover defence to score the bonus point try.
Replacement scrumhalf Jano Vermaak sniped over from a ruck in the 66th minute, before flank CJ Stander, who chased turnover ball well all evening, scored from a rolling maul six minutes later.
Replacement flyhalf Louis Fouche's conversion put the Bulls' score past the half-century mark and the substitutes continued to tear into the Reds, with centre JJ Engelbrecht and fullback Bjorn Basson scoring tries in the last five minutes.
New South Wales Waratahs put their season firmly back on track by coming from behind to beat a tiring Sharks side 34-30 in an entertaining Super Rugby encounter at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday.
Coming off two successive defeats, the Waratahs trailed the South Africans 24-13 early in the second half with their season threatening to implode before it had really begun.
Tries from fullback Bernard Foley and pugnacious centre Tom Carter in five minutes approaching the hour mark got them back in the contest, however, and winger Tom Kingston crossed the line four minutes from time to clinch the bonus-point win.
The Sharks had the better of the first half and scored tries through winger Lwazi Mvovo, number eight Keegan Daniel and hooker Bismarck du Plessis but faded in the Sydney sunshine as the long journey from South Africa began to take its toll.
"I'm over the moon," Waratahs skipper Benn Robinson said in a pitchside interview. "This team delivers under pressure all the time. It's been hard for us the last three or four weeks but we've stuck together and stayed strong."
Both teams tried to run the ball from all parts of the pitch but it was the visitors who got the first try in the third minute when Mvovo was set free to sprint to the line by impressive centre Meyer Bosman.
Waratahs scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin scored all of his team's points in the first half with the first try, which he converted, as well as two penalties.
The Sharks used the rolling maul effectively throughout the match and it was from catch and drives that skipper Daniel and Bismarck du Plessis crossed for tries either side of the break to give them an 11 point lead.
Even after Foley and Carter had scored their tries to put the home side 27-24 ahead, Sharks flyhalf Pat Lambie pegged them back with two penalties.
But the Waratahs would not be denied and a rampaging run from lock Dean Mumm got them into Shark territory and unrelenting pressure left space for Kingston to skip over in the corner with Berrick Barnes adding the extras from the touchline.
"We thought we had the game in the bag the way we were playing but all credit to them, they came back and won it," said Daniel.
The ACT Brumbies brought a shuddering halt to Otago Highlanders' perfect start to the Super Rugby season with a shock 33-26 victory over the New Zealanders in Canberra on Saturday.
Winger Joe Tomane bagged two tries in the first 15 minutes and flanker Michael Hooper chipped in with an opportunist effort after the break while flyhalf Christian Lealiifano kicked a perfect seven from seven with the boot.
It was a third win in four matches for the Brumbies this season under new South African coach Jake White after they won four in total over their last campaign.
"We back ourselves and I think you can see from the way we play that we trust each other," a delighted Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said in a pitchside interview. "This is our home and we know we've got to play in a different gear here."
The Highlanders, who had won their first four matches to top the Super Rugby standings, scored tries through scrumhalf Aaron Smith and centre Shaun Treeby but lost flyhalf Colin Slade to what looked like being a season-ending injury.
The luckless Slade, who missed most of last season after breaking his jaw twice and was ruled out the World Cup with a groin injury, badly injured his ankle in a Pat McCabe tackle after 50 minutes and was taken off the pitch on a stretcher.
Tomane's early strikes gave the home side an early lead despite a paltry amount of possession but the Highlanders hit back through Smith's try after good work from Hosea Gear before the break.
When Treeby got up from a tackle and dashed across the line nine minutes after halftime, the match was all square at 23-23 and the momentum seemed to be with the visitors.
The teams traded penalties in the middle of the second half but the match was decided when openside Hooper snaffled up a loose ball inside the Highlanders' 22 and just about made it to the line after 62 minutes.
The Brumbies had challenged the Highlanders in the tackle area all evening and the tactic paid off as they stifled the New Zealanders' ball in a tense final 18 minutes.
"Hats off to the Brumbies," said Highlanders skipper Jamie Mackintosh. "Their intensity and physicality at the breakdown was top notch. It's a disappointing performance but that was due to a Brumbies team that were hungry."
Winger Bryan Habana's individual brilliance and 14 points from the boot of fullback Joe Pietersen gave the Stormers a 24-19 victory over the Lions in an all-South African Super Rugby match on Saturday.
Habana's 13th-minute score helped the Stormers race into an early 18-0 lead.
"We're happy with the win but we disappointed ourselves with our execution," said captain Jean de Villiers. "For 50 minutes the Lions had the better of us."
The Stormers picked up their fourth win on the trot after a hat-trick of home victories and remain the only unbeaten side in the 15-team competition.
The Cape Town-based side went in front after two minutes when burly hooker Tiaan Liebenberg drove over from close range.
Habana quickly added a second touchdown, showing great pace to dive on his own kick-and-chase after being freed down the left touchline from an attacking scrum.
Pietersen missed the conversion but made amends with a 21st-minute penalty that moved him past the 50-point mark for the season before a second penalty five minutes later made it 18-0.
The injury-plagued Lions, South Africa's domestic Currie Cup champions, were stung into action and scrumhalf Tian Meyer dived over under the posts before flyhalf Butch James converted.
James added two penalties in the 44th and 47th minutes and then booted a third on the hour.
The Stormers, who had spent much of the second period on the back foot, finally added to their first-half points tally when Pietersen expertly curled in a touchline penalty with 12 minutes left.
The same player booted another penalty from 50 metres in the 79th minute to seal victory.
"We basically lost the game in the first 20 minutes," said Lions skipper Doppies la Grange.