A record crowd of 46,143 for a rugby test in Japan were royally entertained at the International Stadium in Yokohama on Saturday as New Zealand defeated Australia 37-20 to wrap up a 3-0 Bledisloe Cup series win over their trans-Tasman rivals.
Liam Squire, Kieran Read, Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane scored tries at the venue for the Rugby World Cup 2019 final, while Australia managed a try at the end of either half through powerhouse backs Seafa Naivalu and Israel Folau.
The result ensured the All Blacks preserved their 2.84-point lead over Ireland at the top of the World Rugby Rankings, while Australia stay in seventh place.
Croatia march into top 50
Five Rugby Europe matches counted towards the rankings and Croatia seized the opportunity to break into the world’s top 50 with a hard-fought 19-16 win over Israel in Zagreb. Croatia’s third straight victory in Conference 1 South earned them just over a third of a rating point and a four-place rise to 47th.
Malta won their second match of the season, 41-7 against Bosnia and Herzegovina, to finish the weekend five points adrift of Croatia at the top of the Conference 1 South standings. The two teams will meet in the final game of the season, on 13 April, in what is increasingly looking like a title decider.
No rating points were on offer for Malta ’s victory, due to the large points differential between themselves and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and they stay in 39th place in the rankings on 49.48 points.
Latvia set the pace
Latvia are setting the pace in Conference 2 North with a second straight win of the season, 26-20 away to Austria, leaving them three points clear of Denmark. The six-tenths of a rating point on offer for the win lifts Latvia above Guyana and into 57th place in the rankings. Austria are still ranked 79th.
Denmark’s 42-10 home win over Norway was worth just over half a rating point – enough to take them above Barbados and India and into 81st place.
In Conference 2 South, Slovenia travelled to Sofia to take on a Bulgarian side ranked 20 places lower than them. The match was anything but one-sided, however, and the visitors were relieved to come away with a 25-13 win.
Slovenia move above Guam and Hungary and into 68th place as a result of the victory, their second of the campaign.
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